THE BEATLES-RUBBER SOUL.
THE BEATLES-RUBBER SOUL.
It was fifty years ago, The Beatles made a breakthrough in America. This was when they released Introducing…The Beatles on 20th January 1963. It reached number two in the US Billboard 200. The Beatles had arrived. Ironically, Introducing…The Beatles proved to be the least successful album The Beatles released in America. After that, everything they touched turned to either gold or platinum.
1964 was a huge year for The Beatles. They released a quartet of albums that reinforced them as the world’s most successful band. Just over a year after the release of Introducing…The Beatles, The Beatles’ Second Album was released in April 1964. It reached number one in the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. Two months later, A Hard Day’s Night was released in 1964. It reached number one and was certified four times platinum. A month later, Something New was released in July 1964. Reaching number two in the US Billboard 200 charts resulted in the album being certified double platinum. The Beatles could do no wrong. Proof of this was Beatles ’65. On its release in December 1964, it reached number one in the US Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum. That meant The Beatles had released four albums during 1964 and sold over eleven-million albums. There was only one problem for The Beatles, how do you better 1964? That was going to be hard. After all, The Beatles set the bar high? However, they’d release a landmark album in December 1965, the US version of Rubber Soul. It was recently rereleased by UMC and features the mono and stereo versions of this classic album.
Before The Beatles released Rubber Soul, they released two further albums. Beatles VI was released in June 1965. It reached number one and was certified platinum. Help was released in August 1965, and reached number one in the US Billboard 200 charts. It was certified double platinum. Good as that was, it would be dwarfed by the sales of The Beatles’ next album Rubber Soul, which marked a change in direction from The Beatles.
Rubber Soul was the first album that The Beatles recorded during one recording session. Recording took place between 12th October to 11th November 1965. This was unlike previous albums. They’d been recorded quickly during a number of sessions. Not Rubber Soul. The new approach worked and resulted in a much more focused album which flowed. Another change was the music.
On Rubber Soul, The Beatles moved away from the three-chord pop of their previous albums. Everything from doo wop, folk-rock, garage, Indian rock, pop, psychedelia, soul-influenced Rubber Soul. It was a much more sophisticated and grow- up album of eclectic music. In some ways, Rubber Soul marked a coming of age for The Beatles. Some of the songs on Rubber Soul prove this.
Previously, many of The Beatles’ songs had been simplistic love songs, along the lines of boy meets girl and lives happily ever after. This changed on Rubber Soul. The songs are much more complex and have a depth that was previously lacking. Slick, sophisticated, pensive, wistful and xmelancholy describes these songs. Norwegian Wood is proof of the grownup Beatles. It’s an evocative, melancholy and mysterious tale of love gone wrong. There’s also nostalgia for simpler times on In My Life. Maybe by the time they recorded Rubber Soul John Lennon, who wrote the song, realised life would never be the same again. Rubber Soul also showcases a negativity that hadn’t been heard before. For some people, this wasn’t something they liked. For them, The Beatles were escapism from reality. However, Rubber Soul marked a coming of age for the Beatles.
Just like their previous albums, most of the songs were penned by Lennon and McCartney. The exception was Think For Yourself, which George Harrison wrote and sang. The other vocals were split between John and Paul. They shared the lead vocal on The Word, In My Life and Wait when recording took place at Abbey Road studios, London.
At Abbey Road, George Martin produced Rubber Soul and played piano on In My Life and harmonium on The Word. Mel Evans played Hammond organ on You Won’t See Me. Paul played bass, lead and acoustic guitar plus piano. John played rhythm and acoustic guitar and piano. George played bass, sitar and acoustic guitar. Ringo played drums, percussion and Hammond organ. Together, they recorded the twelve songs that became Rubber Soul. It was released just in time for Christmas 1965.
On its release in December 1965, Rubber Soul proved to be The Beatles’ most successful album. In the first nine days since its release in the US, Rubber Soul sold over 1.2 million copies. It’s no surprise that Rubber Soul reached number one in the UK and US. Rubber Soul stayed at number one in the US for six weeks and has sold six million copies. The new grownup Beatles were even more popular than before. Proof of this was Rubber Soul, which I’ll tell you about.
I’ve Just Seen A Face which opens Rubber Soul, has a slight country sound. It’s an uptempo track that’s driven along by acoustic guitars. Paul takes charge of the lead vocal, delivering the lyrics with a sense of urgency. The lyrics are essentially rhyming couplets. However, they ensnare you. Their sheer simplicity has you captivated. Ringo plays the snare drum with brushes. Meanwhile the rest of The Beatles add harmonies. It’s as if they’ve been inspired by the Beach Boys, and their harmonies are tighter and sweeter than ever.
Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown) showcases the new Beatles. The lyrics John Lennon said, were autobiographical and about an affair he was having. He delivers the lyrics and his vocal was double-tracked. The lyrics veer between descriptive, evocative and surreal. There’s a strong Indian influence in the song. That comes courtesy of George’s sitar, while percussion, acoustic guitar, bass and harmonies accompany him. They’re the perfect backdrop for John’s pensive, melancholy vocal as folk, Indian rock, pop and psychedelia unite. This results in one of the highlights of Rubber Soul.
While You Won’t See Me was credited to Lennon and McCartney, it was later claimed that Paul penned this track. It’s about problems he was having in his relationship. His girlfriend wasn’t answering his phone calls and letters. There’s a vulnerability and bitterness in the lyrics. With the lyrics being personal, he makes them come to life. A chugging rhythm section, jangly piano and cooing harmonies accompany Paul. Confusion, sadness and bitterness fills his voice as hooks and heartbreak sit side-by-side.
Think For Yourself has a rockier, psychedelic sound. Lysergic describes the track. George sings lead vocal. His vocal his lazy, lysergic and dreamy as he warns against listening to people telling you lies. He’s taking a swipe at governments and authority figures. A double-tracked fuzzy bass, drums and shakers are accompanied by piano. Then there’s The Beatles’ trademark harmonies. They accompany George on this innovative, genre-melting track where pop, psychedelia and rock combine seamlessly.
The Word might be a love song, but is very different to the girl meets boy songs they used to pen. This is a much more sophisticated, grownup track. The lyrics are abstract, with love equating to freedom. Jangling Byrdsian guitars, close harmonies, piano and the rhythm section combine to create a choppy arrangement. John and Paul who cowrote the track, share the lead vocals as The Beatles music moves in a new direction. This is one of the tracks that marked The Beatles’ coming of age.
Michelle won a Grammy Award for the best song in 1967. No wonder. It’s a timeless classic. Ironically, the song is simplicity itself. With an understated arrangement. The rhythm section and sweeping harmonies accompany Paul’s needy, heartfelt vocal. Sincere, soulful and impassioned, he even delivers part of this beautiful paean in French. Quite simply, this is one of the best songs The Beatles ever wrote and reinforced the fact that they were growing and maturing as a band.
Although Rubber Soul was released in December 1965, the introduction to It’s Only Love is reminiscent of their early work. That’s the case with much of the song. The lyrics are simplistic rhyming couplets. John Lennon later described the lyrics as “abysmal.” Paul too, realised this wasn’t their finest hour. Granted they’re not the greatest lyrics they wrote, but John seems determined to make the lyrics work. His vocal is a mixture of power and passion. Even that doesn’t stop the track rising above average.
After the disappointment of It’s Only Love, Girl more than makes up for it. The arrangement is melancholy and wistful. Acoustic guitars are at the heart of the arrangement, which has a Greek influence. John’s vocal takes centre-stage, as he delivers some of the finest lyrics on Rubber Soul. This includes: “was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure” and “that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure.” John Lennon later said this was a comment about Christianity. With lyrics that are cerebral, scathing and full of social comment, plus cooing, swooping harmonies, this is a mini musical masterpiece.
I’m Looking Through You is another relationship song. The lyrics were written by Paul and again, were personal. They dealt with his failing relationship and how his partner had changed and this he wasn’t happy about this. Acoustic guitars, handclaps and harmonies accompany Paul’s vocal. Power, frustration, sadness and anger shine through as he unleashes a cathartic, cleansing vocal.
In My Life finds The Beatles in a reflective mood. At first glance, they sound not unlike their earlier albums. However, listen carefully and the music is much more sophisticated. Paul and John share the vocal, remembering “people and places.” Cooing harmonies accompany their vocals. Sometimes, they’re wistful as if thinking things were simpler. The instrument bridge is a game changer. Listen carefully and the piano solo sounds like a harpsichord. It’s played by George Martin and has a Bach influence. This sets the song up for its wistful finale, which poses more questions than it answers.
Wait was originally meant to have been on the Help soundtrack. It didn’t make the cut, but was used as a makeweight on Rubber Soul. The Beatles were one track short for Rubber Soul. Overdubbing was used so that the song would flow with the rest of the album. The lyrics are about a couple being apart. This is a familiar theme for Lennon and McCartney. Their lyrics bring to life the longing, loneliness and temptation. This is apparent when they sing: “I’ve been good, good as I can be.” Whilst not originally written for Rubber Soul, this track works, just, and doesn’t interrupt the flow of Rubber Soul.
