Every so often there is a person, event, or album that makes a permanent and impactful impression on music history. These occurrences are few and far between, hard to capture, and almost impossible to recreate. The Beach Boys 11thstudio album, Pet Sounds, captures the essence of youth, unconditional love, and artistic expression. These attributes credited it as one of the best albums of all time and Brian Wilson as an undeniable musical genius.
After Brian Wilson heard The Beatles Rubber Soul album he was inspired to produce music that encompassed more than the “fun-fun-fun” image that the early Beach Boys music showcased. Wilson, wanting a fresh take on his music, sought to work with a lyricist outside of the band. Tony Asher was producing advertising jingles and met Brian through mutual friends. It is said that Wilson chose to work with Tony because he was experienced on writing memorable slogans and could hopefully translate that into catchy and striking lyrics.
Tony Asher became Brian Wilson’s translator. Knowing what he wanted to say but not how to say it, Tony was able to capture Brian’s ideas, putting pen to paper and lyrics to a melody. The music behind the lyrics was infused with unconventional instruments, aimed to give the songs an impressionable sound. Wilson used bicycle bells, dog whistles, Coca-Cola cans, and dogs barking to create an interesting dynamic in his songs. The rest of the Beach Boys had very little to contribute to the album besides their legendary harmonic vocals and input after Pet Sounds was almost finished.
Having already established a public image, Pet Sounds was considered a risk to release. The Beach Boys record label, as well as one of The Beach Boys themselves, Mike Love, felt resistance towards the experimental and conceptual album. The song “God Only Knows” was questioned in a time where the word “god” had only ever been used in religious music and songs about the love for our country. Brian Wilson, having no concern for how the record would be received, remained loyal to Pet Sounds and eventually reaped the rewards.
Despite its non-believers, Pet Sounds has been named by Rolling Stone magazine as the second greatest album of all time. Having been inspired by The Beatles, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds went on to influence their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as hold one of Paul McCartney’s favorite songs, “God Only Knows”. Brian Wilson’s attempt at creating a conceptual album ended in him releasing a work of art full of heartbreak, wistfulness, and hope. Pet Sounds has and will forever stand the test of time and is viewed as inspiration to all who know the story behind the music.
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