The Beach Boys, a psychedelic rock group from California, consisted of three brothers Carl, Dennis and Brian Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and their friend Alan Jardine.
In the early days of their career, their music and image centered around that of the typical Californian teen who loved ‘surfing, hot rods and pretty girls’. They were a refreshing type of rock group back in the 60s. The Beach Boys stood out because of their ‘unique sounds and layered harmonies’.
Fellow band mate Brian Wilson largely influenced The Beach Boys style and sound. Brian Wilson was also the arranger, composer, producer and songwriter for The Beach Boys. He tried his best to make every musical vision he had into a reality by exploring and looking for ways to develop their music.
During their career, there were many things that influenced Brian and the music he helped create for the band. One of his most memorable influences that changed Brian’s outlook on the way he created his music and ultimately changed the Beach Boys sound was when he heard Phil Spector’s music for the first time. The song he heard on the radio was “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes. That was the first time Brian was introduced to Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” and it blew him away. Phil’s method of layering instruments together to create new and different sounds fascinated Brian. This style gave the music a rich and wholesome vibe that was unlike anything Brian had ever heard before.
Over the years, as The Beach Boys rose to popularity and stardom, the competition also became clear. It was a challenge they had to face. Their biggest competitors were The Beatles. As time went by, Brian quickly began to feel the pressure from all the expectations that were set on him from creating all the music plus touring to keep up their competitive edge. Eventually, he had a nervous breakdown that led him to quit touring and head home to focus on the music creations for the band. In that time, he spent a lot of time composing, producing and recording as he continued to develop his craft and push his talent and skills to the next level. During those years, Brian was very creative and his style of music began to move away from the previous image they had to a more mature and complex sound. This was around the time he began creating Pet Sounds. Their rivals, The Beatles, heavily influenced Brian when he heard their album Rubber Soul.
Like The Beatles, Brian wanted to create an album for The Beach Boys that told a story as a whole, where every song was well thought out and stringed together like a puzzle to create a bigger picture. With that mindset, Pet Sounds became one of his greatest accomplishments in The Beach Boys musical career.
Pet Sounds had intricate tunes and memorable lyrics that told a story about ‘young love.’ It was more in depth and more personal and emotionally moving. It was different from their previous more upbeat, preppy sounds. Pet Sounds was also more musically complex in terms of composition and arrangement.
After listening to Pet Sounds, I remembered growing up listening to some of these songs because of my relatives. After listening to the entire album again, I felt the authenticity and unique styles they portrayed in their music. The layering of their vocals, harmonies and instruments stood out to me. The tunes were catchy and the lyrics seemed deeply rooted and poetic. I was definitely inspired after hearing Pet Sounds. I was also fascinated at what the group and Brian were able to accomplish back in that time. Even today, artists still sample and take references from The Beach Boys music. Their music was definitely innovative and Brian’s musical experiments helped shape their long lasting impression on the music industry that also landed them their spot in musical history.
My favorite songs from the album are: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “You Still Believe In Me,” “God Only Knows,” “Here Today” and “Caroline No.”
The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds – References
- Edwards, B. (2009, August 13). The Bob Edwards Show [Radio broadcast]. United States: XM Satellite Radio.
- Elliott, B. (n.d.). The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Liner Notes. Brad Elliott. Retrieved February 4, 2012, from www.bradelliott.com/writings/ps.html
- Elliott, B. (n.d.). PET SOUNDS Track Notes. Brad Elliott. Retrieved April 2, 2012, from http://www.bradelliott.com/writings/ps2.html
- Howard, D. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers And Their Maverick Recordings (First ed.). Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation.