03rd December, 2015

Rubber Soul: Celebrating 50 years of The Beatles' album

Rubber Soul: Celebrating 50 years of The Beatles' album

December 3, 2015 marks 50 years since the release of The Beatles' sixth UK album, Rubber Soul. Released in 1965, the album has been hailed by many as a record which maintained the Fab Four's pop style, whilst adding a newfound sense of depth and maturity.

Recorded in the preceding October and November, Rubber Soul was released in time for the Christmas market, just two weeks after final mixing had taken place. But make no mistake, this album was more than just a stocking-filler. Beatles fans were about to be exposed to a whole new level.

Here are 50 fun facts about Rubber Soul for you to enjoy....

1.) 'Rubber Soul' is a punningly-titled album and it takes its name from a reference Paul McCartney heard from a man in the United States referring to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones as "good, but plastic soul". McCartney says that this was "the germ of 'Rubber Soul'".

2.) The cover photograph for Rubber Soul was taken by Robert Freeman, who had first worked with The Beatles on the cover of 'With The Beatles' in August 1963.

3.) The long faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo appear as the result of a happy accident, when The Beatles had just chosen the photograph, and the card that the picture was projected onto fell backwards a little, elongating the photograph.

4.) The distinctive lettering of 'Rubber Soul' was designed and drawn by Charles Front, a London-based art director who was approached to work on the album by Robert Freeman.

5.) In 2007, the lettering was auctioned by Bonhams, with a guide price of £10,000, after lying in a drawer for 42 years in Front's attic.

6.) A different colour saturation was used by Capitol Records for Rubber Soul's US version, which made the red logo look brown or green, depending on the pressing.

7.) Rubber Soul was the first album by The Beatles not to feature the group's name on the front cover.

8.) Whilst Rubber Soul was the sixth UK album by The Beatles, it was the 11th US LP.

9.) The album entered the UK charts on 11 December, and from 25 December replaced 'Help!' at the top of the charts. It spent nine weeks at number one, and remained in the charts for a total of 42 weeks.

10.) Rubber Soul began a 59-week run in the US charts on Christmas Day, and from 8 January 1966 spent six weeks at number one. It sold 1.2 million copies within nine days of its release.

11.) The UK and US track listings varied significantly. The Beatles intended it to contain 14 songs; however, Capitol Records in the US reduced the number to 12, omitted the upbeat 'Drive My Car', 'Nowhere Man', 'What Goes On' and 'If I Needed Someone'. In their place they substituted two songs not used on the American version of Help!: 'I've Just Seen A Face' and 'It's Only Love'.

12.) The US version of 'Rubber Soul' contained double-tracked vocals by John Lennon on 'The Word', along with falsetto harmony vocals and a longer fade-out.

13.) Additionally, due to an error when the stereo mixes were sent from the UK to the US, two false starts were included at the beginning of 'I'm Looking Through You'. This can also be heard on the Canadian version.

14.) As with previous albums 'With The Beatles' and 'Beatles For Sale', no songs from 'Rubber Soul' were issued as singles in the United Kingdom.

15.) The Beatles did, however, record the double a-side 'We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper' during the sessions, and the single was issued on the same day as the album in both the UK and US.

16.) In their rush to complete the album, John Lennon and Paul McCartney included older songs they had written. 'Wait' was originally recorded for Help!, whilst 'Michelle' dates back as far back as 1959.

17.) As on Help!, George Harrison contributed two songs to Rubber Soul: 'Think For Yourself' and 'If I Needed Someone'.

18.) Harrison also played a key role in the studio collaborations, suggesting a number of arrangements and instruments which defined the sound of the album.

19.) Harrison's love of American soul and R&B influenced the guitar and bass lines on 'Drive My Car', which were inspired by Otis Redding's 'Respect'.

20.) In addition to this, Harrison came up with the sitar part for 'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)'. This was the first Beatles song which Harrison used the sitar on, signalling the beginning of his interest in Indian music.

21.) Rubber Soul was the first album which featured the unique Lennon-McCartney-Starr credit.

22.) The rest of the album consisted of eleven songs by Lennon and McCartney, and two by George Harrison.

23.) The Rubber Soul sessions yielded only one unreleased song, '12-Bar Original', which was The Beatles' first instrumental since the group signed to EMI in 1962.

24.) Rubber Soul was recorded in just four weeks, with the release coming just two weeks after final mixing had taken place.

25.) The first Rubber Soul track to be worked on was Lennon's 'Run For Your Life', which he later described as his "least favourite Beatles song".

