Happy 50th Birthday to Rubber Soul!

RS U.S. Front

Don’t blame me for the shoddy condition of this record! The U.S repackagings of most of The Beatles’ albums came into my possession in 2008, and they were all in less than very good condition when I got them.

Released 3 December 1965, the same day as The Who’s début My Generation, The Beatles’ sixth studio album is widely established as one of their all-time best, both then and now. It holds up very well over time (unlike the most overrated album of all time), and marked the start of the band’s middle period, my favorite of their three eras. Even Capitol Records recognized what a special album it was and didn’t change the title or cover art.

Though this wasn’t the gigantic sea change many people portray it as, it was still a rather noticeable evolution from the types of songs on their last album, Help!, released just four months earlier. Their songwriting was starting to reflect their growing maturity, moving beyond simplistic boy-loves-girl songs to more introspective, complex scenarios, with artsy, sophisticated lyrics.

The songs:

“Drive My Car”
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”
“You Won’t See Me”
“Nowhere Man”
“Think for Yourself”
“The Word”
“Michelle”
“What Goes On”
“Girl”
“I’m Looking Through You”
“In My Life”
“Wait”
“If I Needed Someone”
“Run for Your Life”

As per usual, Capitol Records changed the track listing and used songs from earlier albums. I can now understand this widespread practice in historical and economic context, but I still really, really dislike how it was once considered acceptable and appropriate to mess around with a band’s artistic vision and integrity. It would be like releasing a book or movie with scenes and chapters in different orders, and material from earlier works scattered in, for different international markets. The only repackaging Capitol got right was Magical Mystery Tour.

RS U.S. Back

The album was a huge chart and critical success, knocking The Sound of Music soundtrack out of Britain’s #1 spot and holding that most coveted position for 8 weeks. It stayed on the charts for 42 weeks, later returned to #1 upon the CD release on 9 May 1987, and most recently came to the charts again in 2007. In the U.S., it entered the charts on Boxing Day 1965, went to #1 on 8 January 1966, and stayed on the charts for 59 weeks.

My own favorite Beatles’ album is Revolver, but RS is nevertheless on my Top 5 (the others being The White Album, Abbey Road, and MMT). My favorite tracks are “Girl,” “Wait,” “In My Life,” “Think for Yourself,” and “If I Needed Someone.” The lattermost two songs were George’s, marking the first time he got more than a token song. Like John and Paul, he really began growing and maturing in his songwriting around this time. He got three on the next album, but then was back to just one for the next two albums.

The album’s not perfect, however. I totally agree with John’s assessment of the closer, “Run for Your Life.” It was a silly, substanceless throwaway that should’ve been left on the cutting-room floor or not even written. This isn’t even closing track material. Still, I’d rather listen to a throwaway from The Beatles (with a few certain exceptions) than anything from most modern-day pop groups. There’s just no comparison.

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5 comments on “Happy 50th Birthday to Rubber Soul!

  1. It had some good songs though.
    Four months between album releases is unheard of now.

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  2. Arlee Bird says:

    Did you really have to bring this up? It’s true though–50 years! It’s hard to believe. One of the greatest albums ever now 50 years old. I still remember well sitting on the floor of my bedroom as a ninth graders listening to this great album over and over.

    I got rid of my copy of this album about 25 years ago, but I can still play it in my head having listened to it so many times.

    Arlee Bird
    Wrote By Rote

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  3. ChrysFey says:

    Good songs. 🙂 I agree with your sentiment about rather wanting to listen to a Beatles throwaway than something from a modern day pop group.

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  4. Ed Hoornaert says:

    Rubber Soul is 50 years old? Groan. That means I’m old, too, because it was the first Beatles album I ever bought.

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