photo & text by nacrowe
being from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, i feel predisposed to idol worship bordering on the HYPERBOLIC regarding BRIAN WILSON and his SINGULAR achievement in conceiving and producing THE BEACH BOYS' REVOLUTIONARY PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL, 1966) album. tracks like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "GOD ONLY KNOWS," "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES," "HANG ON TO YOUR EGO" and THE KINGSTON TRIO cover "SLOOP JOHN B" are not just the sound of my formative years in CALIFORNIA, but also ive imagined a link to a HALCYON era of musical culture and EXPANDED consciousness that happened in that state long before i arrived.
and i know the reality was not that case. previous to PET SOUNDS, WILSON had had suffered a mental breakdown on tour and effectively became a hermit / homebody back home. while the rest of the band stayed on tour, he spent that time writing and constructing the new record by exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in very much the same vein of PIONEERING WALL OF SOUND producer / engineer PHIL SPECTOR. in fact, he employed similar production techniques and even the same seasoned team of studio musicians, THE WRECKING CREW, to quickly make sense of his EXPANDED orchestrations and to help manifest what he had imagined into reality. this ALCHEMY of PRODUCTION, SONGWRITING and CHEMISTRY is what makes PET SOUNDS such a CREATIVE experience and arguably as RELEVANT as ever.
much has been made about the mutual admiration society that was THE BEATLES and BRIAN WILSON, but just that sentence alone showcases that WILSON alone for a moment was on par with arguably the most SIGNIFICANT songwriting partnership of the twentieth century. the example of PET SOUNDS spurred a creative spark in JOHN LENNON and PAUL MCCARTNEY, along with producer GEORGE MARTIN, to dive deeper into EXPERIMENTAL territory with INNOVATIVE sonic studio manipulations to create what is arguably their magnum opus SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (PARLOPHONE, 1967). rarified air indeed.
makes you wonder what WILSON could have done with proper support system or writing partner on his level. or maybe not. WILSON seems to be a world in of himself. most people dont know this, but much of the lyrical content of PET SOUNDS was cowritten with an advertising copywriter named TONY ASHER, who previously had been writing television jingles for MATTEL. cant make this up. the EXPANSIVE composed harmonies and LUSH studio orchestrations are held down with SUCCINCT observations on the nature of love and relationships in ICONIC songs like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "CAROLINE, NO" and "GOD ONLY KNOWS" as well as perceived social alienation in "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES." that push-and-pull interplay between the lyrically direct and the musically opaque is absolutely MAGICAL. in fact, some would even argue SPIRITUAL. ive long had a hard time accepting outright RELIGIOSITY in music, as many times it comes off heavy-handed or self-lionizing in practice, but there are exceptions (PRINCE, BOB MARLEY, KENDRICK LAMAR, THE BYRDS, U2, STEVIE WONDER, A$AP ROCKY, LEONARD COHEN) and PET SOUNDS is one. the music is just so transcendently EXUBERANT, JOYOUS and SOUL-AFFIRMING that even without lyrics it could be argued that such is SPIRITUAL in nature on its own.
i know people that say PET SOUNDS is OVERHYPED. they're wrong. this record is well worth checking out with repeat listens throughout your life. a SINGULAR achievement by a SINGULAR artist.