Rubber Soul is the sixth album by The Beatles; it was released on December 3, 1965 in the United Kingdom and on December 6, 1965 in the United States. Rubber Soul was produced by George Martin, and recorded in just over a month to make the Christmas Market.
In 2003, the album was ranked number 5 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2006, the album was also chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.
Musically, the Beatles broadened their sound, most notably with influences drawn from the contemporary folk-rock of the Byrds and Bob Dylan. The album also saw the Beatles broadening rock 'n' roll's instrumental resources, most notably on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)". This track is generally credited as being the first pop recording to use the sitar, an Indian stringed instrument, and "Norwegian Wood" sparked a musical craze for the sound of the novel instrument in the mid-Sixties. The song is now acknowledged as one of the cornerstones of what is now usually called "world music" and it was a major landmark in the trend towards incorporating non-Western musical influences into Western popular music. Harrison had recently been introduced to Indian classical music and the sitar by David Crosby of the Byrds. He soon became fanatically interested in the genre and began taking sitar lessons from renowned Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar.
Recording innovations were also made during the recording of the album — for instance, the keyboard solo in "In My Life" sounds like a harpsichord, but was actually played on a piano. George Martin found he could not match the tempo of the song while playing in this baroque style, so he tried recording with the tape running at half-speed. When played back at normal speed during the mixdown, the sped-up sound gave the illusion of a harpsichord. Other production innovations included the use of electronic sound processing on many instruments, notably the heavily compressed and equalised piano sound on Lennon's "The Word"; this distinctive effect soon became extremely popular in the genre of psychedelic music.
Lyrically, the album was a major progression. Though a smattering of earlier Beatles songs had expressed romantic doubt and negativity, the songs on Rubber Soul represented a pronounced development in sophistication, thoughtfulness, and ambiguity. In particular, the relationships between the sexes moved from simpler boy-girl love songs to more nuanced, even negative portrayals. "Norwegian Wood", one of the most famous examples and often cited as the Beatles' first conscious assimilation of the lyrical innovations of Bob Dylan, sketches a poetically ambiguous extramarital affair between the singer and a mysterious girl. "Drive My Car" serves as a satirical piece of reverse sexism. Songs like "I'm Looking Through You", "You Won't See Me", and "Girl" express more emotionally complex, even bitter and downbeat portrayals of romance, and "Nowhere Man" was arguably the first Beatles song to move beyond a romantic subject (arguable because the song "Help!", released earlier in 1965, also appears not to be specifically about a boy-girl relationship - the song takes the form of a general cry for "help" from the singer to another person, whose relationship to the singer remains unspecified. Even the line "now I find I need you like I've never done before", could be addressed to any close friend of the singer, not necessarily a romantic partner).
After completing the album and the accompanying single "We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper", the Beatles were exhausted from years of virtually non-stop recording, touring, and film work. They subsequently took a three-month break during the first part of 1966, and used this down time exploring new directions that would colour their subsequent musical work. These became immediately apparent in the next album, Revolver.
Until very late in their career, the "primary" version of the Beatles' albums was always the monophonic mix. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the group, producer George Martin, and the Abbey Road engineers devoted most of their time and attention to the mono mixdowns, and the band were usually all present throughout these sessions and actively participated in them. Even with their landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, the stereo mixdowns were considered less important than the mono version and were completed in far less time than the mono mixdown.
While the stereo version of the original release of Rubber Soul was similar to that of their earliest albums, featuring mainly vocals on the right channel and instruments on the left, it was not produced in the same manner. The early albums were recorded on twin-track tape, and they were intended only for production of monaural records, so they kept vocals and instruments separated allowing the two parts to later be mixed in proper proportion. By this time, however, the Beatles were recording on four-track tape, which allowed a stereo master to be produced with vocals in the center and instruments on both sides, as evidenced in their prior albums Beatles for Sale and Help!. But Martin was looking for a way to easily produce a stereo album which sounded good on a monaural record player. In what he admits was some experimentation, he mixed down the four-track master tape to stereo with vocals on the right, instruments on the left, and nothing in the middle.
The song "Wait" was initially recorded for, and then left off, the album Help!. The Beatles chose not to include it on Help because they thought the song was dull. The reason the song was released on Rubber Soul was that that album was one song short, and with the Christmas deadline looming, the Beatles chose to release "Wait" instead of recording a new composition.
