Beatles (3) – Rubber Soul to Revolver

First post here:

There are places I remember
all my life, though some have changed.
Some forever, not for better.
And some have gone, and some remain.

The Beatles made their last live performance on August 29, 1966 at Candlestick Park (a now-defunct baseball stadium) in San Francisco. But before they did, they released two albums that brought them to a new level of artistry – “Rubber Soul” in late 1965, “Revolver” in summer of 1966. Till then, most non-fans dismissed the Beatles as a teenage fad that would blow over. (This despite the fact that the song “Yesterday” had already been released. Overwhelmingly popular, the song has been covered over 1,600 times).

“Rubber Soul” set the music world on its ear. In 2012, it was ranked number five on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” This, not only because of the outstanding quality and variety of the tunes but also because The Beatles pushed the boundaries of what popular music could be. They had been learning how to use EMI’s Abbey Road studios from George Martin and now wanted to see how they could best take advantage of those lessons.

(Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, on hearing this album, basically said – “Shit!” – and got to work making his classic “Pet Sounds” album. He knew the Beatles had raised the bar on what a pop album could be. The band, and McCartney in particular, were Beach Boys fans.)

Up until the release of Sergeant Pepper, the British and American album versions had some glaring differences. Due to what I can only call greed and utter fucking stupidity, Capitol Records (US) thought that they knew more about what tracks should go on albums better than The Beatles did. So they would take songs off to fit some idea of what the thing should sound like or so they could create compilations to make more money. (All you need is cash).

One of their stupider (sorry, this just aggravates the hell out of me) decisions was to take “Drive My Car” off the American version of Rubber Soul to play into some folk-rock craze that existed only in their heads.

So here it is, the song that kicked off the album and which McCartney still uses to kick off his solo tours. (Saw Paul and his crackerjack band a few years ago. Awesome). Yes, “drive my car” was, per Paul, an old blues euphemism for sex. Beep beep beep beep yeah!

If that album wasn’t enough to screw with our (by now) stoned-out heads, “Revolver” (#3 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest) certainly was. By now the Beatles had pretty much given up any pretense of trying to create songs for playing live. Now it was all about the sounds and textures, the album as art form.

You want weird? You want a song that the Beatles could not possibly play live? You want to push the sonic envelope as far as possible? Look no further than “Tomorrow Never Knows” by Lennon. John – a guy whose mind was so on fire he probably shouldn’t have been allowed to drink coffee – drops acid, has his mind blown – and writes this tune.

Its a long long way from “She Loves You,” which they recorded only three years earlier! We are not in Kansas, Liverpool or, seemingly, Planet Earth any more. (It tore me up not to do John’s “In My Life” but I can only fit so much. Quoted at the beginning of the post.)

How was such a dramatic leap in songcraft even possible over such a short amount of time? I can’t say for sure. But I guess when you have the right amount of creative genius, an environment that allows it to happen (both studio and the ’60’s,) and the right playful attitude, small miracles can occur.

Next – the Beatles do some of their most creative work but become less and less a band, more a gathering of talented individuals.

I wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination planning five Beatles posts. But I don’t see how I can fit everything in one more. I’ll do two more, then we’ll call it a day. For now… 

Sources: Wikipedia, Mark Lewisohn and The Beatles Bible.

4 thoughts on “Beatles (3) – Rubber Soul to Revolver

  1. Great post! I’ve neve loved the Beatles, and have always felt that I was somehow deeply unfit to comment widely on rock and pop music of that era when I have listened to or enjoyed very little of the Beatles catalogue. However, if there is any era of their work I find most accessible, it Rubber Soul to Revolver…

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    1. The way you feel about not commenting on Beatles is how I feel about not commenting on classical music. Enjoy listening to it but feel woefully inadequate to the task. So I leave that to others. And as to Rubber Soul, etc., yes it’s probably the beginning of the more “modern” and less “yeah-yeah-yeah” sound of the band. Just published the latest post on “Pepper, White Album.” More great stuff! Thanks.

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  2. Absolutely. I realized that I take my knowledge of the Beatles for granted. So hopefully my posts will help put things in perspective. As to newcomers, yes, that’s how I feel about classical after 200 years of Beethoven. 😀

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