The ’59 2018 #051: 180220
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 8 – 1966.
Pet Sounds was the eleventh studio album from the Beach Boys, released on May 16, 1966. It initially met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response in the United States, peaking at number 10 in the Billboard 200, a significantly lower placement than the band’s preceding albums. In the UK, it was hailed by the music press and was an immediate commercial success, peaking at number 2 in the Top 40 Albums Chart and remaining among the top ten positions for six months. Originally promoted as “the most progressive pop album ever”, Pet Sounds attracted recognition for its ambitious recording and unusually sophisticated music, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential albums in music history.
The album was produced and arranged by Brian Wilson, who also wrote and composed almost all of its music. Most of the recording sessions were conducted between January and April 1966, a year after he had quit touring with the Beach Boys in order to focus more attention on writing and recording. For Pet Sounds, Wilson’s goal was to create “the greatest rock album ever made”—a personalized work with no filler tracks. It is sometimes considered a Wilson solo album, repeating the themes and ideas he had introduced with The Beach Boys Today! one year earlier. The album’s lead single, “Caroline, No”, was issued as his official solo debut. It was followed by two singles credited to the group: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (backed with “God Only Knows”) and “Sloop John B”.
Pet Sounds is regarded by musicologists as an early concept album that advanced the field of music production, introducing non-standard harmonies and timbres and incorporating elements of pop, jazz, exotica, classical, and the avant-garde. A heralding work of psychedelia, the album furthered an aesthetic trend within rock by helping it transform from dance music into music that was made for listening to, elevating itself to the level of art rock.
In 2004, Pet Sounds was preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” One year earlier, Rolling Stone ranked it second on its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.