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Friday, April 10, 2015


We all know that Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965) by The Beatles is a masterpiece on its own right, but it has always been categorized as a great Beatles album under the shadow of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver. For some fans, this record is way, way better than these two and here we're going to prove their point.

In 1965 The Beatles were still touring, and before this record, they played at the ultimate venue, their peak in their concert career: a loud and pretty much unlistenable gig at Shea Stadium. They were getting tired of singing about boy-loves-girl songs and even if they already suggested introspectiveness in their previous hit single "Help!," they never explored more than male romance and sexuality. Rubber Soul was their breakthrough and a pivotal point in rock and roll in general. They changed the way of things being done, and everybody else followed.

Just imagine what was going on in London in 1965. Lots of tobacco and weed smoke going around the swinging nightclubs, plus sex, alcohol, pills, and soon to arrive, a substance called LSD. Paul McCartney was having fun with his brain, a fantastic machine spilling creativity all over. John Lennon was becoming a tortured soul under an unhappy marriage and everything he dreamed of was at his reach, yet so far away. Yoko Ono wouldn't enter the scene until the following year. At Abbey Road, George Martin was pushing the guys to produce high quality work, not bubble-gum or forgettable pop. This was envelope-pushing to the max. Martin was disappointed with the results of Beatles For Sale, and he wanted to produce something better. He was not getting the best of the Beatles if they were under the stress of touring. George Martin wanted them in the studio. Well, Rubber Soul is a brilliant studio product made during the heyday of Beatle touring, recorded on a tight deadline. A transitional album from the Mersey Beat sound into unknown territory. The unmistakable link between the four rocking kids of "A Hard Day's Night" and the studio band that gave us "Penny Lane." Rubber Soul explains the transformation process to us.



Notice that the Beatles rarely talked about God, but a lot about love. With the exception of George Harrison's approach to Hinduism in his music, Lennon and McCartney didn't want to explore the concept of God since they were agnostics, in a nice way. For the first time on a Beatles song, Lennon preaches like a priest in "The Word," which for me is a song about the meaning of life (God for others). Before that, he confessed an affair he had with a mysterious woman in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", ending it by setting her apartment on fire. Like I said, she was no Yoko, but the song is (must be) full of inside clues about the girl's identity. Most likely, the rest of the band knew who she was. Paul at that time was dating Jane Asher but he came out of himself, as he usually does, and sang a love song to a French girl named "Michelle," giving the Beatles a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1966. He also sang, tho, about Jane directly in "I'm Looking Through You," posting a storm (in a teacup) warning of what would happen in 1968. McCartney was the only unmarried Beatle at the moment, and Jane probably started to feel she was not meant to be Mrs. McCartney.

Rubber Soul is also the first time when the Beatles look and sing like men, not like boys. Lennon remembers his tortured affair with a "Girl", who later John claimed it was Yoko. Well, although it may not be the girl of "Norwegian Wood", most likely she was the "Day Tripper". The song made me think about Lennon's real vision of living a life in love with a woman. Did he create the Yoko character in his mind even before the Avant Garde artist was introduced to him? Did he shape Yoko to his will? Or did she to hers? Was he longing for a tortured love the same way he was longing for long gone friends and lovers in "In My Life"? How much nostalgia can a man stand without going nuts? The answers are here.


George Harrison contributed with two songs of his own, suddenly becoming a grumpy and wise old man and stripping himself completely off the happy-go-lucky character Paul McCartney wanted him to be. "Think For Yourself" and "If I Needed Someone" are different and caustic points of view on love and relationships, and George started to think it'd be a good thing to leave, but George made fans love him even more.

Capitol Records would butcher and alter Rubber Soul for its sale in the U.S. "Drive My Car," "Nowhere Man," "What Goes On" and "If I Needed Someone" were replaced with "I've Just Seen A Face" and "It's Only Love" (both songs from the U.K. release of Help!) so the American album could cater to the new and growing Folk-rock audience generated by Dylan at Newport. The Beatles wouldn't let Capitol alter their products after the butchering of Revolver, the last straw.

There's so much to talk about Rubber Soul it would take an entire blog or website. But you can enjoy the music almost anywhere. Buy the mono record on vinyl! Enjoy!