Friday 12 November 2021


One afternoon, Paul jammed with some of his favourite musicians from his childhood back in the ’50s, and together, they played some of his favourite songs and rock ‘n’ roll numbers from the time. Absolutely thrilled, McCartney opted to record some of these renditions in the studio.

Over the course of July 20th and 21st, 1987, McCartney recorded 20 songs. Some of which, such as a rendition of The Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, remain unreleased.

McCartney originally wanted to release the new album in the United Kingdom outside of regular distribution channels in an attempt to make it appear as if the album had been smuggled in across the Iron Curtain from the Soviet Union. As it was the Cold War and the fact it made no logistical sense whatsoever, McCartney’s label EMI quickly shut down the idea. This was a shame as McCartney’s manager had already had a batch of LP’s pressed with special Russian-language covers. These were intended as an early Christmas present to McCartney, but fear not, they would go above and beyond what was originally expected.

At a loss of what to do with this batch of records, McCartney swiftly conceived the idea that the album should actually be released in the Soviet Union as a token of peace. After all, it was the period of ‘glasnost’ where both the US and USSR had cooled their antithetical tensions. Furthermore, Soviet politician, Mikhail Gorbachev, was embarking on an unprecedented campaign of “openness and transparency”, giving the Soviet people more freedom than they had ever enjoyed before.

An agreement was made with the Soviet government-run record company, Melodiya. It licenced 400,000 copies of the album for release in the Soviet Union, with no exports. The album was to be released solely in the USSR and nowhere else. This was a mammoth step into the post-Cold War future for McCartney and his team.

Entitled Снова в СССР, the album’s title was the direct Russian translation of the 1968 Beatles classic ‘Back in the USSR’. Lapped up by the Russian public, who had become more and more Westernised over the course of the ’80s, the first pressing of 50,000 copies sold out almost overnight. Other pressings were quickly released, and the album, containing 11 covers, was a resounding success.

Although the licence had been signed for there to be no exports out of the USSR, it was the Cold War, and smuggling abounded. In a surreal role reversal, where usually the USSR would be smuggled in records from Western Europe, this time, our Soviet music lovers found themselves at the better end of the deal. Some fetched up to $100 to $250 dollars in the US for the record and others up to £500 in the UK. 

Owing to its cult and widely sought after status, the album was eventually released to the rest of the world in 1991.

Featuring covers of Leiber and Stoller’s 1952 classic rocker ‘Kanas City’, Sam Cooke‘s 1962 soul staple ‘Bring It On Home to Me’ and a rendition of the traditional folk song ‘Midnight Special’, Снова в СССР, it is a refreshing break within McCartney’s repertoire. 


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