Marc Myers in WSJ

For most American teens, the arrival of the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” 50 years ago was unsettling. Instead of cheerleading for love, the album’s songs held cryptic messages about thinking for yourself, the hypnotic power of women, something called “getting high” and bedding down with the opposite sex. Clearly, growing up wasn’t going to be easy.

Released in the U.K. on Dec. 3, 1965, and in the U.S. three days later, “Rubber Soul” remains one of the most critically acclaimed albums in rock history, influencing a generation of artists, including Brian Wilson,Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder. It also marked rock’s shift from formulaic pop to studio experimentation and high art.

But while “Rubber Soul” has been hailed as an epic masterpiece and one of the first fully developed folk-rock albums, the vision for the U.S. release wasn’t entirely the work of John, Paul, George and Ringo or the Beatles’ producer, George Martin.

The 12-song album issued in the U.S. was markedly different from the British version, which featured 14 songs. Though both versions shared Robert Freeman’s cover photo and psychedelic lettering (ginger here and burnt orange in the U.K.), the U.S. version dropped two songs and replaced two others…

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