"Even George Martin was saying, 'Sgt. Pepper was their acid album.' That's bollocks actually, Revolver was. Rubber Soul was the pot album, as well."
These words are spoken by Sir Paul McCartney in The Beatles Anthology coffee table book. Apparently then, Marijuana makes you a more mature and better songwriter. Often considered to be the bridge between the lovable freshed face pop stars who wanted to hold your hand and the full blown psychedelic deities that would scare Nixon so much he would eventually attempt to throw John Lennon out of the country, this record is widely accepted as one of the most innovative records of the sixties.
I know what your thinking. What happened? How could one album change a groups' style that much? Put simply, what happened was the Beatles decided to be songwriters, instead of a short-lived pop phenomenon (thanks Dylan), and it shows. "Drive My Car" doesn't seem too different in the lyrics, but there is something oddly more grown up about the musical arrangement... and it's a good, peppy song as well. Immediately following this tune is a prime example of musical maturity, and a hint as to where a certain Hindu obsessed Beatle was heading towards, and it's called "Norwegian Wood". This is driven by a nice jangly chord progression played on acoustic, and the melody is doubled by George on a sitar. Ahh...the sitar. You either love it or hate it.
"You Won't See Me" isn't quite the greatest track here, but it is a well crafted pop tune with great vocals, and I've always been impressed with The Beatles gift for vocal harmonization. Lyrically it's about Paul's rocky relationship with Jane Asher, who would leave him in 1968. "Nowhere Man" is a major growth as it is the first Beatles song not to mention love in anyway, shape, or form. Add onto this some more splendid vocal harmonies, and you have a very worthy and entertaining song. Around this time, I began to notice something odd about this album. A bright-eyed young lad such as myself didn't know quite what to make of it. And then it hit me. This album FLOWED so perfectly. It seemed to me that these wacky Beatles had nonchalanty thrown together a masterpiece.
George Harrison turns in what may arguably his first song worthy of high praise in the jaunty yet cynical "Think for Yourself". This is considered to be one of the first Government protest songs, but that's another story. Then comes "The Word". I really like this song. Alot. It's got a Jazz/R and B type fusion in the verse that leads into a tremendously catchy chorus. This may be the highpoint of the album, but there are more contenders still up for that spot.
Coming after that dose of pre-psychedelia is a rather tongue-in-cheek sounding ballad from Paul called "Michelle", and everything about this song exudes French culture, from the chord progression to harmonized backing vocals. Hell, the guy even sings in French at one point. They pull it off nicely though, and not once does it sound forced or out of place.
Next The Beatles continue the tradition of throwing Ringo a song to sing, as the fans loved him and he couldn't really write a good one himself. "What Goes On" is often derided as a weak track on the album, but it's one of my personal favourites, and the guitar playing is lovely. John Lennon, apparently noticing Paul threw in a ballad, decided to tackle one himself, and he does not dissapoint. "Girl" is a stunningly beautiful song with a great instrumental bridge. However, some of the beauty is taken away when Paul and George start singing "tit tit tit tit tit" over and over in the background. Humor at it's finest dear readers.
Paul was still pissed at Jane, and one song about her wasn't going to change that. So he wrote "I'm Looking Through You", and it is superb. This is without a doubt contender number two for best song on the album. Genius is certainly on display here, especially in the arrangement of the tune. John Lennon once referred to "In My Life" as his first major piece of work, and it's really hard to argue against that point. This is truly a masterpiece, and a beautiful song. It also boasts a "harpsichord" solo by George Martin, which is actually a piano recorded at half-tempo, with the tape speeded up double for the final mix.
All of the Beatles claim "Wait" as a filler, a song put on there because EMI felt the album was too short. I, however, hold this song very near and dear, and it's the third contender for best song on the album in my opinion.
"If I Needed Someone" is the second contribution by George, and has a very Byrds-like feel to it, alot of which has to do with the addition of his famous 12 string Gretsch guitar. A very good song with rather good lyrics. The closer of the album is "Run For Your Life", a knockoff tune by John Lennon. Quite a provacative tune actually, with John basically stating to his baby that if he can't have her, no one can. Quite risque for a pop group.
This is the album that really got me into the Beatles, and I truly believe it is great from start to finish. I'm not sure if grass will truly make you a more proficient songwriter, but it certainly worked for the Beatles. 5/5