Rubber Soul – The Most Significant Beatles Album Ever

Among the majority of Beatles freaks and fanatics, it is generally agreed that Rubber Soul was the turn around album for The Beatles.  Their departure album. It is not just a collection of singles. Rubber Soul is a cohesive album meant to be listened to, preferably stoned, start to finish. Yet I believe it is something more. I think it is the most significant Beatles album ever produced. Whoa, Whoa, I can hear you screaming Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Rd. already….let me try to explain…

The Beatles - Rubber Soul
Rubber Soul Recording Sessions 1965

“I think Rubber Soul was the first of the albums that presented a new Beatles to the world. Up to this point, we had been making albums that were rather like a collection of their singles and now we really were beginning to think about albums as a bit of art in their own right. We were thinking about the album as an entity of its own and Rubber Soul was the first one to emerge in this way.” —George Martin

The songs on this album were crafted, not just written. Up until this point, The Beatles were looking at songs individually, looking for one chart topping hit single.  This changed with Rubber Soul. Keep in mind they were still under tremendous pressure. They had finished shooting Help and just come back from touring; but the studio needed a Christmas album. So they delivered, entering the studio not with a story to tell or a concept to interpret, but with a deadline to meet. This album is a direct result of extended studio time and more control over their sound. Martin loosened the reins a little and it shows. The boys start to experiment with different instruments, different guitars (most notably George and John’s use of Stratocasters for the first time). New additions such as the Sitar, Casino Guitar, Fuzz Bass…all added to the different feel of this album. They were expanding, nurturing their craft.

“We were getting better, technically and musically. Finally, we took over the studio. In the early days, we had to take what we were given; we didn’t know how to get more bass. We were still learning. We were more precise about making this album, and we took over the cover and everything.”—John Lennon

John Lennon’s emergence as a lyricist is prevalent on this album. He had arrived and blossomed into a skillful song writer.

John Lennon Rubber Soul
John during the Rubber Soul Sessions – 1965

The haunting vibe of In In My Life is testament to his introspective writing and the playful lyrics of Norwegian Wood were an early look at the wordsmith he was to become. Girl is John’s lyrical response to Paul’s satirical Michelle.While McCartney was maybe just a half step behind, this situation quickly corrected itself on Revolver. Paul’s lyrics were still a far cry from the mop top efforts. I love the moment in Wait when Paul sheds the pretense of four good little boys from Liverpool as his girlfriend asked him if he will be faithful on tour. “I’ll be good, as good as I can be”. The tongue in cheek and sexually charged banner of women’s lib in Drive My Car is fantastic. Imagine a woman needing a driver and deciding who she will sleep with! What a huge deal in 1965. This is not to say the magic of the “Fab Four” had been totally discarded. The harmonies and sweet melodic bliss of No Where Man (on the UK release) reminds us they are still The Beatles after all.

“I think In My Life was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life, and it was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after In His Own Write came out. I think In My Life was after In His Own Write… But he said to me, ‘Why don’t you put some of the way you write in the book, as it were, in the songs? Or why don’t you put something about your childhood into the songs?’”- John Lennon

“He used to throw some pretty good all-night parties.( Austin Mitchell, one of John Lennon’s tutors at the Liverpool College of Art) You could maybe pull girls there, which was the main aim of every second; you could get drinks, which was another aim; and you could generally put yourself about a bit. I remember sitting around there, and my recollection is of a black turtleneck sweater and sitting very enigmatically in the corner, playing this rather French tune. I used to pretend I could speak French, because everyone wanted to be like Sacha Distel….Years later, John said, ‘D’you remember that French thing you used to do at Mitchell’s parties?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Well, that’s a good tune. You should do something with that.’”- Paul McCartney on the origins of Michelle

John, Paul and Ringo - Rubber Soul
Bugger off we’re busy.

No other Beatles album had the feel that Rubber Soul did and no album after it would either. It was a one-off. The influences of Bob Dylan (and marijuana) are crystal clear as there is a folk feel to the album; a sort of definition as to what English soul was, something John alluded to later regarding the album title. But Paul came clean years later and admitted it was a spin off of the black American soul artists jibbing Mick Jagger.

