The cover artwork
I liked the way we got our faces to be longer on the album cover. We lost the ‘little innocents’ tag, the naivety, and Rubber Soul was the first one where we were fully-fledged potheads.
The cover photograph for Rubber Soul was taken by Robert Freeman, who had first worked with The Beatles on the cover of With The Beatles in August 1963.
The album cover is another example of our branching out: the stretched photo. That was actually one of those little exciting random things that happen. The photographer Robert Freeman had taken some pictures round at John’s house in Weybridge. We had our new gear on – the polo necks – and we were doing straight mug shots; the four of us all posing. Back in London Robert was showing us the slides; he had a piece of cardboard that was the album-cover size and he was projecting the photographs exactly onto it so we could see how it would look as an album cover. We had just chosen the photograph when the card that the picture was projected onto fell backwards a little, elongating the photograph. It was stretched and we went, ‘That’s it, Rubber So-o-oul, hey hey! Can you do it like that?’ And he said, ‘well, yeah. I can print it that way.’ And that was it.
The distinctive lettering, meanwhile, was designed and drawn by Charles Front, a London-based art director who was approached to work on the album by Freeman. It became much-imitated by other artists in the flower power era, although Front was never credited for his contribution.
Whether the Beatles were into LSD or not I don’t know but I certainly wasn’t. It was all about the name of the album. If you tap into a rubber tree then you get a sort of globule, so I started thinking of creating a shape that represented that, starting narrow and filling out. I was paid 26 guineas and five shillings.
In 2007 the lettering was auctioned by Bonhams, with a guide price of £10,000, after lying in a drawer for 42 years in Front’s attic.
To me it was just another piece I’d done and I had put it away and forgotten about it. When I took it down to Bonhams I went on the underground with it in a carrier bag. When I came back after discovering its value I was absolutely clutching it in a case.
A different colour saturation was used by Capitol Records for Rubber Soul‘s US version, which made the red logo look brown or green, depending on the pressing.
Rubber Soul was the first album by The Beatles not to feature the group’s name on the cover. By late 1965 they were famous enough not to need to announce themselves, and the likenesses of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr were famous the world over.
The album entered the UK charts on 11 December, and from 25 December replaced Help! at the top of the charts. It spent nine weeks at number one, and remained in the charts for a total of 42 weeks.
Rubber Soul began a 59-week run in the US charts on Christmas Day, and from 8 January 1966 spent six weeks at number one. It sold 1.2 million copies within nine days of its release.
The UK and US tracklistings varied significantly. The Beatles intended it to contain 14 songs; however, Capitol Records in the US reduced the number to 12, omitted the upbeat ‘Drive My Car’, ‘Nowhere Man’, ‘What Goes On’, and ‘If I Needed Someone’. In their place they substituted two songs not used on the American version of Help!: ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’, which opened the album, and ‘It’s Only Love’.
The result was a more acoustic collection, hailed as a folk-rock triumph in the vein of The Byrds and Bob Dylan. The leftover tracks, meanwhile, were later issued in the US on Yesterday… And Today.
Two different stereo versions were issued on vinyl in America: a standard stereo mix and the ‘Dexter stereo’ version – also known as the ‘East Coast’ version – which added a layer of reverb to the entire album. The standard stereo and mono mixes were re-released on compact disc in the Capitol Albums Vol 2 box set in 2006.
The US version contained double-tracked vocals by John Lennon on ‘The Word’, along with falsetto harmony vocals and a longer fade-out. Additionally, due to an error when the stereo mixes were sent from the UK to the US, two false starts were included at the beginning of ‘I’m Looking Through You’. This can also be heard on the Canadian version.
As with previous albums With The Beatles and Beatles For Sale, no songs from Rubber Soul were issued as singles in the United Kingdom. They did, however, record the double a-side ‘We Can Work It Out’/‘Day Tripper’ during the sessions, and the single was issued on the same day as the album in both the UK and US.