50 Years of ‘Rubber Soul’: How the Beatles Invented the Future of Pop
Just as George had never explored the sitar before, Ringo Starr had never played so fiercely — “Drive My Car” looms large in his legend, up there with “Rain.” (Listen to him in the last bar before the chorus — every time it rolls around, Ringo slays with something different.) His drumming on “In My Life” is pure brotherly empathy — it sounds like he’s giving John the courage to push on to the next line. It’s impossible to imagine “In My Life” without Ringo in it, which is just one of the reasons every cover version falls flat. Ringo even scored his first songwriting credit for the throwaway “What Goes On.” Asked in 1966 what he contributed, he said, “about five words.”
You can hear the team spirit behind the album in the studio banter from the late-night “Think For Yourself” sessions of November 8th. John, Paul and George stand around the microphone, rehearsing three-part harmonies, but laughing too hard to get it right. John, holding a guitar, stumbles on the words. “OK, I think I might have it now,” he announces. “I get something in me head, you know, and all the walls of Rome couldn’t stop me!” All three keep up a nonstop stream of chatter. John slips into a mock-preacher voice. “It’s Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who gave his only begotten bread to live and die on!” Paul and George get in his face, yelling “Why such fury? What is this wrath that beholds you?” They gasp with laughter until John mutters, “I can’t go on, I really can’t. Come on, let’s do this bleedin’ record.” They try another take. They don’t get this one right either.
George Martin’s ready for another try. John looks around and asks, “Paul?” Where is Paul? He’s ducked into the bathroom to sneak a quick puff of weed — still playing the naughty schoolboys, the Beatles don’t dare light up in front of Mr. Martin, though they’re not fooling him for a minute. When Paul comes back, his voice sounds a little giddier. “I just got in from Olympia. I lit the torch!”
You can hear it in the Beatles’ voices tonight — they thrive on each other’s company, tuning into some wavelength nobody else can get. The street date is less than a month away — yet they don’t sound worried. In fact, you might even suspect they’re having fun. When John heads off to the loo, he sings one of the band’s earliest ditties, the one George sang on their first album, “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” Though that song was barely three years ago, its coy innocence seems a lifetime away.
But John has changed the words a little, snapping his fingers as he sings out loud. “Do you want to hold a penis? Doo-wah-ooo!”
The Beatles went down to the wire with one final all-nighter — a marathon session from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., on November 11th. They rose to the occasion by showing up with two of their greatest disenchanted love songs: Paul’s “You Won’t See Me” and John’s “Girl.” Their voices sound weary, yet that just adds the rough Dylan-esque tone they were hoping for. By dawn, it was all over but the mixing.
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