Pet Sounds

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Pet Sounds
Studio album by The Beach Boys
ReleasedMay 16, 1966 (1966-05-16)
RecordedJuly 12, 1965 (1965-07-12)–April 13, 1966 (1966-04-13),
United Western, Gold Star, CBS Columbia, and Sunset Sound studios, California
GenrePsychedelic rock, baroque pop, psychedelic pop
ProducerBrian Wilson
The Beach Boys chronology
Beach Boys' Party!
Pet Sounds
Best of The Beach Boys
Singles from Pet Sounds
  1. "Caroline, No"
    Released: March 7, 1966 (1966-03-07)
  2. "Sloop John B"
    Released: March 21, 1966 (1966-03-21)
  3. "Wouldn't It Be Nice"/"God Only Knows"
    Released: July 18, 1966 (1966-07-18)
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Pet Sounds
Studio album by The Beach Boys
ReleasedMay 16, 1966 (1966-05-16)
RecordedJuly 12, 1965 (1965-07-12)–April 13, 1966 (1966-04-13),
United Western, Gold Star, CBS Columbia, and Sunset Sound studios, California
GenrePsychedelic rock, baroque pop, psychedelic pop
ProducerBrian Wilson
The Beach Boys chronology
Beach Boys' Party!
Pet Sounds
Best of The Beach Boys
Singles from Pet Sounds
  1. "Caroline, No"
    Released: March 7, 1966 (1966-03-07)
  2. "Sloop John B"
    Released: March 21, 1966 (1966-03-21)
  3. "Wouldn't It Be Nice"/"God Only Knows"
    Released: July 18, 1966 (1966-07-18)

Pet Sounds is the eleventh studio album by the American rock band the Beach Boys, released May 16, 1966, on Capitol Records. It has since been recognized as one of the most influential records in the history of popular music and one of the best albums of the 1960s. It features songs such as "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows". Pet Sounds was created several months after Brian Wilson had quit touring with the band in order to focus his attention on writing and recording. In it, he wove elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, coupled with sound effects and unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans and barking dogs, along with the more usual keyboards and guitars.[1][2][3]

Although Pet Sounds was met with strong sales abroad, reaching number two in the UK, it charted lower in the US than the majority of the band's preceding albums, peaking at number ten on the Billboard 200.[4] A heralding album in the emerging psychedelic rock style, Pet Sounds has been championed and emulated for its dramatic and revolutionary baroque pop instrumentation.[5] It was ranked at number one in several music magazines' lists of greatest albums of all time, including NME, The Times and Mojo Magazine.[6][7][8] It ranked number two on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.[9] It was preserved in the National Recording Registry in 2004 by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."[citation needed]


The track "Sloop John B" predated the rest of the LP by some months, but it proved to be a pivotal point in the album's development. It was a traditional Caribbean folk song that had been suggested to Wilson by group member Al Jardine. Al updated the chord progression by having the IV, D♭ major, move to its relative minor, B♭ minor before returning to the tonic, A♭. He expected to collaborate further with Wilson on the arrangement, but was pleasantly surprised by what Brian accomplished on his own.[10][11] Wilson recorded a backing track on July 12, 1965, but after laying down a rough lead vocal, he set the song aside for some time, concentrating on the recording of what became their next LP, the "live in the studio" album, Beach Boys' Party!, in response to their record company's request for a Beach Boys album for the Christmas 1965 market. Wilson devoted the last three months of 1965 to polishing the vocals of "Sloop John B" and recording six new original compositions: "The Little Girl I Once Knew", "In My Childhood", "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)", "Run, James, Run", "Trombone Dixie", and "Three Blind Mice".[12] What would become Pet Sounds could not be finished in time for Christmas 1965.

It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs…that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, "That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album."

—Brian Wilson, recalling his first impressions of the US version of Rubber Soul[13]

Halfway through the Pet Sounds sessions, Wilson reportedly became enthralled with the Beatles' album Rubber Soul, which was released that December. The British version of Rubber Soul was edited prior to its release in the US to emphasise a folk rock feel that critics attributed to Bob Dylan and the Byrds. Wilson found Rubber Soul to lack filler tracks, which was mostly unheard of at a time when 45 rpm singles were considered more noteworthy than full-length LPs. Many albums up until the late-1960s lacked a cohesive artistic goal and were largely used to sell singles at a higher price point. Wilson thought that Rubber Soul broke the mold with a consistent thread of high-quality music. Inspired, he rushed to his wife and proclaimed, "Marilyn, I'm gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!".[14]



