One of the most prolific and potent bands of all time, The Beatles released 13 full-length records for their fans as they delivered a relentlessly profitable stream of pure pop gold. The group would grow and evolve from their boyband roots into something more special, transcending genres, music, and fandom to become one of the greatest bands of all time, certainly one of the most beloved. It’s a comprehensive career that can feel incredibly daunting to try and unpack for any new listener.
The Beatles enjoyed 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. However, in order to get a peek behind the curtain, we look to uncover George Harrison’s, the band’s famed guitarist and spiritual compass, favourite Fab Four album.
As he was often and affectionately known as the ‘Quiet Beatle’, Harrison could be more accurately described as the ‘too-often-overlooked’ Beatle, as there’s a case to be made that there’s no better guitarist/singer combo in the history of rock music. Except, of course, for perhaps John Lennon. One of the finest songwriters of his generation, Harrison’s tracks such as ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ cement him in the pop music pantheon.
For his favourite Beatles album, you may have thought Harrison would have picked The White Album, after all, it does include four of his own compositions. The guitarist was, quite famously, 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 once said, feeling as though the band had lost the edge that came with live performances.
It was part of what resulted in the infamous split of The Beatles as, in the end, Harrison and Lennon were keen to move back to being an actual band rather than just a recording outfit. It was a drive that permeated much of Harrison’s career with and without the Fab Four.
With his views on artistic integrity in place, it feels right, then, that George Harrison’s favourite LP would reflect a time of creative unknowns and artistic challenges. It was also the album critics defined as a marked turning point: “Rubber Soul was my favourite album,” harrison 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, in reality, he loves the album for a different reason altogether: “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before,” he wistfully recalled. “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, reflecting a moment of unbridled creativity within the band, 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 and into musical icons.
The record was built on 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,” he once said. “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 themselves as musicians and creators and pushing the audience too. It is this aspect Harrison would always push forward with all of his work. This was the moment The Beatles became giants.