Guide to British Music of the 1960s

November  2001

CD Review

The Beatles - Rubber Soul



The Beatles completed a trio of albums in the mid-1960s which totally changed popular music. This is where rock music started to develop with the Beatles at the forefront. Albums were ceasing to be a couple of hit singles with 10 filler tracks but were complete entities. Of the Beatles triumvirate, two of them contained no UK-released singles at all!

Rubber Soul was the first of the three, the other two being Revolver and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rubber Soul was the album where the Beatles moved beyond very good pop songs towards a level of inventiveness that was starting to set them apart from other bands of the era (or any other era frankly). 

The differences started with the album sleeve. No mention of the band's name but the four moody faces looking down at you could not be anyone else. Like a number of Beatles albums that contained no singles, the tunes are still mostly instantly recognisable even to a non-Beatles fan. The title came about after references to the Rolling Stones by black musicians. Paul is also heard shouting "plastic soul, man, plastic soul" after I'm Down on Anthology 2.

The album shows greater ease with the recording studio with band starting to use, with the help of George Martin, more varied techniques to create new sounds. Within a year the Beatles would be a studio-only band. 

Drive My Car is the opener. Norwegian Wood is Lennon's confession of a night of infidelity. This is the first instance of George Harrison playing sitar on record and possibly the start of "world music."

Nowhere Man is the one of the album's highlights. The song later reappears in the soundtrack for Yellow Submarine. Both Drive My Car and Nowhere Man had been omitted from the US release of the album. 

Paul McCartney attaches a fuzz box to his bass for Harrison's song Think for Yourself. This shows George Harrison's maturing as a songwriter. The same applies to If I Needed Someone. This was the first time that George Harrison had been allowed two of his tracks on an album. The bass guitar comes to the fore as well in The Word. Paul McCartney is one of the best bass guitar players of all time but his playing is rarely discussed. 

There are three ballads on the album. Michelle is Paul McCartney's ballad, partly sung in French. This was a hit in the UK for the Overlanders. Girl is another Lennon song. In My Life is regularly rated as one of the greatest songs of all time, and it was only an album track. 

Every album (almost) had a song sung by Ringo. His contribution on Rubber Soul is the country-esque What Goes On.

The final track Run for Your Life was once banned by a Canadian radio station on the basis that the line "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man" encouraged violence against women. 

One of the strengths of Rubber Soul, like Revolver, is the diversity of musical styles and sounds. Indeed, this is one of the Beatles' strengths. Their days in Hamburg and Liverpool playing long sets opened them to diverse influences and material from rock & roll through musicals and country music. This richness is one of the major factors that drove their creativity as they were able to spin off all these different influences. Sergeant Pepper tends to be cited more often as the greatest album ever. However, Rubber Soul and Revolver are arguably better.

Release date: 1965 Parlophone / EMI Records

Essential Tracks:

  • In My Life
  • If I Needed Someone
  • Nowhere Man

Track Listing:

  1. Drive My Car
  2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)
  3. You Won't See Me
  4. Nowhere Man
  5. Think For Yourself
  6. The Word
  7. Michelle
  8. What Goes On
  9. Michelle
  10. Girl
  11. I'm Looking Through You
  12. In My Life
  13. Wait
  14. If I Needed Someone
  15. Run For Your Life

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