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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

(Soundbite of "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)")

SIEGEL: In 1965, The Beatles released the album "Rubber Soul." The band was still touring, still rushing into the studio to record fresh songs at a frantic pace. But "Rubber Soul" slowed things down and took the group in a new direction.

(Soundbite of "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me. She showed me her room. Isn't it good, Norwegian wood?

SIEGEL: "Norwegian Wood" was one of the songs on the album "Rubber Soul." And if you're in the market for a 40-year-old record album that many fans and critics agree cannot be improved upon, with all the songs re-recorded by younger artists, then have we got a deal for you.

(Soundbite of "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)")

THE FIERY FURNACES: (Singing) I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me. She showed me her room. She showed me her room. Oh, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?

SIEGEL: Tomorrow "Rubber Soul" again goes in a new direction: same songs, new title, new performers. Many of the artists weren't born in 1965, the year the album came out. And this time "Norwegian Wood" sounds like this, as performed by The Fiery Furnaces.

(Soundbite of "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)")

THE FIERY FURNACES: (Singing) She asked me to stay, and she told me to sit anywhere.

SIEGEL: The new version of the old album is called "This Bird Has Flown." NPR's Art Silverman knows the original, and he's heard the new release.

ART SILVERMAN reporting:

And, of course, I like the original better. But who cares what I think?

(Soundbite of "Think For Yourself)

YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND: (Singing) Think for yourself 'cause I won't be there with you. I left you far behind, the ruins of the life that you have in mind.

SILVERMAN: Each artist interprets his or her song from "Rubber Soul" differently; this one's by the Yonder Mountain String Band. Talk to some of them, and you learn that the reason they participated in the project was adoration. Listen to the comments of Nellie McKay and Rhett Miller.

Ms. NELLIE McKAY (Singer-Songwriter): My God, it's one of the greatest albums of all time.

Mr. RHETT MILLER (Old 97's): "Rubber Soul" is my favorite record of all time.

Ms. McKAY: My mom played a lot of The Beatles, so it probably would have been on our beat-up tape recorder or homemade tape and...

Mr. MILLER: So one year old, and at two I was asking if "Nowhere Man" was about Dad...

Ms. McKAY: "Norwegian Wood"--we sang that in chorus in high school.

SILVERMAN: McKay is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter who mixes torch songs, rap, pop. Miller is lead singer and songwriter for the alternative country group the Old 97's. They're among the `Fab 14' featured on this new old album.

"Rubber Soul" was a pivot point between `She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,' and `Elementary penguins singing "Hare Krishna." Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.' It was a quiet album of complicated emotions, and that appealed to Nellie McKay.

(Soundbite of "If I Needed Someone")

Ms. McKAY: (Singing) If I needed someone to love, you're the one that I've been thinking of, if I needed someone. if I had some more time to spend, then I guess I'd be with you, my friend, if I needed someone.

You want to pick something maybe that is less well-known, actually, because then maybe you can go in a different direction with it. I mean, you're never going to be The Beatles, especially not just when it's one of you.

(Soundbite of "If I Needed Someone")

Ms. McKAY: (Singing) If I had some more time to spend, then I guess it'd be with you, my friend, if I needed someone.

SILVERMAN: When it was his turn, Rhett Miller chose to color within the lines on his remake from "Rubber Soul."

(Soundbite of "Girl")

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Is there anybody going to listen to my story all about the girl who came to stay? She's the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry. Still, you don't regret a single day.

To me, "Girl" is kind of a bitter song, where she's not appreciating how hard he works. And she's--you get the feeling that he cares about this person, but he's also angry at her, and it's a little creepy. I mean, there was elements of misogyny, I think, in some of this Beatles stuff. But there was text and there was subtext, and there was an interesting character who was speaking. And he wasn't the smiley, dimpled lead singer. It was somebody else.

(Soundbite of "Girl")

Mr. MILLER: (Singing) Girl.

SILVERMAN: Forty years is a long time, especially in the music business, but Rhett Miller says he connects to the model The Beatles established.

Mr. MILLER: It was a band that wrote their own songs and performed their own songs and had a vision, you know. And they seemed almost like a, you know, biker gang or something, and there's something really appealing about that. And I know rock 'n' roll was born, you know, in the swamps of the Southern part of our country. But rock 'n' roll as we know it--or as, you know, I have made a career out of it--is something that's--it's a lot like, you know, being in a little army, where you go around and you make your own bullets, you know. Late at night with your pen, you sit around with your guitar and you write these little songs, and that's your ammo. And you got your guys with you, and you just kind of go from city to city trying to conquer. And that was--I mean, that was The Beatles' invention.

(Soundbite of "Run for Your Life")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Well, I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.

SILVERMAN: Misogyny? You want misogyny? John Lennon served it up in 1965 in the meanest Beatles song ever, or maybe it was just a very bad joke, if it was a joke then. The Cowboy Junkies got it and turned it around.

(Soundbite of "Run For Your Life")

COWBOY JUNKIES: (Singing) Well, I'd rather see you dead, little boy, than to be with another woman. You better keep your head, little boy, or you won't know where I am. You better run for your life if you can, little boy, hide your head in the sand, little boy. Catch you with another woman, and that's the end.

SILVERMAN: If these revisionist interpretations of songs you love upsets you, keep in mind had The Rolling Stones and The Who tried their hand in 1965 at songs from 40 years before that, they might have played them differently, too. Tinkering with hit songs from 1925 like "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Tea for Two" would have made purists simmer. So maybe it's best to treat any remake as an entirely new thing, a way for younger listeners to find their way to The Beatles and for older ones like me to check out the latest CDs from The Fiery Furnaces and the Old 97's.

(Soundbite of "Run For Your Life")

COWBOY JUNKIES: (Singing) You better run, run! You better run, run, run, run! You better run, run, run. You better run, run, run, run! Oh, run, run, run. You better run, run, run, run! Gonna run, run, run. You gonna run, run, run, run!

SILVERMAN: Art Silverman, NPR News.

(Soundbite of "Run For Your Life")

COWBOY JUNKIES: (Singing) Run!

BLOCK: You can read about the making of "Rubber Soul" and compare songs from "This Bird Has Flown" with The Beatles' 1965 originals at our Web site, npr.org.

This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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