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Rubber Soul running order
4 February 2015
12.10pm
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Joe
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I've been listening to Rubber Soul over the past couple of days, and there's something that's always bothered me about it: I just don't think it hangs together well as an album.

The first few songs are killer: Drive My Car , Norwegian Wood , You Won't See Me and Nowhere Man  make up one of the best album opening sequences of their career. But after that it always feels like they just threw the song titles up in the air and put them wherever they landed.

Normally when listening to Beatles albums, at the end of a song I know exactly what's coming next. They're ingrained in me and I can probably recite almost all from memory. The notable exception is Rubber Soul . Even after 25 years of listening to it, the songs seem to turn up almost at random. There's no arc to the album: side two (for those of you still in the pre-digital age) in particular seems particularly unstructured, with just a bunch of songs shoved together.

I know they recorded and released it very quickly at the end of 1965, and I can't help thinking they could have come up with a better album if they'd spent a bit longer on it. Heresy, I know. I'm hesitant to say there's a fair amount of filler on Rubber Soul , because it has a lot of die-hard fans, but apart from the better-known songs I simply don't think it's a great album. Am I alone in thinking the whole is less than the sum of its parts?

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4 February 2015
2.19pm
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Ahhh Girl
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I can't speak to the album as a whole, but I made this observation a few weeks ago http://www.beatlesbible.com/fo.....7/#p150017

Here's the relevant part of that post

____________________________

Then I got to thinking about the order of the songs.

First you have

It's so easy for a girl like you to lie
Tell me why
What Goes On in your heart?

Then you have Girl which has the girl telling lies of sorts and thinking she is superior

And she promises the earth to me, and I believe her
After all this time I don't know why

When you say she's looking good
She acts as if it's understood
She's cool, ooo, ooo, ooo

Then it seems as though the guy gets fed up by the third song (I'm Looking Through You )

I've learned the game
I'm Looking Through You
You're not the same

You were above me, but not today

The only difference is you're down there
I'm Looking Through You , and you're nowhere

I had been hearing "Why, tell me why did you not treat me right? Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight" as the guy being sad the love is gone. Now, I'm seeing it as the guy telling the girl "Ha, look what you lost, sucker! If you had treated me right, you could still have ME." The tone of his voice during that song does seem to suggest this interpretation.

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4 February 2015
2.25pm
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Ahhh Girl
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Also, it has surprised me for a while that George Martin hasn't said more about why he put the songs in the order he did.

http://www.beatlesbible.com/19.....bber-soul/

EDIT: I just remembered a discussion about running order. Here's C.R.A.'s post from that discussion
http://www.beatlesbible.com/fo.....2/#p147680

C.R.A. said

Initially, wasn't it George Martin who had that duty?

I think he held that responsibility throughout his time with the boys (whose input greatly increased through the years)

Rubber Soul 's track order always amused me.

[I'm going to] Drive My Car  [over to your place of] Norwegian Wood  [and after I light that place up] You Won't See Me  [I'll be a real] Nowhere Man  [! You should] Think For Yourself  [about] The Word [,] Michelle  [.  I mean,] What Goes On  [,] Girl [?] I'm Looking Through You  [,] In My Life  [...] Wait [...] If I Needed Someone  [, you should] Run For Your Life  [.]

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4 February 2015
2.32pm
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Joe
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I always have trouble with those sorts of theories, I think because I know the stories behind the individual songs (eg I'm Looking Through You was supposedly written after a row with Jane), and that they didn't start thinking in terms of concept albums until Sgt Pepper . But I guess it might help remember the song sequences.

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4 February 2015
5.12pm
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Ahhh Girl
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I just listened through the album. I'm glad Michelle and Girl aren't back-to-back. They sound similar enough that they would have blobbed into one if put together.

I wonder if george-martin remembers why he put Rubber Soul together the way he did.

4 February 2015
7.53pm
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ewe2
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Well they're separated by keys for a start.

Drive My Car - D
Norwegian Wood - E
You Won't See Me - A
Nowhere Man - E
Think For Yourself - G/Gm
The Word - D
Michelle - F

What Goes On - E
Girl - Eb/Cm
I'm Looking Through You - Ab/Bbm
In My Life - A
Wait - A/F#m
If I Needed Someone - A
Run For Your Life - D

There's no particular relationship between the keys, although they have stuck the relatively uncommon ones on side 2 (hard to remember this because we live in CD or digital world). It looks like Martin went for keeping keys apart and maybe some dynamics balance. Drive My Car and The Word had to be kept well away from each other for instance. Norwegian Wood and Nowhere Man , not so much. And George gets a song on both sides.