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Lyrics in Pet Sounds are thematically-linked with introspective narratives centered around Wilson's personal experiences. Tony Asher has said of his contributions, "The general tenor of the lyrics was always his…and the actual choice of words was usually mine. I was really just his interpreter."[15]

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In early January 1966 Wilson contacted Tony Asher, a young lyricist and copywriter who had been working on advertising jingles, and whom Wilson had met in a Hollywood recording studio earlier. Within ten days they were writing together. Wilson played him some of the music he had been recording and gave him a cassette of the backing track for a piece with the working title "In My Childhood". It had lyrics, but Wilson refused to show them to Asher. The result of Asher's tryout was eventually retitled "You Still Believe in Me" and the artistic success of the piece convinced Wilson that Tony Asher was the wordsmith he had been looking for.

Most of the songs were written during December 1965 and January 1966. While most were composed with Tony Asher, "I Know There's an Answer" was co-written by another new associate, Terry Sachen.[16] Mike Love is co-credited on the album's opening track, "Wouldn't It Be Nice", and on "I Know There's an Answer" but with the exception of his co-credit on "I'm Waiting for the Day",[16] his songwriting contributions are thought to have been minimal. The exact degree of Love's contribution to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was never fully determined, but under oath in a court of law, Tony Asher stated it consisted of the tag "Good night my baby/Sleep tight, my baby" and possible minor vocal arrangement.[16] Love's influence on "I Know There's an Answer" is reputed to have stemmed from his opposition to the song's original title, "Hang On to Your Ego", and his belief that it be partially rewritten and retitled. The original lyrics created a stir within the group. "I was aware that Brian was beginning to experiment with LSD and other psychedelics," explained Love. "The prevailing drug jargon at the time had it that doses of LSD would shatter your ego, as if that were a positive thing... I wasn't interested in taking acid or getting rid of my ego." Jardine recalled that the decision to change the lyrics was ultimately Wilson's. "Brian was very concerned. He wanted to know what we thought about it. To be honest, I don't think we even knew what an ego was... Finally Brian decided, 'Forget it. I'm changing the lyrics. There's too much controversy.'"[16] Terry Sachen, who co-wrote the revised lyrics to this song, was the Beach Boys' road manager in 1966.[17][18]


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"God Only Knows" is reputed for its subtle complexity, and has been cited as an example of how lyrical meaning can be supported and enhanced by a chord progression.[19]

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In addition to busy orchestrations layered underneath 5-part harmony vocals, Pet Sounds also features numerous instrumental breaks directly inspired by the works of classical composers such as J.S. Bach.[20]

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Professors John Covach and Graeme M. Boone of Ohio State University have written that "In terms of the structure of the songs themselves, there is comparatively little advance from what Brian had already accomplished or shown himself capable of accomplishing. Most of the songs use unusual harmonic progressions and unexpected disruptions of hypermeter, both features that were met in 'Warmth of the Sun' and 'Don't Back Down.'"[21] Specific complexities within Pet Sounds are often cited toward "God Only Knows", which contains an ambivalent key.[21][19] According to Wilson, his writing process at the time involved going to the piano and finding "feels," which he described as "brief note sequences, fragments of ideas," and that "once they're out of my head and into the open air, I can see them and touch them firmly. They're not 'feels' anymore."[22] The album included two sophisticated instrumental tracks. One of them: the wistful "Let's Go Away for Awhile", with a working parenthetical title of "And Then We'll Have World Peace";[16][23] the other: the title track, "Pet Sounds".[nb 1] The subtitle of "Let's Go Away for Awhile" was a catchphrase from one of Wilson's favorite comedy recordings, John Brent and Del Close's How To Speak Hip (1959).[16][nb 2] Both titles had been recorded as backing tracks for existing songs, but by the time the album neared completion Wilson had decided that the tracks worked better without vocals.[24]

Pet Sounds is the first rock record to incorporate the Electro-Theremin, an easier-to-play version of the theremin. Its inventor Paul Tanner performs the instrument on the song "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times".[16]


The concept album form received a resurgence of popularity in the late 1960s among pop artists, when many rock releases including Pet Sounds presented a set of thematically-linked songs. Other rock music artists, such as Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, the Beatles and The Who subsequently released concept albums. Pet Sounds was a musical portrayal of Brian Wilson's private/public state of mind at the time.[25] Although Pet Sounds has a unified theme in its emotional content, Wilson and Asher said repeatedly that it was not necessarily intended to be a narrative. However, Wilson stated that making the record a concept album is how they had thought of it. Sonically, it was structured as an interpretation of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.[3][26]


