The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

Rubber Soul is the sixth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 3 December 1965 in the United Kingdom, on EMI’s Parlophone label, accompanied by the non-album double A-side single “Day Tripper” / “We Can Work It Out”. The original North American version of the album, issued by Capitol Records, contained ten of the fourteen songs and two tracks withheld from the band’s Help! album. Rubber Soul met with a highly favourable critical response and topped sales charts in Britain and the United States for several weeks.

The recording sessions took place in London over a four-week period beginning in October 1965. For the first time in their career, the band were able to record an album free of concert, radio or film commitments. Often referred to as a folk rock album, particularly in its Capitol configuration, Rubber Soul incorporates a mix of pop, soul and folk musical styles. The title derives from the colloquialism “plastic soul” and was the Beatles’ way of acknowledging their lack of authenticity compared to the African-American soul artists they admired. After A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, it was the second Beatles LP to contain only original material.

The songs demonstrate the Beatles’ increasing maturity as lyricists, and in their incorporation of brighter guitar tones and new instrumentation such as sitar, harmonium and fuzz bass, the group striving for more expressive sounds and arrangements for their music. The project marked a progression in the band’s treatment of the album format as an artistic platform, an approach they continued to develop with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The four songs omitted by Capitol, including the February 1966 single “Nowhere Man”, later appeared on the North American release Yesterday and Today.

Rubber Soul was highly influential on the Beatles’ peers, leading to a widespread focus away from singles and onto creating albums of consistently high-quality songs. It has been recognised by music critics as an album that opened up the possibilities of pop music in terms of lyrical and musical scope, and as a key work in the creation of styles such as psychedelia and progressive rock. Among its many appearances on critics’ best-album lists, Rolling Stone ranked it fifth on the magazine’s 2012 list “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Drive My Car” McCartney with Lennon 2:25
2. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” Lennon 2:01
3. “You Won’t See Me” McCartney 3:18
4. “Nowhere Man” Lennon 2:40
5. “Think for Yourself” (George Harrison) Harrison 2:16
6. “The Word” Lennon 2:41
7. “Michelle” McCartney 2:40
Total length: 18:01

Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “What Goes On” (Lennon–McCartney–Starkey) Starr 2:47
2. “Girl” Lennon 2:30
3. “I’m Looking Through You” McCartney 2:23
4. “In My Life” Lennon 2:24
5. “Wait” Lennon and McCartney 2:12
6. “If I Needed Someone” (Harrison) Harrison 2:20
7. “Run for Your Life” Lennon 2:18
Total length: 16:54

Review: While the Beatles still largely stuck to love songs on Rubber Soul, the lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds. The group and George Martin were also beginning to expand the conventional instrumental parameters of the rock group, using a sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” Greek-like guitar lines on “Michelle” and “Girl,” fuzz bass on “Think for Yourself,” and a piano made to sound like a harpsichord on the instrumental break of “In My Life.” While John and Paul were beginning to carve separate songwriting identities at this point, the album is full of great tunes, from “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” and “Michelle” to “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “You Won’t See Me,” “Drive My Car,” and “Nowhere Man” (the last of which was the first Beatle song to move beyond romantic themes entirely). George Harrison was also developing into a fine songwriter with his two contributions, “Think for Yourself” and the Byrds-ish “If I Needed Someone.” — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 8.5/10

Listen to Album on Spotify

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