A significant step up in class, “Rubber Soul” was easily The Beatles most mature and complete album statement to date. This is largely due to the fact that this was their first album that was thought of as being its own self-contained world rather than being merely a collection of various unrelated songs. Experimenting to a then unprecedented degree and occasionally using uncommon instruments (such as the exotic sitar on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”), the influence of Bob Dylan has also helped The Beatles dig deeper lyrically than the innocent “boy likes girl” concerns that had characterized many of their previous songs.
As usual, almost everything they try works, because they were simply peerless songwriters and singers who had energy and charisma to match. The rocking “Drive My Car” starts things out with enough sexual innuendos to satisfy Aerosmith (along with its memorably cheesy “beep beep beep beep yeahs”), but overall Rubber Soul shows a mellower, more reflective side to The Beatles. McCartney’s excellent “You Won’t See Me” is a prime example of the band’s chemistry that includes delicious “la la la” harmonies, a facet of the band’s arsenal that’s reprised for Lennon’s lonely but lovely “Nowhere Man.” “Think For Yourself” is merely a solid Harrison song, but it was the Byrd’s “If I Needed Someone” (a giant leap up in class) that announced his emergence as a songwriter of major potential. Elsewhere, “The Word” is repetitive but effective, “What Goes On” an obligatory Ringo (country) song that’s catchy enough for a filler track, and “I’m Looking Through You” delivers confessional lyrics along with some stinging guitar from Harrison.
George also props up “Run For Your Life,” another primitive rocker that harks back to their earlier days, while “Wait” is quite singable if often overlooked. Best of all was McCartney’s lovely “Michelle” (an instant standard) and Lennon’s contemplative “In My Life,” while “Girl” also presented mournful acoustic folk of the highest possible standard. Even taking into account the few lesser tracks, it’s not an understatement to suggest that with this thoughtfully planned artistic statement (along with Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited released the same year) rock n’ roll as a genre grew by leaps and bounds, and it greatly influenced artists such as The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, who desperately sought to keep pace. Wilson’s own resultant masterpiece, Pet Sounds, would catch the eye of Paul McCartney and inspire Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.