Ok, so anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m firmly in the Beatles camp. Nothing quite evokes the memories like listening to any of the Beatles’ 13 studio albums. You just can’t fault them. They charted the ’60s, and pretty much my entire life has been lived with at least one of those albums playing.
Yes, yes, I know I’ve already reviewed a ‘Stones album. But if I’m being honest, I’ve been avoiding talking about any of the The Beatles’ albums because, well, they’re The Beatles. It’s hard to be subjective writing about their music as they’re worshiped as legends/gods/whateveryoubelieveinandisthathighup.
But blow it, I’m going to do it, I’ve had some dutch courage and here I go..
Sorry, a school boy jest.
Now I know a lot of people don’t rate this as the ultimate Beatles album, that accolade is usually reserved for Revolver, Sgt Pepper and The White Album. However, this is my favourite album and it is probably the easiest for me to be subjective about. Rubber Soul is classed as the ‘stepping stone album’, the move away from the pop music of Help! and onto the music shattering experimentalism of Revolver. Nevertheless, this was the album where lyrically and musically things were changing. The album is heavily influenced by folk, rock and the beginnings of psychedelia. This was the first Beatles album (since A Hard Day’s Night) to have completely original material. The Beatles were producing music that had never been thought of before: styles were being borrowed and adapted – left, right and centre; and it’s the first time we hear George Harrison playing the sitar on a Beatles LP.
Listening to the album today the freshness of the music is almost tangible. You can feel the change in the wind – a new Beatles era. Which may or many not have happened with the help of something that had mind altering properties, sickly smell, and may or may not have been smoked at Buckingham Palace.
Rubber Soul is also quite a dark album. This isn’t the bubbly, fluffy pop of previous Beatles’ albums. Several years of Beatlemania had taken its toll, and they were only months away from their last ever tour (Rubber Soul was released in December 1965, they last toured in 1966). Disillusionment with fame was creeping in, and we hear profoundly dark lyrics such as: “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to see you with another man”, “I just can’t go on if you won’t see me”, “He’s a real nowhere man…making all his nowhere plans for nobody”. One of John’s greatest ballads: Norwegian Wood really demonstrates the band’s change of perspective to writing songs, themes such as the darker side of love, deceit, jealousy, misogyny, possession, and revenge appear throughout the album.
The songwriting really matures on this album, and there are many peerless songs: Norwegian Wood, Girl, In My Life, Michelle. I may be biased, but John is my favourite Beatle – something my mother and I continually disagree about, and I think John just about takes the honours over Paul in the songwriting stakes on Rubber Soul. Paul is great with a melody, but I love John’s darkness and acidity on this record.
That’s not to say that this album isn’t catchy, Drive My Car opens the album superbly, and I defy anyone who has listened to this album not to join in on the lyric “Beep beep ‘n’ beep beep yeah!”. With its euphemism for sex and themes about fame and doing anything to achieve it, it displays both the dark side and comedic spark of the band. It’s both an in-joke about groupies and a celebration of them.
Beep beep ‘n’ beep beep yeah!
Sorry, that was too good to resist.
In My Life is the stand out song on the album and one of the best Beatles ballads you will ever listen to. Full of powerful lyrics, regret and misty eyed nostalgia, yet it has eternal hope for the future. The melodies are beautiful, the interesting middle part giving a Renaissance twist and the recurring riff is soft and sweet but free of and pop soppy sentiment. Which is probably a good thing, as both In My Life and Michelle are some of the most covered Beatles’ songs in musical history. Indeed Rubber Soul was credited by Brian Wilson for influencing The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. So think on that one..
The only false notes are perhaps What Goes On on which Ringo reminds you that he drums better than he sings, whilst John himself is on record as saying that he hated Run For Your Life. Even so, it isn’t a bad song, certainly not a filler and I quite enjoy humming along to it.
Oh and a word to my wise American readers – the original US album is totally different to the UK one, so you may or may not have a clue about Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, What Goes On and If I Needed Someone being on the album. God knows what that would sound like.. However if you have a modern CD then you’ll be fine.
Rubber Soul is classic Beatles: brilliant, humorous, ironic, iconic.
Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble..
Stand out Songs:
- Nowhere Man
- Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)
- Think for Yourself
The Knitty Gritty:
The album is available on Spotify, Deezer, iTunes and on CD/Vinyl
Other albums to listen to:
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
Revolver – The Beatles