Brian Wilson on the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album



Brian Wilson on the Beatles' Rubber Soul
The band shows increasing sophistication, Lennon shines on Norwegian Wood, and they stun their Beach Boys rival ... Brian Wilson
It must have been in November of 1965. I was living in this house in the Hollywood Hills then, way up on Laurel Way, and I remember sitting in the living room one night talking with some friends when another friend came in with a copy of the Beatlesí new one, Rubber Soul, I donít know if it had even come out yet. But he had it and so we put it on the record player and, wow. As soon as I started hearing it I loved it. I mean, LOVED it!

I still remember hearing Michelle for the first time, and Girl. What an incredible song! Everything about the way John Lennon sang, and the lyrics he was writing. ďOh, girl, girl.Ē It sounded amazing.

Norwegian Wood is my favourite, too. The lyrics are so good, and so creative, right from the first line: ďI once had a girl/ Or should I say, she once had me.Ē Itís so mysterious. Is he into her, or she into him? It just blew my mind. And in the end, when he wakes up and sheís gone, so he lights a fire. ďIsnít it good? Norwegian wood.Ē Is he setting her house on fire? I didnít know. I still donít know. I thought that was fantastic. I canít forget the sitar, too, Iíd never heard that before, that unbelievable sound. No one had heard that in rockíníroll back then, this amazing, exotic sound. It really did inspire the instrumentation I ended up using for Pet Sounds.

So many other songs are on there, too. You Wonít See Me is like a cheerful pop song, and Think for Yourself is kind of dark. Iíd forgotten that was Georgeís song. He really wrote that? Well, I know it has that cool fuzzy bass sound. Iíd used that already on Little Honda, so it was more familiar to me. But then came The Word, and that was something else, too. A song about love, but not just about girls and boys.
Then thereís In My Life, thatís another John song. And thatís my favorite song on the record too, except for Norwegian Wood. I loved the sound of Johnís voice. Iíd never heard a collection of songs that were all that good before. Itís like a collection of folk songs, and theyíre all just really, really great songs. And not just about love. Theyíre about a lot of different things, but they all go together, somehow.

Listening to Rubber Soul didnít clarify my ideas for Pet Sounds, exactly. But it inspired me. When we were listening to it that night I said to myself, ďNow Iím gonna make an album just as good as Rubber Soul.Ē Not the same album. Obviously there can only be one album thatís Rubber Soul, just like there can only be one Pet Sounds. But it inspired me to do my own thing, and so the next morning I went to the piano and wrote God Only Knows with Tony Asher.

And itís still my favourite Beatles album. That and Let It Be. Obviously, theyíre very different records. But the Beatles changed musically, and got better over the years. So did I.


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