The Beatles, Dylan and Rubber Soul

New York, 1964 at the Delmonico Hotel, the Beatles were taking a breather from the first of two shows at the Forest Hills Stadium. A mutual friend, Al Aronowitz, brokered a meeting of minds and out walked the raspy-voiced folk icon, Bob Dylan with enough joints to go around and back again. The meat of the matter: Dylan showed the Beatles marijuana, which ended the child-like innocence of the Beatles that even grandma and granddad could get behind. From the red-eyed depths, out came a new, unrecognisable, post-mindblown, Beatles, and the mop-topped, suited and booted, foursome were no more.

With a simple twist of fate, the Beatles’ previously pristinely cut caricature of the good boys was no more after 1964 — Dylan was Michelangelo’s God reaching to Adam as he passed the Beatles a joint or two.

As reductionist rock ’n’ roll yarns go, this one is a favourite of midnight bar conversation. Dylan was a major influence on the Beatles, but not solely from his dealer’s number and that night at the Delmonico Hotel.

By 1964 John Lennon’s creative process was shifting. was released in the same year proving to be a pop leviathan in the UK. One year later, and the Beatles scored another hit with With Dylan at the forefront, the folk scene was booming across the 1960s, and the Beatles were beginning to flirt with it.

The Beatles were slowly turning their backs on adolescent screams, but the lingering shape of the sharply-dressed foursome was still present. and were a little more mature and introspective from previous albums, but the widely regarded turning-point, if you like, is only really seen and heard by released in 1965.

Before that though, Dylan was having a turning-point of his own…

Jean-Luc [CC BY-SA (]

Dylan’s and had been released a few months prior to marking a critical juncture in Dylan’s career. Like the Beatles,Dylan was starting to reinvent himself. Much to the chagrin of his turtle-necked audience, Dylan put his acoustic away for an electric and began to manoeuvre further and further away from protest songs.

The infamous concert at Newport festival surmised Dylan’s turning-point of and being booed offstage, but the changing form of Dylan didn’t happen overnight. released in 1964 was too met with criticism from some of his more militant folk fans through its lack of protest songs. Dylan was regarded as something of a folk prophet in the tumultuous times of the ’60s, but its personal themes were perceived as a betrayal to their construct. By the time Dylan went completely electric his had packed their bags.

Not one to relish in the figment of being a kind of curly-haired Christ-like figure Dylan, in response to feeling owned by his audiences, said,

And In defence of Dylan reflected,

Just as every musician who is worth their salt does, Dylan was evolving. His voyage into performing and recording with an electric band, and his new lyrical themes were a symptom of that evolution just as the Beatles were evolving alongside him into psychedelic long-hairs.

Ever influenced by the works of Dylan, it seemed the Beatles were too sharing in Dylan’s desire to truly shed their former skin with the release of . was the progression of just as was the progression of The Beatles’ teenage screams and Dylan’s wistful beatniks were leaving, and a new era was being ignited. Dylan went electric and the Beatles dropped !

Ranked at number five in the greatest albums of all time, showed the music world that the Beatles were legitimate artists. In place of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout” there was “Norwegian Wood” and “Nowhere Man.” Mellow and self-reflective, the up-beat teenage boy meets teenage girl dynamic had shifted into themes of self-exploration and of social awareness. That’s not to say that the idea of boy meets girl is altogether lost on , but its treatment was a little less pedestrian.

The masterfully gloomy “Girl,” provided a more unique and disillusioned take on the intricacies of the heart. It’s melancholic though not because of the typical theme of love lost, rather, it presents a theme of almost parasitical love.

When I think of all the times I’ve tried so hard to leave her
She will turn to me and start to cry
And she promises the Earth to me and I believe her
After all this time I don’t know why

Lennon explores his co-dependency to the woman in question, yet he is later disenfranchised by the one-way relationship.

Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

The song shows love in a truer, complex form. It’s a sophistication, and a line in the sand from the past lyrics of two lovers as entirely simpatico. John reflects more on his role within that relationship and externalises the unspoken internal. His insecurities as a lover are put on display making for a beautiful and yet tragic song of self-examination.

Developing on Dylan’s lyrical influence, self-examination and curiosity were strong themes of . Dylan even responded to “Norwegian Wood” with a song of his own, “4th Time Around” as a tongue-in-cheek homage to their thoroughly Dylan-esque album. The strong themes of self-examination and curiosity were perhaps also a corollary of all the weed the Beatles were smoking at the time…

Despite popular belief, Dylan wasn’t the Beatles’ first stingy-eyed shaman; that came years earlier, though the event had not made any significant impact on the four. Dylan had assumed that the Beatles were fellow partakers of his funny-smelling cigarettes after mistakenly hearing the lyrics to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as “I get high” rather than “I can’t hide”. Not that it mattered. Despite Dylan’s lyrical faux pas, after that night, and by the time of , weed had become something of a recreational past-time for the Beatles. John Lennon stated that after that night,

Here were the polar opposites of the ragtag Rolling Stones and getting in on the fun, so to speak, that had swept the 1960s. This was in no small part thanks to Dylan playing the at the Delmonico Hotel, but the thin man’s music was an equally intoxicating influence.

The music of followed in the same explorative footsteps of its lyrical themes. Taking influences from Dylan and the Byrds, the Beatles were born again in the guise of electric-folk and a faint ghost of psychedelia.

For the aforementioned “Norwegian Wood,” George donned the sitar, which was previously unheard of within the realms of pop music. As with Dylan at the time, it conveyed the four digging for something new and fresh. “Norwegian Wood” was something of a misnomer in comparison to anything the Beatles had recorded earlier. By his use of the sitar, George, in-part, unwittingly created a newfound sub-genre, raga rock. Later into the 1960s, the use of the sitar became something of a staple for psychedelia and psychedelic pop. A new era had been struck, and the Beatles were at the helm.

Proving that Harrison could be a key player within the Beatles as a songwriter, “Think for Yourself” was George pushing through the ironclad songwriting dominion of Lennon and McCartney. Although it wasn’t his first song to feature on a Beatles album, it was a more accomplished stepping stone of Harrison’s songwriting capabilities. A celebration of the necessity of autonomous thought, it’s rather poignant considering George had always been regarded as the somewhat overshadowed by Lennon and McCartney.

Just as the sitar became a go-to for ’60s psychedelia, McCartney’s fuzzy bass tone on “Think for Yourself” too showed musical prescience. It is widely contested as to whether Paul was in fact, the first to use fuzz on his bass because Marty Robbins often gets the credit. Regardless, the tone hadn’t yet become as iconic as it later did, McCartney was at least one of its early pioneers.

From mop-top to munchies,was the Beatles truly beginning to innovate. They had cast off the shackles of their former suited selves and the rest, as they, was history.

followed on from and followed that. With a little help from Dylan, the Beatles were on their way to truly becoming the Beatles.

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