About a week ago someone mentioned the classic Beach Boys album “Pet Sounds” and I thought to myself: Oh yeah, I have been meaning to get my hands on a copy of that. So a few clicks and $9.50 later I had downloaded a copy.
I think I’ve listened to the entire album about 25 times since then. I just can’t get enough of the hypnoticky goodness of Pet Sounds.
Here are some interesting tidbits from the Pet Sounds wiki:
Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by the American rock band The Beach Boys, released May 16, 1966, on Capitol Records. It has been widely ranked as one of the most influential records ever released in popular music and has been ranked at number #1 in several music magazines’ lists of greatest albums of all time, including New Musical Express, The Times and Mojo Magazine. In 2003, it was ranked #2 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
The real catalyst for Pet Sounds was the U.S. version of The Beatles’ new LP Rubber Soul, which was released that December in time for the Christmas market. (The British version of Rubber Soul was edited prior to its release in the U.S.A. to emphasize its folk sounds.)
Wilson later recalled his first impressions of the groundbreaking album:
“I really wasn’t quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs … that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, “That’s it. I really am challenged to do a great album.””
Although not a big seller for the band originally, Pet Sounds has been influential since the day it was released. Rapturously received in Britain, it was lauded in the music press and championed by many top pop stars. The Beatles, for example, have said that Pet Sounds was a major influence on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Paul McCartney has repeatedly named it as one of his favorite albums (with “God Only Knows” as his favorite song) – completing a circle begun by The Beatles’ influence on Wilson. McCartney stated that:
“It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life … I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album … I love the orchestra, the arrangements … it may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of the century … but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways … I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence … it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines. “God Only Knows” is a big favourite of mine … very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On “You Still Believe in Me”, I love that melody – that kills me … that’s my favourite, I think … it’s so beautiful right at the end … comes surging back in these multi-coloured harmonies … sends shivers up my spine.”
Other artists have also cited Pet Sounds as one of the all time classic albums. Eric Clapton stated that “I consider Pet Sounds to be one of the greatest pop LPs to ever be released. It encompasses everything that’s ever knocked me out and rolled it all into one.”
Elton John has said of the album, “For me to say that I was enthralled would be an understatement. I had never heard such magical sounds, so amazingly recorded. It undoubtedly changed the way that I, and countless others, approached recording. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius and beauty.”
Beatles producer George Martin stated that “Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn’t have happened… Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.”
Bob Dylan has said of Brian Wilson’s talents, “That ear – I mean, Jesus, he’s got to will that to the Smithsonian.”
The thing about this album is that it works best as a whole. There are some recognizable singles, but taking them out of the whole does them a disservice I think. Playing singles from this album is sort of like playing one movement from a great symphony — it can work but it doesn’t give you the whole picture.
The album is only about 37 minutes long so it is not a chore to listen to the whole thing. And because of the hypnoticky goodness I have found it works better than most albums as background music to other work I’m doing. (Thus my dozens of listens in just a week).
If you already own a copy of Pet Sounds I recommend you fire it up again for old times sake. If you don’t own a copy I recommend you follow my lead and get around to getting a copy. (I bought mine a Amazon.) And for the rest of you, you can listen here. Give it a little time to marinate before you rush to judgment though. This is an album that grows on you and then won’t let go of you.