Rubber Soul

This article is about the 1965 album. For other uses, see Rubber Soul (disambiguation).
Rubber Soul
Studio album by The Beatles
Released 3 December 1965
Recorded 12 October–15 November 1965
Studio EMI Studios, London
Genre Folk rock,[1] pop[2]
Length 35:50
Label Parlophone
Producer George Martin
The Beatles chronology
Rubber Soul
The Beatles North American chronology
Rubber Soul
Yesterday and Today

Rubber Soul is the sixth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles, released on 3 December 1965. It was met with a highly favourable critical response and topped record charts in the United Kingdom for several weeks, as well as in the United States, where it was issued with a different selection of tracks.

Produced by George Martin, Rubber Soul incorporates a mix of 1960s pop, soul, and folk music styles.[3] The album's name comes from the term plastic soul, which popular African American soul musicians coined to describe Mick Jagger, a white musician singing soul music. It was the second Beatles album – after the British version of A Hard Day's Night – to contain only original material, and was recorded in just over four weeks to make the Christmas market. Unlike the five albums that preceded it, Rubber Soul was recorded during a continuous period, whereas the group had previously made their albums during breaks between tour dates and other commitments.[4] The project marked the first time that the Beatles focused on creating an album as an artistic work, an approach that they then developed with Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

The album has been included in numerous "best of" album lists compiled by various publications, and is regarded by musicologists as a major artistic achievement that continued the group's artistic maturation while attaining widespread critical and commercial success.[5] In 2012, Rubber Soul was ranked number five on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2013, after the British Phonographic Industry changed their sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum.[6]



"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

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Virtually all of the album's songs were composed immediately after the Beatles' return to London following their North American tour.[4] The Beatles expanded their sound on the album, with influences drawn from African American soul music, the contemporary folk rock of Bob Dylan and the Byrds.[7][8][nb 1] Rubber Soul also saw the band expanding rock and roll's instrumental resources, most notably on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" through George Harrison's use of the Indian sitar. He had been introduced to it via the instrumental score for their 1965 film Help!. Although the Kinks had incorporated droning guitars to mimic the sitar after a visit to India on "See My Friends",[10] "Norwegian Wood" is generally credited as sparking off a musical craze for the sound of the novel instrument in the mid-1960s – a trend which would later branch out into the raga rock and Indian rock genres.[11][7] The song is now acknowledged as one of the cornerstones of what is now usually called "world music" and it was a major landmark in the trend towards incorporating non-Western musical influences into Western popular music. Harrison's interest was fuelled by fellow Indian music fans Roger McGuinn and David Crosby of the Byrds, whom Harrison befriended in August 1965.[12] Harrison would eventually be transfixed by all things Indian, taking sitar lessons from renowned Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar.[13]

French-like guitar lines on "Michelle" and Greek-influenced ones on "Girl", fuzz bass on "Think for Yourself", and a piano made to sound like a baroque harpsichord on the instrumental bridge of "In My Life" added to the exotic brushstrokes on the album.[14] Ringo Starr had frequently augmented Beatles tracks with percussion instruments such as maracas or tambourine, but on "I'm Looking Through You" he unusually used taps on a box of matches, perhaps influenced by a similar trick as done by Gene Krupa in the 1941 film Ball of Fire. In the main guitar riff to "If I Needed Someone", the Beatles returned the compliment paid to them earlier in 1965 by the Byrds, whose jangly guitar-based sound McGuinn had sourced from Harrison's playing the previous year.[15] For the country-styled "What Goes On", Starr received his first songwriting credit (as Richard Starkey), as a co-composer with Lennon and McCartney.[16]


Lyrically, the album represents a major progression in the Beatles' music. Though a smattering of earlier Beatles songs had expressed romantic doubt and negativity, the songs on Rubber Soul represented a pronounced development in sophistication, thoughtfulness and ambiguity.[14] In particular, the relationships between the sexes moved from simpler boy-girl love songs to more nuanced and negative portrayals. "Norwegian Wood" sketches a failed relationship between the singer and a mysterious girl, where she goes to bed and he sleeps in the bath,[17] and songs like "I'm Looking Through You", "You Won't See Me", and "Girl" express more emotionally complex, bitter and downbeat portrayals of romance. John Lennon's "In My Life" depicts nostalgic reverie for younger days, while "The Word" looks at love as an abstract term, arguably the first time a Lennon-McCartney song strayed from their usual 'boy/girl' notion of romantic love, and songs such as "Nowhere Man" and Harrison's "Think for Yourself" explored subject matter that had nothing to do with romance at all.



