This Day in Music, November 11: Rubber Soul

By , Contributor

On this day in 1965, the final recording session for the Beatles' Rubber Soul album took place at Abbey Road, London. They needed three new songs to finish the album so an old song, "Wait," was pulled off the shelf and the group recorded two new songs from start to finish, Paul's "You Won't See Me" and John's "Girl," the basic tracks for both songs being completed in two takes. Rubber Soul was completed, and finished copies of the album were in the shops by December 3 in the UK and December 6 in the US.

Not a bad day's work!

Rubber Soul was the Beatles' sixth studio album. Produced by George Martin, Rubber Soul had been recorded in just over four weeks to make the Christmas market. Unlike the five albums that preceded it, Rubber Soul was recorded during a specific period, the sessions not dashed off in between either tour dates or during filming projects. Rubber Soul was the first album where the Beatles felt in control and although still working at speed, Rubber Soul could be called the band's first proper 'studio' album. And what an album. 

During the past few months, the guys' workload had as usual been hectic. When you look at their schedule you think when did they have any time to write songs? They’d toured America again, setting new attendance records including playing to over 55,000 fans at Shea Stadium. They’d hung out with Bob Dylan, made a film, they’d met Elvis for the first and only time. They’d played UK concerts, been in and out of the studio, and they’d spent a day at Buckingham Palace to collect their MBEs.

The Beatles were beginning to expand the conventional instrumental parameters of the rock group, using a sitar on “Norwegian Wood” (generally credited as being the first pop recording to use an actual sitar), French-like guitar lines on “Michelle” and “Girl”, fuzz bass on “Think for Yourself”. And the opening track “Drive My Car” still sounds so fresh in 2011. Great riff, vocals, drums. The Beatles were constantly breaking new ground.

George Harrison had been introduced to Indian classical music and the sitar earlier that year while filming Help! That interest later was fueled by fellow Indian music fan David Crosby of the Byrds, whom Harrison met and befriended in August 1965. Harrison soon became fanatically interested in the genre and began taking sitar lessons from renowned Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. A broadening use of percussive arrangements, led by Ringo Starr's backbeats and frequently augmented by maracas and tambourine, can also be heard throughout the album, showcased in tracks such as "Wait" and "Think for Yourself". Ringo was a great drummer.

Perhaps Starr's most unusual percussion source on the album was created by his tapping a pack of matches with his finger. This "tapping" sound can be heard in the background of "I'm Looking Through You".

Lyrically, the album was a major progression. Though a smattering of earlier Beatles songs had expressed romantic doubt and negativity, the songs on Rubber Soul represented a pronounced development in sophistication, thoughtfulness, and ambiguity. "Nowhere Man" was arguably the first Beatles song to move beyond a romantic subject.

What has always amazed me is how the Beatles would also release two tracks as a single before a new album — which wouldn’t be included on the album. Name me another act who could do that. If released in 2011, both "We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper" would be the lead tracks, but they left them off!

Where did the title come from, I hear you ask? McCartney conceived the album's title after overhearing a musician's description of Mick Jagger's singing style as "plastic soul".

220px-Rubber_Soul.jpgThe photo of the Beatles on the Rubber Soul cover appears stretched. Photographer Bob Freeman had taken some pictures of the four at Lennon's house. Freeman showed the photos to the group by projecting them onto an album-sized piece of cardboard to simulate how they would appear on an album cover. The unusual Rubber Soul album cover came to be when the slide card fell slightly backwards, elongating the projected image of the photograph and stretching it. Excited by the effect, they shouted, "Ah! Can we have that? Can you do it like that?"

They subsequently took a three-month break during the first part of 1966, and used this free time exploring new directions that would colour their subsequent musical work. These became immediately apparent in the next album, Revolver.

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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