The album is psychedelic music,[27][28][29] as Brian was publicly effused with the drug LSD during the mid-1960s and was using it to further his creative process, an admitted example being the 1965 single "California Girls". Throughout the latter half of the decade, Wilson was repeatedly been shown to have become interested in Eastern philosophy and the psychedelic experience, often pointing to ego loss as the key to a better way of living.[29][30] During the spring of 1965, Wilson had what he considered to be "a very religious experience" after consuming a full dose of LSD. He stated, "I learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding. I can't teach you, or tell you what I learned from taking it."[31] In light of his intellectual pursuits and self-described "crucial" interest in metaphysics, Wilson's response when asked about LSD and "Hang On To Your Ego" was that "Yeah, I had taken a few drugs, and I had gotten into that kind of thing. it just came up naturally".[29] Despite the change from "Hang On To Your Ego" to "I Know There's An Answer", the psychedelic lyrics "they trip through their day and waste all their thoughts at night" were kept in the song. Similarly for "Sloop John B", Wilson's lyric change from "this is the worst trip since I've been born" to "this is the worst trip I've ever been on" has been suggested by some to be another subtle nod to acid culture.[32][33][27] Elsewhere within Pet Sounds lyrical content, Brian turned inward and probed his deep-seated self-doubts and emotional longings; Pet Sounds did not address the problems in the world around them, unlike other psychedelic rock groups.[27] Music professors Paul Hegarty and Martin Halliwell have written:

On Pet Sounds, singer-songwriter Brian Wilson used an eclectic mixture of instruments, echo, reverb, and innovative mixing techniques learnt from Phil Spector to create a complex soundscape in which voice and music interweave tightly.…Whereas Sgt. Pepper explores the relationship between past and present, between metaphysical and material worlds, and between fantasy and reality, in a matter that foreshadows the temporal and narrative expansion of progressive bands from the late 1960s and 1970s, the personal intimacy of Pet Sounds set it at a slight remove from the psychedelic culture that informed the San Francisco sound of 1966—7. Nevertheless, the trippy feel of Pet Sounds related directly to Brian Wilson's experimentation with LSD.

—Paul Hegarty, Martin Halliwell, Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock Since the 1960s[28]


Carl Wilson in the recording studio, playing his Rickenbacker 360/12 with session guitarist Bill Pitman.

With writing well under way, Wilson recorded six backing tracks for the new material.[nb 3] The backing tracks for Pet Sounds were recorded over a four-month period, using major Los Angeles studios[nb 4] and an ensemble that included highly regarded session musicians, including jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Carol Kaye and session drummer Hal Blaine. Although the self-taught Wilson often had entire arrangements worked out in his head,[nb 5] surviving tapes of his recording sessions show that he was open to his musicians, often taking advice and suggestions from them and even incorporating apparent 'mistakes' if they provided a useful or interesting alternative.[16][10] Wilson said of his recording process with the Wrecking Crew:

I was sort of a square, you know? 1 got there and I go, "Oh, let's see, um uh—Yeah!" We would try each one separately. We usually started with keyboards—you know, the basic, keyboards. Then we'd go to drums. Then we'd go to horns, then violins if they were live. We usually didn't do live violins. We'd overdub the violins. […] Sometimes I'd just write out a chord sheet and that would be for piano, organ, or harpsichord or anything. […] I wrote out all the horn charts separate from the keyboards. I wrote one basic keyboard chart, violins, horns, and basses, and percussion. I'd say—we'd start with Julius Wechter. "'Can I please hear the sleigh bells?" (choo, choo, choo, choo) "Nah, throw 'em away. Let's hear—how 'bout some tambourine, maybe? Let's hear a tambourine. Yeah, that's it! We'll take a tambourine."[10]

