Around the time of the making of the album, The Beatles were asked what direction that they thought they were going in. John and Paul, jokers that they were, said that they were focusing on "comedy songs." They were half-joking, but this album reflects that idea quite a bit. The most obvious example is on Drive My Car and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), which both end in an ironically humourous kind of way. Michelle could also fit into this category, as Paul said that he had originally written it as only a few bars of "joke French tune" that he played and recited in terrible French. And Girl features the words "tit tit tit tit tit..." repeated in the background of the chorus throughout the song. And, they were clearly joking by threatening the woman's life in Run For Your Life.

The major reason for this alleged change in direction for the group was that they felt that they were running out of things to write about. Romance songs (She Loves You, Love Me Do, P.S. I Love You, etc.) had about run their course, and they had to start thinking of new places to go. Hence, they take the romance songs to new places with Norwegian Wood and Drive My Car, by integrating new things (like George Harrison's new sitar) into the songs, and making lyrics that told a story. This was partially in an attempt to imitate Bob Dylan, but they also felt it necessary.

To me, this record represents the last record of The Beatles' early period, and was the last album to really feature songs made for the teenyboppers. Following this, on Revolver, everything changed. But here, on this album, is where it first began.

Rubber Soul, The Beatles' sixth album (in 3 years), is often considered one of their best, marking the point where the new songwriting maturity previously evident on Help! first becomes truly noticeable (this is only the second Beatles album, after A Hard Day's Night, to be made up entirely of original material).

Opener Drive My Car is an auspicious start for the album. Mainly by McCartney (who plays piano as well as bass on this track), this is an Otis Redding-esque soul stomper, showing the band's deep indebtedness to US soul music (also showed in the punning title). Originally titled Diamond Rings (some sources say Golden Rings), this was cited by McCartney in a recent interview as one of the few times when Lennon & McCartney almost failed to come up with a good song - until a last minute rewrite by the two changed the lyric to be about a wannabe star, to fit in with their then-current 'comedy song' idea.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) is the second classic song in a row on this album. Mainly by John Lennon, this song was musically inspired by Bob Dylan (although George Harrison's sitar gives the song an added aura of exoticism it would otherwise miss - the sitar works well given the vaguely eastern flavour of Lennon's mixolydian melody) and lyrically by an extra-marital affair he had had. The song is mostly Lennon's, but McCartney probably contributed to the middle eight (where McCartney sings the melody to Lennon's high harmony) and contributed the song's ending (for those who don't realise it, the protagonist sets fire to the woman's house).

You Won't See Me is one of McCartney's songs, and one of the weaker songs on the album (though this is of course a relative term - this is the Beatles at the height of their powers we're talking about here). Lyrically inspired by McCartney's relationship with actress Jane Asher, this features McCartney on piano and Beatles roadie and general odd-job man Mal Evans on organ (one note held down through the last verse).

Nowhere Man, which follows, is back on the level of the first two songs. Although marred by rather dull 'ooh la la la' backing vocals (it doesn't help that the exact same backing vocal idea was used in the previous song), this is a minor masterpiece of Lennon's 'fat Elvis' period, where Lennon (as in the following year's I'm Only Sleeping) manages to turn his own lethargy into a remarkable song.

Think For Yourself is George Harrison's first song on the album, and is typical Harrison of this period - attacking those who looked to the Beatles for leadership rather than finding their own way. McCartney's bass part may well be the first deliberate use of fuzz bass on record (please /msg and correct me if this is wrong).

The Word is primarily Lennon's song. While this is a typical Northern Soul type stomper musically (with some great harmonies from McCartney, who adds piano, and a harmonium pad by producer George Martin), it is most interesting as the first lyrical precursor to the band's psychedelic works of a year or two later, with chorus lines like "it's so fine/it's sunshine/it's the word, love."

Michelle, the closer to side 1, is a song McCartney originally wrote as a pastiche French melody. Dusted off for the album with a new middle eight (written with Lennon), and some French lyrics provided by a teacher friend of McCartney's ('sont des mots qui vont très bien ensembles' - a literal translation of the first verse's 'these are words that go together well'), this rather surprisingly became one of the band's most popular songs. This, other than the backing vocals and possibly drums, is an entirely solo McCartney performance, the 'guitar solo' being performed on bass.

Side two starts with What Goes On, an old Lennon song dusted off with new lyrics by Ringo Starr (his first ever songwriting credit), who also takes the lead vocal. Vaguely country-flavoured, this is passable enough but the worst song on the album by a long way.

Girl on the other hand is one of the overlooked masterpieces in the Beatles' oeuvre. One of Lennon's many flirtations with the 'belle dame sans merci' archetype, this has a vaguely German cabaret feel to the music, some of the band's darkest lyrics ('Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure/Did she understand it when they said/That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure/Will she still believe it when he's dead?') which many think are at least in part inspired by Lennon's friend Stuart Sutcliffe's German girlfriend Astrid Kirscherr. Topped off with a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek lascivious performance, this may well be the best early Beatle record.

I'm Looking Through You is, much like You Won't See Me, a rather mediocre mid-tempo soul-flavoured pop song inspired by McCartney's relationship with Asher. It's notable though for Ringo's only non-percussion instrumental role on a Beatles track (he plays Hammond organ on this track - and it sounds like him rather than John singing the harmonies too!)

In My Life is one of only two Lennon/McCartney songs to have some serious dispute over its authorship. What isn't disputed is that Lennon wrote the entire first verse lyric himself. Lennon claimed that the entire song was his, except 'the middle eight', which he credited to McCartney. (There is no middle eight in the song - he may well have been thinking of the keyboard solo recorded when Lennon wasn't present - while this sounds like McCartney's work, it was actually written and performed by George Martin). McCartney on the other hand claims to have cowritten the second verse lyric, and to have written all the music. Whoever one believes (and I tend to believe Lennon on this one - although I believe McCartney on the other disputed song, Eleanor Rigby), this is a masterpiece, one of the most beautiful songs ever written by anyone, and Lennon turns in one of his best performances.

Wait is a leftover from the sessions for Help! , and one of the last true collaborations Lennon and McCartney wrote. Lennon wrote the verse/chorus section (harmonised by the two writers) and McCartney wrote the middle eight (I feel as though/you ought to know...), for which he takes the solo vocal. Rather disjointed, this is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but still better than 97% of songs written by anyone else.

If I Needed Someone is George Harrison's first truly great song. A variation on the Byrds' arrangement of The Bells Of Rhymney, all 12-string Rickenbackers and lush harmonies (with an almost raga-like melody that anticipated Harrison's later work), this also has one of the band's most intriguing lyrical conceits - 'IF I needed someone to love, you're the one that I'd be thinking of'. This song shows Harrison blossoming into the writer who would later give us Taxman, Something and All Things Must Pass

Run For Your Life, the closing track, is in many people's eyes an anticlimax, being a fairly ragged performance, but I like it myself. Starting from a line from Baby, Let's Play House ('I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man'), Lennon later regretted the seeming misogyny of this song, but in fact it's clearly a character-based song (a type of writing Lennon was also later to renounce) though with elements of Lennon's own personality coming through. A decent country-blues song that closes off a great album.

As some have mentioned above, the US version of this album replaced Nowhere Man, What Goes On and If I Needed Someone with I've Just Seen A Face and It's Only Love (both from the UK version of Help!), which changed the whole tone of the album, making it seem like a folk-rock album. The UK line-up is far superior, and holds together better as an album - this is the version currently available on CD.

The last Beatles album not to feature session musicians (other than Evans and Martin), the line-up for this album except where noted is just Harrison & Lennon on guitars, McCartney on bass and Starr on drums. Just round the corner of course was Revolver, which had a very different collection of instruments and sounds...

Here, I will focus on the instrumentation and other technical details of The Beatles' sixth album (Britsh Release):

Overall: Recorded mostly between October 12 and November 11, 1965 at Abbey Road. Released on December 3, 1965. This album was very innovative at the time, utilizing such things as fuzz buzz, sitar, and harmonium. it is considered the first true album of the 'new' Beatles.

  1. Drive My Car...Recorded on October 13, 1965 at Abbey Road.
  2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)...Recorded on October 21, 1965 (remake of an October 12 recording) at Abbey Road. This was the first time the sitar was used on a Beatles' recording, or any pop recording, for that matter.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, harmony vocal
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar (capoed Gibson J-160E), lead vocal
    • HARRISON: sitar (Western tuning)
    • STARR: tambourine
  3. You Won't See Me...Recorded on November 11, 1965 at Abbey Road
    • McCARTNEY: bass, piano, lead vocal
    • LENNON: tambourine, backing vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar, backing vocal
    • STARR: drums
    • Mal Evans: Hammond organ
  4. Nowhere Man...Recorded on October 21 and 22, 1965 at Abbey Road
    • McCARTNEY: bass, harmony vocal
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar (Fender Stratocaster Sonic Blue Tremolo), harmony vocal
    • STARR: drums
  5. Think for Yourself...Recorded on November 8, 1965 at Abbey Road.
    • McCARTNEY: fuzz bass, backing vocal
    • LENNON: tambourine, backing vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar, lead vocal
    • STARR: drums, maracas
  6. The Word...Recorded on November 10, 1965 at Abbey Road.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, piano, lead vocal
    • LENNON: rhythm guitar, lead vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar, lead vocal
    • STARR: drums, maracas
    • George Martin: harmonium
  7. Michelle...Recorded on November 3, 1965 at Abbey Road.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, lead vocal
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar, backing vocal
    • HARRISON: acoustic guitar, backing vocal
    • STARR: drums
  8. What Goes On...Recorded on November 4, 1965 at Abbey Road.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, harmony vocal
    • LENNON: rhythm guitar, harmony vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar
    • STARR: drums, lead vocal
  9. Girl...Recorded on November 11, 1965 at Abbey Road.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, backing vocal
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
    • HARRISON: sitar, backing vocal
    • STARR: drums
  10. I'm Looking Through You...Recorded on November 10, 1965 (remake of recordings made on October 24 and November 26, 1965) at Abbey Road, with vocals overdubbed November 11.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, lead vocal (double-tracked)
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar, harmony vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar, tambourine
    • STARR: drums, Hammond organ
  11. In My Life...Recorded on October 18, 1965 at Abbey Road, with the instrumental break overdubbed on October 22.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, harmony vocal
    • LENNON: lead vocal (double-tracked)
    • HARRISON: lead guitar
    • STARR: drums
    • George Martin: piano (recorded at half-speed and then speeded up on the tape)
  12. Wait...Recorded on June 17, 1965 at Abbey Road (During the Help! sessions).
    • McCARTNEY: bass, lead vocal
    • LENNON: tambourine, lead vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar
    • STARR: drums
  13. If I Needed Someone...Recorded on October 16, 1965 at Abbey Road, with overdubs added October 18.
    • McCARTNEY: bass, backing vocal
    • LENNON: tambourine, backing vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar (capoed Rickenbacker Fireglo 360/12), lead vocal (double-tracked)
    • STARR: drums
    • George Martin: harmonium
  14. Run for Your Life...Recorded on October 12, 1965 at Abbey Road:
    • McCARTNEY: bass, backing vocal
    • LENNON: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
    • HARRISON: lead guitar, backing vocal
    • STARR: drums
    • George Martin: tambourine

Other singles from this period:

My sources are Beatlesongs by William J. Dowlding1989) and The Beatles Anthology, by "The Beatles" (©2000).

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.