(UNLIKE ANY PREVIOUS BEATLES’ ALBUMS)
By Alan L.Chrisman
The original cover for the Beatles’, North America only, Yesterday and Today album in 1966, was a photo of The Beatles dressed in bloody smocks with cut-up dolls. This became later known as the famous, “Butcher Cover” and is now one of the rarest Beatles’ collectables. But after negative reaction from radio stations and reviewers to the cover, it was quickly withdrawn.
Capitol had released hundreds of thousands originally and recalled them immediately, but on some they just pasted over with the tamer, more common ‘Beatles in trunks’ photo. Some of the covers could actually be steamed off, revealing the valuable original cover beneath. But they are today, rare indeed, and one of the Beatles’ most illegally-copied items, so beware of purchasing a counterfeit one, when only Beatles’ experts can probably tell the difference.
The Beatles originally posed for the shocking cover to complain, the way Capitol Records, their U.S. record company, was “cutting” up their original British releases and compiling them into more albums. The U.S. Yesterday and Today album contained a few songs each from The British Help movie album, “ Act Naturally”, “Yesterday”; from the recently released Rubber Soul ”Nowhere Man”, “Drive My Car”, “ If I Needed Someone”, and “What Goes On” ; and from the yet to be released Revolver, ”I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert” and “Your Bird Can Sing”; plus songs from the double-sided single, “ Day Tripper”/“ We Can work it Out”.
The Beatles were angry that Capitol had ‘messed’ up their albums and the order of their songs as they had originally planned them, thus the “Butcher” cover. They also said, later, they were also making a statement on the Vietnam War. So the butcher cover could well be the first “punk” cover.
But growing up in the States at the time, I didn’t know all this, and it wasn’t until years later, when I got to hear the original Beatles’ British albums, that I got to see and hear the differences. But since the American Yesterday and Today album was how I had learned these songs, that order is how still, I fondly remember them and Yesterday and Today was always one of my favorite Beatles’ albums.
Rubber Soul, minus the four songs mentioned above included on Yesterday and Today, had also been released in the U.S. the previous December, 1965. It was The Beatles’ 6th album, but it was unlike any previous Beatles’ album. They had come off touring and for the first time, had a few months off, to just concentrate on writing and recording.
And it showed on this new album. Both the songs and production revealed a new maturity in the group. Most of their songs and albums before, were written on tour in hotel rooms or recorded very quickly in between their very hectic schedules.
They had also been influenced by the recent folk-rock of Bob Dylan and The Bryds, and the harmonies of The Beach Boys. But it also had elements of soul, Eastern, and psychedelic music. The songs themselves were no longer talking about relationships and love in the same way as the earlier, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah” songs. Some were written by Paul (you could usually tell, by who was listed as lead singer): “Michelle”, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “You Won’t See Me”, “Drive My Car”. John wrote: “Norwegian Wood”, “Nowhere Man”, “Girl’, “In My Life”, “ Run for Your Life” and “It’s Only Love” together they wrote “The Word”. But already, except for an occasional line or two, Lennon and McCartney were writing separately. There are also two songs by Harrison, “Think for Yourself”, and “If I Needed Someone”, and even Ringo contributed to the country, “What Goes On”. It was some of The Beatles’ best song writing.
The Beatles were also trying out different textures and instruments. On “Norwegian Wood”, Harrison adds some sitar sounds, which he was just learning, and would continue in that Easten music path in the future. Paul plays fuzz bass on “Think” and piano and producer George Martin even joins in, playing harmonium on “The Word” and piano on John’s ,“In My Life”.
Also for the first time, instead of just putting a bunch of single songs on an album, they covered a wider range of styles than any previous Beatles’ album, and the songs were fit together in some sort of order. The Beatles would further develop this concept-album configuration with their follow-up albums, Revolver, the next year and complete it on Sgt. Peppers in ’67. Even the cover was unique. For the first time The Beatles’ name was not even on the front. The title, Rubber Soul, was a satire of the expression “plastic soul” for whites trying to do black-influenced music. The cover was taken with the camera looking up at The Beatles and by mistake, the photo got distorted, but the Beatles asked the photographer to leave it that way. The whole package perfectly captured the feel and experimentation of this different music for The Beatles, or anyone else up until that time. Some people have said, Rubber Soul was a folk-rock album, but that label, mainly came because their American record company, Capitol, actually added some of their more folky-rock songs to the American version of Rubber Soul to cash in on that new direction in the U.S. market.
Rubber Soul would be very influential on many musicians to come, in its range of styles and instruments and concepts. Brian Wilson said,it inspired him to make his landmark, Pet Sounds, album, the next year.
I remember it well because it was the album which first turned me onto The Beatles, during my first university years in 1965 (I had the U.S. version, growing up in the States, originally.) With Lennon songs like, “Girl”, where The Beatles sang together the chorus, ”Ooh Girl”, they were also saying in the background, “tit, tit, tit”. This was unheard of on American top 40 radio in the early 60’s. So right then, I became a giant Beatles’ fan and, especially of John Lennon, and have been ever since. Rubber Soul is listed on Rolling Stones Magazine’s best albums ever (#5), along with 4 other Beatles’ albums in the Top 10: The White Album, Revolver, Sgt. Peppers’, and Abbey Road.
See below John Lennon’s “In My Life” from, Rubber Soul:
Watch John Lennon doing, “Girl”, (hear Beatles’ saying, “ tit”,“tit, “tit”, in background) from Rubber Soul:
Below: Original " Butcher Cover" of U.S. Yesterday and Today album, withdrawn immediately and covered over with tamer, much more common, above," Beatles' with Shipping Trunks" photo, making it one of the rarest Beatles' collectables: