Music has always been an escape mechanism, especially during trying times in high school, especially the 11th grade, where a host of tormented teen-aged shit ravaged my budding psychotic mind.
One bit of sound which eased the terror was the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul,” released seemingly out of nowhere and nothing like the group’s previous albums, more personal, and a bit off-kilter.
Released in December 1965, ‘Rubber Soul‘ became my most-favorite Beatle album, even besting “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which came out a couple of years later, and the “The White Album” in 1968.
“Beep beep’m beep beep yeah…”
(Illustration found here).
Fifty years later, the world is in an even worse mess, but at least I’m not in high school.
Half-a-century ago not only seems a long time, but looks, smells and feels like a real-long time. Plagued by some bad acne, bad posture, and a guy who wrote poetry (way-before Gothic), memories of December 1965 suck — horrible grades, last report card was just about all Ds and Fs — and a general funk of life, buried in a kind of post-Kennedy assassination, pre-1968 cultural revolution malaise, a bored teen-full angst.
So music was a rocking escape. And when ‘Rubber Soul‘ bounced into my local Piggly-Wiggly’s music bin, the nifty, distorted album cover previewed neat-ness — and WTF.
The soundtrack for “Help!” from the Beatles movie had been released that past August, and the boys last regular album, “Beatles VI,” came out that previous spring. Both carried ‘normal,’ regular tunes, especially the studio one. ‘Help!‘ was off a movie, an already intact concept, while the others seemingly carried random songs compiled for an album’s worth of work, to be distributed to the public.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy the shit out of those random songs — some stood out for years, such as this example (from ‘Beatles VI‘): “I don’t want to spoil the party so I’ll go…If she turns up while I’m gone please let me know.” An ode to public dismay, which I could pathetically relate, all intensified by some good guitar work.
One of the original ‘concept’ albums, ‘Rubber Soul‘ was of itself, the different songs reflecting different parts of a single brain wave, mostly sadness, and a lot of confusion. I haven’t listened to the album for decades, probably heard snatches of different songs over the years, but do remember listening for hours to unhappy tomes to girls who apparently had a life beyond the singer (or me). Although way-too young to recognize the subtle hints of female independence, my teen-fired brain grasped the concept, in some subconscious form, and enjoyed.
In that same brain-tone, Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone this morning also recollected:
Did anyone before Rubber Soul sing about female characters like this?
No, they didn’t.
For one thing, these women have jobs, and this is 1965.
The L.A. scenester who hires Paul as her driver, the independent woman too busy with her career to return his phone calls, the Chelsea girl who gets up early for work in the morning, even though she’s got John sleeping in her bathtub. (You’d think she could call in sick for that.)
In late 1965, my mom, an eighth-grade public-school teacher in Massachusetts, got fired for getting pregnant (with me), because that’s how things worked back then.
The very idea of women having careers was a social controversy.
But for the world’s biggest pop stars, it was nothing to get hung about.
No, it’s not…long-fucking time ago, though, and this time next year, we could have a woman president, and maybe remember:
I told that girl I can start right away
And she said, “Listen baby I got something to say
I got no car and it’s breaking my heart
But I’ve found a driver and that’s a start”