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Back In The USA

This is such a wrong song to celebrate a return home!!! Written in 59 after Berry had spent two years in prison for breaking the Mann Act (taking a minor across State line for immoral purpose -a laughable charge), “Back In The U.S.A.” is another Berry travelogue though this one is seething with an anger not apparent on “Sweet Little Sixteen”.

I think it was Greil Marcus who wondered why Berry was “looking HARD for a drive-in, looking for a corner cafe”. It was, of course, because he couldn’t get into most Drive In’s because of his color so they were hard to find. Still whatever the reason the next two lines are pure rock poetry: “Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day, Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the U.S.A.” Like?

Berry’s consistent racial ambiguity gives his songs so much edge, just a simple line like “don’t bother me, leave me alone” is a threat and a promise that jumps you.

And having said all that I can’t go into JFK without Berry playing in the back of my head.

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