“I think the title Rubber Soul came from a comment an old blues guy had said of Jagger. I’ve heard some out-takes of us doing I’m Down and at the front of it I’m chatting on about Mick. I’m saying how I’d just read about an old bloke in the States who said, ‘Mick Jagger, man. Well you know they’re good – but it’s plastic soul.’ So ‘plastic soul’ was the germ of the Rubber Soul idea.” – Paul McCartney

John Lennon Rubber Soul
Rubber Soul Sessions – 1965

This album could not be repeated, as that moment in time could not be repeated. It was the collision of all the correct circumstances at that particular junction of their lives and career. From the twelfth of October to the fifteenth of November 1965,  The Beatles were content, at their peak, given their first taste of artistic freedom, expanding as musicians, unafraid as lyricists, curious young rock stars……. and they were stoned.

“Rubber Soul was the pot album, and Revolver was acid. I mean, we weren’t all stoned making Rubber Soul, because in those days we couldn’t work on pot” —John Lennon,

“We smoked a bit of pot, then we wrote out a multicoloured lyric sheet, the first time we’d ever done that. We normally didn’t smoke when we were working. It got in the way of songwriting because it would just cloud your mind up – ‘Oh, shit, what are we doing?’ It’s better to be straight. But we did this multicolour thing”. – Paul McCartney

Rubber Soul
Taking a Break – Rubber Soul 1965

 Rubber Soul was laying the seeds of the hippy movement to come and at the time, no one had a friking clue. From the warm embrace of this album in the lyrics:

“It’s so fine, It’s sunshine, It’s the word, love …”

 “In my life, I loved you more…”

“If I needed someone to love, you’re the one I would be thinking of…”

to the empowerment of women in:

“She’s the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there…

” but you can do something in between, baby you can drive my car…and maybe I’ll love you…”,

“she told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh…”

to the outright demand that youth start taking responsibility for itself in Think For Yourself, the shaping of a generation had begun. The foundation of a revolution had been laid.  After Rubber Soul, The Beatles fell into a psychedelic trance and wove tapestries of flowers and paisley. When they emerged from the other side of the trip, it was in to pure rock and roll. Rubber Soul was never to be repeated, it stands alone and in my mind, stands alone at the most important and influential Beatles album. To this day, I will lay on my bed, put on earphones and listen start to finish, let it take me on that journey to the innocent and magical land of musical genius. The album and The Beatles never fail to take me there.

“Rubber Soul was my favorite album, even at that time.  I think that it was the best one we made; we certainly knew we were making a good album.  We did spend a bit more time on it and tried new things.  But the most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds that we weren’t able to hear before.  Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music and everything was blossoming at that time; including us, because we were still growing.” – George Harrison

Rubber Soul

Released: 3 December 1965                                       Recorded: 12 October–15 November 1965

Studio: EMI Studios, London                                      Genre: Folk rock, pop

Length: 35:50                                                                 Label: Parlophone

Producer: George Martin

Side one

No.        Title                       Lead vocals                                                  Length

  1. “Drive My Car”                  McCartney with Lennon                              2:25
  2. “Norwegian Wood            Lennon with McCartney                               2:01
  3. “You Won’t See Me”         McCartney                                                      3:18
  4. “Nowhere Man”                Lennon with McCartney and Harrison       2:40
  5. “Think for Yourself”        Harrison                                                           2:16
  6. “The Word”                       Lennon and McCartney with Harrison        2:41
  7. “Michelle”                         McCartney                                                       2:40

Side two

No.        Title                         Lead vocals                                                     Length

  1. “What Goes On”                  Starkey                                                            2:47
  2. “Girl”                                     Lennon                                                            2:30
  3. “Looking Through You”    McCartney                                                      2:23
  4. “In My Life”                         Lennon                                                            2:24
  5. “Wait”                                   Lennon and McCartney                                2:12
  6. “If I Needed Someone”    Harrison                                                           2:20
  7. “Run for Your Life”           Lennon                                                              2:18
Back Cover Rubber Soul
Back Album Cover – Rubber Soul

 

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