❉ Released on this day in 1965, ‘Rubber Soul’ was the Beatles sixth album. We’ve compiled some interesting facts and trivia about the album, from the cover to the contents.
1. Rebecca Front’s dad designed the ‘Rubber Soul’ lettering
‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Lewis’ star Rebecca Front’s father, designer Charles Front was the illustrator who designed the lettering of the ‘Rubber Soul’ album.
The design’s history was explained on the Bonhams Auctions website:
The proposed title of the album suggested to Front the image of a globule of latex or other viscous substance being pulled downwards as if by the force of gravity (mirroring the distortion in Freeman’s photograph). This gradually formed into the now-familiar stylised shape. Into this he introduced the two words of the title.
This design, with Freeman’s photograph, was shown to Brian Epstein and arrangements were made to meet the group as soon as possible for their opinion.
During a recording break at Abbey Road, the cover concept was shown to the Beatles and it was readily approved. The designer then produced a second version of the lettering to be used for the cover production. This was essentially the same as the first but with very slight and subtle modifications to the letterforms themselves and to the spaces in and around them.
Front’s original logo sold at auction in 2008 for £9,600. This ‘bubble’ style lettering created by Front would become very fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s and influenced much of the poster art of the era.
2. Robert Freeman’s classic distorted cover photo was a stroke of serendipity
The cover photograph for Rubber Soul was taken in Weybridge by Robert Freeman, who had first worked with The Beatles on the cover of ‘With The Beatles’ in 1963.
In his book The Beatles – A Private View, Freeman recalls:
“For the cover I wanted another angle of the group and an entirely different tonality – greens, browns and black, but with an almost monochrome look. The garden of John’s house in Weybridge had the right elements – a high, dark green hedge and a grass knoll that sloped away steeply. This provided the background and the angle.”
Of the stretched photo, Paul McCartney later said:
“That was actually one of those little exciting random things that happen. The photographer Robert Freeman had taken some pictures round at John’s house in Weybridge. We had our new gear on – the polo necks – and we were doing straight mug shots; the four of us all posing. Back in London Robert was showing us the slides; he had a piece of cardboard that was the album-cover size and he was projecting the photographs exactly onto it so we could see how it would look as an album cover. We had just chosen the photograph when the card that the picture was projected onto fell backwards a little, elongating the photograph. It was stretched and we went, ‘That’s it, Rubber So-o-oul, hey hey! Can you do it like that?’ And he said, ‘well, yeah. I can print it that way.’ And that was it.”
3. ‘Rubber Soul’ was the catalyst that inspired ‘Pet Sounds’
After hearing ‘Rubber Soul’, Brian Wilson was spurred to compete with Lennon and McCartney.
“Rubber Soul blew my mind. When I heard Rubber Soul, I said, ‘That’s it. That’s all. That’s all folks.’ I said, ‘I’m going to make an album that’s really good, I mean really challenge me.’ I mean, I love that fucking album, I cherish that album.
In the same spirit of creative competition, ‘Pet Sounds’ itself inspired the Beatles to aim higher with ‘Sgt. Pepper’. Paul McCartney wrote:
“Pet Sounds blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life… I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album…it may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of the century…but to me, it certainly is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways… I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence.”
4. The cassette version’s running order is TOTALLY different
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common practice for record labels to revise the running order of albums when releasing them on cassette, in order to ensure both sides were of equal length.
This usually went no further than transposing a song or two – as Bowie fans who owned the RCA cassettes of ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’ or ‘Aladdin Sane’ will know.
With the cassette release of ‘Rubber Soul’, however, EMI comprehensively rejigged the album’s running order, creating a tonally very different listening experience (Personally speaking, I think it works really well). For the second generation of Beatles fans during the heyday of the tape format, this is how many of them would have experienced ‘Rubber Soul’…
1. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) [A2]
2. You Won’t See Me [A3]
3. Think For Yourself [A5]
4. I’m Looking Through You [B3]
5. Nowhere Man [A4]
6. Michelle [A7]
7. Wait [B5]
1. Drive My Car [A1]
2. If I Needed Someone [B6]
3. What Goes On [B1]
4. Girl [B2]
5. In My Life [B4]
6. The Word [A6]
7. Run For Your Life [B7]
It was not until the full catalogue of original albums, including ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, were issued as XDR [eXtended Dynamic Range] Cassettes on 19th November 1987 that all of the cassettes presented the tracks in the correct running order.
5. Capitol “butchered” ‘Rubber Soul’
Capitol Records, the Beatles’ US label, famously carved up the Beatles’ Parlophone albums to create weird mutant albums beefed up with non-album 45s in order to keep the gravy train running and squeeze the Beatles’ early catalogue until the pips squeaked.
Although ‘Rubber Soul’ came out in the US at the same time as its’ British counterpart, the Capitol album only featured ten of ‘Rubber Soul’s fourteen songs, omitting Drive My Car, Nowhere Man, What Goes On and If I Needed Someone, and porting over I’ve Just Seen a Face and It’s Only Love from the UK version of ‘Help!’.
