Having heard the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson, co-founder and central songwriter of the Beach Boys, declared he was going to create an album that was even more impressive and experimental. “I’m gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!”, Wilson famously told his wife after listening to Rubber Soul. Astounded by the album’s complexity and consistency, he sought out to make a record that did not copy the Beatles, rather, go beyond the bar set on Rubber Soul.
While the Beach Boys were known for their catchy car and surf tunes, Wilson wanted to make a solid album that would show how the band has matured since its creation. However, some of the band members did not react kindly to his demands. Mike Love, another co-founder of the group, wanted to stick with the style of the songs that proved to be successful previously. Once, he famously stated, “Don’t mess with the formula”. When the album was first released, it did not sell as much as Wilson was expecting. He claimed that the public rejected his creative input, which accounted for the poor album sales. Nevertheless, Pet Sounds is now hailed as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.
The opening track, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, is one of the most popular songs on the album. The lyrics describe two young lovers mourning over the fact that they can’t marry because of their age. Wilson used a recording technique called the Wall of Sound (many instruments mixed together to create a unique and rich sound) to make this song more lively. The song “God Only Knows”, midway through the album, is regarded as one of the most unique songs ever written. Despite the name, the song is not religious, but was one of the first songs to mention ‘God’ in the title. The song is musically sophisticated as well, switching between the keys of A major and E major, and the bass line was written in a completely different key from the rest of the song. Though these two songs are the highlights, the rest of the album tracks blend together perfectly, and the listener embarks on an alluring musical adventure start to finish.
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Pet Sounds, just like Rubber Soul, further developed the ‘album’ as an art form, incorporating complex lyrics, tempo changes, unusual harmonic progressions, and the combination of rock and classical. It also included unusual instruments, like a harpsichord, an Electro-Theremin, cellos, an accordion, and even Coke cans and orange juice jugs. Pet Sounds is named the 2nd greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone, and it justly deserves its spot on the list. Integrating separate music genres such as pop, jazz, and avant-garde to rock, the album has had a lasting effect on many different types of music, and its influence is still heard in many songs today.