Paul McCartney claims to have conceived the album's title after overhearing a black musician's description of Mick Jagger's singing style as "plastic soul". John Lennon confirmed this in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, stating, "That was Paul's title... meaning English soul music. Just a pun." Also, Paul says the words "Plastic soul, man. Plastic soul..." at the end of "I'm Down" take 1, on Anthology 2.
The photo of the Beatles on the Rubber Soul cover appears stretched. McCartney relates the story behind this in Volume 5 of the documentary film Anthology. Photographer Bob Freeman had taken some pictures of the Beatles at Lennon's house. Freeman showed the photos to the Beatles by projecting them onto an album-sized piece of cardboard to simulate how they would appear on an album cover. The unusual Rubber Soul album cover came to be when the slide card fell slightly backwards, elongating the projected image of the photograph and stretching it. Excited by the effect, they shouted, "Ah! Can we have that? Can you do it like that?" Freeman said he could.
Capitol Records used a different colour saturation for the U.S. version, causing the orange lettering used by Parlophone Records to show up as different colors. On some Capitol LP's, the title looks rich chocolate brown; others, more like gold. Yet on the official 1987 CD of the British version, the Capitol logo is visible, and the letters are not brown, nor the official orange, but a distinct green. The lettering was designed by Charles Front.
If you hold the album cover up to a mirror (e.g. vertically flip the image of the cover), the title of the album (the words 'Rubber Soul') can be seen to spell out 'Road Abbey' in the reflection, which could have been a recognition of the studio where the band recorded it, or possibly just a large coincidence.
The album was a major artistic leap for the group, and is often cited by critics, as well as members of the band, as the point at which the Beatles' earlier Merseybeat sound began to be transformed into the eclectic, sophisticated pop/rock of their later career. John Lennon later said this was the first album on which the Beatles were in complete creative control during recording, with enough studio time to develop and refine new sound ideas.Rubber Soul is often cited as one of the greatest albums in pop music history. In 1998 Q magazine readers voted it the 40th greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 21 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2001 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 6. The album had a 42-week run in the British charts starting on December 11, 1965, and on Christmas Day took over from Help!, The Beatles' previous album, at the top position in the charts, a position the album would hold for eight weeks. The album became a classic — on May 9 1987, it returned to the album charts for three weeks, and ten years later made another comeback to the charts.
All songs Lennon/McCartney except where otherwise noted.
- "Drive My Car" – 2:30
- "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" – 2:05
- Featuring George Harrison on sitar
- "You Won't See Me" – 3:22
- Featuring Mal Evans on Hammond organ
- "Nowhere Man" – 2:44
- "Think for Yourself" (Harrison) – 2:19
- Featuring McCartney on fuzz bass
- "The Word" – 2:43
- Featuring George Martin on harmonium
- "Michelle" – 2:42
- "What Goes On" (Lennon, McCartney, Richard Starkey) – 2:50
- "Girl" – 2:33
- "I'm Looking Through You" – 2:27
- "In My Life" – 2:27
- Featuring George Martin on piano
- "Wait" – 2:16
- "If I Needed Someone" (Harrison) – 2:23
- "Run for Your Life" – 2:18
- "I've Just Seen A Face" - 2:07
- "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" – 2:00
- "You Won't See Me" – 3:19
- "Think for Yourself" (George Harrison) – 2:16
- "The Word" – 2:42
- "Michelle" – 2:42
- "It's Only Love" – 1:53
- "Girl" – 2:26
- "I'm Looking Through You" – 2:20
- "In My Life" – 2:23
- "Wait" – 2:13
- "Run for Your Life" – 2:21
- John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar
- Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, piano on "Drive My Car", "You Won't See Me" and "The Word", fuzz bass on "Think for Yourself"
- George Harrison: lead guitar, vocals, sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
- Ringo Starr: drums, vocal on "What Goes On", organ on "I'm Looking Through You", maracas and tambourine on "Norweigan Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
- George Martin: producer, piano on "In My Life", harmonium on "The Word", "If I Needed Someone", tambourine on "Run For Your Life"
- Mal Evans: organ on "You Won't See Me"