Back in the USA (album)

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Back in the USA
Back in the USA.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 15, 1970
RecordedMarch-October, 1969 (except "Looking At You": December 1968)
StudioGM Studios, East Detroit, United States
GenreHard rock, proto-punk, rock and roll
ProducerJon Landau
MC5 chronology
Kick Out the Jams
Back in the USA
High Time

Back in the USA is the debut studio album (and second album overall, following 1969's live album Kick Out the Jams) by American rock band MC5.


The central focus of the album is the band's movement away from the raw, thrashy sound pioneered and captured on their first release, the live album Kick Out the Jams (1969). This was due in part to producer Jon Landau's distaste for the rough psychedelic rock movement, and his adoration for the straightforward rock and roll of the 1950s.[citation needed]

Landau, who originally wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, was looking to get more involved in actual music production. Becoming close with Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler was his chance and led Landau to the politically radical MC5, who had just been picked up by Atlantic after being dropped from Elektra Records in 1969 – the Kinney National Company (later known as Time Warner), parent of Atlantic, acquired Elektra in the same year of this album's release; both labels are now part of the Warner Music Group (now a separate company from TW), through the Atlantic Records Group.


The opening track is a cover of the classic hit "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard. "Let Me Try" is a ballad. "The American Ruse" attacks what the Detroit quintet saw as the hypocritical idea of freedom espoused by the US government, and "The Human Being Lawnmower" expresses opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The last song on the album, which is the title track, is a cover of Chuck Berry's 1959 single "Back in the U.S.A."

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Christgau's Record GuideA–[2]
Rolling Stone(mixed) [3]

Though the album was viewed as a flop early on by most fans, and lacked the commercial success of their previous release, it would later be considered highly important due to the album's absolute projection of MC5's core sound and earliest influences.

In his retrospective review, Jason Ankeny of AllMusic wrote, "While lacking the monumental impact of Kick Out the Jams, the MC5's second album is in many regards their best and most influential".[1]


"In a time of terrible manufactured music, Back in the USA was rock 'n' roll, untreated… I used to sit and listen to that album for hours: listen to it through, then put it straight back on again. It was the kind of album you could do that with, particularly the odd songs like 'Human Being Lawnmower'. It was impossible to see the structure of that song for a while. You'd think, 'Fuck it, what's going on there?' Then you'd sit and work it out… My favourite track off that MC5 album would have to be Chuck Berry's 'Back in the U.S.A.'." – Lemmy, Motörhead[4]

In 2012, the album was ranked number 446 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[5] NME listed the album as number 490 on their list.

Jason Ankeny of AllMusic commented that "[the album's] lean, edgy sound anticipat[ed] the emergence of both the punk and power pop movements to follow later in the decade."[1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by MC5, except as noted.

Side A
1."Tutti Frutti"Dorothy LaBostrie, Joe Lubin, Richard Penniman1:30
2."Tonight" 2:29
3."Teenage Lust" 2:36
4."Let Me Try" 4:16
5."Looking at You" 3:03
Side B
1."High School" 2:42
2."Call Me Animal" 2:06
3."The American Ruse" 2:31
4."Shakin' Street" 2:21
5."The Human Being Lawnmower" 2:24
6."Back in the U.S.A."Chuck Berry2:26


  • Rob Tyner – vocals
  • Wayne Kramer – guitar, vocals on first & third chorus of "Back in the USA", guitar solos on "Tutti Frutti", "Teenage Lust" and "Looking at You"
  • Fred "Sonic" Smith – guitar, guitar solo on "The American Ruse", lead vocals on "Shakin' Street" and second chorus of "Back in the USA"
  • Michael Davis – bass
  • Dennis Thompson – drums
Additional personnel
  • Danny Jordan – keyboards

  • Jon Landauproduction
  • Jim Bruzzese – engineer
  • Stephen Paley – art direction, cover photography
  • Joan Marker – design


  1. ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason. "Back in the USA – MC5 | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via
  3. ^ Marcus, Greil (14 May 1970). "[Back in the USA review]". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  4. ^ Simmons, Sylvie (August 2004). "Last night a record changed my life". Mojo. No. 129. p. 30.
  5. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2019.

External links[edit]