Rubber Soul

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Other songs on Rubber Soul were written more collaboratively by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The Word was one: the first of The Beatles' anthems about love, and a precursor to songs such as All You Need Is Love.

It sort of dawned on me that love was the answer, when I was younger, on the Rubber Soul album. My first expression of it was a song called The Word. The word is 'love'. 'In the good and the bad books that I have read,' whatever, wherever, the word is 'love'. It seems like the underlying theme to the universe. Everything that was worthwhile got down to this love, love, love thing. And it is the struggle to love, be loved and express that that's fantastic.
John Lennon
Anthology

The song was written at Lennon's home in Weybridge. After writing it, Lennon and McCartney drew a coloured lyric sheet.

We smoked a bit of pot, then we wrote out a multicoloured lyric sheet, the first time we'd ever done that. We normally didn't smoke when we were working. It got in the way of songwriting because it would just cloud your mind up - "Oh, shit, what are we doing?" It's better to be straight. But we did this multicolour thing.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

As on Help!, George Harrison contributed two songs to Rubber Soul: Think For Yourself and If I Needed Someone. He also played a key role in the studio collaborations, suggesting a number of arrangements and instruments which defined the sound of the album.

Harrison's love of American soul and R&B influenced the guitar and bass lines on Drive My Car, which were inspired by Otis Redding's Respect. His burgeoning interest in Indian music, meanwhile, found an outlet in Norwegian Wood's sitar part - one of the first times the instrument had been used in a Western pop song.

Ringo Starr, too, wasn't being left out. He secured his first songwriting credit for What Goes On, which was uniquely attributed to Lennon-McCartney-Starr. At a press conference in 1966 Starr described his contribution as "About five words, and I haven't done a thing since!"

The Rubber Soul sessions yielded only one unreleased song. 12-Bar Original was The Beatles' first instrumental since the group signed to EMI in 1962, and was a largely unsuccessful attempt at an R&B/soul recording in the style of Booker T and the MGs.

12-Bar Original was recorded in the early hours of 4 November 1965, after The Beatles had recorded What Goes On. Their first attempt broke down, but the second lasted 6'36" - an edit lasting 2'55" was eventually released on Anthology 2.

In the studio

Remarkably, Rubber Soul was recorded in just four weeks, in time for the 1965 Christmas market.

We were getting better technically and muscally, that's wall. We finally took over the studio. In the early days we had to take what we were given. We had to make it in two hours or whatever it was. And three takes was enough, and we didn't know about 'you can get more bass,' and we were learning the technique. With Rubber Soul, we were more precise about making the album - that's all. We took over the cover and everything.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

Recording began on 12 October 1965; the first song to be worked on was Lennon's Run For Your Life, which he later described as his "least favourite Beatles song".

Working closely with their producer George Martin, on Rubber Soul The Beatles began to expand the musical palate of pop music. They used Greek-style guitar melodies on Michelle and Girl, added a fuzz bass part to Think For Yourself, and added a sitar to Norwegian Wood.

The album's most celebrated musical part, however, was George Martin's piano solo for In My Life. This was taped at half speed, then when played back at a normal rate sounded similar to a harpsichord.

Martin originally tried the solo on a Hammond organ, which didn't give the desired effect. He then switched to a piano, performing the celebrated solo slower and an octave lower than it sounds on the final version.

I did it with what I call a 'wound up' piano, which was at double speed - partly because you get a harpsichord sound by shortening the attack of everything, but also because I couldn't play it at real speed anyway. So I played it on piano at exactly half normal speed, and down an octave. When you bring the tape back to normal speed again, it sounds pretty brilliant. It's a means of tricking everybody into thinking you can do something really well.
George Martin
Sounds Of The Sixties, BBC Radio 2

The title

Although it may have appeared somewhat opaque to 1965 listeners, the title Rubber Soul referred to the perception of The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger among black blues musicians.

I think the title Rubber Soul came from a comment an old blues guy had said of Jagger. I've heard some out-takes of us doing I'm Down and at the front of it I'm chatting on about Mick. I'm saying how I'd just read about an old bloke in the States who said, 'Mick Jagger, man. Well you know they're good - but it's plastic soul.' So 'plastic soul' was the germ of the Rubber Soul idea.
Paul McCartney
Anthology

The studio quote can be heard at the end of take one of I'm Down, included on 1996's Anthology 2.

That was Paul's title, it was like Yer Blues, I suppose, meaning English soul. Rubber Soul is just a pun. There's no great mysterious meanings behind all of this. It was just four boys working out what to call their new album.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

48 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?

      1. Bob

        The following comment is regarding Julio’s preference for the US edition of ‘Rubber Soul’. I thought it would be listed right after his comment, but apparently it hasn’t.

    4. Bob

      I don’t agree. The UK version is the way the Beatles intended it to be, and the Capitol version cuts out three of the album’s best songs — “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone”. Yes, “What Goes On” is the weakest track on the album, but it’s certainly better than later Ringo songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopuss’ Garden”. Besides, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” were recorded earlier for the UK ‘Help!’ album, and they fit in just fine on that record. Capitol always bastardized the early Beatles albums, and once you hear the UK versions in their full, intended presentations, you don’t want to go back. At least I don’t.

