The Beatles were – and still are – undoubtedly one of the most influential bands in popular music, but I have to admit that it took me an embarrassingly long time to properly sit down and listen to their music. It was only after watching the ‘Eight Days A Week’ documentary in 2016 that I finally started to appreciate John, Paul, George and Ringo’s talent and understand the impact their music has on the majority of the music we listen to today. Since then I’ve grown to love the Beatles more and more and one album that’s really grown on me recently is Rubber Soul. For me, this album feels like the Beatles at their most comfortable and shows a heightened level of sophistication in their songwriting. With over 16 million copies sold it’s one of their best-selling albums too.
By the time Rubber Soul was released in 1965 (55 years ago!) the Fab Four had already released five albums and were probably quite used to the insane fame and attention they received across the globe. The band were also given more control over the recording process for Rubber Soul, which meant they were allowed the time and authority to finesse their sound. Whether that’s true or not, the process seemed to work as the production is fantastic. Here are my five favourite songs from Rubber Soul:
Michelle was written and sung by McCartney and has a deliberate yet intriguing french sound to it (as well as french lyrics in parts of the song!). Inspired by a party he attended with art students, Paul wrote Michelle with his friend Ivan’s wife Jan, who was a French teacher, and the result is fantastic. I love the fingerpicking and the backing vocals, but above all I like that it shows a more laid-back side of the Beatles that hadn’t been exposed too much before. Michelle deviates away from the classic ‘rock n roll’ sound the Beatles were known for and instead is the type of song that would fit in quite well as background music at…a party with art students.
4. In My Life
This song has one of my favourite – and perhaps one of the more recognisable – riffs on Rubber Soul, and I was strangely reintroduced to this song the other day whilst watching Metallica front man James Hetfield perform an acoustic set on Youtube. I really enjoyed his rendition of In My Life and when I went to listen to the original on Spotify I was surprised to see that it was on Rubber Soul! It’s a really great song and besides the riff I particularly like the drums – they’re simple but somehow perfectly capture the mood of the song.
3. Nowhere Man
Many of the greatest songs are written out of nowhere at a time when the artist is feeling uninspired and has reached the end of their tether having spent hours and hours trying to write the perfect song. That was the case for Lennon during the writing of Rubber Soul and in this case the song that was born out of nowhere was, well, Nowhere Man. Lennon wrote this song about himself and I really love the way the music encapsulates the careless attitude of the narrative. Nowhere Man is one of my favourite Lennon songs and in my opinion one of the stronger tracks on Rubber Soul too.
2. Drive My Car
The opening track and one of the most popular Beatles songs of all time, Drive My Car is a fast-paced, fun rock n roll track and continues where the band left off on their previous albums. The lyrics aren’t as profound as many of the other lyrics on the album, and it’s by no means up there as one of their most original or sophisticated songs, but it’s undeniably catchy and would have been a lot of fun to see live.
1. Norwegian Wood
Not only is Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown) one of my favourite songs by the Beatles, but it also plays a large part – including the title – of my favourite book by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. I first read Norwegian Wood about seven or eight years ago, at a time when I wasn’t into the Beatles much at all, but reading it even then I was able to appreciate just how important the Beatles were to music and culture in the 1960s. Going back to the song itself, Norwegian Wood is one of their most unique and interesting songs, not least because of George Harrison’s marvellous sitar, and with a running time of only two minutes it always leaves me wanting more.
That brings us to the end of my top 5 songs from Rubber Soul! It’s been a while since I’ve done an album top 5 but as always I’ve really enjoyed putting this list together. Whether you agree or disagree with my top 5, I’d love to know – comment below and let me know your favourite songs from Rubber Soul!