One of the most famous things The Beatles ever did was take a trip to India with several other celebrities, including Mike Love of The Beach Boys. During this time, Paul McCartney wrote a Beatles song that was a parody of The Beach Boys. Love said a comment he made to Paul helped inspire the song.
A Beach Boy told Paul McCartney to do something with a Beatles song
During an interview with The Guardian, Love said it was difficult to pinpoint the best part of The Beach Boys’ career. He said he had a fondness for the time he went to India to learn about transcendental meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatles were there. He said he and George Harrison celebrated spectacular birthdays in the Ganges mountains.
“It was such a special time, and the Maharishi was a great host and guru,” Love recalled. “Not for fortune or for fame but for enlightenment we came. I was at the breakfast table when Paul McCartney came down with his acoustic guitar playing ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ I said, ‘You ought to put something in about all the girls around Russia,’ and he did.”
Paul McCartney said the song was his way of building a bridge to his fans
According to the book The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, Paul felt “Back in the U.S.S.R.” was a parody of Beach Boys songs with a Chuck Berry reference thrown in. “I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody,” Paul remembered. “And ‘Back in the U.S.A.’ was a Chuck Berry song, so it kinda took off from there. I just liked the idea of Georgia girls and talking about places like the Ukraine as if they were California, you know?”
Paul said he also wrote the song to build bridges with Soviet fans. “It was also hands across the water, which I’m still conscious of,” Paul said. “‘Cuz they like us out there, even though the bosses in the Kremlin may not. The kids do.” Paul’s attempt at bridge building is notable given The Beatles released “Back in the U.S.S.R.” during the height of the Cold War, a time when a lot of media and pop culture expressed anti-Soviet sentiment.
The way the world reacted to The Beatles’ ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’
“Back in the U.S.S.R” was not released as a single, so it didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It appeared on The Beatles’ self-titled album, commonly known as The White Album. The album topped the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 215 weeks. Kim Newman referenced the song in the title of his alternate history book Back in the USSA., which is about a world where the United States became a communist country. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” wasn’t a massive hit, but it has an interesting history.