During a break up, it is essential to have some fun music (“Drive My Car”) to completely distract you. And the Beatles produced the most fun music ever between Rubber Soul and the White Album (personal opinion). Apart from being full of fun, awesome Beatle-ness, Rubber Soul is a cornucopia of beautiful and tragic love songs, most of which deal with broken or lost relationships.
Songs like “You Won’t See Me” and “I’m Looking Through You” are fun and bouncy to sing, but they also posit solid questions in the wake of a break up. How can we fix things if you won’t see me? What happened to you that caused your character to change so much that you seem like a completely different person?
Both “Think For Yourself” and murder-ballad “Run For Your Life” show how a bad relationship can be toxic. (“You’re telling all those lies about the good things that we can have if we close our eyes,” and “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.”) The people in these songs have created alternate realities in which they control and manipulate the other person to maintain a fatal happiness.
Of course the two most delicate and dangerous relationships (if we negate the threat of homicide, as it is cast in a humorous light…?) are in the melancholy “Girl” and sitar-tastic “Norwegian Wood.” McCartney sings that “she’s the kind of girl you want so much, it makes you sorry” and explains how she manipulates her man by putting him down and then promising things that she can’t give, just so that she can feel good about herself. I knew a girl like this once. She had swarms of male followers, but she treated them like toys she could replace. This kind of person (girl, boy, whatever) is poisonous.
And the poison is so much more powerful in “Norwegian Wood.” This girl, once again, is the manipulator and the destroyer. She’s also the pusher. She teases her male counterpart into submission and tries to use him for sex (“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me?” … “I sat on her rug, biding my time, drinking her wine”); he deflects her advances over and over again, and eventually she leaves him alone. People leave each other over sex. If you will have it, if you won’t have it, if you’ve gone too far and want to pull back — no matter the circumstances, if sex or sexual action is a question (and it usually is), it’s likely a factor in a break up. And in a very clever, beautiful way, “Norwegian Wood” shows how the pressure to have sex can destroy a potentially good relationship (“Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?”). If you’re past the age of Innocence (and I’m making no claims here as to what that is; fifth graders have given birth in modern society), then you know how much sex can hold power over people. And you probably know how much it can ruin things when not treated with respect and love.
Rubber Soul intercuts heavy and light break-up songs with some fun and some poignant songs about love. Both “The Word” and “If I Needed Someone” deal with loves other than that romantic type (transcendental love and friendship). And in the sheer beauty of “Michelle” and “In My Life,” we are reminded that pure love is possible. We need to hear these songs in after a break up, particularly a messy one, to assure us that there is such a thing as love (In my imaginary Beatles-themed wedding that I’ve been planning since I was fourteen, “In My Life” is tied with “Blackbird” for first dance as a married couple) (Which is painful to think about after a break up, but important to remember. You were living before you met him/her, and you will continue to live after him/her).
There is a great wealth of beauty in Rubber Soul. Each song presents a unique view on life and relationships, some negative, some positive. In all, this album is approachable enough for light listening if you need it and welcome to attention and thought you’re willing to explore it. The songs, which are familiar because they’re the Beatles, after all, provide a safe comfort zone that is also challenging and thought-provoking. Rubber Soul is also my personal favorite Beatles album, but that’s not why it’s my pick for #3 Break Up Album. It’s my pick for third because it can be exactly what you need to listen to after a break up, both to zone out and to think.
Also, in my previous posts on 19 and Making Mirrors, I included a music video at the bottom from a song off of the album. In this case, and possibly in the next two posts (you’ll have to stop back to find out), there aren’t really any music videos. But I did find this video: