Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds
“Let’s Go Away for Awhile”
For five years Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had given us fun (fun fun) songs. As an East Coast kid, the sunny surfing imagery was intoxicating: girls in bikinis, the Pacific Ocean, funny cars, and did I mention girls in bikinis. Little did we realize the turmoil within Brian Wilson that he had to deal with and the paternal abuse he'd endured. The loss of hearing in one ear may have been the obvious physical result, but the long-term psychological impact would be life-long. We likely also didn't realize the Brian had left live performances up to the rest of the group. Various fears and a need to create led to his decision to stay in LA.
Bob Dylan had gone electric in 1965. He'd declared that he wasn't goin' to work on Maggie's farm no more. Little did this 15-year-old realize what that change meant. Dylan and the Beatles met and while the Beatles were already electric and in 1965 they went Dylan: writing songs that meant something to them as well as, hopefully, something to us. That was the Beatles' Rubber Soul with songs like "Norwegian Wood," "Girl," "I'm Looking Through You," and "In My Life" fans heard something different than "I Want to Hold Your Hand." So did Brian Wilson and he decided he'd up the ante and create something even better. Many say he did, but not right away. Mike Love for one felt Brian Wilson was heading in a nowhere direction. Sales of the album, while good, were not what their previous albums had done. Even the single "Caroline No" was released as a Brian Wilson song, not a Beach Boy song.
It took Wilson months to produce Pet Sounds. With his band mates on the road, he used LA's famous Wrecking Crew to create the sounds he wanted. And they, despite that often meandering search, helped him find and create that sound.
May 16 is the 50th anniversary of its release.
Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds
Today Pet Sounds is acknowledged as a masterpiece [Rolling Stone magazine article]. Just as Rubber Soul had inspired Wilson, Wilson in turn inspired the Beatles whose barking dogs on Sgt Pepper's echo and acknowledge Pet Sound's influence. Years later, in Barry Miles' Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney said about Sgt Pepper: "We were fed up with being Beatles. We were not boys, we were men... artists rather than performers."
So to Brian Wilson and we are forever indebted to you for that artistry.
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