Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Beatles-Rubber Soul

I would probably class myself as a lapsed Beatles fan, as I don't listen to much commercial radio I don't hear them on a day to day basis so they have seeped into the outer regions of my musical consciousness. But I often think about their output and the gigantic creative leaps they took in such a small amount of time. Rubber Soul is considered by many to be the album which started their greatest creative period and there are pronounced differences from their previous album Help as there would be with their follow up album Revolver.

There were some distinct changes with the band's sound and their songwriting which continued to grow and mature. They were also prepared to take risks knowing that they could get away with it at this point there was nothing self indulgent about this process just a desire to escape the idea that they were just a pop band that wrote clever little pop tunes. Drive My Car which opened the album was not necessarily symbolic of any change but it did show how their songwriting had matured and had moved further away from their familiar girl/boy romance themes. Musically Rubber Soul showed a band that had become even more musically tight and for me this revolved around Ringo Starr on drums. Ringo's drumming from Rubber Soul to Sgt Peppers showed great dexterity and there is a feeling that Ringo was now comfortable with his role and was prepared to be less inhibited in how he played. Starr was a fan of drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa so in some songs there are more figure eight style rolls, Ringo had also become adept at using the hi hat to accentuate and provide greater percussive depth to songs. His snare had that classic jazz style gun shot sound to it, very crisp and sharp, it was a style that he would begin to move away from in the late 60's.

There was also deviation in the songwriting processes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney as well as the continuing development of George Harrison as a more than capable third songwriter. Lennon took a more introspective and at times darker approach, but he also created one of the great autobiographical songs In My Life. It starts off with a delicate guitar intro as Lennon reminisces of places he knew when he was younger and how some changes bought positive outcomes whilst some had changed for the worse. Lennon appears in a more optimistic frame of mind saying how he will always remember the people from his past with affection and how he often stops and thinks about them. Wait was a song that Lennon came to openly dislike, it's more in the groups earlier style of romantic pop songs but with a more dramatic flourish and some strong percussive drumming from Ringo especially the figure eights that announce the chorus.

Run For Your Life is Lennon at his darkest, the song is almost brutal in how it deals with infidelity, Lennon claiming he would rather see his girl dead than be with another man. Lennon with almost undisguised glee tells of being a wicked man consumed by jealousy. The idea of death and despair was something that Lennon was beginning to explore and would do so on further albums, Rubber Soul was the first sign of his growing cynicism and his lyrics became more acerbic. Norwegian Wood was stripped back and acoustic with some overdubbed sitar from Harrison, it's such a great descriptive song, it's almost like a movie how Lennon conjures up the story, it created something real and vivid in my imagination when I was a kid. Nowhere Man was the first sign of Lennon writing a song that was introspective and obscure, to me it's about someone being isolated from society and not wanting to adapt to the rapid changes of life in the mid 1960's. On Girl the song is set against the music backdrop of Eastern European Gypsy music, that is the best analogy I can come up with. The Beatles appeared keen to explore more acoustic folk style music, but perhaps sensing it's redundancy they didn't pursue it further on Revolver

Paul McCartney continued to adapt his approach at writing amazing melodies and creating songs that were far above the normal pop music of the day. His songs provided a great foil to the more darker songs of Lennon. I'm Looking Through You is one of the hidden gems on the album, McCartney had more of a focus on the travails of love on this album, there is a sense of disappointment in his life at the time that is manifested in his material on the album. You Won't See Me details the frustrations of a relationship that is breaking down. George Harrison recorded two songs for the album Think For Yourself which is more in the cynical style Lennon was perfecting and If I Needed Someone which has a Byrds like jangling guitar opening. There are some nice vocal harmonies on the song which add to it's depth. Rubber Soul saw less guitar solos and more keyboard and piano outings which suit the type of songs recorded for the album.

I got the album on vinyl when I was about 12, my parents bought me the entire vinyl box set of all their studio albums, but it was an album that I didn't connect with at the time as I preferred their sunnier pop material, but it's grown in stature and is rightly regarded as one of their best studio sets.

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