The untold story of the alternate Rubber Soul cover
Right: Paul inspects the alternate cover for Rubber Soul
It is common knowledge that Ringo Starr was the first member to quit the Beatles in 1968 during the "White Album" (followed by George on 10 January 1969, John on 20 September 1969 and finally Paul on 10 April 1970). But, it is not well known that Ringo also quit in November 1965 during the Rubber Soul sessions!
I recently talked to Terry Samwell, a former assistant to Brian Epstein, who told me the amazing tale of Ringo’s 1965 departure from The Beatles. Terry had been to numerous Beatles recording sessions at EMI and happened to witness the argument in the late evening of Thursday, November 4th, 1965 when Ringo quit.
Right: Both versions of The Mamas & the Papas 2nd album cover
Alternate record covers are nothing new in the history of rock n roll. Witness the Beatles "Butcher Block" - replaced by the "Trunk Sleeve". The Mamas and the Papas even had an alternate cover ready for their second album when Michelle Phillips was temporarily kicked out of the band. In 1966, John Phillips fired his wife Michelle from the band, for having numerous affairs. Jill Gibson was asked to join the band and work began on the 2nd Mamas & Papas album. Prior to Michelle's firing from the band, the cover photo for their 2nd album had already been taken. The original photographer Guy Webster photographed Jill in the same window frame in order to have her picture superimposed over Michelle Phillips picture. However, after only a few concert dates with the band, John Phillips decided to let Michelle back into the band. The album, called simply "The Mamas & The Papas" came out with Michelle's image on the cover.
But back to The Beatles...By the time that the Rubber Soul sessions started, Lennon & McCartney were no longer the sole songwriters in the band, with George Harrison supplying, “Think For Yourself” and “If I Needed Someone” to the sessions. As Terry explained, “Ringo was feeling left out, wasn’t he? He had had a song for years, but the Beatles refused to record it, although they usually used two of George’s songs per album.”
In a 1964 interview Ringo is heard talking about his song, "Don't Pass Me By". (click to hear interview) By 1965, Ringo was ready to record the song, but only got laughs by John and Paul. It all came to a head during the sessions for "What Goes On" (which was a Lennon/McCartney throw-away given to Ringo to sing, but also giving him songwriting credits).
Terry describes what happened next in the studio:
Ringo: alright, it’s about time we recorded MY tune!"
There was silence until someone realized that what John said might not be such a bad idea, at least for a temporary fix (with the album due to be released soon!).
Manager Brian Epstein had always felt guilty about the way Pete Best had been ceremoniously kicked out of the band - and now he saw a chance to right a wrong. Pete Best was contacted by Brian Epstein on Friday November 5th to step in. (Jimmy Nichols was thought of, but he had already with the Spotniks). After being guaranteed a hefty salary, Pete decided he was in. But John had some final advice for him: "You can keep yer siddies, but get that hair uncurled!"
Photographer Robert Freeman had already taken the cover photos for the album in the garden of John’s house in Weybridge. On Saturday, November 6th Freeman took Pete Best back to the garden, so that he could get some shots to have imposed on the front cover, as well as some additional shots for the back cover. Later that day, Pete was then rushed to EMI, where he was to record his vocals for “What Goes On”. He played no drums on the album, since there was no time.
The new cover layout was rushed and everything was ready for production. But alas, Pete Best's 2nd coming as a Beatle was not meant to be - Ringo re-joined on Monday, November 8th and Pete was once again left in the lurch. However, this time he was given a golden watch by Brian Epstein for his services. So, Pete Best holds the distinction of being the only member kicked out of the Beatles twice!
Don’t get excited about finding a copy of this rare record – the ONLY copy in existence is owned by Terry Samwell, who is now retired and living a quiet life in Liverpool. And now you know the rest of the story!