Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul album artworkRecorded: 12 October - 15 November 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 3 December 1965 (UK), 6 December 1965 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, Vox Continental organ, tambourine
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, sitar, tambourine
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, cowbell, tambourine, maracas, percussion, bells, Hammond organ
George Martin: piano, harmonium, tambourine
Mal Evans: Hammond organ

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Drive My Car
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
You Won't See Me
Nowhere Man
Think For Yourself
The Word
What Goes On
I'm Looking Through You
In My Life
If I Needed Someone
Run For Your Life

The Beatles' sixth UK album and 11th US long-player, Rubber Soul showed the group maturing from their earlier pop performances, exploring different styles of songwriting and instrumentation, and pushing boundaries inside the studio.

In October 1965, we started to record the album. Things were changing. The direction was moving away from the poppy stuff like Thank You Girl, From Me To You and She Loves You. The early material was directly relating to our fans, saying, 'Please buy this record,' but now we'd come to a point where we thought, 'We've done that. Now we can branch out into songs that are more surreal, a little more entertaining.' And other people were starting to arrive on the scene who were influential. Dylan was influencing us quite heavily at that point.
Paul McCartney

Rubber Soul furthered the group from the straightforward love songs that had characterised their early recordings, and continued the exploration of wider themes that had begun in songs such as Help! and You've Got To Hide Your Love Away.

John Lennon, in particular, was enjoying a songwriting peak, creating some of his best work such as Girl, In My Life and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).

In Nowhere Man, Lennon detailed his lack of confidence and feelings of insecurity, and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) dealt obliquely with an affair he was having, yet didn't want his wife to discover.

In My Life, meanwhile, began as a nostalgic set of memories of Liverpool. In 1980 Lennon described it as "my first real major piece of work",

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?' Which came out later as Penny Lane from Paul - although it was actually me who lived in Penny Lane - and Strawberry Fields.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Paul McCartney's songwriting, too, was maturing, although his creative peak as a songwriter arguably didn't arrive until 1966's Revolver.

I'm Looking Through You and You Won't See Me were inspired by McCartney's often turbulent relationship with Jane Asher, while Drive My Car - a playful humorous song with a twist in the tale - showed the lighter side of his songwriting.

In their rush to complete the album, Lennon and McCartney resurrected some older songs. Wait had been recorded for Help!, and with a few overdubs in late-1965 was deemed good enough for enclusion on Rubber Soul.

Michelle, meanwhile, was one of McCartney's oldest songs, dating as far back as 1959. It was inspired by Austin Mitchell, one of John Lennon's tutors at the Liverpool College of Art.

He used to throw some pretty good all-night parties. 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.' We were always looking for tunes, because we were making lots of albums by then and every album you did needed fourteen songs, and then there were singles in between, so you needed a lot of material.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

39 responses on “Rubber Soul

    1. bruce

      Yeah. Their first collection of songs that seem to work together on the album somehow, they make the album seem to have a concept or something
      Their first albums were AMAZING too but they put fill-in songs, which they stopped doing after Rubber Soul, or Revolver
      Its incredible the way they progressed so fast, in every aspect a musician could

  1. Von Bontee

    Could’ve conceivably been my favourite album if it didn’t noticably fizzle out near the end with a couple of middling songs. They were new to the art of constructing capital-“A” Albums, and consequently hadn’t thought to create a super-spectacular mindblower of a closing track along the lines of “Tomorrow Never Knows” or “A Day In The Life”.

      1. Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

        Quite right Lukey, but it’s definitely in another (inferior) league with respect to the two ones mentioned by our friend Von Bontee!

  2. BeatleMark

    We here in the U.S. really like the Capitol release on vinyl. Especially the “East Coast/Dexterized” version with the added reverb. This variation of the album is rare and is not included on the Capitol albums box set.

    You can spot this particular version of the album by looking in the “dead wax” on the record. If it has IAM in a triangle following the matrix # and “The Beatles” listed on the label (the first edition has the Beatles individual names only), it’s a Dexterized version.

  3. graham

    You can almost smell the pot on this album! I’ve heard on the Anthology DVDs that this was probably one of there most favorite albums. A great collection of songs, front to back. I think after this one and Revolver their albums seemed a bit patchy, they still had great songs on them but it became more individual. They didn’t seem to work together as much. Really either the end of an era or the beginning.

  4. robert

    This was the first Beatles album I ever bought. It had just come out and I bought with my 9th birthday money.

    I bought Rubber Soul and Help that day. I remember being amazed (even as a 9 year old) at the incredible musical differences between the two albums.

    Plus the Rubber Soul cover – didn’t even have their names on it – just those incredible four faces! it was all you needed.

