This article originally appeared in issue # 16 of my print only ‘zine Metanoia…
The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul recently celebrated its 55th anniversary. Or should that be Rubber Souls: since its release in December 1965, there have always been two different versions ofthe album. The covers were identical, but the UK version contained fourteen tracks. That album was released worldwide…
…except in North America. Capitol Records, the group’s US label, habitually trimmed their fourteen-track UK LPs to twelve tracks (sometimes eleven!), and then further reshuffled the contents to make space for the UK singles (which were customarily not included on UK LPs). Reportedly, Capitol exec Dave Dexter wanted the US Rubber Soul to have more of a “folk music” feel than the UK version, so he snipped four “rock” songs from the UK track listing– “Drive My Car,” “What Goes On,” “If I Needed Someone,” and “Nowhere Man”– and replaced them with two “acoustic” songs– “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” –cut from the earlier UK Help! album (which, in the US, was a soundtrack LP with seven Beatles tunes and five non-Beatles instrumental tracks).
The result was that, even though the two Rubber Souls shared ten common tracks, the US edition had a warmer feel than its UK counterpart, with acoustic instruments dominating the songs. Beatles fans are divided on which Rubber Soul they prefer, but many of them own a copy of both. I used to own both, and while the UK version has grown on me, I grew up with the US version, and that’s still the one that I prefer. As a Facebook friend of mine said, “If it doesn’t open with ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face,’ it’s not Rubber Soul.”
However, the Rubber Soul variations don’t end with the track lineups. Up until 1968, pop albums were issued for both stereo and mono phonographs. The Beatles directly supervised their mono mixes, leaving the EMI engineers to create stereo mixes based on those mono versions. This means that– guess what?– many Beatles collectors have not just two, but four different Rubber Souls: both UK and US releases, in both mono and stereo.
Right now I don’t have any vinyl copies of either edition, and so, spurred by this anniversary, I went to eBay to see if I could score a cheap copy of my favorite Rubber Soul: a US mono pressing. I bid on a copy…
…but then I found myself second-guessing. Buying a vinyl copy of an album I owned on CD and in digital form might seem excessive, if not obsessive, to many people.
Why did I NEED to not only have a vinyl copy, but that specific vinyl copy?
Then I saw this picture on Facebook, posted by a collector in a Beatles group.
These records are said collector’s FIFTEEN copies of the US Rubber Soul. From the top left, he has the original east-and west-coast pressings in both mono and stereo; then a late-‘60s stereo disc (the label almost identical to original issues save for some wording in the manufacturing disclaimer); next, a late ‘60s stereo disc with Capitol’s new label design; then a record club release, the 1973 Apple Records reissue, and, finally, three late 70s and early 80s reissues.
Oh… and, in the lower right corner, for good measure, in addition to those eleven vinyl pressings, he also has the 8-track and cassette releases, as well as two CD editions.
(No, I don’t know where his reel-to-reel tape went.)
The thing that might be astounding (if not confounding) to a non-collector is that musically, most of these eleven Rubber Souls are as identical as they appear! Two of them are mono mixes, while one of the early stereo pressings was a unique “east coast mix” that was never reissued. (Remember my distinction between “east coast” and “west coast” pressings? This was one of the few times that the pressing plant location equated to a musical variation.)
That having been said, the remaining eight albums are just musically identical reissues of the same twelve-track stereo album. Yes, granted: earlier pressings of these discs sound better than later pressings, but later pressings were made in smaller quantities, so, therefore, they’re technically “rarer” and perhaps more “collectible”…
…and as my character Margo might type at this point, “do you even care about any of this?”
I can’t sit here and type that I don’t indulge this sort of obsessiveness in my own way. Within slightly-more-than-arm’s length of my desk sits a crateful of Beatles 45s containing multiple copies of records which appear to be “the same” but are slightly different from each other in some way. I have four different US copies of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that differ only cosmetically (mainly label variations), but then I also have two different pressings of “For You Blue” that look identical but differ musically; same with “I Feel Fine” and “I’ll Cry Instead” and “Love Me Do” and “Misery” and a bunch of other tunes.
When I lost my 2000+ disc record collection a few years back, I told myself that I now had the fun of acquiring those discs all over again if I wanted to. Label variations, stereo or mono mixes, album or single versions, country of origin, picture sleeves… sussing out these kinds of variations is part of the fun of collecting anything.
So even though I’m kind of mocking this collector’s bring-n-brag picture of his Rubber Soul library, in a way, it’s surprising that I don’t have even one vinyl copy of Rubber Soul.
I don’t think I want or need eleven, but at least that gives me a benchmark.
Whether that’s a benchmark of completeness or of obsessiveness is another question.
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Metanoia is my biweekly print-only ‘zine, usually two, sometimes four, pages.
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