Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Beatles - Rubber Soul

Now we're really getting into the good stuff.  This is my personal favorite era of the Beatles, where they were first starting to experiment but not getting too weird and the lyrics were becoming much more personal.

  1. "Drive My Car" - Well okay, I didn't mean they were all personal!  But there's no doubt this is a funny, catchy song and it's pretty hard to resist singing along with.
  2. "Norwegian Wood" - It's the first appearance of the sitar on a Beatles' track and otherwise just a very strongly influenced Dylan tune.  I love the juxtaposition of such a mellow sounding song and the lyrics saying he's doing something as destructive as setting furniture on fire.
  3. "You Won't See Me" - Paul is clearly still having trouble with Jane Asher at this point.  Can you imagine what it must be like, to hear your relationship problems recorded for all the world?  I imagine so many years later, both Jane and Cynthia Lennon have adjusted to this quite well, but at the time it must have been such a strange feeling.  As far as the song itself, I really like its somber yet poppy tone.
  4. "Nowhere Man" - Harmonies, harmonies, oh how I love harmonies.  The subject matter is somehow sad and also hopeful at the same time.Or maybe not hopeful but at least comforting, the idea that while we all feel alone and going nowhere sometimes, the fact that it's a common experience means we're not really alone at all.  It's songs like this that make me love John as much as I do.
  5. "Think for Yourself" - George now tries his hand at this newer style of song writing.  Musically it's pretty basic, and lyrically it sounds really jaded to me.  Which is probably a bit of honesty, as George never really seemed cut out for the huge amount of fame that the Beatles experienced.  I don't blame him, I don't know that I could handle that either.
  6. "The Word" - The word I think of when I think about this song?  Hippies.  This kind of thinking just has not aged well at all, regardless of the good intentions behind it.
  7. "Michelle" - I don't remember what comedian it was who talked about thinking that the words to this were "Someday monkey play piano song" but it's hard not to think about it when I hear the song.  Beyond that though, this is just a simple, sweet song, but it's one that I really enjoy.  I had a friend who was actually named after this song and she and I bonded over the Beatles quite a bit, so it may be happy memories coming back whenever I hear it.
  8. "What Goes On" - This song is fairly unique in that it is credited to Lennon, McCartney, and Starkey, meaning that Ringo did help to write the song, though he admits that it was a pretty small contribution.Once again it's country so it's never going to be on my list of favorites,  but it's good for what it is.  There's also a moment where after Ringo sings "Tell me why" you can very faintly hear John say "We already told you why!" in reference to the song on the last album.  I have a habit of turning the track way up so I can hear it every time.
  9. "Girl" - The song itself is a little too dreary for me most of the time, but there's no denying they did some interesting things with it.  It's a precursor to them really pushing the boundaries on their later albums.
  10. "I'm Looking Through You" - Another bouncy song about a rather sad situation.  It seems to be a recurring theme here.  It's a good one.
  11. "In My Life" - Probably the best love song John ever wrote.  The fact that it works both as a song for lovers and a song for friends, for people still living and those who have passed on, is part of what makes it so great.  Just an all around beautiful song. (I also couldn't resist linking to the fantastic edit of clips they used this song with in The Beatles Anthology)
  12. "Wait"  - On an album with so many really strong songs, this one pales by comparison.  It's good for what it is, but it's not entirely special either.
  13. "If I Needed Someone" - A slightly more positive sounding song than "Think for Yourself" but still nowhere near as strong as the Lennon-McCartney songs on the album.  Don't worry, George, you'll get better very soon.
  14. "Run For Your Life" -  I could easily admonish John for once again threatening a woman when he's talking about cheating on other tracks on the album, but in the last couple years I heard something that changed how I view this song.  The line "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man," is ripped straight from an Elvis song "Baby Let's Play House" so you could almost see this song as some kind of strange tribute to such a twisted line.  I also have this strange fascination with songs where the person is threatening or talking about murdering someone, and this song definitely belongs on that list. (Toadies' "Possum Kingdom" and Soundgarden's "Burden in My Hand" are also on that playlist, if you're curious.)
I love this album, and consider it essential listening for Beatles appreciation.  I also consider it to be tightly connected to Revolver, which we'll be looking at next!


  1. +JMJ+

    I had to put the full album on just to comment--which I didn't have to do for A Hard Day's Night, Help!, and Please, Please Me, although I haven't listened to them in years and recently had Rubber Soul on. Which says something about my relationship with it, aye? =P But at least I can do a play-by-play like yours . . .

    I didn't like Drive My Car when I was younger. It seemed so "rough." =P Now I admire the complexity of Paul's bass working with the melody in a way we haven't really heard yet. But it's still not a genre I love.

    Come to think of it, I didn't like Norwegian Wood, either. =P It seemed so weird! (LOL!) The sitar makes it interesting, yes, but not loveable to me. (You know?) This is shaping up to be an intellectually demanding album, if you take my meaning.

    You Won't See Me comes the closest to the Beatles sound I first fell in love with. =) But I feel that I'm hearing the words for the first time . . . and wanting to apply them to one of my own relationships. ;-)

    Nowhere Man was a huge favourite of some high school friends of mine. Yes, they loved doing harmonies and such during singsongs. LOL! My favourite part of it is Paul's bass--which I now realise isn't the best thing for me to say about a Beatles song.

    Since I had graduated to CDs by the time I got my copy of this album, I just skipped Think for Yourself all the time. =P Now that I'm committed to hearing the whole thing out, I kind of like that it's so English and so 60s . . . and I can actually hear it planting the seeds for Oasis's first two albums! (I loved Oasis in the 90s!)

    The Word is groovy! You're right that it hasn't aged well, but I'd listen to it again for the bass work alone. =)

    I learned Michelle before I listened to the whole album, and I think that's what helped it not seem as odd as its siblings. (LOL!) But as you say, it's sweet and simple (and I add, sincere), so I don't think people who love it do so ironically.

    What Goes On is another track I never loved. I was never drawn to Ringo's songs. =/

    Oh, Girl . . . For some reason, I always think of this as one of George's songs--even when I'm listening to it and hearing John singing.

    (To be continued when I have another free fifteen minutes . . .)

    1. That's an interesting observation about Think for Yourself and Oasis, and I can certainly see the similarities. I listened to those two albums quite heavily myself back then. :)

  2. +JMJ+

    Free again!

    I'm Looking through You is another that I managed to like in my youth. I don't have it perfectly memorised (because this album wasn't the sort I played over and over), but I think it's more accessible in its experimentation than the others.

    I totally agree that In My Life is John's best song! =D It eats Imagine for breakfast. LOL! (But oh, how sad it made me as a child . . .)

    Wait seems like another experiment that I need a bigger musical vocabulary to explain properly.

    If I Needed Someone and Run for Your Life are going to share a paragraph because what I like about the latter is what I felt was missing in the former: a strong sense of storytelling and a bright lead vocal.

    In general, I'd say that if I had been in my 20s in the 1960s, I would have considered Rubber Soul to be the first definite sign that The Beatles were moving into territory I'd need to study up on to appreciate properly.


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