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

34 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.)

  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.

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