The Beatles always knew how to capture a distinctive image. From the half-shadowed faces of With the Beatles to the textless crosswalk of Abbey Road, no two Beatles albums looked alike, and all LP covers communicated the tone and feel of the album’s contents to perfection.
In 1965, the Fab Four felt a strong desire to distance themselves from their mop-top image. They had begun writing more complex and introspective material, fueled by their creative ambitions and desire to use the recording studio to its fullest extent. They were also experimenting with drugs, specifically marijuana, and felt far removed from their clean-cut pop image of the past.
So for the cover of their newest album, Rubber Soul, the foursome decided to abandon their suits in favour of suede jackets that showed off their shaggier hair and proto-hippie styles. To further drive the point home, the shot was elongated and manipulated into a more psychedelic image, which also fit with the band’s newfound identity.
“I liked the way we got our faces to be longer on the album cover,” George Harrison explained in Anthology. “We lost the ‘little innocents’ tag, the naivety, and Rubber Soul was the first one where we were fully-fledged potheads.”
“The album cover is another example of our branching out: the stretched photo,” Paul McCartney added. “That was actually one of those little exciting random things that happen. The photographer Robert Freeman had taken some pictures round at John’s house in Weybridge. We had our new gear on – the polo necks – and we were doing straight mug shots; the four of us all posing.”
“Back in London Robert was showing us the slides; he had a piece of cardboard that was the album-cover size and he was projecting the photographs exactly onto it so we could see how it would look as an album cover,” McCartney continued.
“We had just chosen the photograph when the card that the picture was projected onto fell backwards a little, elongating the photograph. It was stretched and we went, ‘That’s it, Rubber So-o-oul, hey hey! Can you do it like that?’ And he said, ‘Well, yeah. I can print it that way.’ And that was it.”