For one relatively brief time in my life, I was into 8-track tapes, and to this day, I wonder why.
Those clunky oversized tapes that music lovers had to shove into a slot were one of the most useless formats, at least for home use. They sounded bad and burned up easily. However, for some regular motorists and especially for truckers, 8-Track tapes were quite popular.
A brief primer — 8-tracks were large cartridges that were divided into four sections, which meant consumers would hear a clunking sound between sections. If you were lucky and had a 12-track album where each section was of approximately equal length, the 8-track played no differently than an LP, at least sequentially.
The alternatives were horrific — track orders were changed, some longer songs were split between sections or, as in the extreme case of Neil Young's Live Rust album, there was something like 10minutes of silence.
What does the Beatles' Rubber Soul album have to do with all this?
Before I got heavily into the Beatles, a relative of mine gave me his 8-track player, and a few tapes that he had. Among them were Bob Dylan's first Greatest Hits album from 1966, and Rubber Soul, from 1965.
I listened to both albums over and over again.
But the Rubber Soul I was hearing, and loving, was not the one the Beatles approved of. This was the American version, with 12 songs instead of 14.
More crucially, not all the songs were from the UK Rubber Soul. The Side 1 and Side 2 (or 8-track sections 1 and 3) opening tracks were from the UK Help! album, the U.S. version of which contained seven songs which were in the movie of the same name, plus instrumentals from the film. That left seven tracks to play with, and those ended up on the U.S.-only Beatles VI (three songs, actually released before the UK Help! came out), the U.S.-only Yesterday and Today album (two songs) and Rubber Soul (two songs).
The Beatles were reportedly apoplectic about this rearranging of their songs, as they reportedly "worked hard on the sequencing," John Lennon was quoted as saying.
But when it comes to Rubber Soul, and I'm far from unique in expressing this opinion, I like the American version better than the UK one.
Perhaps, but the inclusion of I've Just Seen A Face and It's Only Love (which John Lennon wrote and sang on, but hated for some strange reason) makes the U.S. Rubber Soul a more unified album genre wise. Just as the cover photo of the Beatles has a pastoral feel, so do all the songs on the American version, in terms of the softer, mellower side of folk rock.
Some of the songs that were uniquely on the UK version differ in feel from what was used for the U.S. LP. Drive My Car veers towards hard rock, and What Goes On is Ringo's country and western spotlight (as on Help's Act Naturally). But Nowhere Man and If I Needed Someone would have fit on the American album as well, although both had a slightly heavier feel than the rest of the more folky songs.
Also, having listened to the U.S. album first, I was used to hearing what was actually a Capitol Records error — leaving an instrumental false start on the song at the start of I'm Looking Through You. When I heard the correct version, it didn't sounded right to me. It still doesn't. Funnily, the mono U.S. version doesn't have the false start.
These days, I listen to the U.K. version of the album, which is still judged one of the Beatles' best and is considered a peak of their recording career.
But I'm also glad Capitol Records took the plunge and, notwithstanding the scoffing of some musical purists, released the American version on CD — twice.