Back in the U.S.A.

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"Back in the U.S.A."
Single by Chuck Berry
B-side "Memphis, Tennessee"
Released June 1959
Format 7" single
Genre Rock and Roll
Label Chess 1729
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Almost Grown"
(1959)
"Back in the U.S.A."
(1959)
"Broken Arrow"
(1959)

"Back in the U.S.A." is a song by Chuck Berry, which was first issued in 1959 as a single reaching #37 and then on Berry's 1962 album More Chuck Berry, (both Chess Records). The song's lyrics were supposedly written based upon Berry returning to the USA following a trip to Australia and witnessing the living standards of Australian Aborigines: as Berry's biography on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website states, with "Back in the U.S.A" "Berry saluted such everyday pleasures as the drive-ins and corner cafes 'where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day/Yeah, and a jukebox jumping with records like in the U.S.A.'"[1]

MC5 covered the song in 1970 on their second album, also titled Back in the USA. In 1972, a live version of the song appeared on the album Roadwork by Edgar Winter's White Trash. The song was covered by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers in 1976 on their self-titled second album.

"Back in the U.S.A" was afforded its greatest impact when Linda Ronstadt remade the song for her 1978 album Living in the USA (the album's title coming from the song's lyrics). Ronstadt had heard the Berry original while being driven around Los Angeles by Eagles member Glenn Frey who had once been in her band, the track being on a "home-made" cassette Frey had playing in his tape deck. Ronstadt recalls that she'd been reminding Frey "'how we used to sit around the Troubadour bar and go: Oh it's so horrible and I can't get a record deal. We were so broke and so miserable and we'd feel so sorry for ourselves and we were so precious about it.' Then all of a sudden I looked at him and I went: 'Boy, life's really tough. We're going off to ski [at Aspen] with all this money in our pockets, we're going to have a good time, and we've got great music on the tape player.' Just then 'Back in the U.S.A. came on and I went: 'Boy that would be a great song to sing. I think I'll do that one.'"[2]

The single of Ronstadt's version rose as high as #11 in Cash Box and reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (It was Top Five in the Detroit market place.) On October 16 1987 Ronstadt joined Chuck Berry onstage at the Fox Theater in St Louis as part of a concert celebrating Berry's sixtieth birthday. According to production assistant Mark Slocombe, despite Ronstadt having rehearsed with the band playing in the key of C, Berry's guitar playing on the actual concert performance of "Back in the USA" necessitated the band performing in the key of G: Slocombe - "Linda Ronstadt's such a pro, you really don't hear her strain of muff it. But...she was so pissed off when she walked off that stage she went right through the Green Room, right out the stage door, climbed into her limo and never came back for the second show. [Berry's birthday fête consisted of two concerts planned to feature identical set lists and guest performers.]" The Ronstadt/Berry performance of "Back in the USA" was featured in the filmation of Berry's sixtieth birthday concert: the 1987 movie release Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, with the track being included on the soundtrack album: according to Slocombe, "they had a hard time getting [Ronstadt] to sign the release for the [performance] because she was so pissed off."[3]

Gene Summers included "Back In The USA" on his 1983 album 'Live' In Scandinavia, and he has also used the song as his opening number on numerous occasions.[citation needed] [4]

"Back in the USA" was famously parodied by The Beatles with their song "Back in the U.S.S.R." from their self-titled 1968 album The Beatles (aka the White Album).

Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes performed this song during Berry's induction into the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000.

In Kidsongs "Sing Out, America!", the song title is called "Living in the USA" instead of "Back in the USA".

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://rockhall.com/inductees/chuck-berry/bio/#sthash.oBZ1EZ05.dpuf
  2. ^ Eliot, Marc (2005). To the Limit: the untold story of the Eagles (1st DaCapo Press ed.). Cambridge MA: DaCapo Press. pp. 177–178. ISBN 0-306-81398-X. 
  3. ^ Pegg, Bruce (2002). Brown Eyed Handsome Man:the life and hard times of Chuck Berry. NYC: Routledge. p. 221. ISBN 0-415-93748-5. 
  4. ^ Gene Summers "Live" In Scandinavia LP Sunrock Records #SRLP 841, 1983, Sweden. "Back In The USA" concert's opening track.