Music: Pet Sounds

And God only knows what I'd be without you....

It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. First of all, it was Brian's writing. 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 was into the writing and the songs. The other thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines on Pet Sounds. (...) And I noticed that throughout that Brian would be using notes that weren't the obvious notes to use. As I say, 'the G if you're in C—-that kind of thing. 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. (...) It may be going overboard to say it's the classic of this century, but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways. It more than holds up. It's better than ever. (...) I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence. If records had a director within a band, I sort of directed Pepper. And my influence was basically the Pet Sounds album. John was influenced by it, perhaps not as much as me. It was certainly a record we all played it was the record of the time, you know? (...) I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. It's that kind of an album for me.

Paul McCartney, interviewed by David Leaf, 1990. For more about Paul's love for this album, check this link: [1]

Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by The Beach Boys, released in 1966. Most of it was recorded by Brian Wilson with the group of Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. The album was a enormous mainstream and critical success, scoring hits with classics such as "Wouldn't It Be Nice?", "Caroline, No", "Sloop John B." and "God Only Knows". It is widely seen as the Beach Boys' Magnum Opus and one of the best albums ever recorded. Paul McCartney calls "Pet Sounds" his favourite record of all time and one of the main inspirations for The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from 1967, along with Frank Zappa's Freak Out from 1966. McCartney also considers "God Only Knows" "one of the most beautiful songs ever written."

The song "I Know There's An Answer" was originally written as "Hang On To Your Ego", a song about LSD use. As singing about getting high wouldn't be popular until later in The Sixties, Brian Wilson elected to change the lyrics after Mike Love objected to them. Interestingly, in Australia the album was released as The Fabulous Beach Boys with an alternate cover.

A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums TV documentary series. In 2004 "Pet Sounds" was included in the National Recording Registry for being "historically, culturally and aesthetically important". Time Magazine also included it in their 2006 list of 100 timeless and essential albums and it was listed at nr. #2 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time


Tracklist:

Side One

  1. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (2:25)
  2. "You Still Believe In Me" (2:31)
  3. "That's Not Me" (2:28)
  4. "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" (2:53)
  5. "I'm Waiting For The Day" (3:05)
  6. "Let's Go Away For Awhile" (2:18)
  7. "Sloop John B." (2:58)

Side Two

  1. "God Only Knows" (2:51)
  2. "I Know There's An Answer" (3:09)
  3. "Here Today" (2:54)
  4. "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" (3:12)
  5. "Pet Sounds" (2:22)
  6. "Caroline, No" (2:51)


Bonus Tracks (1990 Reissue):

  1. "Unreleased Backgrounds" (0:50)
  2. "Hang On To Your Ego" (3:18)
  3. "Trombone Dixie" (2:53)


Principal Members:

  • Al Jardine - backing and lead vocals, tambourine
  • Bruce Johnston - vocals
  • Mike Love - backing and lead vocals
  • Brian Wilson - lead vocals, organ, piano, dog whistle, train whistle, sound effects
  • Carl Wilson - backing and lead vocals, guitar
  • Dennis Wilson - vocals, drums


Trope Today:

