A Trip to Australia Inspired Chuck Berry’s Patriotic Hit “Back in the U.S.A.” Which Sparked The Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

When Chuck Berry returned from touring Australia in 1959, he couldn’t be more thankful for the country he had back home. After witnessing the institutional racism affecting black Australian Aborigines, Berry felt fortunate for his homeland and started writing a tribute to America.

“This is the greatest country on earth, of that there is no doubt,” said Berry in 2001. “I was in Australia, and I found out they wouldn’t even let a black man become a citizen there. That’s why I wrote that song, ‘Back in the U.S.A.’”

Berry reminisced about the corner cafe, drive-in, hamburgers sizzling, and a jukebox jumping with records. “Back in the U.S.A.” was an ode to everything he missed in America and all the cities he loved from New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge, and his hometown of St. Louis.

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Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today
We touched ground on an international runway
Jet-propelled back home, from over the seas to the U.S.A.

New York, Los Angeles, oh, how I yearned for you
Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
Let alone just to be at my home back in ol’ St. Louis

Throughout the song, Berry can’t mention enough of the things he was thankful for in the United States.

Did I miss the skyscrapers, did I miss the long freeway?
From the coast of California to the shores of Delaware Bay
You can bet your life I did, till I got back to the U.S.A.

Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner cafe
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a jukebox jumping with records like in the U.S.A.

Well, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A.
Yes, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A.
Anything you want, we got right here in the U.S.A.

[RELATED: The Song Credit Debacle and Mystery “Writer” Behind Chuck Berry’s 1958 Holiday Hit “Run Rudolph Run”]

“Back in the U.S.A.” was released as a single by Berry in 1959, along with the B-side “Memphis, Tennessee,” and became a top 20 hit, peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nearly 20 years after its release, Linda Rondstadt brought “Back in the U.S.A.” to the charts when she released it on her 1978 album Livin’ in America. Her version also went to No. 16 on the Hot 100.

American singer and songwriter Chuck Berry (1926 – 2017) in London, UK, 28th May 1964. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Berry, the Beach Boys, and “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’ — John Lennon

Nearly a decade after its release, Berry’s song also influenced the title of a 1968 Beatles hit, while the sound and some of the lyrics were inspired more by the Beach Boys. While on a retreat in Hrishikesh, India, to learn transcendental meditation from guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beach Boys’ Mike Love was also attending and was the first to hear a new song Paul McCartney had written.

“Paul (McCartney) came down to the breakfast table one morning saying, ‘Hey, Mike, listen to this,'” recalled Love in 2013. “And he starts strumming and singing, ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.,’ the verses. And I said, ‘Well, Paul, what you ought to do is talk about the girls around Russia, Ukraine girls, and then Georgia on my mind, and that kind of thing,’ which he did.”

Love added, “So I think it was the fact I was there, which caused Paul to think in terms of Beach Boys, and then my suggestion for what to do on the bridge, he took that suggestion and crafted, like only Sir Paul can, a really great song.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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