Wilson had developed his production methods over several years, reaching a peak with Pet Sounds during late 1965 and early 1966. Wilson's approach was in some respects a refined interpretation of the famous "Wall of Sound" technique created by his former mentor and now rival Phil Spector. Equipped with newest state-of-the-art Ampex 8-track recorders, Wilson produced tracks of great complexity using his regular team of 'first call' players, sometimes known collectively as "the Wrecking Crew".[34] Wilson's typical production method on Pet Sounds was to record the instrumental backing tracks for each song as a live ensemble performance direct onto 4-track recorders. His engineer Larry Levine reported that Wilson also typically mixed these backing tracks live, as they were being taped, subsequently transferring the sounds onto 8-track machines.[35] Like Spector, Wilson was a pioneer of the 'studio as instrument' concept, exploiting novel combinations of sounds that sprang from the use of multiple electric instruments and voices in an ensemble and combining them with echo and reverberation. He often doubled bass, guitar and keyboard parts, blending them with reverberation and adding other unusual instruments.[36]

When the other Beach Boys returned from a three-week tour of Japan and Hawaii, they were presented with a substantial portion of a new album, with music that was in many ways a radical departure from their earlier attempts.[37] Both Asher and Wilson state that there was resistance to the project from within the group, but on this occasion, Wilson's conviction convinced the other members.[15] According to various people, the group fought over the radical direction Brian had presented with Pet Sounds.[38] Reportedly, one of the biggest issues was its complexity, and how the touring Beach Boys would be able to perform the music live.[39] This was denied by Dennis Wilson in later years.[40] Most of March and early April 1966 was devoted to recording the remaining backing tracks and to the crucial recording of vocals, a process which proved to be the most exacting work the group had hitherto undertaken, as Mike Love later recalled:

We worked and worked on the harmonies and, if there was the slightest little hint of a sharp or a flat, it wouldn't go on. We would do it over again until it was right. [Brian] was going for every subtle nuance that you could conceivably think of. Every voice had to be right, every voice and its resonance and tonality had to be right. The timing had to be right. The timbre of the voices just had to be correct, according to how he felt. And then he might, the next day, completely throw that out and we might have to do it over again.[15]

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Brian Wilson often experimented with many recording techniques during the 1960s, including the method of filtering sound input through a Leslie speaker. He recycled this method for the use of lead guitar on the title track "Pet Sounds". Other quirks from this recording also include Coca-cola cans as percussion.[16]

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In spite of the availability of sophisticated multitrack recording, Wilson always mixed the final version of his recordings in mono, as did Phil Spector. He did this because he felt that mono mastering provided more sonic control over the final result, regardless of the vagaries of speaker placement and sound system quality. In that era radio and TV were broadcast in mono and most domestic and automotive radios and record players were monophonic. Another and more personal reason for Wilson's preference for mono was due to his almost total deafness in his right ear, rumored to be the result of childhood injury to his eardrum caused by a blow from his violent father Murry Wilson, although Wilson claimed that he was born deaf in one ear.[41]

These backing tracks were then dubbed down onto one track of an 8-track recorder,[nb 6] and although much of the fine detail in the arrangements was often covered by the group's rich vocal harmonies, they interacted effectively with the vocal tracks. This mono recording meant that a stereo mixdown could not be achieved. Wilson's partial deafness made him indifferent to stereo and it was not until the advent of digital recording that it was possible to combine the instrumental and vocal session-tapes to achieve a true stereo release.[42] Six of the remaining seven tracks were usually dedicated to each of the Beach Boys' vocals.[nb 7] The last track was usually reserved for additional vocals and/or instruments and other 'sweetening' elements.[16]


On October 15, 1965, Wilson went to the studio to record an instrumental piece entitled "Three Blind Mice", bearing no musical connection to the nursery rhyme of the same name. It's not known what the piece's purpose was to be, but it was inexplicably included as part of the Beach Boys' 2011 release of The Smile Sessions. By February 1966, Wilson was in the studio with his session band laying down the first takes for a new composition, "Good Vibrations".[15] During that month, Wilson gave Capitol a provisional track listing for the new LP, which included both "Sloop John B" and "Good Vibrations." This contradicts the long held misconception that "Sloop John B" was a forced inclusion as the hit single at Capitol's insistence: in late February, the song was weeks away from release.[15][43] Wilson worked through February and into March fine-tuning the backing tracks. To the group's surprise he also dropped "Good Vibrations" from the running order, telling them that he wanted to spend more time on it. Al Jardine remembered: "At the time, we all had assumed that "Good Vibrations" was going to be on the album, but Brian decided to hold it out. It was a judgment call on his part; we felt otherwise but left the ultimate decision up to him."[15] A third instrumental, called "Trombone Dixie", had been fully recorded, but it remained in the vaults until its inclusion on the album's 1990 remastered CD release.

