Classic Albums: Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys

After 50 years, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds has been reissued in numerous configurations, most recently as a box set that not only digs deep into every nook and cranny of the album, but also features remastered (in some cases, remixed) versions of the original album in stereo, mono, high resolution stereo, mono, and 5.1 surround. Meanwhile, Brian Wilson has been on the road, playing the album live around the world, with dates running through 2017. So what else could you possibly need to know about the 11th album by the Beach Boys? Well, if you ever wanted to hear some of the stories about how the record was created, Eagle Rock Entertainment’s documentary Classic Albums – Pet Sounds should answer all your questions.

Available on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc, this film tells the story about the making of Pet Sounds. All the key players, including Brian Wilson and surviving members of the Beach Boys — Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks — pipe in, as well as lyricist Tony Asher, engineer Bruce Botnik, drummer Hal Blaine, keyboardist Don Randi, singer Helen Shapiro, publicist Keith Altham, music journalist David Wild, music journalist Lucy O'Brien, Capitol Records executive Karl Engemann and many others. Much of the praise is heaped on Brian Wilson and his gift of creating wondrous music in the studio. It opens up from there.

The film goes back to the band's beginnings, their influences, signing with Capitol Records, songs about surfing, cars and school, and Wilson's retirement from the road. No longer on tour, Wilson spent more time writing songs and turning the recording studio, as Wild notes, into "his instrument." And then the revelations about how Pet Sounds evolved come. There’s the story about Al Jardine bringing the Kingston Trio's version of the traditional folk song "Sloop John B" to Brian Wilson, who transformed it into the album's first and highest-charting single. Bruce Johnston mentions how he sang on "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times," giving the song six voices to sweeten the harmony. We learn about Tony Asher and his lyrics that guide songs like "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," and "Caroline No," among the eight songs he co-wrote. Mike Love gives kudos to Asher and explains that he does not, contrary to popular opinion, hate Pet Sounds.

It's widely known outside musicians, collectively known as the Wrecking Crew, were hired to help Wilson create the music as it mutated in his mind. Taking cues from Phil Spector and the Beatles, he set out to create a psychedelic symphony. He worked with each musician, mapping out their parts, and making it blend and resonate. Once the Beach Boys put down their vocals, an almost magical quality lifted the material. Capitol Records balked at releasing Pet Sounds, and the press in the States regarded the album as a whimsical misstep when it finally dropped, though it was later regarded as important and influential. In the U.K, Pet Sounds was a huge smash. It's all here, but if you don't get enough insight from Classic Albums – Pet Sounds, the DVD and Blu-ray Disc features over 30 minutes of additional interviews. Just another way to ring in the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest albums ever recorded.

~ Shawn Perry

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