Lex on The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (U.S. Version)

I received my first copy of Rubber Soul, and I wasn’t interested in going to see Saturday Night Fever with mom and the family.  With “new” Beatles music in my collection, there was no way that I was going to set foot out of my room.  I made it clear, right up till the time when I was asked, yet again, “Are you sure you want to stay home?  You can always listen to your record tomorrow.”  Didn’t they understand?  This was the Beatles.

Besides, during that same time, I was sulking over a girl that I really liked in my third grade class.  I knew something was wrong when she asked me, “Do you think your friend Jesse would be my boyfriend?”  If I ever needed a Beatles record to lift my spirits, it was then.  Who knew that Rubber Soul would be the perfect pop solution to help me mend my broken heart?

The family went shopping, which ultimately meant a trip to the grocery store and Sears.  A trip to Sears, plus my saved lunch money, equaled a new Beatles album for my collection.  I saved for 3 weeks to get Rubber Soul.  I only recognized the songs “Norwegian Wood,” “Girl,” “In My Life,” and “Michelle,” which were part of the red 1962-1966 compilation.  The album cover looked cool, and only featured the band’s name on the spine of the album jacket.  I just had to have it.

By the time my family left for the movies, I had listened to the album 3 or 4 times in a row.  If you’re a Beatles freak like me, you may recall that the US album started with “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”  The acoustic guitar trill that opened the song still takes me to a place in my memory where I am a third grader, in love with that girl who chose to sit next to me in Ms. Considine’s class.  It was the perfect song for that time and that girl.

It would take me a long time to finally figure out Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood,” but it would be the first time that I really took notice of the sound of the sitar.  It made the song sound mystical and otherworldly.  Paul’s “You Won’t See Me” was my second favorite from Rubber Soul.  He sounded confused over some girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day, and that’s how I felt (even though I was only 8).  I was girl-crazy and had a strange understanding of the song at a young age.  Go figure!

George’s “Think For Yourself” sounded rough and ready.  It sounded like he was firing off a round at someone he was upset with.  Paul’s fuzz bass added a snarling bite to the song, but it was George’s dour vocals that caught me off guard.  Although George was talking about “not listening to lies,” it sounded to me like he was telling his girlfriend “where to get off.”

At the top of my favorites list was Lennon’s “The Word.”  It reminded me of the Motown stuff from the 60s that my mom and her siblings liked.  There was something about Paul’s cool bass figure, Ringo’s funky beat, George’s weird syncopation and John’s vocals that made me feel the “soul” in Rubber Soul.”  Then there was the squall of that organ in the background that made it sound extra hip to my ears.  I always wished there was a longer version of that particular song.

It seemed like Lennon was always singing about love, because the second side of the album started with “It’s Only Love.”  My guess was that the “love” in this song was not the “love” he sang about in “The Word.”  Lennon always made it known that he didn’t like this particular song, but I found it to be one of my favorites.

It’s only love, and that is all
Why should I feel the way I do
It’s only love, and that is all
But it’s so hard loving you

The sing-songy way he sang the chorus instantly grabbed my ear.  When he hit the line “but it’s so hard loving you,” I got choked up each time I heard it.  The Beatles’ songs were always an emotional roller coaster ride for me in ways that I still, to this day, can’t explain. “Girl” was another Lennon tune that grabbed my emotions early on.  In a way, this is the song that made me realize that I was very different from my friends.  This was not the vile, bubble-headed “Disco Duck” muck they preferred hearing.  “Girl” was very real music for me.

“In My Life” is one of the most poignant songs ever written.  I still consider this song my first “serious” Beatles song.  By this time in my life, I had to deal with one major death in the family.  Life had already come into focus and I was remembering “better” times in the early 70s, when the family was still intact.  The song would later be used to open the Anthology series, played over a slow motion montage of the Beatles to stunning effect.  And I’m not afraid to admit that I occasionally catch a tear when I see that montage – John, George, Brian, Mal, and Neil; all gone.

“Wait” was another song that caught my attention.  It was the combination of John and Paul’s harmony and Ringo’s extra percussion that made me pat my feet and hammer my lap with my palms like a drum.  Paul’s vocal in the middle eight, “I feel as though you ought to know . . .,” really got me.

I think that after all was said and done, I was able to heal my “elementary school broken-heart” a bit after listening to Rubber Soul.  The girl dumped Jesse for the new music teacher the school hired that year.  I kinda doubt if Jesse had Rubber Soul in his collection to soothe his mind.

At least I had Beatles music to help me through “young love.”  Years later when reading about some of the history behind Rubber Soul, I discovered that the writers of the songs were going through “personal problems” with love and life as well.  It would be one of the first CDs I would purchase, with the original UK order of songs.  It would sound more “complete” to me, as well as sonically better.  But, I think I still prefer the U.S. version.  For me, it was medicine.

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com).

Rubber Soul
By The Beatles
Release date: December 3, 1965
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~ by Poppermost on December 3, 2008.

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