Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
- 'In My Life'
Rubber Soul was the Beatles' sixth album, released in the United Kingdom on 3 December, 1965. It was released in the United States three days later, on 6 December. In the UK, it was on the British charts for 42 weeks, and in the US for 59 weeks.
Widely regarded as one of the best Beatles albums, along with Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver, Rubber Soul marked a crossroad for the Beatles. Though their previous works were undoubtedly innovative, Rubber Soul is much more artistically advanced than the previous Beatles albums, possibly because Rubber Soul draws inspiration from folk singers such as Bob Dylan, and Indian spiritualism. Some of the songs have more philosophical lyrics, and were more serious than many of their previous compositions.
The Album Cover
The cover picture of the album is a photo looking up diagonally at the heads of all four Beatles, from left to right, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. In the background you see leaves of a tree or woods. In the upper left-hand corner, in appropriately rubbery brown lettering is the words 'Rubber Soul. The defining aspect of the picture is that the photo has been stretched out. This was done by accident when the Beatles were deciding on a picture for the cover with the photographer, Robert Freeman. He was showing the Beatles possible choices with a slide projector, and when they arrived at the said picture, the projector accidentally stretched the image, thus giving it its rubbery look. The Beatles liked this and asked Freeman if he could print it just like that. Freeman replied that yes, he could, and this became the famous picture recognized in record shops around the world.
All songs written by Lennon and McCartney, except for 'Think For Yourself' and 'If I Needed Someone', by George Harrison. 'What Goes On' was written by Lennon and McCartney with Ringo Starr.
- 'Drive My Car' - Written and sung by Paul, this is the only Beatles song that is car oriented1, though the lyrics are metaphorical of sexual innuendo. The 'beep mm beep beep yeah' refrain has been copied numerous times, most recently in a automotive insurance commercial. The song uses a cowbell as a percussion instrument, giving a mechanical touch to the song. In 2001, 'Drive my Car' was played at Douglas Adams's memorial service.
- 'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)' - An acoustic song written primarily by John, it was the first Western pop song to feature his sitar2. In later albums George often played a sitar, such as 'Within You, Without You', from Sgt. Pepper's and 'Love You Too', from Revolver. In 1970, John revealed that the song is about an affair he had when he was married to Cynthia, his wife at the time. However, much mystery surrounds the actual meaning of what exactly 'Norwegian wood' is, with a popular theory suggesting that it is marijuana. In 1966, on his album Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan released '4th Time Around', a similar sounding song which Dylan later confirmed that it was in fact based on 'Norwegian Wood'.
- 'You Won't See Me' - Written by Paul, it is about his dissatisfaction with his then girlfriend, Jane Asher.
- 'Nowhere Man' - This song, written by John, it is notable because it is the first Beatles song that was not about love. He got the idea for this song when he was in a bout of musical writer's block, making him feel like a 'nowhere man'. This song was also featured in the animated movie Yellow Submarine.
- 'Think For Yourself' - The first of George's two writing contributions to the album. It is about just what the title implies. He said he was never quite sure who or what inspired the song, but that it was 'probably the government'.
- 'The Word' - A song using mostly one note. The word is of course 'love', though it is not about a girl. It is possibly about Transcendental Meditation, which is practised by thinking of the same word over and over again, as this would account for repeated use of one note.
- 'Michelle' - The early rough form of this song was written by Paul, just as a joke for at parties. It was a simple French-sounding song and he would sing groans and nonsense lyrics that sounded vaguely like French singing. He then changed it into a love song about a girl named Michelle, and with help from a French speaking friend, Jan Vaughn, he added some French lyrics. 'Michelle' was covered in 1966 by the Overlanders, giving them their only Number One hit.
- 'What Goes On' - A country-style song written primarily by John and Paul, and Ringo also has his first writing credit in a Beatles song. Ringo said later that his contribution was 'about five words'. Ringo also sings it, for John and Paul made a point to always have Ringo sing one song on every album.
- 'Girl' - Written by John, this song is about frustration with a girl. Though the song is metaphorically anti-religion. In parts, Paul and George are singing in the background the words 'tit tit tit tit tit tit tit' in rapid sequence, as a joke. Also, John occasionally inhales loudly, supposedly symbolising him taking a drug.
- 'I'm Looking Through You' - Written mostly by Paul, it is again about his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. It is rumoured that the song is a solo recording by Paul, who plays many different instruments, with the speculation being due to the drum and guitar playing being very different from George and Ringo's usual style. The song contains clapping as a percussion, inspired by Buddy Holly's song 'Every Day'.
- 'In My Life' - Often considered to be one of John's best works, this song is about his childhood and teenage years. It was written as a poem, then later made into a song, with the first draft being written during a bus trip from his childhood home on Menlove Avenue to another part of Liverpool. George Martin, the Beatles' producer at the time, played the piano for the song. It is notable that the piano has a very unique sound, because George Martin made the master tape at half speed, recorded the accompaniment, then finally played it at regular speed. 'In My Life' has been covered by other musicians numerous times, including Johnny Cash, Crosby, Stills and Nash and even Ozzy Osbourne.
- 'Wait' - This song was originally going to be included on the previous Beatles album, Help!, but they decided they didn't like the song very much, so they skipped it. It was then included on Rubber Soul because they were one song short for the album.
- 'If I Needed Someone' - George's second song on the album. This song is written mainly using the D Major chord.
- 'Run For Your Life' - According to John, this is his least favourite Beatles song, and he claims he 'knocked it off for the sake of writing a song'. However, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra's daughter, felt differently. On her famous Boots album, she covered 'Run For Your Life' along with 'Day Tripper'.
When Rubber Soul was released in America, the album was slightly different from the UK version above. On Side One, 'Drive My Car' was replaced by 'I've Just Seen a Face', and 'Nowhere Man' was removed completely. On Side Two, 'What Goes On' was replaced by 'It's Only Love' and 'If I Needed Someone' was taken off. These songs were later included on Yesterday...And Today, an album made up of songs that were not included in the US versions.
Rubber Soul inspired Brian Wilson, leader of the American rock group The Beach Boys, to create the Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds, which also later became a classic.
In December of 1965, I heard the album Rubber Soul by the Beatles. It was definitely a challenge for me. I saw that every cut was very artistically interesting and stimulating. I immediately went to work on the songs for Pet Sounds.
- Brian Wilson
Pet Sounds then inspired the Beatles to create Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
No one is educated musically until they've heard Pet Sounds...It is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways.
- Paul McCartney
In 1998, Q magazine placed Rubber Soul at Number 40 on the list of the best albums ever. However, in 2001, the television station VH1 placed it as the sixth best, and Rolling Stone magazine placed it at fifth best.