Hey everybody, it’s Christopher Williams here and today I’m going to be discussing one of the best albums ever created in music and rock history, The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds. Released in May 1966, Pet Sounds is widely considered to be some of the band’s greatest work and most daring and experimental. Before the release of Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys’ albums and singles, were the sound of American pop during the early and mid 60s. Catchy numbers such as Surfin’ USA, Surfin Girl, Fun Fun Fun and I Get Around were all top hits in the United States. The band was also responsible for ushering in the genre known as Surf Rock. Although the genre was actually started by legendary surf rock guitarist Dick Dale, the Beach Boys, were responsible for the style being more in the forefront of American rock and pop.
During sometime in 1965 primary producer and songwriter for the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, took some time off from touring with the band to focus on songwriting and recording as a producer. During that December of 1965, another very popular band in the states and popular abroad, The Beatles, released one of many of their diverse albums, Rubber Soul. Largely a Folk rock effort, the album had an immediate and profound effect on Wilson. Brian Wilson was quoted that he told his wife” I’m going to make the greatest album, the greatest rock album ever made!” That exclamation would prove prophetic as Pet Sounds is, as I mentioned earlier one of the best albums of the bands and in music history. Producer Brian Wilson, hailed in 2011 by NME magazine’s, 50 Greatest Producers Ever as one of the best, was born on June 20th,1942 in Inglewood, California. Although unfortunately experiencing a small amount of hearing loss as a child, Wilson had a brilliant ear for melody and would often sing with groups of friends in school. On his 16th birthday he was given a tape recorder to record and experiment with recording vocals and the rest was history. Brian’s influence as a producer was legendary record producer Phil Spector.
Spector spoke of Brian’s “fandom”, if you will, as being, silly and went as far as to call him untalented. Wilson on the other hand continued to speak on how he respected Phil’s work and how he continues to play most of his records from time to time. Brian Wilson in his own right, was also an excellent producer, going on to work with like of American Spring, The Honeys, Jan and Dean, Jeff Beck, and of course the Beach Boys.
My very first listen of Pet Sounds was a trippy but calm and enjoyable listen. I often found it to be kind of proggy as well. Other publications, fans and forums also share that feeling. Classic Rock Magazine placed Pet Sounds on its 50 Albums That Built Prog Rock list. As a student of recording arts and an upcoming producer, I have to say that the audio quality of the album, both mono and stereo had a great impression on me upon my initial listen. As I went back to listen to the album I felt that I enjoyed the stereo version better. That version has such a smooth and cinematic sound to me. Pet Sounds also comes across as a concept album. Brian and chief songwriter for the album, Tony Asher spoke of the album being an unintentional but kind of intentional narrative of Brian Wilson’s state of mind at the time. The popular recreational drug of the 1960s LSD was also influential on the sound of the record and was used by the producer. This influence was along with Phil Spector’s famous Wall Of Sound was inspiration for the experimental album. My personal favorites from the record included I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, You Still Believe In Me, Pet Sounds (Instrumental) and God Only Knows. I also would like to mention that the use of soda cans, barking dogs and trains were amazing on this album. Seriously. Those unconventional sounds are some things I would like to try in my recordings. I’m just a fan of experimentation and weird approaches and this album is full of it and that’s why I enjoy it a lot. Great album.