Life at 33 1/3: The American way

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The Beatles: Rubber Soul (Capitol)

This month the original American Beatles-albums were released on CD in perfect miniature replicas of the original cardboard sleeves.  You can either buy the 13 titles individually or in a cool boxed set “The Beatles: The US Albums”.  A nice treat, but as they mostly use the 2009 British remasters, these CDs do not tell the whole story.  The original vinyl releases sported mixes that were unique (and sometimes awful) and not to be found anywhere else in the world.

I’d still go for the vinyl originals.  They are more fun, and easy to find out on e-bay.

Capitol’s re-arranged version of “Rubber Soul” is one of the few U.S. Beatles albums that (almost) matches its British counterpart.  It is ranked high in the rock’n’roll mythology as it opened Brian Wilson’s eyes (and ears ) for the album format, and thus fueled the competitive spirit in him and sparked what would become “Pet Sounds”.  With “Rubber Soul” Wilson found that the Beatles delivered a collection of tracks that were all strong individually and simultaneously accounted pieces of a whole.

To the Americans “Rubber Soul” had a distinct folk atmosphere with its semi-acoustic arrangements and splendid use of harmony voices.  Part of the explanation for this apparent tilt towards the folksy is the removal of four tracks from the UK version: “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, “If I Needed Someone” and “What Goes On” – and their replacements, two of the four leftovers from the UK “Help!” album: Paul’s fast-paced acoustic country music showcase “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and John’s wistfully smiling “It’s Only Love” (one of the songs Lennon hated).  They were both loose and airy and could, especially since “I’ve Just Seen A Face” opened the album and thus set the tone, be regarded as close relatives of “Norwegian Wood “ (which was the next track ), “Michelle”, “Girl”, “I’m Looking through You”, “In My Life” and even “Run For Your Life”.

One must admit that this Capitol-creation plays extremely well even if it loses more than it gains.  The textures of the UK original are richer, and the LP has greater range and more rooms.  But the Capitol version is also a brilliant acquaintance.  And credit where credit’s due, Capitol does not succumb to the temptation of throwing in a couple of singles.

“Rubber Soul “breaks with the record company’s own policy as it is the first of the American Beatles albums that does not include a single hit.  They could have included the recent double A-side “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper”, actually it is a mystery that they didn’t.  They could have included “Yesterday” and “Act Naturally”, a mega hit-single in the fall of 1965 and kept off the US “Help!” album.  They even had “I’m Down”, a B-side that was not to be found on any LP at the time, neither in the US nor the UK.  But they abstained and left “Rubber Soul” alone, turning it into a unique listening experience in itself, a real album.  Respect!

Nerd Facts: “I’m Looking Through You” comes with a false start, unique for the original US-album.  It also has an earlier mix of “The Word “.  The East Coast version of the album is equipped with extra reverb, something the Americans were very fond of.

Released: December 6, 1965

(All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney except where noted)

Side One

1. “I’ve Just Seen a Face”  2:04

2. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”  2:05

3. “You Won’t See Me”  3:19

4. “Think for Yourself” (Harrison)  2:19

5. “The Word”  2:42

6. “Michelle”  2:42

 

Side Two

1. “It’s Only Love”  1:53

2. “Girl”  2:33

3. “I’m Looking Through You”  2:24

4. “In My Life”  2:24

5. “Wait”  2:15

6. “Run for Your Life”  2:15

Personnel:

John Lennon – lead, harmony and backing vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitars, electric piano

Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals, lead, acoustic and bass guitars, piano

George Harrison – lead, harmony and backing vocals, lead, rhythm, acoustic and bass guitars, sitar on “Norwegian Wood”

Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, cowbell, bells, cymbals, Hammond organ on “I’m Looking Through You”

Production and additional personnel:

George Martin – production, mixing, piano on “In My Life”, harmonium on “The Word”

Norman Smith – engineering, mixing

Robert Freeman – photography

Mal Evans – Hammond organ on “You Won’t See Me”