This time of year is always a somber one for Beatles fans. With the anniversary of George Harrison’s passing on Monday, followed by next week’s 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, millions of people around the world are especially aware of their own mortality during these two weeks.
Today marks another milestone in Beatles history that’s also bound to make fans feel their age. It was on this date in 1965 – 45 years ago today – that the Beatles released their epic Rubber Soul album in England.
Rubber Soul, which got its title from an expression Paul McCartney used to describe English soul music, was the band’s sixth English album. The record reflects the group’s growing sophistication, marking a clear departure from their earlier Merseyside sound. It was recorded all at once during the months of October and November 1965, rather than in fits and starts between other commitments, like their previous records. This schedule gave them the freedom to experiment with new subjects and sounds, heard most notably in George Harrison’s use of the sitar in Norwegian Wood, and producer George Martin’s harpsichord-sounding piano in In My Life. This record set the stage for how the Beatles would function for the remainder of the 1960s, with the group becoming more of a studio band, and soon discontinuing touring altogether.
When you look at the lineup of the fourteen songs on the record, it’s hard to believe this isn’t a greatest hits album:
Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood, You Won’t See Me, Nowhere Man, Think For Yourself, The Word, Michelle
What Goes On, Girl, I’m Looking Through You, In My Life, Wait, If I Needed Someone, Run For Your Life
Couple this with the fact that Day Tripper and We Can Work It Out were released at the same time as a double-sided single, and left off the record, and you realize that December 1965 was a great month for popular music indeed.
The album was a huge success, hitting the top of the charts on Christmas Day in England, knocking the groups’ previous record, Help!, out of the top spot. The American version of the album came out three days after the British record with a different lineup of songs, and sold over a million copies in the states in only nine days.
Nowhere on the cover of the album was the group mentioned by name. Yes, they were that big.