Epiphany: Pet Sounds is Breathtaking
The fact I found a vintage duophonic vinyl copy of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds for .99 cents at a Richmond Indiana Goodwill 10 years ago isn't what is so fantastic.
The cool thing was, other than a few of the tracks, I had not heard the album before. I certainly didn't hold it in that high of a regard. I always just thought of Beach Boys as an "everything sounds the same group," forgive me for that!
I should have took the hint about the album considering my favorite Beach Boys tune is "Sloop John B'", The traditional folk song re-worked by guitarist Al Jardine with his minor chord augmentations, and Brian Wilson's subtle lyric changes and pitch perfect arrangement.
It does go to show you, that sometimes music, film, and literature won't speak to you until you have developed enough of what ever it is you need inside to understand it on deeper level.
Pet Sounds blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I've just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life…I figure no one is educated musically 'til they've heard that album…it may be going overboard to say it's the classic of the century…but to me, it certainly is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways…I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence.
— Paul McCartney
Why I Didn't Hear Pet Sounds Sooner?
I am 45 years old, I was in my mid 30's when I discovered Pet Sounds. The bands I cared about growing up were bands like Metallica and Guns N Roses, I was in my mid to late 20's when I discovered modern jazz, blues, and progressive rock music. For some reason I never did get exposed much to the Beach Boys.
Prog Bands like Caravan, Yes, and Genesis peaked my interest much later in life. I always thought of the Beatles, Dylan, and The Beach Boys as my parents bag...besides I always liked the The Rolling Stones better than any of those other 60's bands. I tend to like darker music.
When I started listening to albums like Trespass, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway from Genesis, I had a hunger to hear what those bands were influenced by. Of course this lead to an investigation of The Beatles, and other Mid 60's bands. Still, Pet Sounds eluded me.
I started seeing Pet Sounds on these all time lists, many times ahead of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I thought it interesting that even Paul McCartney himself gave credit to Pet Sounds as a major influence on him and the Beatles' music.
Even after all that hyperbole, I still was not convinced. I kept thinking about this lightweight surfer dude music that couldn't possibly be on the same level as the Beatles masterpieces, right?
"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
So How Did The Vintage Duophonic Vinyl Sound?
As mentioned my copy of Pet Sounds, is the Duophonic Capitol release, Duophonic is just Capitol's nice way of saying "fake stereo," which is a mono recording re-channeled and turned into a psuedo-stereo recording.
Actually I think this fake stereo sound adds to the production and effect of the album, in particular the echo and reverb that is mixed heavily into the album. The fake stereo sound seems to enhance that "wall of sound" production style. Might be interesting to have a mono copy as well to cross compare?
The copy mentioned here I found several years ago, I had every intention of selling it, as a near mint play tested vinyl copy can bring easily $50.00, but I had to play test it to be able to guarantee play back... and the rest is history, I will not be selling it anytime soon.
"Sloop John B" (My Favorite From Pet Sounds)
The Greatest Rock Albums
What Makes Pet Sounds So Special?
My favorite proto-progressive rock album is still The Beatles Abbey Road, that side 2 on Abbey Road is legendary, but it turned out, Pet Sounds is every bit the record those top 100 lists said it was.
Pet Sounds, especially the strange percussion sounds and animal noises, sounded very familiar to me. No doubt Brain Wilson had to be influenced by the exotica genre, especially Martin Denny's rendition of Les Baxter's "Quiet Village". Listening to this album more than 40 years after it was recorded, I was embarrassed that I had not heard this entire work of art before.
"Wouldn't it be Nice" and "God Only Knows" really make much more sense in the context of the album as a whole, what seemed like overly sentimental ballads, jump out as mini symphonic masterpieces.
Layer upon layer of nuance jumps out with each listen of Pet Sounds, the doubling of instruments, and all the session musicians involved, they all seem to be heard clearly in the mix.The use of baritone saxophone is something that sticks out to me.
Pet Sounds is a must have in every collection no doubt. If you ever doubted the iconic musical, production, and arranging abilities of Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds should soundly put those doubts to rest.