Recording for Rubber Soul began on 12 October 1965, at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, with final production and mix down taking place on 15 November.[18] During the sessions, the Beatles typically focused on fine-tuning the musical arrangement for each song – an approach that reflected the growing division between the band as a live act and their ambitions as recording artists.[19] Produced by George Martin, the album was one of the first projects he undertook after leaving EMI's staff and co-founding Associated Independent Recording (AIR).[20] Martin later described Rubber Soul as "the first album to present a new, growing Beatles to the world",[21] adding: "For the first time we began to think of albums as art on their own, as complete entities."[22] This was the final Beatle album that recording engineer Norman Smith worked on before he was promoted by EMI to record producer.[23]

"Drive My Car"
Sample from "Drive My Car"

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Lennon later said that Rubber Soul was the first album on which the Beatles were in complete creative control during recording, with enough studio time to develop and refine new sound ideas.[24] Before the recording sessions, McCartney was given a new bass guitar, a solid-body Rickenbacker 4001, which produced a fuller sound than his hollow-body Hofner.[25] Harrison used a Fender Stratocaster for the first time, most notably in his lead guitar part on "Nowhere Man".[26] The variety in guitar tones throughout the album was also aided by Harrison and Lennon's use of capos, particularly in the high-register parts on "If I Needed Someone" and "Girl".[25]

The Beatles completed "Wait" during the sessions, having originally recorded the track for Help![27] "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out" were recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions, but issued separately on a non-album single.[28] To mimic the sound of a harpsichord on "In My Life", Martin played the piano with the tape running at half-speed. When played back at normal speed during the mixdown, the sped-up sound gave the illusion of a harpsichord.[29][30]


Until very late in their career, the "primary" version of the Beatles' albums was always the monophonic mix. According to Beatles historian Bruce Spizer, Martin and the Abbey Road engineers devoted most of their time and attention to the mono mixdowns, and generally regarded stereo as a gimmick. The band were not usually present for the stereo mixing sessions.[31]

While the stereo version of the original release of Rubber Soul was similar to that of their earliest albums, featuring mainly vocals on the right channel and instruments on the left, it was not produced in the same manner. The early albums were recorded on twin-track tape, and they were intended only for production of monaural records, so they kept vocals and instruments separated allowing the two parts to later be mixed in proper proportion. By this time, however, the Beatles were recording on four-track tape, which allowed a stereo master to be produced with vocals in the centre and instruments on both sides, as evidenced in their two previous albums, Beatles for Sale and Help! Looking for a way to easily produce a stereo album which sounded good on a monaural record player, Martin mixed down the four-track master tape to stereo with vocals on the right, instruments on the left, and nothing in the middle, even though in "What Goes On", Starr's vocal is mixed on the left instead of the right, with Lennon and McCartney's harmony vocals on the right, while on "Think for Yourself" Harrison's double-tracked lead vocal is split between the two channels.

Packaging and artwork

Rubber Soul was the group's first release not to feature their name on the cover,[32] an uncommon tactic in 1965. The "stretched" effect of the cover photo came about after photographer Bob Freeman had taken some pictures of the group wearing suede leather jackets at Lennon's house. Freeman showed the photos by projecting them onto an album-sized piece of cardboard to simulate how they would appear on an album cover. The unusual Rubber Soul album cover came to be when the slide card fell slightly backwards, elongating the projected image of the photograph and stretching it. Excited by the effect, they shouted, "Ah! Can we have that? Can you do it like that?", to which Freeman said he could.[33] The distinctive lettering was created by Charles Front (father of actress Rebecca Front), and the original artwork was later auctioned at Bonhams, accompanied by an authenticating letter from Robert Freeman.[34]

Capitol Records used a different colour saturation for the US version, causing the orange lettering used by Parlophone Records to show up as different colours. On some Capitol LPs, the title looks rich chocolate brown; others, more like gold. On the 1987 compact disc reissue, the letters appear a distinct green, and the 2009 reissue uses the original cover design with the Parlophone Records logo.

