Friday, April 4, 2008

Beatles 8: Rubber Soul

While this was the first American Beatle album to have a cover and title identical to its British counterpart, the similarity ends there. The US version of Rubber Soul takes ten songs from the UK version (including “Wait”, which had actually been dusted off from the Help! sessions) and replaces each side’s opener (“Drive My Car” and “What Goes On”, neither of which are much of a loss) with a superior orphan from the British Help! (“I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love”). This is still the way most Americans like to hear Rubber Soul, as the replacements complement the other pot-scented, acoustic numbers.
Ron Schaumburg, author of Growing Up With The Beatles, called Rubber Soul their “wood and smoke” album, for the images it generates of “deep-colored, paneled rooms and warm fires, of wine and haze”. That remains true today, as the new, unique sounds and experimentation—quite groundbreaking for the time—still shine throughout the edited version. But while the English were getting used to having two Harrison compositions per LP, the American thinning process limits George’s input to one (“Think For Yourself”, instead of the superior “If I Needed Someone”); “Nowhere Man” also went under the knife. (Also, “I’m Looking Through You” begins with two brief false starts; for this reason the intro on the CD, based of course on the British version, always sounds funny to American listeners.)
So while any version Rubber Soul is undeniably important, there is a lot of affection for the American version. After all, it was also the version that inspired Brian Wilson to record Pet Sounds. Also, fans who’d already inhaled the Help! soundtrack would have been much more familiar with the sound of the sitar than those who’d heard “Norwegian Wood” for the first time and wondered why the guitar sounded so weird.
However, if you bought the CD before 2014, you got the 14-track British version, as the Beatles intended; the 12-track American version was available only in a pricey box released in 2006, until its “U.S. Albums” release eight years later. Either way, you’d still get “Norwegian Wood”, “You Won’t See Me”, “Michelle”, “Girl”, “In My Life”, “Run For Your Life” and the other songs above. And you’d get to hear an incredibly mature statement, from a bunch of kids barely in their mid-20s, that’s well worthy of all the praise it’s received as time goes on.

The Beatles Rubber Soul (1965)—5
UK CD equivalent: Help!/Rubber Soul

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