Run For Your Life closes Rubber Soul, and is a track John Lennon regretted writing. Partly, this is because of the lyrics. This includes: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” There’s an edge to John’s voice. It’s almost menacing. He’s accompanied by the rhythm section, while Byrdsian guitars jangle. Harmonies provide a foil for John’s vocal, as jealous and frustration oozes out of John’s every pore.
I’ve always thought that there are two chapters to The Beatles recording career. The second chapter begins with Rubber Soul which was rereleased by UMC on 20th January 2014. This is the US version of the album. Rubber Soul features a much more sophisticated and grownup Beatles. Gone was the three chord pop of their previous albums. Everything from classical, country, doo wop, folk rock, garage, Greek, Indian rock, pop, psychedelia, raga rock and soul influenced Rubber Soul. It was a coming of age for The Beatles. They’d returned from a tour of North America inspired.
During their time in North America, The Beatles had heard Bob Dylan and The Byrds’ unique brand of folk rock. They’d also heard the Beach Boys, who many people perceived as The Beatles rivals. A rivalry existed between both groups, but there would only be one winner…The Beatles. Both groups would influence each other. Indeed, The Beach Boys’ harmonies would influence The Beatles. This shines though on Rubber Soul. So can Eastern influences, including the raga and Indian rock which would from Rubber Soul. Both would infuse The Beatles’ music for the rest of their career. The Beatles were introduced to these Eastern influences by courtesy David Crosby of The Byrds and Ravi Shankar. However, The Beatles weren’t the first British group to pioneer an Eastern influences. That was The Kinks. They used guitars to create a droning sound that can be heard on some of their mid-sixties’ albums. All these new influences made Rubber Soul a very different Beatles album.
Listening to the album that preceded Rubber Soul, Help, which was released in July 1965, it’s like listening to two different groups. Rubber Soul was a much more sophisticated and grown up album of eclectic music. In some ways, Rubber Soul marked a coming of age for The Beatles. That’s no bad thing. After all, if The Beatles had continued to release the same type of music, they’d quickly have become irrelevant. With their music beginning to evolve, there was never any chance that would happen. Not at all. From Rubber Soul onwards, The Beatles become one of the most innovative and progressive groups in musical history. Their career took off.
Yesterday and Today was released in June 1966 and reached number one in the US Billboard 200 Charts. This resulted in the album being certified double platinum. Then Revolver was released in August 1966, reaching number one in the US Billboard 200 and sold over five million copies. This was nothing. 1967 was going to be the most successful career in The Beatles’ career so far.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band was released in June 1967. It reached number one in the US Billboard 200 and became The Beatles’ most successful album. Eventually, it sold eleven million copies. Five months later, in November 1967, Magical Mystery reached number one in the US Billboard 200 and was certified six time platinum. Good as 1967 had been, 1968 was even better.
When The Beatles was released in November 1968, what became known as The White Album reached number one and sold over nineteen million copies. This was unheard of. The Beatles would never surpass this.
During 1969, The Beatles released a trio of albums. Yellow Submarine was released in January and “only” reached number two. It was certified platinum. Normal service was resumed with Abbey Road. Not only did it reach number one, but was certified platinum twelve times. Then in May 1970, The Beatles released their swan-song, Let It Be. Their career ended on a high, with a number one album that sold four million copies. This brought to an end a run of innovative and influential albums that began with 1965s Rubber Soul.
Rubber Soul is quite simply one of the finest albums The Beatles recorded. That’s saying something given the quality of music they released. Their American career began in 1963 and lasted until 1970. However, Rubber Soul saw The Beatles come of age. The music on Rubber Soul is slick, sophisticated, pensive, wistful and melancholy. This marked the start of the second chapter in The Beatles career. During the next five years, they released the best music of their career. From Rubber Soul, The Beatles went on to release classic albums like Revolver, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band and The White Album. However, without Rubber Soul, The Beatles would never have released these albums. Rubber Soul was a stepping stone in their career and is one of the most important, innovative and influential albums of The Beatles career. Standout Tracks: Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown), Michelle, Girl and In My Life.
THE BEATLES-RUBBER SOUL.
- Posted in: Folk Rock ♦ Pop ♦ Rock ♦ Soul
- Tagged: Abbey Road, George Harrison, George Martin, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Revolver, Ringo Starr, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band, The Beatles, Yesterday and Today