Rubber Soul was the Beatles’ sixth album, and it was released in December 1965. This album really marked a turning point for the band, for it was on the music recorded for this album that they began incorporating unconventional instruments that weren’t normally used in the music being produced at that time. Rubber Soul would ultimately help lay the groundwork for the sound and production used on the infamous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Rubber Soul opens with “Drive My Car.” Paul McCartney has said that “drive my car” is an old blues euphemism for sex. Musically, the song has more of a “bluesy” feel, so this, in addition to the lyrics, would add credence to Paul’s assertion. This is followed by “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” which is one of the first rock songs to feature a sitar; the sitar definitely adds to the character and feel of the song. “Norwegian Wood” is a ballad that features John on lead vocals. Supposedly, John Lennon was inspired to write this song by his extramarital affairs.
The next song on Rubber Soul is “You Won’t See Me.” It’s a song written by Paul McCartney, and is about trouble he was having with his girlfriend at the time. This is followed by “Nowhere Man,” and it’s one of the first Beatles songs to be unrelated to romance or love. John Lennon says he wrote the song about himself, and it was written after wracking his brain trying to come up with another song for Rubber Soul.
“Think for Yourself” was written and sung by George Harrison; it’s a song that tries to warn listeners not to listen to lies. Musically, it’s definitely one of the “harder” sounding songs on Rubber Soul. This is followed by “The Word,” which has been cited as one of the first songs by the Beatles to be about love in more abstract terms.
“Michelle” slows the album down a bit, and it also features some lyrics in French. McCartney says that musically, he wrote the song in Chet Atkins’ finger-picking style. “What Goes On” has a country and western flavor to it, and it was originally written by John Lennon during the Quarrymen days. Ringo Starr sings the lead vocals on this one, and he even contributed a little bit to the lyrics.
Next on Rubber Soul is “Girl,” which was the last complete song recorded for the album. The lyrics of the song describe a girl the speaker likes, but he has misgivings. This is a good song, and Jim Sturgess recorded a great cover of it for the Across the Universe film. The next song is “I’m Looking Through You,” which Paul McCartney wrote about his girlfriend of five years, and his dissatisfaction with how their relationship was.
“In My Life” slows the album down, and it’s probably one of my favorite songs on Rubber Soul. It’s a song where the speaker looks back on their past fondly. This song also has a piano that is made to sound like a harpsichord. This is followed by “Wait,” a song where the speaker talks about his anxieties about his relationship while he is away. Musically, one of the things that stands out is the fact that maracas can be prominently heard. “Wait” was originally recorded for Help!, but it didn’t make it onto an album until Rubber Soul.
“If I Needed Someone” is a song written by George Harrison; musically, you can hear that it was influenced by The Byrds. Rubber Soul closes with “Run for Your Life,” which has a speaker using a threatening tone towards his girlfriend. It’s basically a song about jealousy.
While there may be a lot of different musical sounds and influences on Rubber Soul, the album as a whole flows together really well. To me, while Rubber Soul may not be as strong of an album as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it comes really close. Rubber Soul definitely laid a foundation for the Beatles’ albums that followed after it.