Also, if this hasn't been mentioned somewhere have a look at Charting The Beatles for some nice visual relationships, the song structures page is pretty amazing.

edit: I've had to edit the keys after comparing several different sources. There's some confusion about keys for some songs, but I accept the Complete Scores as final arbiter. Where I have two keys, the key is the left and the right is the initial chord of the main verse progression (what I think is called harmonic inversion if someone can correct me). This makes the tonality chart from the above site rather confusing, because those chords are NOT the keys, but the chart isn't explicitly saying I, IV, V etc.

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4 February 2015
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And to confuse things even more Joe, as a lot of us North American's know, the U.S. version has different songs and orders, so maybe it might be more pleasing to your ears ????  Maybe you should give it a try for awhile and see what you think!

Maybe, just maybe Capitol Records thought the same, and tried to make it flow better????? a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

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5 February 2015
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ewe2
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For the sake of completeness, Capitol version

I've Just Seen A Face A
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) E
You Won't See Me A
Think For Yourself G/Gm
The Word D
Michelle F/Fm

It's Only Love C
Girl Eb/Cm
I'm Looking Through You Ab/Bbm
In My Life A
Wait A/F#m
Run For Your Life D

edit: corrected for inversions as above

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5 February 2015
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Joe
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I've got the Capitol albums and US albums box sets. I can't get used to that Rubber Soul running order at all. It makes no sense to me to have I've Just Seen A Face and It's Only Love at the beginning of each side! They're terrible openers. I'd probably feel differently if that was the version I'd grown up with though.

I read something recently which said:

...the last track on each side of a record sounds worse than the first, due to the fact that the player's stylus covers fewer inches of grooves per second as it gets closer to the center.

"The vinyl disc is a steadily collapsing medium," says [Bob] Ludwig, who went on to become a Grammy-winning mastering engineer, with credits on Patti Smith's Horses, Steely Dan's Gaucho and White'sLazaretto, among many others. "The closer it gets to the label, the more the information is getting compromised, the high frequencies getting lost."

[...]

In the 1960s and '70s, when artists were recording specifically for vinyl, they recorded and mixed to fit the confines of the medium, [Pete Lyman] explains. They kept sides below 20 minutes, and put loud songs on the outside tracks and quiet ones toward the center to account for the natural deterioration of sound that occurs when the needle gets closer to the middle of the LP.

It made me wonder whether that's why songs like Michelle , Julia and Long, Long, Long were put on the end of a side, though there are probably more examples of louder Beatles songs being used as closers. Interesting to think about though.

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5 February 2015
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I'm not so conversant with the Capitol variants because my general knowledge about Beatles songs came from compilations and not the albums themselves. So I've been very surprised to learn about the whole Capitol side of the Beatles recording history. It's a bit mad to wholesale drop songs on a following album because you decided to alter an album for its movie content in the first place! Also that information about the constraints of LPs isn't something I'd heard before, mastering is a very arcane art! I'll have to look at a lot of albums differently now.

edit: also, I thought Bob Clearmountain had retired! Maybe he said that to stop being bugged by bands a-hard-days-night-paul-11

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5 February 2015
7.20pm
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Bongo said

Maybe...Capitol Records ...tried to make it flow better????? 

That made me laugh - not at you, but at the idea that Capitol tried to make anything related to the Beatles better. They definitely had their own agenda - greed. To be fair, it has been documented that they wanted to give RS a more 'folk' feel by screwing with the songs. But I doubt they cared very much about the flow.

I am very happy with the order of the UK album. For the 1,835th time, I urge listeners to remove the silence between 'Think For Yourself ' and 'The Word '. The juxtapositon of sounds is très cool.

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5 February 2015
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Oh yeah, that's one of my favourite transitions! The way "Think For Yourself " doesn't last a second longer than it needs to (no fadeout), just slams down those final four chords; and then before you know it "The Word " requires only two quick plink-plunks on the pianner to get underway. It's like the band can't waste a second - "You thought that one was good, well listen to this! And we're not even finished with Side One yet, either." As if they knew they had a real winner of an LP, unstoppable like a snowball rolling downhill.

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28 February 2015
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Zig said

Bongo said

Maybe...Capitol Records ...tried to make it flow better????? 

That made me laugh - not at you, but at the idea that Capitol tried to make anything related to the Beatles better. They definitely had their own agenda - greed. To be fair, it has been documented that they wanted to give RS a more 'folk' feel by screwing with the songs. But I doubt they cared very much about the flow.