Paul McCartney conceived the album's title after overhearing a musician's description of Mick Jagger's singing style as "plastic soul". Lennon confirmed this in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, stating, "That was Paul's title, meaning English soul. Just a pun."[35][nb 2]


Rubber Soul was issued on EMI's Parlophone label on 3 December 1965.[37] The "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" single was also released that day,[38] as the band's first double A-side single.[39] EMI announced that it had pressed 750,000 copies of the LP to cater to local demand.[40]

On the day of the album's release, the Beatles performed at the Odeon Cinema in Glasgow,[40] marking the start of what would be their final UK tour.[41] In addition to the two songs from the new single, the group played the Rubber Soul tracks "If I Needed Someone" and "Nowhere Man" throughout the tour.[42] Exhausted from five years of almost non-stop touring, recording and film work, the band members subsequently took a three-month break during the first part of 1966, using this free time to explore new directions that would inform their subsequent work, beginning with the album Revolver.[24]

North American Capitol release

In the United States, Rubber Soul was the tenth album by the group[43] and their first to consist entirely of original songs.[44] It was released on 6 December 1965 by Capitol, in both the mono and stereo formats.[45] For this release, four tracks were removed from the British LP's running order and set aside for the Beatles' next American album, Yesterday and Today: "Drive My Car", "Nowhere Man", "What Goes On" and "If I Needed Someone". These were replaced with two tracks from the UK Help! album: "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love".[46] The total time was 28:55, nearly seven minutes shorter than the British version.

Through the mix of predominantly acoustic-based songs from the two releases, according to author Kenneth Womack, Capitol's Rubber Soul "takes on a decidedly folk-ish orientation".[47] Capitol sequenced "I've Just Seen a Face" as the opening track – an act that Ian MacDonald cites as the record company "conspiring" to present Rubber Soul as a folk-rock album.[48][nb 3] MacDonald also contends that the omission of songs such as "Drive My Car" provided a "misleading impression" that the Beatles had favoured "a 'soft' sound" to avoid comparisons with the wave of contemporary Dylan imitators.[50] The stereo mixes used by Capitol contained two false starts at the beginning of "I'm Looking Through You",[47] while "The Word" also differed from the UK version due to the addition of an extra falsetto harmony and the panning treatment given to one of the percussion parts over the song's instrumental break.[nb 4]


Rubber Soul was commercially successful, beginning a 42-week run in the British charts on 12 December 1965.[51] The following week it replaced The Sound of Music soundtrack at the top of the charts,[52] and held the top spot for eight weeks.[51][nb 5] In the United States, it topped the Billboard Top LP's chart on 8 January 1966,[54] having sold 1.2 million copies there within nine days of release.[55] The album held that position for six weeks in total, remaining in the top 20 until the start of July, before leaving the top-200 listings in mid December.[56] Billboard magazine cited its initial sales as evidence of a new market trend in the US, whereby pop albums started to match the numbers of singles sold.[57][nb 6]

Critical response to Rubber Soul was highly favourable.[59] Allen Evans of the NME wrote that the band were "still finding different ways to make us enjoy listening to them" and described the LP as "a fine piece of recording artistry and adventure in group sound".[60][61] While outlining to American readers the differences in the UK-format release, KRLA Beat hailed Rubber Soul as an "unbelievably sensational" work on which the Beatles were "once again ... setting trends in this world of pop".[62] The writer of Record Mirror's initial review found the album lacking some of the variety of the group's previous releases but also said: "one marvels and wonders at the constant stream of melodic ingenuity stemming from the boys, both as performers and composers. Keeping up their pace of creativeness is quite fantastic."[63] By contrast, a week later, Richard Green wrote in the same magazine that most of the album "if recorded by anyone but the Beatles, would not be worthy of release", with many of the tracks devoid of "the old Beatles excitement and compulsiveness". Green acknowledged that his was an unpopular opinion, before concluding: "Judging LPs strictly on their merits, recent albums from Manfred Mann, the Beach Boys and Jerry Lee Lewis rank high above Rubber Soul."[64] In another review that Richard Williams later cited as an example of the British press not being "quite ready" for the album, Melody Maker found the Beatles' new sound "a little subdued" and said that tracks such as "You Won't See Me" and "Nowhere Man" "almost get monotonous – an un-Beatle-like feature if ever there was one".[65]

According to David N. Howard, writing in his book Sonic Alchemy (2004), "pop's stakes had been raised into the stratosphere" by Rubber Soul, resulting in a shift in focus from singles to creating albums without the usual filler tracks.[66] Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys described it as "the first album I listened to where every song was a gas" and planned his band's next project, Pet Sounds (1966), as an attempt to surpass it.[67] The album similarly inspired Pete Townshend of the Who and the Kinks' Ray Davies,[68] as well as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who issued their first album of all-original material, Aftermath, in April 1966.[69] In a September 1966 review of Revolver, KRLA Beat said that the title of Rubber Soul had "become a standard phrase used to describe a creation of exceptional excellence in the field of music", such that several highly regarded releases had since earned the description "a 'Rubber Soul in its field'".[70]

In a 1967 article for Esquire, Robert Christgau called Rubber Soul "an album that for innovation, tightness, and lyrical intelligence was about twice as good as anything they or anyone else (except maybe the Stones) had done previously".[71] He later cited it as "when the Beatles began to go arty".[72]

Retrospective assessment and legacy

Professional ratings
Review scores
The A.V. ClubA–[74]
Chicago Sun-Times[75]
Consequence of SoundA+[76]
The Daily Telegraph[77]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[78]
Pitchfork Media10/10[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[49]

More recently, Rolling Stone magazine has commented that, with Rubber Soul, the Beatles "achieved a new musical sophistication and a greater thematic depth without sacrificing a whit of pop appeal". Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph wrote in 2009: "this is where things start to get very interesting ... Rubber Soul is the result of their first extended period in the studio. The production is open and spacious, adorned but not yet overcrowded with new instruments and ideas. The songs themselves are like little Pop Art vignettes, where the lyrics are starting to match the quality of the melodies and arrangements."[81] Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork Media describes the album as "the most important artistic leap in the Beatles' career – the signpost that signaled a shift away from Beatlemania and the heavy demands of teen pop, toward more introspective, adult subject matter".[3] Author and musicologist Walter Everett similarly views Rubber Soul as an "important album". He highlights its rich multi-part vocals brimming with expressive dissonance vocals, a deep exploration of guitars and the different capos that produced different colours from familiar finger patterns, surprising new timbres and electronic effects, a more soulful pentatonic approach to vocal and instrumental melody tinged by twelve-bar jams that accompanied the more serious recording and a fairly consistent search for meaningful ideas in lyrics".[82]

In an article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the album's release, writer/musician Bob Stanley lamented that Rubber Soul was often overlooked in appraisals of the Beatles' recording career, whereas Revolver and the White Album (1968) had each gained in stature. Stanley highlighted Rubber Soul as having been "a good 18 months ahead of its time" and "the first album of the rock era that sounded like an album".[83] Also writing in December 2015, in Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield especially admired the singing throughout the album and the female characters depicted in the lyrics, and said: "As soon as it dropped in December 1965, Rubber Soul cut the story of pop music in half – we're all living in the future this album invented."[84] Conversely, Jon Friedman of Esquire finds the work vastly overrated, with only the Lennon-dominated songs "Norwegian Wood", "Nowhere Man", "In My Life" and "Girl" worthy of praise, and he dismisses it as "dull" and "the Beatles' most inconsequential album".[85] Although he considers that McCartney "comes off third-string" to Lennon and Harrison, Plagenhoef defends the album's subtle mood; highlighting the influence of cannabis on the Beatles throughout 1965, he writes: "With its patient pace and languid tones, Rubber Soul is an altogether much more mellow record than anything the Beatles had done before, or would do again. It's a fitting product from a quartet just beginning to explore their inner selves on record."[3]

In 2000, Rubber Soul was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame,[86] an award bestowed by the American Recording Academy "to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old".[87] Since 2001, it has been included in "best" album lists compiled by Q magazine,[88] VH-1,[89] Rolling Stone[7] and Time.[90] The album is also featured in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[91] In 2012, Rubber Soul was voted fifth on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[92]

Compact disc reissues

Rubber Soul was released on compact disc on 30 April 1987, with the 14-song UK track line-up now the international standard. Having been available only as an import in the US in the past, the 14-track UK version of the album was issued on LP and cassette on 21 July 1987. As with the Help! album, Rubber Soul featured a contemporary stereo digital remix of the album prepared by George Martin. Martin expressed concern to EMI over the original 1965 stereo remix, claiming it sounded "very woolly, and not at all what I thought should be a good issue". He went back to the original four-tracks tapes and remixed them for stereo.[93]

When the album was originally released on CD in Canada, pressings were imported from other countries, and used the 1987 remix. However, when the Disque Améric and Cinram plants in Canada started pressing the album, the original 1965 stereo mix was used by mistake. This was the only source for the 1965 stereo mix in its entirety until the release of the Beatles mono box set in 2009.[94]

A newly remastered version of the album, again using the 1987 George Martin remix, was released worldwide with the reissue of the entire catalogue on 9 September 2009. The original 1965 stereo and mono mixes were reissued on that date as part of the mono box set.[95]

The Capitol version was relaunched twice, first in 2006, for the The Capitol Albums, Volume 2 box set, using original mixes of the Capitol 60's album, and in 2014, individually and on the box The U.S. Albums, this time, using mixes from 2009 remasters, except on "Michelle" (mono), "The Word" (stereo) and "I'm Looking Through You" (stereo), both using the original mix from the Capitol 60's album, because these mixes are different from UK.

Track listing

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney except where noted. 

Side one
No. TitleLead vocals Length
1. "Drive My Car"  McCartney with Lennon 2:25
2. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"  Lennon with McCartney 2:01
3. "You Won't See Me"  McCartney 3:18
4. "Nowhere Man"  Lennon with McCartney and Harrison 2:40
5. "Think for Yourself" (George Harrison)Harrison 2:16
6. "The Word"  Lennon and McCartney with Harrison 2:41
7. "Michelle"  McCartney 2:40
Side two
No. TitleLead vocals Length
1. "What Goes On" (Lennon–McCartney–Richard Starkey)Starr 2:47
2. "Girl"  Lennon 2:30
3. "I'm Looking Through You"  McCartney 2:23
4. "In My Life"  Lennon 2:24
5. "Wait"  Lennon and McCartney 2:12
6. "If I Needed Someone" (Harrison)Harrison 2:20
7. "Run for Your Life"  Lennon 2:18

Original North American release

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney except where noted. 

Side one
No. TitleLead vocals Length
1. "I've Just Seen a Face"  McCartney 2:04
2. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"  Lennon with McCartney 2:05
3. "You Won't See Me"  McCartney 3:19
4. "Think for Yourself" (Harrison)Harrison 2:19
5. "The Word"  Lennon with McCartney and Harrison 2:42
6. "Michelle"  McCartney 2:42
Side two
No. TitleLead vocals Length
1. "It's Only Love"  Lennon 1:53
2. "Girl"  Lennon 2:33
3. "I'm Looking Through You"  McCartney 2:24
4. "In My Life"  Lennon 2:24
5. "Wait"  Lennon and McCartney 2:15
6. "Run for Your Life"  Lennon 2:15


According to Mark Lewisohn,[96] Ian MacDonald[97] and The Beatles Anthology:[98]

The Beatles
Production and additional personnel


Chart (1965–66) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[99] 1
West German Media Control Albums Chart[100] 1
UK Albums Chart[101] 1
US Billboard Top LPs[102] 1


Original release
Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[103] 2× Platinum 120,000*
Australia (ARIA)[104] Platinum 70,000^
Brazil (ABPD)[105] Gold 100,000*
Germany (BVMI)[106] Gold 250,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[107] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[108] Platinum 300,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

dagger BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.[6]

North American release
Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[109] 2× Platinum 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[58] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. The book The 100 Greatest Bands of All Time states that the Beatles were also inspired in part by the Beach Boys' album Today!, which was an early example of the album format being used to make a cohesive artistic statement.[9]
  2. McCartney used a similar phrase – "Plastic soul, man, plastic soul ..." – after the Beatles had completed the first take of "I'm Down", as released on the 1996 compilation Anthology 2.[36]
  3. Rolling Stone magazine describes the Capitol version as "a folk-rock album more conceptually unified than the U.K. original – though shorter, and not as good".[49]
  4. These anomalies appeared on every American stereo copy of the album until 1987. The 1965 American stereo and mono mixes were issued on compact disc in 2006 as part of The Capitol Albums, Volume 2 box set.[47] In 2014, the Capitol edition of Rubber Soul was released on CD again, individually and included in the Beatles box set The U.S. Albums.
  5. Rubber Soul returned to the UK listings in May 1987; among several chart appearances since then, the album peaked at number 10 in September 2009.[53]
  6. In America, the album sold 1,800,376 copies by the end of 1965 and 2,766,862 by the close of the decade.[55] As of 1997, it had shipped over 6 million copies in America.[58]


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External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Rubber Soul
Preceded by
Whipped Cream and Other Delights
by Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass
Billboard 200 number-one album
8 January – 18 February 1966
Succeeded by
Going Places
by Herb Alpert and His Tijuana Brass
Preceded by
Help! by the Beatles
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
26 February – 6 May 1966
14–20 May 1966
Succeeded by
What Now My Love
by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Preceded by
The Sound of Music by Original Soundtrack
UK Albums Chart number-one album
25 December 1965 – 19 February 1966
Succeeded by
The Sound of Music by Original Soundtrack
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