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50 Years Ago: The Beatles Put the Finishing Touches on ‘Rubber Soul’

On Nov. 11, 1965, the Beatles convened to finish recording their sixth album, Rubber Soul. Entering the studio at around 6 p.m., they realized they were a couple songs short of the 14 tracks slotted for the new record. Believe it or not, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were having trouble writing enough material for the album. So, they “tossed off” a few new songs and resurrected a cast-off from the Help! sessions.

In total, four songs received the Beatles’ attention that day. “You Won’t See Me,” a McCartney composition, kicked off the evening and was finished in two takes, followed by Lennon’s “Girl,” a sardonic ballad anchored by his heaving sigh of resignation in the chorus.

Still short one song, they turned to a track that didn’t make the cut for their previous album. “Wait” still needed a few guitar parts and backing vocals added, along with some tambourine and maracas. Finally, the group returned to “I’m Looking Through You” for a few additional overdubs. Thirteen hours after starting, the Beatles departed, and producer George Martin would mix the album for mono and stereo a few days later. On Dec. 3, Rubber Soul was in U.K. record shops.

The LP marked the first time the Beatles would focus exclusively on recording new material for such a lengthy stretch of time. Previous albums and singles had been cobbled together out of stolen session days between touring, promotional appearances and endless travel. For Rubber Soul, the Beatles spent an unprecedented four weeks in the studio, starting on Oct. 18. From this album forward, they would transition into the quintessential studio band, eliminating their grueling touring schedule and honing their craft at Abbey Road with Martin at the boards.

Not only did Rubber Soul inspire the Beatles to new heights, it also made a major impact on another studio auteur – Brian Wilson. After hearing the album, Wilson was stunned at its consistent quality. Rather than a collection of singles surrounded by filler, Rubber Soul was one of the first truly complete albums, an exceptional listening experience from start to finish, approached by the band as a single artistic unit.

That inspired Wilson to attempt his own album-length work: Released the following year, Pet Sounds raised the bar considerably higher for pop music and challenged the Beatles to push their own game on 1966’s Revolver, especially “Here, There and Everywhere,” which McCartney said was specifically inspired by the Beach Boys and Pet Sounds.

In the annals of rock music’s shots heard around the world, Rubber Soul is one of the loudest. It initiated a new phase of the Beatles’ career and heralded a golden age of ’60s artists pushing the boundaries of songwriting craft and studio wizardry.

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