Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by The Beach Boys. It was released on May 16, 1966. Most of it was recorded by Brian Wilson with the group of Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. Initially, the album had modest sales, but was an enormous 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 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 '60s, 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 #2 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Currently #1 on Acclaimed Music's 2018 compilation of critics' lists.
- "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (2:25)
- "You Still Believe in Me" (2:31)
- "That's Not Me" (2:28)
- "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" (2:53)
- "I'm Waiting for the Day" (3:05)
- "Let's Go Away for Awhile" (2:18)
- "Sloop John B." (2:58)
- "God Only Knows" (2:51)
- "I Know There's an Answer" (3:09)
- "Here Today" (2:54)
- "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" (3:12)
- "Pet Sounds" (2:22)
- "Caroline, No" (2:51)
Bonus Tracks (1990 Reissue):
- "Unreleased Backgrounds" (0:50)
- "Hang On to Your Ego" (3:18)
- "Trombone Dixie" (2:53)
- 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
- 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, so its 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.
- The two instrumental tracks are often overlooked, due to their lack of the trademark Beach Boys harmonies and their arrangements sounding somewhat dated to some ears.
- Animal Motifs: Besides the title, 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
I may not always love youBut long as there are stars above youYou'll never need to doubt itI'll make you so sure about it
- "God Only Knows" also deserves a mention, for the strangest line ever to open a truly beautiful, romantic song. But it is immediately subverted afterwards:
- 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 aloneBut that's not meI wanted to show how independent I'd grown nowBut that's not meI could try to be big in the eyes of the worldWhat 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 timesEvery time I get the inspiration to go change things aroundNo one wants to help me look for placesWhere new things might be found
- Break-Up Song:
Break my heartI want to go and cryIt's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
- "Caroline, No".
Right now you think that she's perfectionThis time is really an exceptionWell you know I hate to be a downerBut I'm the guy she left before you found her
- "Here Today"
He hurt you then, but that's all goneI guess I'm saying you're the only oneI'm waiting for the day when you can love again
- "I'm Waiting for the Day"
- 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 dreamSo I packed up and split for the cityI soon found out that my lonely life wasn't so prettyI'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 a photo of The Beach Boys feeding goats at the San Diego Zoo as its cover.
- Devoted to You: "God Only Knows"God only knows what I'd be without you
- Downer Ending: The closing track of the album is "Caroline No", which is a somber breakup song where the narrator laments how much his former lover has changed.
- The Drunken Sailor: "Sloop John B."The first mate he got drunkAnd broke in the captain's trunkThe 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.
- Gainax Ending: "Caroline, No" and by extension the album itself, ends with the sounds of a train and dogs barking.
- Going Home: "Sloop John B."Well, I feel so broke upI wanna go homeSo hoist up the John B's sailSee how the mainsail setsCall for the captain ashoreLet 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 longAnd wouldn't it be nice to live togetherIn the kind of world where we belong?You know it's gonna make it that much betterWhen we can say good night and stay together
- Homesickness Hymn: "Sloop John B." is a cover of an old Bahamian folk song "The John B. Sails". It details the narrator's sailing misadventures, punctuated by his pleas to the Captain to let him go home.
- I Am the Band: Despite being billed as a Beach Boys album, Brian Wilson is actually the one who was the most-involved in its creation. The other Boys were actually absent for most of the recording sessions, because they were busy touring in Japan. Aside from vocals, the few things they contributed to the album were the instrumentals for "That's Not Me", the inclusion of "Sloop John B." at Jardine's suggestion, and some co-writing credits from Mike Love on "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "I'm Waiting For The Day", and "I Know There's An Answer" (and his contributions of those songs were minimal at best, with Mike ad-libbing the lines "Good night, baby / Sleep tight, baby" at the coda of "Wouldn't It Be Nice", re-writing "I Know There's An Answer" from "Hang On to Your Ego", and making slight edits to "I'm Waiting for the Day").
- 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?"
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The session musicians used on the album, known as "The Wrecking Crew".
- 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 todayAnd it's gone tomorrowIt'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 strongBut sometimes I fail myselfAnd after all I've promised youSo faithfullyYou still believe in meI wanna cry...
- The Power of Love:
The happy times together we've been spendingI wish that every kiss was never-endingOh, wouldn't it be nice?
- "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Come close, close your eyes and be stillDon't talk, take my hand and let me hear your heart beatBeing here with you feels so rightWe could live forever tonightLet's not think about tomorrowAnd don't talk put your head on my shoulder
- "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)"
- Progressive Rock: While the album's status as an early progressive rock release has been the subject of much debate, the album's complex, eclectic, layered compositions, creative and unorthodox instrumentation, and overarching concept undoubtedly helped influence a lot of later bands.
- Rhyming with Itself: Every single rhyme in "God Only Knows" is this. In the second verse, which is repeated to make the third verse, four lines in a row end with "me".
- 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