  5. GniknuS

    Their best album in terms of song quality, the problem, maybe, is that there’s no remarkable end that the next two albums offered. But that’s also why I love this album, you can start it anywhere and end everywhere. It just flows really well.

  6. David

    I was nine when this came out, and it was my second LP (my first was With The Beatles). I played them both morning, noon and night!

    Rubber Soul was the first time I realised that The Beatles had an appeal beyond kids and teenagers. I was dragged along to visit some of my mother’s friends – they were school teachers – and to my amazement THEY had Rubber Soul!

  7. M. Whitener

    Rubber Soul features such a great collection of songs, it’s hard to separate it sometimes. It’s my second fav behind “Pepper”. They never had better harmonies than on this album. “In My Life” was Lennon’s greatest majority work in my opinion & “Norweigan Wood” isn’t far behind. It was a revolutionary sound for them with the sitar, at the time & it really stands out still even after their studio years. It does kind of just flow along, but I think that some of their most underrated songs are on this album, like “You Won’t See Me”, “Wait” & “You Won’t See Me”. Love this album.

      1. M. Whitener

        I really do. I think it was the best usage of Paul’s double tracking of his voice until he did “Penny Lane”. Also, John & George were great in accenting background vocals. It was their most complex instrumental song, but vocally it stands up with anything of that period.

        1. Von Bontee

          Well, my point was that you mentioned it twice in that one sentence! (Or was that intentional?…)

          (Anyway, don’t worry, I think it’s good enough to be listed twice, too.)

      2. Frank

        You Won’t See Me is so great! Extremely underrated.

        I also don’t understand how none of the Beatles liked Wait. It’s so beautiful, it puts a weird pit in my stomach like I’ve achieved nothing.

  8. Bob Ryan

    This is another where I think Capitols bastardizing of the albums worked in the Beatles favor. I’m sure I would have loved either tracklist. But having grown up with the leather-and-suede acoustic feel of the American Rubber Soul it is downright DIFFICULT for me to play the british version all the way through. What Goes On is, to me, simply a travesty in the world of Rubber Soul. Drive My Car and Nowhere Man are good tracks — Nowhere Man a great one — but the Capitol album is just so much more COHERENT a collection of songs.

    1. julio

      It is interesting that UK versions have now taken over because when a lot of people refer to Rubber Soul historically they are talking about the U.S. Capitol version. That is the collection of songs that inspired Brian Wilson not the Uk one. I remember listening to the warm “I’ve just seen a face” a staring at the pictures on the back of Rubber Soul and my mind just being blown. Opening track on the uk version is “Drive my car”, it just doesn’t work for me as the Rubber Soul feel. Should have been strictly a single.

      1. julio

        It is amazing how John dominates 1965 with major achievements like Help, Ticket to Ride, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Norwegian Wood, Girl, In My Life, Nowhere Man (I know Paul helped with some of these but they are definitely John songs). Paul taking a back seat with exception of Yesterday writing filler tracks like The Night Before, Another Girl, You Won’t See Me etc. But I feel John takes a back seat to Paul in 1966 (I think Paul’s years are 1966 and 1968).

    2. Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

      Yeah, the yanks are always there with their attempts at oneupmanship. They cracked the Enigma code (so would one of their trash films have us believe), then TAUGHT the Beatles (who were of course yanks anyway, as everybody knows) how to put albums together. Talk about “bastardising” and “travesties”!

    3. Lukey Boy

      OK, maybe you could lose What Goes On, but Drive My Car, Nowhere Man and If I Needed Someone are among The Beatles’ finest songs. I wonder if Capitol really ‘got’ The Beatles. Bad enough they ignored the early songs, but the butchering (or bastardizing!) was uncalled for here. I wonder how The Beatles themselves felt about it. Joe?

  9. Jammy_jim

    John’s output in 66 & 68, while not as catchy or single-worthy as Paul’s, was awesome and inspiring nonetheless:
    I’m only sleeping, Tomorrow never knows, Dr. Robert, She said she said, And your bird can sing, Happiness is a warm gun, I’m so tired, Revolution, Glass Onion, Dear Prudence, The continuing story of Bungalow Bill, Julia, Yer blues, Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey, Sexie Sadie, Cry Baby Cry, Goodnight.

    1. Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

      There, Jammy. I think that, given the impossibility of picking the best Beatle song, I can’t squeeze the shortlist any tighter than four “best songs”, to wit: Dear Prudence, Happiness is a warm gun, Yer blues and Oh! Darling. Three of these are Lennon’s, and from the period you mention. John was an extreme talent, but his disorganisation and tendency to laziness dragged his career down when he lost (dumped) his three wonderful colleagues. And yet, he somehow managed to turn in gems like Woman is the nigger of the world and Steel and glass. If only he could have kept Paul’s coherence, attention to detail and dutifulness (virtues he once had had, for example by the time of A hard day’s night), John would have cut a really amazing solo career. And, if only he had stayed away from Phil Spector…..

