List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
The Beatles are one of a very select group of acts on the acclaimed albums list that have more than five items on the list. Not only that but the majority of their entries are in the Top 30 or above which is, let’s be honest, incredibly impressive. I say this as someone who would never really describe myself as a fan of their music (based on hearing four of their albums so far… which is more than I can say for David Bowie, something to be rectified).
It is an interesting fact to note that this is the first of the very few soundtracks to be featured. Off the top of my head I can only think of three more (Shaft, Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain) that I am likely to encounter, but there could be one that I missed.
So prior to this I listened to the first album and I ask the question, what has changed since the last album? The answer to this, and it pleases me to say, is that there are absolutely no covers on A Hard Day’s Night as compared to the 50/50 split on their debut album With The Beatles. This is a boon for The Beatles for this album truly marks their first steps towards true creative emancipation with them now beginning to be able to show off their song-writing skills. The only downside for me is the lack of a George Harrison track, bah (which was my favourite on their debut). Oh well. He at least gets a solo Grammy Award for Best Album while Paul McCartney gets bupkis, so look who gets the solo laugh. Sorry, I just deeply dislike Paul McCartney and now have a candle for George Harrison so this was a comparison that was likely to crop up.
With this purging of cover versions there is a definite move on in style from With The Beatles when they could sometimes sound either sounded dangerously close to The Everly Brothers or very wooden, the latter a reference to Roll Over Beethoven. As an album it definitely serves as a stepping-stone to what they are yet to achieve for thus far it is still not a revolution in music that has been associated with them but they are definitely taking a step in the right direction, which is not in the direction of the lyric “I will love her until the cows come home” from ‘When I Get Home‘. Speaking of which this track, aside from being by far the weakest on the whole album, is a prime example of how bad Ringo’s drumming is.
Complaints aside I really did enjoy this album, it is an overall improvement on the previous one with only one song acting as filler. This is also the first time where I recognised some of the classic Beatles songs with ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and the sublime ‘I Should Have Known Better’ all appearing with full force. While ‘Don’t Bother Me’ may still have the place, at the moment, of being my favourite Beatles song it is something that may be liable to change as I progress. Also, something that needs to be said, is that ‘I Should Have Known Better’ came very close to taking this mantle. I have loved this version since hearing a cover version by Zooey Deschanel as part of her duo She & Him but hearing it in it’s original incarnation makes it all the more better.
An interesting thing about reviewing an artist multiple times is that you begin to take on the same role as an auntie. Every now and then you get a glimpse of this artist at irregular intervals, of about a year or so, and every time that you see them you begin to notice the changes that they have gone through. While I did enjoy With The Beatles there was a sense of playing it safe and a lot of the material was derivative. This changed in A Hard Day’s Night where there really was a profound shift in the music that they were making. I guess that what I am trying to say here is that in developmental terms it appears that The Beatles are similar to a border collie where Rubber Soul is their puberty.
Rubber Soul is the first time that over the course of a whole album you can identify it as purely a Beatles album. This was not made to gain a foothold like With The Beatles as they had gained the world by storm with their previous releases. This wasn’t a purely commercial venture like A Hard Day’s Night as there was no film to accompany. What we have here ladies and gentlemen is the true creative emancipation (I like this phrase) of the Beatles. This is, as I previously coined, puberty for The Beatles as finally they resemble the act that we all know they will turn into but there is still something missing.
Also as I go along the ratio of songs I know to total songs on the album keep increasing. This is always a good thing as in the end for a song to be still doing the founds over forty years later they must have been doing something right. So when this album began with ‘Drive My Car‘ which is such an irritable scrap of pop that you really do find yourself drawn into the world of distorted images and ground-breaking music when compared to their contemporaries .
On the whole this is a very good album and it is very well put together. Little treats like the sitars in ‘Norwegian Wood’ and the dark stalker-like song ‘Run For Your Life’ are dotted so liberally that you almost brush over the two lesser tracks of the bundle, ‘Michelle’ and ‘Wait’.
While there are a multitude of people at my age, and younger, who still look down their noses at The Beatles and albums such as Rubber Soul as being old and therefore being of no relevance to their life. You know who I mean, the people that sit in their bedrooms pawing over posters of One Direction or Justin Beiber declaring that they know better. Well, after listening to Rubber Soul the final remnants of my Beatles-related demons have been washed away and I can actually recognise them for what they were. A pioneering act who themselves had to evolve, and take a few wrong turns in songs like ‘Wait’, before they made their magnum opus.
While it is true that in many ways The Beatles had it easier, as nowadays there is such a melee of artists that you do need to make something new, this act never became complacent in their towering popularity and strived so that they never really wore the same guise twice. As such I await their next album, Revolver, with baited breath.