Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/14/10.
1965 was an incredible year for the Beatles. With the success of another film and album in Help! in late summer of 1965. The band was also awarded MBE by Parliament where the band was rumored to be smoking marijuana at Buckingham Palace. Earlier that year in April, John Lennon and George Harrison had discovered LSD with Ringo Starr joining in and eventually later on, Paul McCartney. After the band's legendary August 15th show at Shea Stadium in New York City where the band played to more than 55,000 people. It seemed like the Beatles would settle easily with their success and stature. Yet, that was an entirely different story.
A brief session in June would later be followed by a period of uninterrupted work at Abbey Road Studios in early October through November with longtime producer George Martin. The studio had become a place of escape where the band can create without dealing with screaming fans, touring, and all sorts of promotion. It was in these sessions that the band decided to throw away all the rules of what was acceptable in pop music. Taking on various musical styles from folk, rock, Indian music, pop, and early ideas of what would become psychedelia.
Around the same time, the Beatles were re-thinking the idea of what an album could be. In pop music, albums seem to be an idea of putting a bunch of potential hits and tracks that could be considered singles on side 1 of a LP. The other half would be just leftovers and tracks that were considered filler. For the Beatles, they decided to change all of that as they knew every song has to be great and it has to be more than just a product. What the band would do would help change the industry of how they viewed albums and how something that was once an idea to put a bunch of songs on a record. What the Beatles would do was treat the album as a form of art and this would begin a fruitful period of albums that changed the musical landscape for many years.
Produced by George Martin, Rubber Soul is an album in which the Beatles change the shape of pop music by taking on many musical styles with each song fitting in with another. With the majority of songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, one co-written with Ringo Starr under his real name Richard Starkey, and two songs by George Harrison. The album allows each member to take on new ideas of what they could do where George Harrison would introduce the sitar to pop music while Ringo Starr would provide more ideas than just drums or percussion. With additional help from longtime Beatles road manager Mal Evans and George Martin making contributions. The album also expands new lyrical themes from the band as they take on new ideas rather than the traditional boy-girl love songs. The result would be one of rock and pop's music landmark recordings that would change music forever.
Opening the album is the bouncy Drive My Car with its bopping drum fill from Ringo Starr that includes a clanging cowbell track with Paul McCartney singing the song about a girl telling her boyfriend that when she becomes famous, he can be her driver. With George Harrison playing bass and McCartney playing a sliding lead guitar and melodic piano track with John Lennon on a driving rhythm guitar and singing with McCartney on some parts. It's a great way to open the album as it is a fun, upbeat song with a witty narrative. Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown) is a somber folk ballad with Lennon's washy acoustic guitar as he sings the song with his calm vocals that is filled with complex lyrics of love. With Starr on soft percussion tracks and McCartney on a soft bass track. The song's highlight is Harrison's soothing, sitar accompaniment that maintains a soothing melody making it one of the band's groundbreaking songs.
You Won't See Me is bouncy, mid-tempo track with McCartney singing the song with a melodic piano track and Starr's hi-hat, pulsating drum fill. Featuring harmony vocal accompaniment from Lennon and Harrison, the song includes Harrison's swanky guitar track along with biting lyrics from McCartney about love gone wrong. The song also features a Hammond organ solo from longtime Beatles road manager Mal Evans in the song's coda. Nowhere Man is a rich, jangly song with jangly guitar flourishes from Lennon and Harrison along with driving folk riffs that is supported by McCartney's soothing bass and Starr's mid-tempo, bopping track. Featuring amazing vocal harmonies from Harrison and McCartney, the song has Lennon singing poignant lyrics about going nowhere that features some of his powerful work as a lyricist.
George Harrison's Think For Yourself is an upbeat but stern track with cautionary lyrics by Harrison as he sings in a calm but direct vocal as he's joined by Lennon and McCartney on harmony vocals. The song's chorus includes a bopping, shimmering drum track with Ringo's shaking tambourine and pulsating drums along with McCartney's fuzzy, double-tracked bass and Lennon's flourishing keyboard track. The Word is a bouncy, upbeat song with swanky guitar riffs from Lennon and Harrison plus McCartney's bopping piano and Starr's rumbling drum fills. The song's lyrics are filled with direct yet abstract lyrics of love that would later usher in the era of psychedelia while George Martin would play a wailing harmonium solo in the coda.
The love ballad Michelle is a song largely performed by Paul McCartney with the exception of drums from Ringo Starr and backing vocals from Lennon and Harrison. With its plaintive yet somber acoustic presentation and melodic bass track, the song is sung in both English and French with its tone of love as it includes a rare yet beautiful bass solo by McCartney. What Goes On by Lennon, McCartney, and Ringo Starr is a country-rock song with swinging country riffs by Lennon with Harrison playing twangy lead tracks. Starr's drawling vocals provide the right note for the song's playful lyrics as he plays a steady yet bouncy drum fill with McCartney's smooth, melodic bass track as it is a standout cut that shows the band doing country music.
The love ballad Girl is a folk-inspired track with Lennon's somber vocals and troubled lyrics about a girl. The song's unique narrative along with intimate presentation as it features plaintive, acoustic guitar tracks with melodic bass line and Starr's slow, steady drum. The backing vocal tracks from McCartney and Harrison coupled with George Martin's broad yet sparse production adds an air of richness to the song. I'm Looking Through You is a folk-inspired track with McCartney's double-tracked vocals filled with dark, troubled lyrics of deception it starts off as a mid-tempo track. Then comes Ringo Starr's two-note organ track with bouncy beats and McCartney's wailing guitar as he's accompanied by Lennon and Harrison on driving guitar tracks as it is one of the band's upbeat though dark tracks.
The nostalgic In My Life is led by Harrison's plaintive guitar melody with Lennon's soft, washy guitar. With Starr's soothing, mid-tempo drum fill and McCartney's soft bass line, the song definitely belongs to Lennon with his calm vocals and lyrics of reminiscing that is truly touching. The production and somber tone of the song is definitely one of the band's best which includes a sped-up piano solo by George Martin that sounds like a harpsichord that is one of band's pop masterpieces. Wait starts off a slow, mid-tempo track with Starr's bopping beats and shaking percussion tracks with washy, jangly riffs from Lennon and Harrison's guitar. With Lennon and McCartney singing the song with McCartney singing a part as it's sung mostly by Lennon. The song includes lyrics of anxiety about a relationship as the two men play parts for the characters in the song.
Harrison's If I Needed Someone is led by Harrison's ringing, 12-string guitar track as he sings the song with his soothing, dreamy vocals that includes lyrics of longing. With Lennon's washy rhythm guitar and a smooth, bouncy rhythm from Starr's tapping tambourine and McCartney's soft bass track. The song includes a quiet, harmonium accompaniment from George Martin as the song shows Harrison reaching his potential as a songwriter. The album closer Run For Your Life is led by Lennon's washy acoustic track as it is followed by Starr's bouncy drum fill and Harrison's ringing guitar solo. Featuring McCartney's thumping bass line, the song has Lennon singing lyrics of jealousy with a sense of bitterness as it includes some great guitar work from Harrison in what is a fitting closer.
Released in December 3, 1965, the album stunned audiences and critics who couldn't believe how far the Beatles had come from its early days to where they were now. Equally impressed by the album is Beach Boys' vocalist/bassist/producer Brian Wilson who found himself challenged by the band and realize that the Beatles had set new rules on what it takes to make a great album. The album went to number one in the U.K. for 42 weeks while being number one in the U.S. for more than a month in a different version. The album would mark a new period for the Beatles as they found more time in the studio to work on whatever they wanted to do. Yet, they were about to embark a year where things would shake up for them creatively as well as their public image being changed forever.
The 2009 remastered edition album is largely based on George Martin's 1987 remix work on the album for its original 1987 CD release. With new remastering for the album for both the stereo and mono box sets. The record shows more layers into the instrumentation along with the vocal harmonies. Even on the backing tracks as there's something broader to George Martin's production in the record that hadn't been heard on previous albums.
Rubber Soul is a masterpiece that really changes the shape of what an album can be for rock and pop music. Anyone in the history of rock and pop music will no doubt see this as one of the touchstones of what was great about that kind of music. Even of what the Beatles and George Martin was doing in 1965. Beatles fans of course will no doubt consider this not just essential but a must have. This album is truly one of the hallmarks of what is great pop music as Rubber Soul is a fantastic album that is still exciting and fresh since its original 1965 release.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)
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