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Rubber Soul: The Beatles

Fans and the press have often tried to decipher if there's a hidden meaning behind the title of The Beatles' top 10 album, Rubber Soul, released in 1965. It was the band's sixth studio album, that spent a total of 42 weeks in the UK album chart and achieved platinum status, peaking at number eight.

Recorded midway through their 10-year career at the top of the pop industry, during which time they released a staggering 63 singles, 23 studio albums, 53 compilation albums and five live albums, at the time, the Fab Four were feeling the pressure from their record label, EMI's Parlophone.

Beatles Rubber Soul Album

 

Original songs

They had completed their second American tour in August 1965 and had already released the soundtrack of their movie, Help, but they were contracted to release a second album that year and could barely scrape together enough material to fulfil the 14 tracks required.

They worked hard to write sufficient new original tracks to fill the album, resisting the urge to delve into their old repertoire from their early days at Liverpool's Cavern Club. With just one month to write the whole album, it was a hard slog.

However, drummer Ringo Starr said he felt they were progressing in "leaps and bounds" to create a "brilliant" album, with "nothing like it" happening anywhere else on the music scene at the time. It marked a change of direction for the Beatles, as they began to move away from their earlier pop sound.

Starr and lead guitarist George Harrison also had a hand in writing the songs - and as Harrison explained later, he found it difficult to suddenly start writing songs. Bass player Paul McCartney and rhythm guitarist John Lennon had been a song writing partnership for years and had written most of the band's material to date.

Harrison described it as "very hard" to write something of a high enough quality to put on the record alongside what he described as Lennon and McCartney's "wondrous" hits.

 

New sound

Producer George Martin described Rubber Soul as the first album that presented a "new Beatles" to the world. He said up until that point most Beatles albums had been a collection of singles, but Rubber Soul represented an entity in its own right.

The tracks included Lennon's Norwegian Wood, arranged in an unusual English folk style and said to be about a meeting between a singer and a mysterious girl; Harrison's Think For Yourself, which appears to rebuke a lover; and one of the Beatles' most famous songs, Michelle.

Written by McCartney, Michelle features phrases in French and English and accentuates a language barrier that separates two lovers in a doomed relationship.

Lennon's track, Girl, depicted an archetypal woman whom he had yet to meet. He finally found her in Japanese artist Yoko Ono, his future wife, whom he met one year later.

 

Album cover

The story behind the title of the album and its rather strange, elongated, cover photo was something interviewers often brought up, many years after its release.

Continued interest resulted in McCartney's explanation of Rubber Soul - one of several he and other band members put forward over the years.

The album cover had apparently been chosen almost by accident - the headshot of all four Beatles was one of many publicity photos taken some weeks earlier by photographer Robert Freeman, in the garden of Lennon's home in Weybridge.

As they sat around choosing which photo should grace the cover of Rubber Soul, it slipped backwards as it was projected on to a screen, making their faces appear elongated.

It was like a light went on collectively in their heads, and the Beatles knew this was the photo they wanted, distortion and all. They felt the distorted effect reflected the changes that were taking place in their lives and music at the time.

 

Title meaning

Apparently, there was "no mysterious meaning" behind the album title - in John Lennon's words, "It was just four boys working out what to call their new album."

However, at different times, conflicting explanations were put out about where Rubber Soul came from. On another occasion, Lennon said McCartney had thought up the title and that it was a pun, meaning "English soul".

Author Barry Miles, who co-wrote McCartney’s book, Many Years From Now, said it was wordplay that referred to rubber-soled shoes, as well as soul music.

McCartney also said it resulted from a conversation he had heard in the United States when an American had referred to the music of the Rolling Stones as "plastic soul". McCartney described this as the "germ of the rubber soul idea".

 

Global success

Whatever the reason behind the title, Rubber Soul was a massive global hit, going platinum in Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and America. It sold six million copies in the US alone and charted all over the world, including in Japan, Italy and Portugal and across much of Europe.

The album was released on compact disc in 1987, featuring a contemporary digital remix in stereo by George Martin. Another remastered version, using the 1987 Martin mix, was released in September 2009 as part of the reissue of the full Beatles' catalogue.

Coruba

We specialise in an unprecedented range of top-quality rubber matting products, made right here in the UK – alas, we do not sell rubber soles or souls! With a comprehensive range that is suitable for a multitude of applications across all industries and sectors, Coruba is a leading UK rubber product provider. For further information, please call us on 01702 560194.



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