Preceded by: Help! (1965)
Followed by: Revolver (1966)
We’re still in the middle of our ‘basics’ and here’s our second Beatles album already. This is explicable by the fact that their oeuvre is essential for exploring rock history. And the fact that I love them, obviously. I talked about their last album earlier, when they had developed as a mature band already, exploring their limits as talented musicians. We’ll now return to the point where they were ‘growing up’, to Rubber Soul. The announcement of what would become a legendary sequence of albums from the world’s biggest band.
It was 1965 and the world had just experienced ‘Beatlemania’, a sort of mass hysteria around a band that dominated the charts with one hit single after another and was touring all over the world. With Rubber Soul, this band decided to record an album in a period without touring. This resulted in a number of technical innovations which can be found throughout the album, going beyond the traditional instruments of a rock band. Besides, The Beatles were heavily influenced back then by American acts like Bob Dylan (lyrically, moving from positive love stories to more abstract notions of love and even negative portrayals) and The Byrds (musically, absorbing elements of folk rock).
Let’s just run over this gem. The album is opened by McCartney’s ‘Drive My Car’, an awesome upbeat track on which McCartney actually plays the guitar solo and Harrison the bass part. It’s followed by ‘Norwegian Wood’, a pioneer song concerning the introduction of non-Western instruments in a pop song, as Harrison plays the sitar on this one. His interest in this instrument was stimulated by Harrison’s friend David Crosby, who was a big fan of Indian music. ‘You Won’t See Me’ was the Beatles first experiment with a song lasting longer than three minutes and ‘Nowhere Man’ was among the first songs that were unrelated to romance or love whatsoever, doors that were opened by Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited.
What follows are the two really rocking tracks from the album: ‘Think For Yourself’ and ‘The Word’, according to the legend the first song Lennon and McCartney wrote after they had smoked pot. Side one of the original LP is closed by ‘Michelle’, an oh so typical poppy love song of McCartney.
Side two starts with ‘What Goes On’ and ‘Girl’ (Lennon’s own version of Dylan’s ‘Just Like A Woman’?), after which a real musical orgasm starts. ‘I’m Looking Through You’ is one of my personal McCartney favorites and is followed by an all-time Beatles favorite: ‘In My Life’. This is pure beauty in it’s simplest form, including an awesome baroque piano bridge in the middle of the song. ‘Wait’ was initially recorded for their previous album Help!, but was released on this one because they were one song short with the release deadline looming.
Another personal favorite is Harrison’s ‘If I Needed Someone’. You can very clearly hear the musical friendship between Crosby and Harrison on this song: it could have been released on a Byrds-album without anyone noticing. Besides, it’ s the only song from Harrison The Beatles ever played live. The final track is ‘Run For Your Life’: a slight preview of what Lennon was about to write during his solo career with ‘Jealous Guy’. Maybe he just wanted to write a remake because of the fact that this song was one of his least favorite Beatles songs.
Certainly check out this one if you liked Abbey Road, and also if you didn’t: Rubber Soul shows us The Beatles as a developing band, but still in a pure form. Maybe the album will inspire you to great things, as it did to Brian Wilson as he started to record Pet Sounds after hearing Rubber Soul for the first time.
Preceded by: Yellow Submarine (1969)
Followed by: Let it Be (1970)
Related to: not available yet
When you start with Dylan, you have to come up with something great to follow up. So let’s just immediately throw the Beatles in, the world’s most famous band ever. Influenced by Dylan, and at their turn influencing the rest of he world.
Talked enough about influence, what is it worth after all if the music itself sucks? Luckily this is not the case for the ‘Fab Four’, and certainly not for this album. Although Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver are way more often called the best Beatles albums, I would recommend Abbey Road to start with. Little irony there, as this album was the last one they recorded before breaking up (although Let It Be was released after it).
One thing that characterizes this album is that it’s a very tightly constructed one. Irony part two there, as the group was really falling apart in those days. But despite all the disputes, the band’s main songwriters Lennon and McCartney were still able to produce some fantastic material. Besides, guitarist George Harrison was exposing more and more as a brilliant songwriter. That’s why everybody will recognize famous tunes like ‘Come Together’, ‘Oh! Darling’ , ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Something’ (which was considered by McCartney as the best song ever written by Harrison), without ever having heard the complete album.
The first part of the album consists of these kind of songs, together with ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’. The Beatles opened the doors for so called progressive rock with this song, having a very unusual length and structure. The fanatical organ sounds by ‘fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston and the sophisticated bass from McCartney makes this song one of my personal favorites. Side two to the contrary, is basically one big suite of short compositions with a total duration of about 16 minutes. They were originally made for The White Album and Let It Be, but blended together by McCartney and Beatles producer George Martin on Abbey Road. It closes with the symbolic track ‘The End’, a song with a solo from each of the Beatles (even Ringo, his only one with the Beatles) and the following last line: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. Enjoy.