One of the most prolific and potent artists of all time, The Beatles delivered 13 full-length records for their fans as they delivered record upon record of pure pop gold. The band would grow and evolve from their boyband roots to something entirely more special, transcending genres, music, and fandom to become one of the best bands of all time, certainly one of the most beloved. It’s a career so comprehensive that it can feel incredibly daunting to try and unpack for any new fan.
The Beatles had such a pioneering stint in music that it isn’t unusual to find that fans have passionate affections for a particular moment in their career trajectory, or a particular era, let alone a particular album. But what was the Quiet Beatle, the band’s famed guitarist and spiritual compass, George Harrison’s favourite Fab Four album of all time?
The ‘Quiet Beatle’ as he was often—and affectionately—known, may be more accurately described as the too-often-overlooked Beatle, as we think there’s no better guitarist/singer combo around in rock music’s history. Except, of course, for perhaps Mr Lennon. One of the finer songwriters of his generation, his tracks like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ cement him in the pop music pantheon. It’s a place that is too often forgotten about.
For his favourite Beatles album, you may have thought Harrison would have picked The White Album, after all, it has four of Harrison’s own compositions. Harrison, famously, was not a fan of Sgt. Pepper as he felt the concept album had turned them into a set of puppet worker bees. “It became an assembly process—just little parts and then overdubbing,” he felt they had lost the edge that came with live performances.
It was part of what made the band split in the end as Harrison and Lennon were keen to move themselves back to being a band rather than just a recording outfit. It was a drive that permeated much of Harrison’s career with and without the Fab Four.
George Harrison’s favourite Beatles album:
So it feels right that George Harrison’s favourite LP would reflect a time of creative unknowns and artistic challenges. It was also the album that critics have defined as a marked turning point: “Rubber Soul was my favourite album,” he once revealed. “Even at that time, I think that it was the best one we made,” he added when reflecting on the iconic record in the ’90s. While it could be easy to see this as the first moment Harrison really broke out, he loves the album for a different reason.
He wistfully recalled: “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music and everything was blossoming at that time—including us.”
Rubber Soul is often seen as one of the most experimental of The Beatles’ albums and reflects a moment of unbridled creativity within the band—a sparking a feeling that would ignite the rest of the Fab Four’s subsequent output. Arguably this was the moment that the Fab Four transcended from pop sensations into musical icons.
The record was built upon a heavy dose of avant-garde rock and roll, unlike the previous efforts, this album was not a hit-machine. To John Lennon it was all rather simple: “We were just getting better, technically and musically, that’s all. Finally, we took over the studio. In the early days, we had to take what we were given– we didn’t know how you can get more bass. We were learning the technique on Rubber Soul. We were more precise about making the album, that’s all. And we took over the cover and everything.”
More so than any other, this album was about challenging not only themselves as musicians and creator but, Rubber Soul was a challenge to the audience too—an aspect Harrison would always push forward with all of his work. This was the moment The Beatles became giants.