Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Beatles: Rubber Soul

As with every Saturday, I feature a monumental album and this week it is my favorite Beatles LP: “Rubber Soul.” I had difficulty in picking a song as I wanted something that was on both versions of the album and was not overplayed, but not unfamiliar either. Since I had already featured “I’m Looking Through You” several months ago, that tune was out as well. I decided that John Lennon’ s introspective tune “In my Life,” although well known, it was the best choice to highlight this recording.

It is said that "In My Life" was inspired by a British journalist who suggested that Lennon write a song about his childhood. The line "Some are dead and some are living; in my life, I loved them all" was a direct reference to the original bassist for the Beatles, and John’s best friend, Stu Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe had left the band to pursue a career in art had died of a brain aneurysm on April 13, 1962. The aneurysm was thought to have been caused by skull fracture he received during fight after a 1961 Beatles performance in Lathom, Lancashire.

This particular song has a number of elements that give it a unique flavor. First and foremost, John Lennon’s are double tracked – a frequent studio trick that the Beatles used on a number of songs. Not everyone can pull this off as did Lennon. I’ve been in sessions where vocalists have tried to do this, but either they are out of synch with themselves or off pitch with one of the vocal tracks. I haven’t read anything specific about the vocals on this recording, but there is no indication from what I have read that either were an issue for Lennon.

Secondly, the electric guitar in the intro and turnarounds by George Harrison sets the stage for what is to come. Third, George Martin is playing the baroque harpsichord sounding lead on the piano. Lennon asked Martin to come up with a keyboard part. Martin wrote the Bach inspired lead; however, he was not able to play it at the tempo of the song.

To accomplish this feat, the engineers recorded the piano at half-speed – slowing the tape down from 15 inches per second to 7 1/2 inches per second. When played at normal speed, the piano part, now an octave higher and twice as fast, the piano sounded akin to a harpsichord.

With all of that, my favorite part of the song is Ringo’s use of the ride cymbal on the chorus. To me this is gives the song a quality unlike most other Beatles’ songs. Elsewhere in the song the ride cymbal is omitted in deference to the hi-hat.

 The UK version on Parlophone featuring the intended orange lettering.

Rubber Soul was recorded in four weeks and it was the first Beatles album that was not interrupted by a tour. Like all of the albums prior to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Rubber Soul” was released in two different versions – one that was issued throughout the world that followed the UK issue with 14 songs. In the US and Canada, Capitol issued a 12 song version that eliminated four of the songs from the UK issue and added two additional songs.

Capitol's US version with a different color saturation creating gold lettering.

The two versions of “Rubber Soul” had a commonality of ten songs. The songs eliminated from the UK version were included on Capitol’s “Yesterday . . . and Today,” which also featured two songs from side two of the UK version of “Help!” and the double-sided hit “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out.” The US and Canadian versions led with the folky "I've Just Seen A Face" to compete with the popularity of the Byrds and Bob Dylan in the US. 

In Japan, where more Beatles albums were released than any other country, the Odeon record label often issued both American and British versions of Beatles albums when titles differed. Even at that, covers and particular tracks were somewhat different than the US and UK versions. Despite the dual issues with different titles, both versions of “Help!” were issued in Japan; however, “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” were only released with the UK song configuration.

To understand which songs were featured on the two versions of “Rubber Soul,” I have provided a listing of the 16 songs featured on any of the “Rubber Soul” albums.

Drive My CarRubber SoulYesterday . . . And Today
Norwegian WoodRubber SoulRubber Soul
You Won’t See MeRubber SoulRubber Soul
Nowhere ManRubber Soul Yesterday . . . And Today
Think for YourselfRubber SoulRubber Soul
The WordRubber SoulRubber Soul
MichelleRubber SoulRubber Soul
What Goes OnRubber Soul Yesterday . . . And Today
GirlRubber SoulRubber Soul
I’m Looking through YouRubber SoulRubber Soul
In My LifeRubber SoulRubber Soul
WaitRubber SoulRubber Soul
If I Needed SomeoneRubber Soul Yesterday . . . And Today
Run for your LifeRubber SoulRubber Soul
I’ve Just Seen a FaceHelpRubber Soul
It’s Only LoveHelpRubber Soul

"Rubber Soul" was released in the UK and the US in time for the 1965 Christmas buying season, and the rest is history. For your listening pleasure, I have included two “Rubber Soul” playlists – the UK (14 track version) and the US (12 track issue). The songs are in the order as they appeared on the original releases. Enjoy.

Rubber Soul – UK Version (Remastered)

Rubber Soul – US Version (Remastered)

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