The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

Really, what can I say about Pet Sounds? I associate The Beach Boys with summertime, happy sounds, and riding around in my mom’s convertible. The Beach Boys songs, to me, were happy songs that recalled a different era, an era of discovery.pet sounds

Well, this era of discovery had to turn a bit radical, at least for the times. I cannot say that I disliked the album but I did not love it either. At the bottom of my notes I have written, “SAD ALBUM – Love lost – going thru a breakup and trying to get over it.” This may not be what the album was meant to be about but it is what I heard.

This album was written almost exclusively by Brian Wilson. I read in my research that it is sometimes considered a Brian Wilson solo album in all but name. He also produced and arranged the album. To him, it must have been a labor of love.

The instrumentation is quite interesting. There are trains, dog whistles, ukuleles, buzzing organs, empty Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, bicycle bells, etc. The vocal harmonies are layered quite extravagantly. The use of different harmonies, instruments, and sound effects made this album less of one to dance to and more of one just for listening and absorbing. I think that it can aptly be named art rock, as it adheres to a lyrical song cycle format and because of this listening aspect.

Pet Sounds was released in 1966 and was the eleventh studio album by The Beach Boys. In 1993, it was named the greatest album of all time by NME magazine and The Times; it received the same distinction in 1995 by Mojo magazine. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it #2 on the 500 Greatest Album of All Time.

The amount of personnel involved in the creation of this album is astounding. I’ve listed what I found at the end. Please make sure to take a look. It is quite impressive.

Now, for my notes about the songs:

  1. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
    1. Weird opening with keyboard
    2. Bridge completely different tone
      1. Slower and more mellow
    3. Heavy guitar/drums
      1. Leads the song
    4. Harmonies of Beach Boys nice
      1. Reminiscent of Barbershop but with guitars!!!
    5. Very familiar tune
    6. Super catchy – I may be singing this one all day!
  2. You Still Believe in Me
    1. Keyboard opening again
    2. Slower
    3. Piano & tambourine
  3. That’s Not Me
    1. Immediate voice
    2. Auxiliary percussion
    3. Fades out immediately on words:
      1. “I soon found out that my lonely life wasn’t so pretty”
  4. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
    1. Bass very evident
    2. Not typical Beach Boys sound
    3. Sounds a bit hollow/modalish
    4. Light drums, hi-hat
    5. Really enjoyed this one
  5. I’m Waiting for the Day
    1. Flute in interlude
    2. Instruments fade during verses
      1. Come up more in volume after verses
        1. Function similar to a pre-chorus
  6. Let’s Go Away For a While
    1. Keyboard – special effect sounds
    2. Slower
    3. Completely instrumental!
  7. Sloop John B
    1. Familiar tune – very popular
    2. Song about boat? – tells story
      1. Grandfather & Me
      2. First Mate
      3. Cook
    3. “Let me go home/Let me go home/I want to go home/Let me go home/Why don’t you let me go home/Hoist up the John B’s sail/And he feel so broke up/I want to go home”
    4. Jamaican feel
  8. God Only Knows
    1. Recognized the tune
    2. “God only knows what I’d be without you”
      1. Repeated A LOT
  9. I Know There’s an Answer
    1. Tambourine
    2. Low saxophone
    3. Organ
    4. Weird sounds
    5. Instrumentals sound more important than vocals in this song
      1. Might just be the mixing and production
  10. Here Today
    1. Tambourine
    2. Backing vocals back after not being so evident in the past couple songs
    3. Rhythm of lyrics shift meaning
      1. “Love is here…..today/And it’s gone….tomorrow/It’s here and it’s gone so fast.”
  11. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
    1. Immediate vocal
    2. Dissonant
    3. “Sometimes I feel very sad.”
    4. Instruments – woodwinds
    5. Depressing song
    6. “Where can I turn when my fair weather friends cop out?”
    7. Vocal imitates woodwind line
  12. Pet Sounds
    1. Completely instrumental
    2. Auxiliary percussion
    3. Bass
    4. 12-string guitar – electric
    5. Guiro
    6. Rim shots
    7. Sounds like something someone would do an interpretive dance to!
  13. Caroline, No
    1. Percussion begins piece
    2. Hollow sounding
    3. Not as full instrumentally
    4. Slow
    5. Ends with train and dogs barking

Personnel

The Beach Boys

  • Al Jardine: lead, harmony, and backing vocals, tambourine
  • Bruce Johnston: harmony and backing vocals
  • Mike Love: lead, harmony and backing vocals
  • Brian Wilson: lead, harmony and backing vocals, dog whistles, organ, piano, sound effects
  • Carl Wilson: lead, harmony and back vocals, guitar, twelve-string guitar
  • Dennis Wilson: harmony and backing vocals, drums

Production Staff:

  • Bruce Botnick: engineer
  • Chuck Britz: engineer
  • H. Bowen David: engineer
  • Larry Levine: engineer

Session Musicians:

  • Tony Asher: plucked piano strings
  • Arnold Belnick: violin
  • Chuck Berghofer: string bass
  • Hal Blaine: bongos, drums, tympani
  • Norman Botnick: viola
  • Glen Campbell: guitar, twelve-string electric guitar
  • Frank Capp: bells, glockenspiel, latin percussion, percussion, tympani, vibraphone
  • Al Casey: guitar
  • Roy Caton: trumpet
  • Jerry Cole: electric guitar, guitar, mandolin
  • Gary Coleman: bongos, tympani
  • Mike Deasy: guitar
  • Al De Lory: harpsichord, organ, piano, tack piano
  • Joseph DiFiore: viola
  • Justin DiTullio: cello
  • Steve Douglas: clarinet, flute, percussion, tenor saxophone, saxophone
  • Jesse Erlich: cello
  • Carl Fortina: accordion
  • Ritchie Frost: drums, empty Coca-Cola cans, percussion
  • James Getzoff: violin
  • Jim Gordon: drums, percussion
  • Bill Green: flute, percussion, saxophone, tenor saxophone
  • Leonard Hartman: bass clarinet, clarinet, English horn
  • Jim Horn: baritone saxophone, flute, tenor saxophone, saxophone
  • Paul Horn: tenor saxophone
  • Harry Hyams: viola
  • Jules Jacob: flute
  • Plas Johnson: flute, percussion, saxophone, tenor saxophone
  • Carol Kaye: electric bass
  • Barney Kessel: guitar, mandolin
  • Bobby Klein: tenor saxophone
  • Larry Knechtel: organ
  • William Kurasch: violin
  • Leonard Malarsky: violin
  • Frank Marocco: accordion
  • Gail Martin: trombone
  • Nick Martinis: drums
  • Terry Melcher: tambourine
  • Mike Melvoin: harpsichord
  • Jay Migliori: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, saxophone
  • Tommy Morgan: harmonica
  • Bill Pittman: guitar
  • Ray Pohlman: Danelectro bass, electric bass, mandolin, guitar
  • Don Randi: piano
  • Alan Robinson: French horn
  • Jerome Reisler: violin
  • Lyle Ritz: string bass, ukulele
  • Joseph Saxon: cello
  • Ralph Schaeffer: violin
  • Sid Sharp: violin
  • Billy Strnage: electric guitar, guitar, twelve-string electric guitar
  • Ron Swallow: tambourine
  • Ernie Tack: bass trombone
  • Paul Tanner: theremin
  • Tommy Tedesco: acoustic guitar
  • Darrel Terwilliger: viola
  • “Tony”: sleigh bell
  • Jerry Williams: percussion
  • Julius Wechter: tympani, latin percussion, percussion, vibraphone
  • Tibor Zelig: violin

 

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