Despite my rather substantial knowledge of them and their work, I often have a bit of a difficult time writing about The Beatles. On the one hand, they’re one of the greatest bands of all time with a rich catalog of great songs boasting a startling variety and development over the course of their seven years as a unit. But it also bothers me that they and their work are put up on an untouchable pedestal by pretty much every music critic ever simply because they came before. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate and back up the notion that they revolutionized the musical landscape of the world. But to call Rubber Soul the greatest or one of the greatest albums of all time that can never be topped by further developments in music discredit anybody who has come after them and will come in the years ahead.
There is no debate, Rubber Soul is a great album. Just about every song brings something new to the table from the cheeky riffing of “Drive My Car” to the sinister strumming of “Norwegian Wood” to the bipolar optimism of “I’m Looking Through You.” Most of the album’s 14 songs can be considered among The Beatles’ best, particularly the depressed dreaminess of “Nowhere Man” and the sentimental harmony of “In My Life.” But can we honestly claim that the Elvis-based chauvinistic romp “Run for Your Life” or the irritating “Think for Yourself” are among the greatest songs of all time? No way. I don’t want to come down too harshly on Rubber Soul; for the most part, I love the album. But I can also recognize that better LPs are made virtually every year. Certainly in 1965, Rubber Soul, with only Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly predating it, changed the world. But does Rubber Soul remain among the greatest albums ever in 2017? I guess it depends on how many you’ve heard.