  10. william

    You Won’t See Me is a hidden classic. Harrison has two gems here. About the only thing off-putting are the lyrics on the last song on side two, but the playing on that song and the melody are quite good.

  11. BeatleFreak2

    The “Rubber Soul” album released in the United States did not have “If I needed Someone” on it, nor “Drive My Car.” “If I needed Someone” was the song right after “And Your Bird Can Sing” (my FAV on the album) on “Yesterday and Today,” the butchered babies album that got covered up with a more “respectable” cover. I have one of the butchered babies albums but alas, I was just a kid and it looks like a kid tried to get the cover-up off by herself. In other words, it is a mess. “Drive my Car” was also on the US release album “Yesterday and Today.” “I’m only sleeping” was the second song after it. I wish we could buy CDs with the same songs on the original US release albums, but I’ll be thankful for what we can get.

    1. Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

      What d’you mean “the original US release albums”, Freak? The original Beatles albums are those issued in the UK. Calling a mish-mash including “Drive my Car” followed by “I’m only sleeping” (separated in fact by a full EIGHT MONTHS) an “original” is only a token of how deluded and wide-of-the-mark of reality yanks are!!!

  12. Lukey Boy

    I truly love this album. Every song is perfect, and that is very rare. I like Abbey Road and Revolver, but I’d say this was their masterpiece. Album openers don’t get much better than ‘Drive My Car,’ one of the funkiest things they ever recorded. Four white guys from Liverpool sounding like four black guys from Detroit!

  13. James Ferrell

    This has always been one of my top 10 albums of all time in either the UK or folkier US incarnation. The songs are superb. I love the variety of sounds and the economical arrangements. And the performances have a relaxed confidence. The one thing I don’t really like is George Martin’s famous ersatz baroque solo in “In My Life”, especially the end of it when it smashes into the middle eight. But that’s a small thing. Wall to wall this is a truly great album.

  14. Hollywood Joe

    The songs on this album – RUBBER SOUL – by The BEATLES -In MY opinion is the most QUANTUM – LEAP in the history of POP MUSIC – To me I feel that here the Beatles were totally ahead of any one on the EARTH that was writing songs – This RUBBER SOUL album is the TURNING POINT in Pop Music HISTORY – all 12 songs on the U.S. album and 14 on their U.K. release show how their minds(the Beatels’) were so far advanced from anyone on Earth – Joe Nania A.K.A. Hollywood Joe

  15. cold turkey 1987

    I much prefere the uk track listing to us. I cant imagine the album opening with any track but drive my car. Song for song one of there better albums. I enjoy so called filler such as wait, word, run for your life just as much as in my life and Norwegian wood.

  16. Bongo

    I still agree with George Harrison that Rubber Soul & Revolver could have been album 1 & 2. Yes Revolver is a great LP, but Rubber Soul is the album that they matured. Matter of fact, Rubber Soul had 6 hits on the 1962-66 Red LP, while Revolver only had 2.

  17. cold turkey 1987

    It certainly would have been an awesome double album. The only problem with that is I enjoy them separately to more independently observe the beatles growth in almost every way imaginable present on both lps.

  18. Graham Paterson

    I got this in 1979 for my 13th birthday,36 years ago tomorrow!! I also got the album A Hard Days Night. Rubber Soul was a landmark at the end of 1965 when The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan,The Beach Boys and The Byrds were all seemingly competing with each other and producing classic albums and singles. When I first got it; for quite awhile after it was my favourite Beatles album, though over the years that opinion has chopped and changed. Rubber Soul mixes folk rock, classic pop and ballad and country with some of the best harmonizing courtesy of John, Paul and George. Harrison matured as a song writer on this with If I Needed Someone and Think For Yourself. Pauls Michelle and You Wont See Me are classics. John Lennon was on a real roll on this album with brilliant numbers like Norwegian Wood,Girl, Nowhere Man and one of his greatest works In My Life. The latter is one of my favourite songs of all time with a timeless message that we can all relate to. I just love The Word and Run For Your Life, even though Lennon himself was critical of the latter years later. Drive My Car, another great song. This is one of the greatest albums of all time.

  19. Speaker of the Rubber Soul album.

    The Beach Boys made Pet Sounds a response to this album, trying to top it. You can really hear the similarities. Most great albums rise emotions and peak at the end, this one sounds like it’s about to peak after If I needed Someone, and just all falls apart at Run For Your Life. Pet Sounds does the same at Here Today, and starts falling at I Just Wasn’t made for these times.

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