I’ve been spending a bit too much time on planes lately, which may be why I can’t get ‘Back in the USSR’ from The White Album out of my head. Over the rising note of a jet engine, and throbbing drums bass and guitar, the song opens with:
Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight
But what has happened to that paper bag? You always used to check that there was one in the seat-pocket in front of you, but now it crosses your mind only on an early flight after a long night. One of the unheralded wonders of our age: planes that don’t make you feel nauseous.
I’ve always had a soft spot for this song. The Beach Boy parody, the line ‘Georgia’s always on my mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi mind’ and the hint that while everyone else was meant to be Backing Britain the Beatles were backin’ the USSR.
Well, they needed to try to restore some credibility after the miserable Taxman, from Revolver, a couple of years earlier. True, it has a brilliant bass line and cracking guitar, and fair enough, a tax rate of over 90% on the highest level of income is hard to swallow. But did we really need a song about it?