Beatles Recovered: Rubber Soul
The progression of The Beatles from mop tops making uncomplicated pop music to the innovators who blew the minds of their peers was at its most dramatic in the 14-month period during which they proceeded from the fine pop of You’re Going To Lose That Girl on Help (recorded on 19 February 1965) to the psychedelic workout that was Tomorrow Never Knows on Revolver (recorded on 6 April 1966).
The link between those two very different albums, whose releases were separated by exactly a year, was Rubber Soul, which was released 50 years ago on December 3. Rubber Soul recalls Help in tracks like Wait (which had been recorded for Help) or You Won’t See Me or Michelle, and it presages the future with songs like In My Life, Nowhere Man, Drive My Car or Norwegian Wood. And then there is George’s If You Needed Someone, which seamlessly incorporates the old sound and the new.
Remarkably, The Beatles wrote and recorded Rubber Soul under immense time pressure, still writing some of the songs as they were recording. In an age when thoroughly unoriginal bands take two or three years to bring out an album, it seems impossible to grasp that The Beatles began recording Rubber Soul on 12 October, less than two months before the scheduled release date. The first track recorded that day was Run For Your Life. The Rubber Soul recordings ended on 11 November with a highly pressured marathon session. The last full song to be recorded that day was Girl, which Lennon had hastily written.
On top of that, they were expected to write and record two non-album tracks for a single release. These songs turned out to be We Can Work It Out and Day Tripper. Lennon wrote the latter virtually off-the-cuff in the studio; he and Paul called it a “forced” composition. And in between all that, The Beatles were expected to create the annual Christmas record, for distribution on flexi-disc to fan club members.
The strength of Rubber Soul does not reside so much in the songs but in the album’s feel. Here our boys are high on pot, not freaked out by LSD, and it shows in the sound. It is also the most country of Beatles albums. What Goes On is the only country song on the set, but some of the covers here show just how well suited these tracks are for that genre.
The best cover here is Johnny Cash’s take on In My Life. Lennon sang the song when he had just turned 25; the song’s wistfulness is measured against the fact that the singer memories are still pretty young. Cash sung the song a year before his death. The ravages of age are reflected in his voice, and he sounds like the tired old man her is, looking back at a rich life where some places and some people have indeed gone and some have changed. I think the great video for Hurt would have been even more potent for this song, which appears on the same album.
The most radical reworking of Rubber Soul’s songs featured here comes right at the top, with the bluesy take on Drive My Car by Humble Pie. It appeared on a 1975 LP, Street Rats, with two other Beatles covers, We Can Work It Out and Rain, as well as a cover of a Beatles cover, Chuck Berry’s Rock & Roll Music.
Nancy Sinatra, appearing here with a Lennon song which the composer despised, also recorded more than one Beatles song. On the Boots LP of 1966, on which Run For Your Life appears (as well the hit song which gave the album its title), she also sang Day Tripper.
Naturally the mix fits on a standard CD-R and includes covers. PW in comments.
1. Humble Pie – Drive My Car (1975)
2. Tangerine Dream – Norwegian Wood (2010)
3. Anne Murray – You Won’t See Me (1974)
4. Randy Travis – Nowhere Man (1995)
5. François Fabrice – Les Garçons Sont Fous (Think For Yourself) (1966)
6. Mindy Smith – The Word (2005)
7. King Curtis – Michelle (1966)
8. Charles River Valley Boys – What Goes On (1966)
9. The Brothers Four – Girl (1966)
10. Steve Earle – I’m Looking Through You (1995)
11. Johnny Cash – In My Life (2002)
12. Connie Evingson – Wait (2003)
13. Roger McGuinn – If I Needed Someone (2007)
14. Nancy Sinatra – Run For Your Life (1966)
Dionne Warwick – We Can Work It Out (1968)
Whitesnake – Day Tripper (1978)
More great Beatles stuff:
Beatles Recovered: A Hard Day’s Night
Beatles Recovered: Beatles For Sale
Beatles Reunited: Everest (1971)
Beatles Reunited: Live ’72 (1972)
Wordless: Any Major Beatles Instrumentals
Covered With Soul Vol. 14 – Beatles Edition 1
Covered With Soul Vol. 15 – Beatles Edition 2
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1962-66
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1967-68
Any Major Beatles Covers: 1968-70
Any Bizarre Beatles
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 1
Beatles – Album tracks and B-Sides Vol. 2