Saturday, January 8, 2011

When the rubber meets the soul

It's the King of Rock 'n' Roll's birthday and you could do yourself no bigger favor than to read Last Train to Memphis, Peter Guralnick's excellent 1995 biography on Elvis.  If you are capable of multitasking you might also slip the Beatles' Rubber Soul into your player and read on.

Rubber Soul was Billboard's top album on this day in 1966.  It would spend nine of its 42 chart weeks in the No. 1 position.  We rue the ranking of music (you may have noticed) but here's a list that could pass as Exhibit A in the continuing argument Yes We Boomers Had It Pretty Damn Good When it Came to Music.

Below is the cream of the crop from Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Now our personal Top 5 wouldn't look anything like this, but it's still remarkable to consider that all these albums were released  in two-year span between 1965-67.

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Beatles, 1967
2. Pet Sounds, Beach Boys, 1966
3. Revolver, Beatles, 1966
4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan, 1965
5. Rubber Soul, Beatles, 1965

Some Boomers would undoubtedly find room on their short lists for everything from Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones to Springsteen, the Allman Brothers and even U2.  And today at least we need to ask: Elvis, anybody? The rest of you, well, you'll have to tell us. But these five are nevertheless incredible albums, produced in that tight little time span, each standing the test of time. 

Rubber Soul, in fact, has returned to the charts on three other occasions. It reached No. 10 in September of 1998 after the release of the Beatles in Stereo Remasters -- 33 years after we first heard it on the Everson boys' record player above the Walgert Hotel and Tap Room in Whitehall.

Today it is 46 years and counting, and we still think an album that includes "Norwegian Wood" -- the most clever 2 minute, 1 second song ever written -- "Drive My Car," "Nowhere Man," "Girl," "I'm Looking Through You," "In My Life," "Run For Your Life" and "Michelle" -- the Grammy-winning song of the year in 1966 -- is a pretty special disc to have in your collection.


  1. Your fave WMNF closed out the '60s show today with a great Elvis set:

    Elvis: That's all right, Mama
    Jeff Beck: Hound Dog
    Neil Young: Mystery Train
    Bryan Ferry: Are You Lonesome Tonight (oh, yeah)
    Elvis, on stage: Polk Salad Annie

  2. Pet Sounds was a response to Rubber Soul. RS was the record that really upped the ante.

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  4. Greg Warner and I wore out his Rubber Soul in his upstairs bedroom as we browsed through skin mags purchased under the counter from the East Side Store. But I was never "privileged" to hear Pet Sounds. A couple years ago, and I'm pushing 60, I bought Pet Sounds, and I have to tell you I don't get it. I don't get the hype. Lord knows I've tried..leaving it in the van CD player waiting for it to take hold. It never did. I would call it "Pets' Crap," compared to Wilson's earlier work.

  5. It's true mtp. Some people, even Baby Boomers, find u2 relevant. Especially Joshua Tree. And they are a loud bunch.