  • Acclaimed Flop: At least in the U.S., in comparison with the band's previous albums. However, it did very well in Britain and did spawn two Top 10 singles on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Age Progression Song: "Wouldn't It Be Nice?", where the protagonist wonders about the time in the future when he and his partner could live together, get married and be happy. In "Caroline, No" the protagonist wonders "where the girl he used to know" has gone, mentioning the fact her "long hair" has gone too.
  • Album Filler: "Sloop John B." is at times considered this, as it's a cover of an older folk song about a sloop and its drunken crew sinking into doom, and that doesn't really fit in with the theme of the trials of young love that every other non-instrumental has. But it often given a pass for being a pretty sweet melody... and it was the highest charting single from the album, kinda important.
    • It does serve a more fitting purpose upon further examination however. It ends the mostly happy-go-luckiness of the first side with a song about a shipwreck. The next side starts with a song about a poor soul finding life meaningless without his love, possibly almost to the point of suicide.
  • Animal Motifs: The Beach Boys feed some farm animals in a petting zoo on the album cover.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Here Today", which is about all the nasty stuff that relationships can bring about, and how fine little lovers should be careful and whatnot.
    Right now you think that she's perfection
    This time is really an exception
    You know I hate to be a downer,
    But I'm the guy she left before you found her
    Well, I'm not saying you won't have it good with her
    But I keep on remembering things like they were
    • "God Only Knows" should also deserve a mention, for the strangest line ever to open a truly beautiful romantic song: "I may not always love you...". But it is immediately subverted afterwards
    I may not always love you
    But long as there are stars above you
    You never need to doubt it
    I'll make you so sure about it
  • Baroque Pop: A Trope Maker, no one had made post-rock and roll pop sound quite like this. Many did afterwards. This is a good thing.
  • Be Yourself: "That's Not Me"
    I had to prove that I could make it alone
    But that's not me
    I wanted to show how independent I'd grown now
    But that's not me
    I could try to be big in the eyes of the world
    What matters to me is what I could be to just one girl
  • Born in the Wrong Century: "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"
    I guess I just wasn't made for these times
    Every time I get the inspiration to go change things around
    No one wants to help me look for places
    Where new things might be found
  • Break Up Song:
    • "Caroline, No".
    Break my heart
    I want to go and cry
    It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
    • "Here Today"
    Right now you think that she's perfection
    This time is really an exception
    Well you know I hate to be a downer
    But I'm the guy she left before you found her
    • "I'm Waiting For The Day"
    He hurt you then, but that's all gone
    I guess I'm saying you're the only one
    I'm waiting for the day when you can love again
  • Concept Album: A vast majority of songs have to do with the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of young love.
  • Country Mouse: "That's Not Me"
    I once had a dream
    So I packed up and split for the city
    I soon found out that my lonely life wasn't so pretty
    I'm glad I went now I'm that much more sure that we're ready
  • Covers Always Lie: A ground-breaking Baroque Pop masterpiece has as its cover a photo of The Beach Boys feeding goats at the San Diego Zoo.
  • Devoted to You: "God Only Knows"
    God only knows, what I'd be without you
  • The Drunken Sailor: "Sloop John B."
    The first mate he got drunk
    And broke in the captain's trunk
    The constable had to come and take him away
  • Everything Is an Instrument: You better believe it. As The Other Wiki elaborates:
    In it, [Brian Wilson] wove elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, coupled with sound effects and unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans and barking dogs, along with the more usual keyboards and guitars.
  • Face on the Cover: The band (minus Bruce) feeding animals in a petting zoo.
  • Going Home: "Sloop John B."
    Well, I feel so broke up
    I wanna go home
    So hoist up the John B's sail
    See how the mainsail sets
    Call for the captain ashore
    Let me go home
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"
    Cuando sere, un dia sere, oh cuando sere
  • Grow Old with Me: "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
    Wouldn't it be nice if we were older?
    Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
    And wouldn't it be nice to live together
    In the kind of world where we belong?
    You know it's gonna make it that much better
    When we can say good night and stay together
  • I Am the Band: The Beach Boys were pretty much Brian Wilson and an assortment of L.A. session musicians at this point.
  • Important Haircut: "Caroline, No"
    Where did your long hair go?
    Where is the girl I used to know?
    How could you lose that happy glow?
  • Instrumentals: "Let's Go Away For Awhile" and the title track.
  • Last Chorus Slow Down: "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Here Today" has a beautiful arrangement, but it's actually about the fact that love isn't forever.
    You've got to keep in mind love is here today
    And it's gone tomorrow
    It's here and gone so fast
  • Not Christian Rock: "God Only Knows" certainly isn't Christian music, but it was the first pop song to have the word "God" in the title.
  • One Woman Song: "Caroline, No".
  • Questioning Title: "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
  • Pep Talk Song: "You Still Believe In Me"
    I try hard to be strong
    But sometimes I fail myself
    And after all I've promised you
    So faithfully
    You still believe in me
    I wanna cry...
  • The Power of Love:
    • "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
    The happy times together we've been spending
    I wish that every kiss was never-ending
    ''Oh, wouldn't it be nice?
    • "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)"
    Come close, close your eyes and be still
    Don't talk, take my hand and let me hear your heart beat
    Being here with you feels so right
    We could live forever tonight
    Let's not think about tomorrow
    And don't talk put your head on my shoulder
  • Refrain from Assuming: The album doesn't actually have sounds of animals from a petting zoo on it. Interestingly enough, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from 1967, which was inspired by this album does, in the track "Good Morning, Good Morning".
  • There's No Place Like Home: "Sloop John B." about a sailor who wants to go home after a long voyage at sea which he considers to be the worst trip he's ever been on.
  • Title Track: "Pet Sounds", which is an instrumental track.
  • Worst Whatever Ever: "Sloop John B."
    Why don't they let me go home?
    This is the worst trip I've ever been on