Both chronologically and artistically, Rubber Soul is The Beatles’ pivotal album (and George’s favourite).
The moptop days are over: playing live is soon to be abandoned; the studio will replace the stage and tour-bus as their natural habitat; and Lennon has reached the ripe old age of 25.
As a result of all the above (and perhaps not coincidentally, the recent discovery of pot -introduced to them by Dylan; indulged in copiously during the filming of Help!) the boy’s musical and lyrical horizons are expanding. There’s another brace of compositions from George, Ringo gets his first writing credit and Uncle George Martin is starting to take on an increasingly important role, firmly cementing in place his reputation as “the fifth Beatle”.
That’s all with hindsight of course. To their contemporaries this was just yet another rich seam of fresh material begging to be energetically strip-mined.
First out of the blocks were The Beatles’ rivals from down the other end of the East Lancs Road, The Hollies whose cover of Harrison’s If I Needed Someone came out barely a week after Rubber Soul had hit the shops. Its composer, though, was less than impressed, churlishly dismissing their version as “rubbish”.
Closer to home, fellow scouser, Mr Give Me The Moonlight himself, Frankie Vaughan, had a more creditable stab at John ‘n’ Paul’s rhythmically unorthodox Wait; while the mysterious Three Good Reasons imparted a Seekers-like folk-pop spin to Lennon’s brutal self-portrait Nowhere Men.
A couple of years later, came the by then obligatory progged-up assault, this time from Circus with an extended take on Norwegian Wood complete with jazzy sax and bluesy guitar breaks.
More significantly, as a response, perhaps, to the title, Rubber Soul marks the point when Black America beyond Motown began to sit up and really start taking the lads seriously, stimulating enduring feelings of respect as demonstrated by Black Heat’s funky opener recorded ten years on from the original.
Rounding things off, Nancy Sinatra spins the gender orientation of the nasty Run For Your Life, swapping misogyny for sass, and in the process reducing Lennon’s would-be- macho bluster to something more resembling the bleatings of a callow schoolboy.
As ‘65 turned into ’66, awestruck Fabs fans started to wonder what could possibly come next; nobody knew for sure, but all were agreed it was bound to be, er, revolutionary….
1 Black Heat-Drive My Car
2 Circus-Norwegian Wood
3 Bryan Ferry-You Won’t See Me
4 Three Good Reasons-Nowhere Man
5 Francois Fabrice-Les Garçons Sont Fous (Think For Yourself)
6 The Firesign Theatre/Harvey Avern-The Word
7 The Free Design-Michelle
8 Charles River Valley Boys-What Goes On
9 St Louis Union-Girl
10 Danielle denin-Je Lis Dans Tes Yeux (I’m Looking Through You)
11 Richie Havens-In My Life
12 Frankie Vaughan-Wait
13 The Hollies-If I Needed Someone
14 Nancy Sinatra-Run For Your Life