Zig, I couldn't agree more.  This is why I only own the original U.K. LP's and refuse to own the U.S. Capitol stuff.  However I do have it all on my iTunes for historical reasons but usually find myself listening to the UK stuff, and the very odd time, throw on the Capitol versions for $hits & giggles, but happily sold off all the U.S. CD's I owned and will never collect that stuff again.

Mind you, I stopped collecting all Beatles stuff, as I was hooked and had too much $hit! Now considering selling off my fake Hofner and my rare Beatles T-Shirts just sitting in my closet.

stay-on-topic

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1 March 2015
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Do you play your Hofner, basses that aren't played are very sad :( Yes, I get bass guilt if i stay away from one too long!

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1 March 2015
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Joe said
I've been listening to Rubber Soul over the past couple of days, and there's something that's always bothered me about it: I just don't think it hangs together well as an album.

The first few songs are killer: Drive My Car , Norwegian Wood , You Won't See Me and Nowhere Man  make up one of the best album opening sequences of their career. But after that it always feels like they just threw the song titles up in the air and put them wherever they landed.

Normally when listening to Beatles albums, at the end of a song I know exactly what's coming next. They're ingrained in me and I can probably recite almost all from memory. The notable exception is Rubber Soul . Even after 25 years of listening to it, the songs seem to turn up almost at random. There's no arc to the album: side two (for those of you still in the pre-digital age) in particular seems particularly unstructured, with just a bunch of songs shoved together.

I know they recorded and released it very quickly at the end of 1965, and I can't help thinking they could have come up with a better album if they'd spent a bit longer on it. Heresy, I know. I'm hesitant to say there's a fair amount of filler on Rubber Soul , because it has a lot of die-hard fans, but apart from the better-known songs I simply don't think it's a great album. Am I alone in thinking the whole is less than the sum of its parts?

Sorry, Joe, I think you're alone. The Rubber Soul track progression is one of my particularly well-ingrained ones (I recite it like poetry), seeing as I obsessed over it for months before finally acquiring it, and I have often marvelled that they managed to create such a wonderfully engaging and innovative album in less than two and a half months. It's one of the quintessentially Beatleful albums for me. But that's just me (and a lot of other people)... 

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2 March 2015
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I can half-agree with Joe, because I agree that the track sequence on the second side could've used some tinkering. Specifically, I'd have the albun end with "Wait " and found a different spot for "Run For Your Life ". But I think the running order on the first side is just fine, even though "Drive My Car " as the opener took some getting used to. Didn't "grow up" with the American version but it was the first one I heard, about a year before hearing my friend's newly-released CD of the real thing...and "I've Just Seen A Face " actually sounds pretty great starting off the album, then leading into "Norwegian Wood ". (That mysterious little never-repeated instrumental bit that leads it off then vanishes! Neat. Almost another bit of randomly self-conscious opening-groove alertness like the "I Saw Her Standing There "/"Taxman " countdowns or the "Hard Day's Night" chord or the later jet-plane/tuning orchestra effects on later openers.) Dunno whether the folks at Capitol put any thought into it or just got lucky at random. 

Actually, "It's Only Love " is indeed a poor way to begin Side Two, so I guess "lucky at random" is more likely. 

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I love how If I Needed Someone -- the most inviting, least aggressive, friendliest song on the album-- is juxtaposed with Run For Your Life , the most threatening jealous song they ever wroted, just about. Odd sense of humour, those lads a-hard-days-night-paul-10

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1 April 2016
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I don't typically try to impose patterns or deeper meanings on albums, but this conversation had me looking at the track list differently.

If you put sides one and two side by side, you can come up with some interesting parallels between the pairs of of songs. Example, Norwegian Wood and Girl could easliy refer to the same woman. For that matter, so could You Won't See Me and I'm Looking Through You .

I'm sure there's no merit to this. Just a fun little exercise. a-hard-days-night-ringo-13

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6 April 2017
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I just think the album has a few filler songs and could do with trimming of songs like Run For Your Life , What Goes On and Drive My Car . To keep the running length up I would add the record's single: DT and WCWIO. IMO it should go like this:

Side 1

1. Day Tripper  

2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 

3. You Won't See Me  

4. Girl

5. Think For Yourself

6. I'm Looking Through You

I think opening with DT and NW expressing the two facets of the album (rock and folk) then followed by YWSM works really well. Then an acoustic break and a filler track before picking up the pace for the ending.

Side 2 

7. We Can Work It Out

8. The Word

9. Michelle

10. Wait

11. If I Needed Someone

12. In My Life  

An upbeat start with WCWIO and TW then a couple of more relaxed tracks before two of the best with In My Life a perfect epilogue.

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I forgot Nowhere Man , swap it for The Word

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