Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

Released May 16, 1966

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

Fun Fun Fun

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 intoxicated me: girls in bikinis, the Pacific Ocean, funny cars…and did I mention girls in bikinis.

Little did we realize Brian’s internal turmoil, that he had to endure paternal abuse. The loss of hearing in one ear may have been the physical result, but the 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.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

1965’s tipping point

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.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

Studio Studio Studio

Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds

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 an often meandering search, helped him find and create that sound.

Side one: 

  1. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  2. You Still Believe In Me
  3. That’s Not Me
  4. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder
  5. I’m Waiting for the Day’
  6. Let’s Go Away for Awhile
  7. Sloop John B
Side 2:

  1. God Only Knows
  2. I Know There’s an Answer
  3. Here today
  4. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
  5. Pet Sounds
  6. Caroline No
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds


Today the world acknowledges Pet Sounds 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.

Much 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 too Brian Wilson and we are forever indebted to him for that artistry and inspiration.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds

Motown Mary Wells

Motown Mary Wells

May 13, 1943 — July 26, 1992

Motown Mary Wells

Beatles Go Viral

Using today’s language, in 1964 the Beatles had gone viral. They had blown up. Trending. Their singles and albums dominated the charts, but that didn’t mean that other great music couldn’t find its way to the top of the charts. That’s exactly what happened on May 16, 1964. “My Guy” by Mary Wells hit the Billboard #1 spot.

Motown Mary Wells

Spinal Meningitis

To say that it had not been an easy climb to the top for Mary Wells would describe almost any artist’s rise to fame, but it was literally true for Wells. As a child she contracted spinal meningitis. Afterwards she was partially paralyzed and lost some hearing and sight.

Her mother was a house cleaner and as a teenager Mary worked with her mother. Mary also sang in her church choir and as others before and since, that early training provided a path toward the music business.

Motown Mary Wells

Tamla Barry Gordy

Her plan was to write music and she approached Tamla Records’ Barry Gordy with a song. She hoped that Jackie Wilson, one of Gordy’s stars, would record it. Gordy asked Wells to sing the song to him and he decided that Wells was the one for the song and signed her to his new label: Motown.

Motown Mary Wells


Motown Mary Wells

Bye Bye Baby

It peaked at No 8 on the R&B chart in 1961. She began to work with the young Smokey Robinson and she had three consecutive hits with his  “The One Who Really Loves You” (1962), “You Beat Me to the Punch” (1962) and “Two Lovers” (1962).

Motown Mary Wells

My Guy

In 1964, Wells’ career reached its peak when her song, “My Guy” also written by Robinson, made it to No. 1. It became her signature song.

Unfortunately, Well’s relationship with Motown went poorly around this time. She felt that she wasn’t being fairly compensated for her music and that other Motown artists were benefiting from her profits.

Motown Mary Wells

20th Century Fox

Whatever the case, Wells left Motown and signed with  20th Century Fox. Her career never attained Motown successes. She left 20th century after only a year. Later she signed with Atco and Jubilee.  Though not as well know, All Music described her later work as “solid pop-soul on which her vocal talents remained undiminished.” 

Motown Mary Wells

Cancer of the larynx

Mary Wells contracted cancer of the larynx in 1990. And “Despite her health condition, Wells was always upbeat and courageous. She began taking long trips, including one to New York in which she was the focus of a “Joan Rivers Show.” Her tribute on the show included a warm and generous phone call from Little Richard and a loving video dedication from Stevie Wonder, who, in her honor, sang “My Guy” rewritten as “My Girl.”  [Official site]

According to her New York Times obituary“After the operation, Ms. Wells had chemotherapy. In June 1991, doctors found the cancer was spreading, and she began an experimental drug regimen. She resumed chemotherapy late in 1991.”

In debt and without insurance, she lost her home. Several prominent musicians helped raise money for her or provided funds outright.

Wells died on July 26, 1992 and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Motown Mary Wells
photo by A.J. Marik

“My Guy” had remained #1 for two weeks. Who had the next #1? The Beatles, of course: “Love Me Do.”

Motown Mary Wells