The song comes on the radio just a few minutes ago, and I’m reminded again that I don’t know what BOAC is, as in “Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC”. But for the first time, this occurs to me near a computer on the Internet, so in a few seconds I find that BOAC = British Overseas Airways Corporation, the British international airline before British Airways.
Ok, makes sense. Then I wonder why someone would take a British airline from Miami Beach to the USSR… Bingo! Ahh, he’s really flying back to England, and the song is sarcastically calling it the USSR as a criticism.
Anybody agree? Disagree? Rolling their eyes at me because it was incredibly obvious to you before I was even born? (I was born the year after the album was released, so you got about a year for that to be true)
Uh… no, I don’t think so. John Lennon MIGHT have sarcastically referred to the UK that way, but “Back in the USSR” was a McCartney song, and I don’t think Paul ever regarded Britain as an oppressive fascist state.
As far as I can tell, the song itself has no deep meaning- it’s just a Beach Boys parody, paying tribute to the lovely girls of the USSR the way the Beach Boys had honored American babes in songs like “California Girls.”
So, why would Paul allude to BOAC, when they didn’t offer air service between the US and Russia in those days?? Most likely, because “BOAC” gave him the syllables and the rhyme he needed.
I thought it was some kind of quibble with a BB statement - they said something to the effect of writing great american music, which is why they were so popular, so McCartney wrote BITUSSR to parody them and make some statement about how any song would be popular regardless of its lyrical content…
IMHO, astorian’s post seems to have made the most sense so far*. McCartney is likely to have used the BOAC airline because it rhymes and scans, not because it connected from Miami to the USSR. The rest of the lyrics make too many specifically Russian references for the song to be about the UK. BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) was formed in 1939 and merged with BEA (British European Airways) in the mid '70s.
Here, Alan W. Pollack suggests references in the song to Ray Charles and Chuck Berry as well as the Beach Boys. The Beatles were known to be fans of all three. California Girls was first recorded in April '65, Back in the USSR in August '68.
*Not sure about the USSR being a fascist state, but that’s been covered elsewhere
From the book A Hard Day’s Write, by Steve Turner:
“Back in the USSR” was written by Paul as a pastiche of the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry. The genesis of the song was a comment made my Beach Boy Mike Love to Paul one morning over breakfast: ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Soviet version of “Back in the USA”’ [by Chuck Berry, 1959]. As a tribute to Love, the Beatles’ eventual recording imitated the vocal sound of the Beach Boys."
Unfortunately, there was no mention of the BOAC thing…
Not every song. The Beatles weren’t that well organized by that time. One reason it was a double album was because George Harrison had songs that he wanted to see on vinyl, and he was tired of being the third wheel. If there was any organizational method to their madness, I’ve not read it.
But, yeah, “USSR” was a tribute to the BB and Chuck. Lovely little bit of wit with “And Georgia’s always on my my-my-my-my-my-mind.” Not only was a region in the USSR with that name, but it drags in a reference to Ray Charles, who sings “Georgia on my Mind.” (Yeah, I know this is grade school pop-song trivia, but if we got people asking what the USSR is, I can’t be too careful.)