January 16, 2021 Sports, Rock & Roll and Americana Auction
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 1/16/2021

"Oh show me round your snow-peaked mountains way down south

     Take me to your daddy's farm

          Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out

               Come and keep your comrade warm

                    I'm back in the U.S.S.R. (hey)"

Offered is perhaps the one and only Paul McCartney signed balalaika, the Russian guitar which Paul references in the third verse of his song "Back in the U.S.S.R." The song was the first track on the The Beatles 1968 LP known as The White Album, and its jet engine intro and outro set the tone for the tour de force that follows. McCartney wrote the song during the summer of 1968, and played various versions of it for his bandmates and other attendees at the meditation retreats during their trip to India. One fellow meditation student was Mike Love of The Beach Boys. McCartney based the song on Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A.", and Love suggested a bridge section, ala "California Girls". The combination created an absolute classic.

The accompanying letter recounts how collector Igor Belsky followed Paul and his wife Nancy Shevell after a May 2012 event celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at The Royal Academy of Arts in London. After being turned down initially, Igor persisted by following Paul and his wife through the London streets, and just as Paul was about to be swarmed by paparazzi, the Beatle relented. The accompanying images show this very instrument being held in front of Sir Paul, as detailed in the letter. Matching details of the wood grain and wear can be clearly seen in the image, which is also available for review on the Getty Images website. In the images shown here, Paul can be seen carrying the exact same program as he is holding in a photo with the Queen from earlier that day at the event.

Belsky's letter recounts his several attempts to get Paul to sign the balalaika that day. It reads in part:

To my great surprise about 10 minutes later Sir Paul together with Nancy were walking out (of the event) on foot through the gates of the academy. I made the first attempt to get the balalaika signed (with my blue marker, see the pictures), but Paul didn't want to do it. I have followed Paul and Nancy along Piccadilly still trying to persuade him to sign, but no luck. Suddenly both of them turned right into the Burlington Arcade (a narrow street with many hi-end shops) and gates behind them were shut. I've run to the other side of the arcade and watched Paul showing Nancy the shops. As soon as Paul approached the other side and when he saw me and a couple of other collectors he said: "OK guys, I will do it but you have to disappear." All of us agreed. I had decided to not push to be first, but rather play cool, and waited until all the other collectors got one each. Then Paul turned to me and said: "O, Balalaika!" He already had a Sharpie in his hand, so l let him use that.

The manufacturers label, printed in Russian, on the interior indicates the instrument was produced in “1989.” Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from noted Beatles autograph expert Frank Caiazzo. The balalaika measures 27 x 17 inches and presents with signs of moderate use with a number of scratches and scuffs, none of which affects Paul's dark signature. Excellent condition overall.

Paul McCartney Signed Balalaika (The Russian Guitar He References in The Beatles Song “Back in the U.S.S.R.”) with Photos of Paul When He Signed It
Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium: $5,750
Estimate: $5,000 - $6,000
Number Bids: 11
Auction closed on Saturday, January 16, 2021.
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