      1. Billy Shears

        Although I post an alternative fantasy Capitol scenario (in another posting) which keeps DmC, NM, and If I Needed… (I completely agree with you about those three songs), I do generally agree with your assertion that Capitol bastardized the Beatles’ artistic intentions by chopping things up.

    5. Billy Shears

      On the differences between the U.S. and U.K. versions of “Rubber Soul.” Since I discovered the Beatles, really, when “Pepper” came out in 1967, I never really heard the U.S. version as a whole although I grew up in the U.S. There are clear disappointments with the U.S. version, most notably, two of the best songs–“Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone”, have been removed, as well as the very creative “Drive My Car”. Capitol would have created a better product by knocking off “Wait” and “Run for Your Life” (RfYL is a weak ending to an album packed with masterpieces; even Lennon himself claimed that it was one of his worst songs).

      I do think that “I’ve Just Seen a Face” does work well as an opener on the U.S. album. Many have argued that because of this, the U.S. version has a more “folky” flavor, but replacing “What Goes On” with “It’s Only Love” reverses that feel, since “What Goes On” has more of a country sound (I’m not crazy about either song). Though I’m not a fan, generally, of Capitol’s practice of chopping up Beatles albums and creating new hodgepodges, since they were going to do it ANYWAY, here’s what they should have done (since they changed track order, I did too, to create what I think would have been a more coherent album without losing two of its best songs and including the two singles that were released on the same day). Keep in mind that Capitol albums would only have 6 songs per side, not 7.

      Side One:
      “I’ve Just Seen a Face”
      “Girl” (a great song that works anywhere on the album but links thematically to IJSaF)
      “We Can Work it Out” (not on the original album but released as a single the same day)
      “Drive My Car” (after three more “folky” songs, moves to a harder rock feel)
      “Day Tripper (maintains the harder rock feel)
      “Norwegian Wood” (one of Lennon’s masterpieces, worthy of being a side closer)

      Side Two:
      “Nowhere Man” (a much stronger side opener than either “What Goes On” or “It’s Only Love”
      “I’m Looking Through You” (picks up on the theme of “sight” that’s address in “Nowhere Man”)
      “You Won’t See Me” (keeps the theme going)
      “Michelle” (beautiful melody, uninspired words–would sound better if the whole thing were in French)
      “In My Life” (another masterpiece, could be the album closer if the last chords were more assertive and final sounding)
      “If I Needed Someone” (one of Harrison’s best ever)

      So as you can see, I knocked off “Wait”, “Run for Your Life”, “What Goes On”, and “Think for Yourself” (not a fave), and “The Word” (which I think is overrated). I know that many will take issue with these choices, especially the last two (which I’d leave on if I were producing a 14-track album). This is just a thought exercise anyway.

      1. Billy Shears

        I didn’t mean to imply that my choices were superior to those of the Beatles, who remain the last word in their artistic creations. I was just trying to say that if I were the producer at Capitol and had to chop up the album, I would have done it differently and more creatively.

  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.

  20. Pat Slim Chung

    I love The Beatles. They are the best band of all time. Sgt. Pepper, Revolver and Abbey Road all find a place in my top 5 favourites of all time. The Double White makes it 4 in the top 10. But, I’m sorry. I don’t understand what’s so great about this one. It’s not in my top 20. I don’t come close to seeing any “concept” in here. It seems like a great big leap from this to Revolver for me. I want to, but I just don’t connect.

    1. Billy Shears

      What makes “Rubber Soul” such a great album, in my opinion, is not the “concept”, but (1) the collection of some of the best song-writing the Beatles ever displayed, particularly Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood”, “In My Life”, “Girl”; McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You”, and Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone”, (and the melody, if not the words, to “Michelle”) (2) the increased willingness to experiment with harmony and texture in songs like “Drive My Car”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Nowhere Man”, “Girl”, and “If I Needed Someone”, and (3) the use of new techniques in the recording studio in just about every song. It doesn’t necessarily hang together as a complete album the way “Revolver”, “Pepper”, or even “Abbey Road” does, but most of the parts are worth listening to the whole.

  21. Nolan Contendre

    The relative virtues of the Brit and US versions of “Rubber Soul” are infinitely debatable, obviously. I heard the US version first, but have long since owned both. I suppose I like the British original better, in part because that’s the one the band members created and preferred. But, as much as I love “Drive My Car,” it seems sonically out of place on the overwhelmingly acoustic Brit version. Capitol did find a compatible opener in “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” And “Nowhere Man,” though it’s beautiful melodically, is preachy and feels to me out of place among all those love songs. Here again, Capitol’s trim makes a certain sense. I actually like “What Goes On” as a record even if it is the weakest “song” on the British “RS.” But that’s a defensible trim too. What I wish Capitol had done, if it just had to cut one more, is leave George’s second “RS” song on the record and remove “Run for Your Life,” an early blast of Lennon misogyny. It hasn’t aged well.

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