It’s said that Capitol reconfigured its track listing to create a ‘folk rock’ album – considerably different from how The Beatles had intended it to sound. Additionally, the stereo mix sent from England to the US had a false start at the beginning of I’m Looking Through You; this version can be heard on the box set ‘The Capitol Albums Vol. 2’, which also contains minor variations in The Word.
The four remaining ‘Rubber Soul’ tracks were combined with three from the not-yet released ‘Revolver’ and both sides of the single Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out to create the aptly-nicknamed ‘butcher’ album, Capitol’s ‘Yesterday and Today’.
6. John, Paul, George, Ringo.. and Mal
The Fabs’ road manager Mal Evans played Hammond organ for “You Won’t See Me”.
According to our old friend Wikipedia, Mal Evans also contributed harmonica to Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite; alarm clock and piano to A Day in the Life; hand claps to Dear Prudence and Birthday; trumpet to Helter Skelter, anvil to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; handbell to What’s the New Mary Jane; tambourine to Strawberry Fields Forever; bass drum and vocals to Yellow Submarine; and ‘a pile of gravel dug with a shovel’ on You Know My Name (Look Up the Number). Phew! Good to know.
7. Rubber Soul started life as a ‘comedy album’
At the time ‘Rubber Soul’ was released McCartney made a comment about it being sort of their comedy album.
In webzine Popmatters’ two-hander Counterbalance, Eric Klinger mused on the likelihood of this origin story:
In his landmark Beatles exegesis Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald spends a lot of time relating the songs of this era to a few stray remarks McCartney made that suggest he and Lennon are trying their hand at “comedy” numbers. But while “Drive My Car” and “Norwegian Wood” do have something approaching punch lines, and “Michelle” and “Girl” could pass as parodies of Maurice Chevalier and Zorba the Greek, this is a far cry from comedy — even if you do get a distinct whiff of irony from all those “Ooh-la-la-las” in “You Won’t See Me”.
8. “Lukewarm baby’s got a custard face” – having fun in the studio
At an Abbey Road studio-rehearsal for George’s song Think For Yourself, recorded on Monday November 8, 1965, George Martin taped the group rehearsing the song. The Beatles were aware of this, deliberately playing up to the microphones.
The audio verite recording, featured on various bootlegs, captures the foursome practising the lyrics and chatting over the chords, listening to numerous tape playbacks with producer George Martin commenting from the control room.
Pink Floyd fans, note the shout-out to ‘Norman’, aka Abbey Road studio engineer Norman Smith, producer of the Floyd’s first three studio albums.
The recording went mostly unused, although fansite Beatles Bible notes:
A six-second segment of the group practising their harmonies found its way into the Yellow Submarine film, when The Beatles were called upon to revive the mayor of Pepperland.
9. The sessions produced the Beatles’ first instrumental
The ‘Rubber Soul’ sessions yielded only one outtake, ’12-Bar Original’, which was The Beatles’ first instrumental since the group signed to EMI in 1962.
According to The Beatles Bible:
A writing collaboration between all four members of The Beatles, the seemingly improvised 12-Bar Original was recorded during the sessions for Rubber Soul. It is possible that it was recorded in case they were unable to come up with the required 14 songs.
Beatles Rarity Of The Week explains:
This lengthy instrumental track was originally going to be included, but after John came up with “Girl” and Paul came up with “I’m Looking Through You,” they deciding to resurrect a leftover track from the Help! sessions called “Wait”. With these new additions there was no room for this bluesy instrumental and it was relegated to the vault.
Never properly titled, “12-Bar Original” made an appearance on The Beatles’ Anthology 2 in 1996, but it was severely edited down to under 3 minutes due to time constraints.
10. The original stereo mix is BONKERS
The original ’65 stereo mix is absolutely insane, wide panned with all sound either far left or far right and no middle picture.
Writer and blogger Andrew Hickey described it as:
…one of the stranger stereo mixes in the band’s history… This makes the 60s stereo mix fantastic for isolating different instrumental parts, but absolutely horrible for listening on any system with any kind of separation.
When the Beatles albums made their CD debut in 1987, the original stereo mixes for “Help!” and “Rubber Soul” were replaced by updated stereo mixes by George Martin because he wasn’t happy with the original mixes.
Martin wanted these albums to sound as if they were more modern – he took a lot of the vocals from ‘Rubber Soul’ which are panned far right and simply shifted them to dead central, and added heavy digital reverb, which spoiled a number of purist fans’ teas.
The 2009 stereo remasters of ‘Help!’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ use the 1987 remix. Confusingly, the ‘Beatles In Mono’ box includes the original 1965 stereo mixes of ‘Help!’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ in addition to the mono mixes.
11. This ‘National Lampoon’ spoof of the ‘Rubber Soul’ cover will never not be funny
From the October 1977 issue of ‘National Lampoon’, the “yiddish” Beatle album ‘Rabbi Saul’.
❉ This post can be played on both stereophonic and monaural equipment. Printed by Garrod & Lofthouse.
❉ Jay Gent is editor of We Are Cult, a graphic designer and digital marketing & social media freelancer, and theatre critic for Wales Arts Review. Jay has contributed to a number of magazines, websites and books including 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die and Scarred For Life Volume Two: Television in the 1980s and edited (with Jon Arnold) charity anthology Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon).