Back In the U.S.S.R.: The Obsolete Beatles

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

The next time someone who's too "cool" to "get" the Beatles asks what makes them so important, ask that person what's so great about his or her nose. First, if you're lucky, you'll be treated to an entertaining look of befuddlement. Then, when you're done being amused by that, avoid launching into a diatribe about the Beatles' production values or how they introduced Eastern instruments or drug culture to rock music, blah blah blah.

Just explain that Beatles songs are like noses: there's a lot of 'em. Some are longer than others, some are hairier. We favor some over others, but, they're all essentially built from the same mold. They were created from a classic design to pass down usefully from one generation to the next, and the next after that.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney focused on universal themes and wrote lyrics that are largely bereft of the sorts of cultural references that doom a song to a specific time and place. How good at this were they? They wrote a song called "Birthday" that will never stop being sung as long as people keep being born and living for at least some years.

All that said, not every Beatles tune is the perfect proboscis. They were tough to sniff out (I know...I'm sorry), but here are four that are starting to lose their relevance, if only in even the slightest of ways.

"The Ballad of John and Yoko," single release I admit, this has always been my least favorite Beatles song, so maybe that's why it's found its way onto this silly list. It's really just a crybaby rant from the man who otherwise gave us genius stuff like "Imagine." The events in the song occurred nearly a half-century ago. Even Yoko Ono can't feel that strongly about them anymore, and they happened to her.

Of course, the argument could be made that "The Ballad of John and Yoko" is timely as ever. After all, its theme is the kind of obsession with celebrity that's even more prevalent today, thanks to all things cyber. But, think hard about defending this song before you do: if you're still okay with "The Ballad of John and Yoko," you better not complain when "The Ballad of Kanye and Kim" hits the iTunes Store.

"Lovely Rita," Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Yes, I'm starting this list with a song from the most hallowed album in rock history. Paul McCartney's ode to a comely, hard-working law enforcer is inching near oblivion thanks to the term "meter maid." That expression has long gone the way of stewardesses and secretaries, deemed derogatory by those in the profession who now prefer to be known as "traffic enforcement officers."

It's unclear to me why they have such a problem with "meter maid" since these good people been called much, much worse by practically anyone they've ticketed. When I was a kid I always thought the line was, "Lovely Rita/ Meet her maid," which was confusing. If Rita was so adorable, why would anyone care to meet her housekeeper? I didn't get it.

"Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" The Beatles (White Album) Obviously, the urge to do it (if it is what I think it is... this just in -- it is) will never fade; however, one must be judicious about where one does it in this era of Skype and Google Earth. There are cameras everywhere.

Unless you want Big Brother, Little Sister, The Kids and Mum and Dad to catch your act on Vimeo or YouTube, you'll probably want to wait 'til you get home. It seems the threat of becoming a Tosh.0 Web redemption for one's public sexual exploits could actually be slowing adventurous lovemakers.

Last year, an AdamandEve.com poll said 52 percent of polled Americans have done it in the road, woods or somewhere else outdoors. That was down five percent from an ABC News poll on the subject from 2004.

"Back In the U.S.S.R.," The Beatles (White Album) Technically, it's impossible to be "Back in the U.S.S.R." There hasn't been a Soviet Union for more than 20 years. If you're still singing this one, why not just change the lyrics to "Back in Yugoslavia" or "Back in the Ottoman Empire?"

Also, if you want to fly anywhere "BOAC," you need to first book a trip in a time machine to the early 1970s, when the British Overseas Airways Corporation was still a functioning airline.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.