2020 Album Draft- Round 9 Pick 7- Hanspostcard selects- The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds.
Pet Sounds over the past five decades has been one of the most acclaimed albums. You see a list of best albums ever and it is pretty certain you will see Pet Sounds in the Top 10. Recently Rolling Stone Magazine updated their 500 Greatest Albums Ever list- while some of the albums from the 60’s and 70’s dropped on the list- Sgt.Pepper went from #1 to #24- Pet Sounds which was #2 in 2003- on the new list remains- at #2. The Beatles Rubber Soul album inspired Brian to make Pet Sounds and Pet Sounds inspired The Beatles to even up their game further with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. Pet Sounds and those Beatles albums mentioned were more than albums- they moved the album into art.
Even before I followed music- of course I had heard of The Beach Boys but the songs I was familiar with were the good time summer songs. When I got into music- again it was The Beatles who turned me on to this album, Paul McCartney especially. McCartney’s praise of Pet Sounds and the song “God Only Knows”- motivated me to go out and buy the album even though I didn’t recognize any of the songs that we listed on the album. I wasn’t disappointed- for a couple months at least it was all I played over and over and over. I was nineteen at the time. Pet Sounds is a perfect album for someone in their teens and early 20’s.
Like many works of genius-[ Orson Welles Citizen Kane comes immediately to mind}- Pet Sounds when it was released received a lukewarm reception and compared to earlier albums by The Beach Boys- reached #10 on the Billboard album charts- lower than their five preceding albums. It was more successful in the UK where it peaked at #2. There would also be some misunderstandings within The Beach Boys about this album. This was Brian Wilson’s baby- it wasn’t the ‘fun, fun, fun’ good time music that the world was used to from them- and the rest of the band especially Mike Love [although he today would deny it} had issues with the material.
Up until Pet Sounds in 1966 The Beach Boys had a popular formula perfected- sounds about surfing, girls and hot rods. The Beach Boys were one of the greatest advertisers of the state of California. No one seemed to be tiring of that sound either. Brian Wilson- the mastermind of the group didn’t like the touring life and after a panic attack on board a flight from Los Angeles to Houston in late 1964- that was it for Brian and touring. First Glen Campbell and then Bruce Johnston replace him on the tours while Brian did what he really wanted to do all along- stay at home and make music.
In late 1965 Brian began work on what would become Pet Sounds. He started working with a lyricist named Tony Asher- they began writing songs together. When it came to the instrumentation of the album- Brian brought in the best- the Los Angeles group of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. Then he brought in the rest of The Beach Boys for the vocals. The band especially Mike Love were vocal about their dissatisfaction with the material. These songs were not what they were used to doing. Why mess with a proven formula? Brian of course was on a different level-he wanted to challenge himself and do something different. Pet Sounds was different than anything they had ever done before.
When Brian Wilson and Mike Love took Pet Sounds to Capitol Records they weren’t thrilled by it. It wasn’t that it wasn’t great- it just wasn’t viewed by the suits as being commercial like The Beach Boys past music. At first they hesitated to release it -but finally did release the album. It was a flop when compared to recent Beach Boys product. Pet Sounds was released on May 16, 1966- incredibly Capitol Records didn’t do much to promote it and to top things off- released a Best Of The Beach Boys album six weeks later on July 5th further hurting sales.
Pet Sounds has been described as the saddest album ever made. It has also been said by some that the album was a recording of a young man-Brian Wilson who was in the middle of having a mental breakdown. Brian was only 23 when he made Pet Sounds, Asher who wrote most of the lyrics was just a few years older. The album reflects the outlook of a teenager to early 20’s person. I know it seemed like a soundtrack to my life at that age.
There are thirteen songs on Pet Sounds- totaling 35:57. When you hear The Beach Boys on the radio you rarely hear a song from Pet Sounds- there were singles released- the first single was issued under Brian’s name- “Caroline, No”- and it may be the saddest song on the album- and one of the saddest songs I can think of- it only went to #32 on the charts.
“Sloop John B” the only song on the album not an original- was the biggest hit #3- it closes side 1. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the songs but there is that line “I want to go home’- which fits right in with the theme of escape which the album centers around.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” the album opener was the third single went to #8- an outstanding track- and what a single- with the B-side being “God Only Knows”- a song that Paul McCartney has called his favorite song ever. Pitchfork has called “God Only Knows” the greatest song of the 1960’s.
|1.||“Wouldn’t It Be Nice“||Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, Mike Love||Brian Wilson and Mike Love||2:25|
|2.||“You Still Believe in Me“||Wilson, Asher||B. Wilson||2:31|
|3.||“That’s Not Me“||Wilson, Asher||Love with B. Wilson||2:28|
|4.||“Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)“||Wilson, Asher||B. Wilson||2:53|
|5.||“I’m Waiting for the Day“||Wilson, Love||B. Wilson||3:05|
|6.||“Let’s Go Away for Awhile“||Wilson||instrumental||2:18|
|7.||“Sloop John B“||traditional, arranged by Wilson||B. Wilson and Love||2:58|
|1.||“God Only Knows“||Wilson, Asher||Carl Wilson with B. Wilson and Bruce Johnston||2:51|
|2.||“I Know There’s an Answer“||Wilson, Terry Sachen, Love||Love and Al Jardine with B. Wilson||3:09|
|3.||“Here Today“||Wilson, Asher||Love||2:54|
|4.||“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times“||Wilson, Asher||B. Wilson||3:12|
|6.||“Caroline, No“||Wilson, Asher||B. Wilson||2:51|
1966 was Brian Wilson at his peak. He was a fragile person to begin with and the taking of drugs- especially LSD had an extremely harmful effect on him. Over the past 50 plus years he has produced at times very good music but he never reached the heights of 1966 with Pet Sounds and the single “Good Vibrations” again. But if all he ever produced was Pet Sounds-well that is a wonderful contribution. This album will live forever. Maybe the greatest pop album ever.