26.) Incidentally, 'Run For Your Life' was inspired by the Elvis Presley song, 'Baby, Let's Play House', with the line "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man" taken directly from the song.

27.) In stark contrast to John Lennon, George Harrison was believed to have cited 'Run For Your Life' as one of his favourite Beatles tracks.

28.) George Harrison's Byrds-inspired 'If I Needed Someone' was also a hit for The Hollies, who released their version in the same week as Rubber Soul. The Hollies feature within our British Invasion exhibition.

29.) Rubber Soul was also the last Beatles album for which Norman Smith manned the control desk. He took his leave after six albums and eleven singles and went on to produce for Pink Floyd amongst other notable works.

30.) Rubber Soul was recorded after the band had taken a well-deserved holiday, following a momentous tour of USA and Canada.

31.) Producer George Martin described Rubber Soul as "the first album to present a new, growing Beatles to the world".

32.) Martin's influence was crucial, with his harpsichord-sounding piano solo on 'In My Life' being one of the most celebrated instrumental inclusions on the album.

33.) The lyrical content of 'In My Life' is biographical, as Lennon rejoices in nostalgic memories of his home city. Lennon, himself, later stated "I think 'In My Life' was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life, and it was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after 'In His Own Write came out'".

34.) Martin originally tried the solo on a Hammond organ, which didn't give the desired effect. He then switched to a piano, performing the celebrated solo slower and an octave lower than it sounds on the final version

35.) In addition to this, The Beatles used Greek-style guitar melodies for 'Girl' and 'Michelle'. The later of which is said to be inspired by John Lennon's tutor from Liverpool College of Art, Mitchell Austin, and dates back as far as 1959.

36.) The Beatles added a fuzz box to the bass part of 'Think For Yourself'. It was a sound that musicians attempted to mimic for years afterwards.

37.) 'The Word' is the first song in which The Beatles sing about love as something which is all-encompassing, as opposed to the conventional boy-girl romantic way. This Lennon-McCartney collaboration speaks about love as the answer to life, portraying an ethos to the Summer of Love, which it pre-dated by 18 months.

38.) Bob Dylan was becoming a huge influence on The Beatles when it came to recording Rubber Soul and it shone through in their musical style.

39.) Dylan would later return a compliment to The Beatles by releasing his own tribute to 'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)', entitled '4th Time Around'.

40.) 'Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)' tells the story of a man having an extra-marital affair. It is believed that the song, penned by John Lennon, was biographical - though, it has only ever been speculated as to who the girl in the song really is, with journalist, Maureen Cleave, being mentioned amongst others.

41.) John Lennon's 'Nowhere Man' was allegedly a song which he later acknowledged as a depressed self-portrait.

42.) Speaking about the transition which Rubber Soul represented, Paul McCartney once said, "we always wanted every single record to have a different sound. We never wanted to get trapped in this THE Mersey Beat".

43.) Upon hearing Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys made it his aim to make an album as good as it, saying "listening to Rubber Soul didn’t clarify my ideas for Pet Sounds, exactly. But it inspired me". Brian's original handwritten lyrics to “God Only Knows” can be found in our British Invasion exhibition.

44.) Rubber Soul features in Robert Dimery's .1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die'.

45.) Rubber Soul was voted #5 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

46.) Before the album was released in 1965, George Harrison said, "We were very pleased with the way everything's turned out. We all think it's just about our best LP. I can't wait for it to come out. The sleeve's finished too, and the picture on the front is pretty good!"

47.) Commenting upon Rubber Soul, George Martin once said, "I think Rubber Soul was the first of the albums that presented a new Beatles to the world. Up to this point, we had been making albums that were rather like a collection of their singles".

48.) Ringo Starr once recounted, ""There was a lot of experimentation on Rubber Soul, influenced, I think, by the substances."

49.) Rubber Soul was released on CD on 30 April 1987, with the 14-song UK track line-up becoming the international standard.

50.) Having been available only as an import in the US in the past, the 14-track UK version of the album was issued on LP and cassette on 21 July 1987.

This album of firsts represented a huge step for The Beatles, as they slowly started to move away from being referred to as the Fab Four and started to become a lot more serious and experimental with their music, and the attitude and artistry which surrounded it. As George Martin once said, "Rubber Soul was an indication of the way things were going to go".

If you have any interesting 'Rubber Soul' facts of your own please share them with us on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #RubberSoul50.

Discover more about the band that changed the world at the award-winning Beatles Story. Buy your tickets online.

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