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The Beatles sharpen songwriting on ‘Rubber Soul’

The Beatles sharpen songwriting on ‘Rubber Soul’

The Beatles sharpen songwriting on ‘Rubber Soul’
June 14
09:28 2017

In many ways, “Rubber Soul” marked the end of an era for The Beatles and the beginning of something new and exciting.It was the second album the band released in 1965 following “Help!,” continuing with manager Brian Epstein’s desire to release two albums per year as they had done in both 1963 and 1964. And like those previous efforts, it was the work of a band that couldn’t seem to slow down.In fact, they entered the recording studio shortly after a massive North American tour, including a record-breaking appearance at Shea Stadium in New York City, where they played to a crowd of 55,000 people. It was the first time a large stadium was used for a rock concert.“Perhaps the most rubbery thing about ‘Rubber Soul’ is how The Beatles continued to stretch the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll.”— Brian Passey, Backbeat Classic

According to Beatles.com, producer George Martin said The Beatles were becoming more interested in “unusual sounds” and instrumental experimentation. Ringo Starr said “Rubber Soul” was evidence that the band had “grown up a little.” And George Harrison called it his favorite Beatles album.Perhaps the greatest tribute to “Rubber Soul” was how it affected Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. He credits “Rubber Soul” with providing the inspiration to create his masterpiece (and one of the greatest albums of all time), “Pet Sounds,” which would also influence later Beatles releases.The album’s name came from a comment Paul McCartney made during the recording process, according to “The Beatles Anthology.” He was recounting a story he read about The Rolling Stones where their music was called “plastic soul.” The Beatles took the term and turned it into a pun on “rubber sole.”Related: Sgt. Pepper celebrates 50 years in styleThe force is with this Beatlesque parody of ‘Star Wars’Perhaps the most rubbery thing about “Rubber Soul” is how The Beatles continued to stretch the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll.George pioneered the use of sitar in rock music on “Norwegian Wood,” a tune penned primarily by John Lennon about an extramarital affair. The sitar was a new instrument for George, who had taken an interest in Indian music during the filming of The Beatles movie “Help!” “I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it,” George said, according to “The Beatles Anthology.” “It was quite spontaneous.” The resulting track started a trend of rock bands incorporating similar sounds into their music.John’s relationship problems also colored “Run For Your Life.” However, in his autobiography, Paul says he believes the Elvis-inspired track was written with the gender roles reversed to conceal its meaning. Thus John is the one running for his life, not his wife, Cynthia.But Paul’s own tumultuous relationship with his fiancée, actress Jane Asher, also proved inspirational for a trio of his own tunes: “You Won’t See Me,” “I’m Looking Through You” and “We Can Work It Out,” which was recorded during the “Rubber Soul” sessions but released separately as a double A-side single with “Day Tripper.” It’s also likely that Asher is connected to “Wait,” a song Paul wrote in the Bahamas during the filming of “Help!”However, she probably wasn’t the inspiration for “Michelle,” the 1966 Grammy-winning Song of the Year that Paul began writing during his art school days before The Beatles. When he decided to dust it off for “Rubber Soul,” a French teacher helped him develop some of the phrases while John added the passionate middle eight. Some speculate it was written for Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.More Beatles columns: The Beatles changed the face of rock music with ‘Help!’Exhausted Beatles still shine on ‘Beatles For Sale’ The Beatles invade with ‘A Hard Day’s Night”With The Beatles’ reveals legends in the making The Beatles’ debut album was just the beginning John’s answer to “Michelle” was the lushly emotional “Girl,” notable for the heightened sound of John breathing in before uttering the tune’s title. This effect makes the song more intimate, almost as if the titular girl is actually standing there next to him in the recording studio. Then there are a couple of Lennon/McCartney compositions: “Drive My Car,” a thinly veiled euphemism for sex, and “The Word,” a celebration of hippie-style universal love. John and Paul reportedly celebrated the writing of “The Word” with a joint of marijuana while illustrating a draft of the song with a series of “multicolored psychedelic designs” in watercolor.George turned in his own love song with “If I Needed Someone.” The ringing sound of his 12-string Rickenbacker guitar is central to the track, which was inspired by the music of The Byrds, who were, in turn, inspired by George’s early 12-string explorations. Like The Beatles’ interactions with The Beach Boys, it was another case of mutual admiration and inspiration.Wanting to expand beyond love songs, George also penned “Think For Yourself.” Though its meaning remains vague, the song’s foreboding vibe is elevated by Paul’s fuzz

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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