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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming The Beatles 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4

Checking in with a new review in my continuing series of reviews of Rob Sheffield's masterful Dreaming the Beatles on July 4.  This review is about Sheffield's chapter (actually two chapters) devoted to Rubber Soul.  There's no intrinsic connection between Rubber Soul and July 4, but I just read the two chapters, and they're too good not to talk about immediately, whatever the date.

Though, come to think of it, there is a slight connection, since Sheffield makes the point that he can't decide which of the two versions of the 1965 album, the British or the American, he loves most, because they're both so good.  This is just a minor example of why these chapters are such memorable discussions of Sheffield's favorite album.

There's long been a tie in my head between Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper (not quite Revolver, for reasons I'll get into in some subsequent review), but Rubber Soul has my heart and soul, and Sgt. Pepper my head, and I guess two out of three wins.  (My 1987 essay "Sgt. Pepper and the Presumption of Genius," reprinted in Electronic Chronicles, speaks to Sgt. Pepper, and I'll return to that in a later review).

Sheffield's chapters are just brimming with insights, my favorites being -

  • John and Paul later disputing who wrote a given song (I'll return to that general theme also in a later review)
  • John doing "slinky" harmony to blend in with Paul's lead in "You Won't See Me" (you don't often see John credited for his harmonies)
  • Ringo's essential drumming (Sheffield is slowing convincing me of Ringo's importance)
  • The Beatles worrying that Rubber Soul might not be well-received, with the lukewarm reception of the record label being no help (this is a story common to most great works in sundry creative fields, but it's still eye-opening to see the Beatles subject to it)
  • John trying to write about a love affair in "Norwegian Wood" in a way that won't tip off Cynthia (this is also a perennial problem with lyricists and all kinds of writers)
But what stands out most about these chapters, and Rubber Soul, is what it says about sophisticated love songs.  Dylan inspired the Beatles, but I'd say Rubber Soul and its superb variety of meditations on passion has as much or more in common with Cole Porter.  I've always thought that the greatest lyricists of the 20th century were equally Cole Porter, Lennon-McCartney, and Dylan - and Rubber Soul, the album and Sheffield's chapters, in effect testifies why (and why Lennon-McCartney are in retrospect the bridge) .  It may well be that Rubber Soul is the greatest album not only by the Beatles, but by anyone, because that mix of rock and folk, however brilliantly it might work for social commentary, finds its apotheosis in adventures of the human heart.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ...  9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of X: Voting for McCartney ... 16 of X: "I'm A Loser" ... 17 of X: The Split ... 18 of X: "Absolute Elsewhere... 19 of X: (Unnecessary but Brilliant) Defense of McCartney ... 20 of X: "All Things Must Pass" ... 21 of X: Resistance ... 22: The 70s Till the End ... 23: Near the Science Fiction Shop ... 24 of 24: The Last Two

lots of Beatles in here
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