Wilson devoted some Pet Sounds sessions to avant-garde indulgences such as an extended a cappela run-through of the children's song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" exploiting the song's use of rounds via tape delay and overdubbing. At least half an hour of tape reels exist which involve Brian and friends attempting to create a psychedelic comedy album, foreshadowing much of his work on Smile, which was set to have followed Pet Sounds.[44] The only product of these sessions present in Pet Sounds was an excerpt of Brian's dogs barking accompanied by a sampled recording of passing trains[16] taken from the 1963 sound effects LP Mister D's Machine.[citation needed] About a year later Brian had moved on to burning wood in the studio.

Cover photo and title meaning[edit]

Brian Wilson at San Diego Zoo.

On February 15, the group traveled to the San Diego Zoo to shoot the photographs for the cover, which had already received its title.[15][37] George Jerman was credited for taking the cover photo.[45] According to the liner notes, "The photos of The Beach Boys feeding an assortment of goats was a play on the album's chosen title, Pet Sounds." Both the origin and meaning of the album title Pet Sounds are uncertain. Wilson claimed at one point that the title was "a tribute" to Spector by matching his initials.[46] Carl Wilson later spoke about the album title: "The idea he had was that everybody has these sounds that they love, and this was a collection of his 'pet sounds.' It was hard to think of a name for the album, because you sure couldn't call it Shut Down Vol. 3," referencing the artistic disparity between Pet Sounds and their earlier works, adding "It was just so much more than a record; it had such a spiritual quality. It wasn't going in and doing another top ten. It had so much more meaning than that."[47] Mike Love also laid claim to the title. "We were standing in the hallway in one of the recording studios, either Western or Columbia, and we didn't have a title," he recounted. "We had taken pictures at the zoo and…there were animal sounds on the record, and we were thinking, well, it's our favorite music of that time, so I said, 'Why don't we call it Pet Sounds?'"[15] At another time, Brian credited the album title to Carl.[10]

Legacy and influence[edit]

Initial sales[edit]

By mid-April 1966, Pet Sounds was finished. "Caroline, No" was released as a single; it was credited to Brian Wilson alone, leading to speculation that he was considering leaving the band. The single reached number 32 in the US.[48]

"Sloop John B" was extremely successful, reaching number three in the US[48] and number two in Great Britain.[49] "Wouldn't It Be Nice" reached number eight in the US where it was treated as the A-side.[48] Its flip side, "God Only Knows," was featured as the A-side in Europe, peaking at number two in Britain,[49] as a B-side in the US, it reached number 39.[48] The LP broke into the top 10 in the US, belying its reputation as a commercial failure there. In Australia, the album was released under the title The Fabulous Beach Boys on the Music for Pleasure label. However, unlike Beach Boys' Party!, Pet Sounds did not enjoy major commercial success. Its initial release in the US peaked at number ten, reportedly disappointing Wilson.[citation needed] Much of the blame has been placed with Capitol Records, which did not promote the album as heavily as previous releases. Its initial release was not awarded gold certification by the RIAA despite eligibility beginning in mid–1967.[50] Pet Sounds eventually was presented with gold and platinum awards in 2000.[51]

Its greatest success was in the UK, where it reached number two.[49] Its success was aided by support from the British music industry, who embraced the record; Paul McCartney spoke often about the album's influence on the Beatles. Bruce Johnston stated that he flew to London in May 1966 and played the album for John Lennon and McCartney.[52] Although it has been claimed that the Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham helped Derek Taylor publicize unsolicited advertisements lauding the album in British music papers, a search of the UK pop press for 1966 fails to uncover any such advert.[53][54] Wilson intimated his feelings on Pet Sounds' release and reception by saying:

In 1966, they [the Beach Boys] were received by the British people very, very highly, they were received very warmly. And the people over there seemed to have had an affinity with our music. But, actually, I was very heartsick. I was very, very, very upset that it didn't sell like I thought it would. But let's put it this way—30 years is a long time in the music business, in the recording industry and when you cycle—an album cycle—a 30 year cycle has got to mean a lot more than if we did it in 1970, even. Because that album has been bouncin' around for years, and these people that'll pick up on it for the first time, good for them! I want that to be. I think it's a good thing. […] Let's put it this way. For the first time in my life, I did something that I wanted to do from my heart—what my real music is. You know what I mean? The first time in my whole life that I really, really, really did something that I thought was good. Not listening to "Be My Baby" or "Ten Little Indians" or, you know, "Amusement Parks USA"—Pet Sounds was something that was absolutely different. Something I personally felt. That one album that was really more me than Mike Love and the surf records and all that, and "Kokomo". That's all their kind of stuff, you know?[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars[55]
Blender5/5 stars[56]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[57]
Entertainment WeeklyA+[58]
Q5/5 stars[59]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[60]
Slant Magazine5/5 stars[61]

Pet Sounds is frequently cited by both critics and musicians as the greatest rock album of all time. Advocates include Mojo magazine and Paul McCartney, who acknowledges that it was the primary impetus for the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[63] Although not originally a big seller, Pet Sounds has been influential since it was released.[64] According to music journalist Stephen Davis, it was the first rock concept album. In his 1972 Rolling Stone review, Davis called it "by far" Brian Wilson's best album and said that its "trenchant cycle of love songs has the emotional impact of a shatteringly evocative novel".[65] Yahoo! Music's Bill Holdship later called it "the masterpiece" and "perhaps rock's first example of self-conscious art ... a beautiful reflection of romanticism in the modern world by an artist who probably wasn't made for these times."[63] By contrast, Robert Christgau felt that Pet Sounds was a "good record, but a totem."[66]

Other musicians[edit]

[Pet Sounds] blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I've just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life…I figure no one is educated musically 'til they've heard that album…it may be going overboard to say it's the classic of the century…but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways…I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence.

Paul McCartney, recalling his first impressions of Pet Sounds[67]

Artists and musicians have revered Pet Sounds as a remarkable milestone in the history of popular music. These have included Tom Petty,[nb 8] Elton John,[nb 9] Elvis Costello,[nb 10] and members of Pink Floyd,[nb 11] Cream[nb 12], The Who,[nb 13] and The Beatles.[nb 14] McCartney has frequently stated his affinity with the album, citing "God Only Knows" as his favorite song of all-time, and accrediting his uniquely melodic bass-playing style to the album.[67] Simon Neil of Scottish band Biffy Clyro has the lyrics "God only knows what I'd be without you" tattooed across his chest in reference to the song's lyric and to his wife Francesca, being the first song they danced to.[78][79] Seattle-based folk band, the Fleet Foxes have often been seen paying tribute to the album.[80] In the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, it was reported that singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston was enraptured with Pet Sounds and it immediately led him to buy the rest of the Beach Boys discography. He later recorded his own version of "God Only Knows",[81] a song which also inspired songwriter Margo Guryan to reevaluate her career, saying "I thought it was just gorgeous. I bought the record and played it a million times, then sat down and wrote 'Think of Rain.' That's really how I started writing that way. I just decided it was better than what was happening in jazz."[82]

According to Thom Yorke, portions of the album OK Computer were based on the atmosphere of Pet Sounds.[83] The album strongly also influenced the Beatles' 1966 album Revolver.[84] Arranger Robert Kirby claims that English singer-songwriter Nick Drake intended the instrumentals on his 1970 album Bryter Layter to evoke Pet Sounds.[85] R.E.M.'s song "At My Most Beautiful" from their 1998 album Up was written as a "gift" from Michael Stipe to his bandmates fond of Pet Sounds.[86] When Animal Collective co-founder Noah Lennox was asked about critics comparing his 2007 solo album Person Pitch to Pet Sounds, Lennox responded: "For me, Pet Sounds wouldn't be the first thing I would compare my album with…first, because it would be kind of arrogant."[87] References to song titles in Pet Sounds are present in countless albums, including Louis Philippe's I Still Believe In You, Cornelius's Fantasma, Kaiser Chiefs' Employment,[88] Pizzicato Five's Pizzicatomania!, Coma Cinema's Blue Suicide and Yann Tomita's Doopee Time.

Pet Sounds inspired tribute albums such as Do It Again: A Tribute To Pet Sounds, The String Quartet Tribute to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Mojo Presents: Pet Sounds Revisited. Many songs from Pet Sounds have also appeared on general-themed Beach Boy and Brian Wilson tribute albums like Making God Smile and Smiling Pets, which feature cover versions by various artists including Sixpence None the Richer, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her and Thurston Moore.[89] Other notable artists include They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, Black Francis, Peter Thomas, Sonic Youth, Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wolf, Tim Burgess, Saint Etienne and the Flaming Lips.

Pet Sounds tribute parodies include Punk Sounds by the Huntingtons.[90] Track-for-track mash-ups include Sgt. Petsound's Lonely Hearts Club Band a blend of Pet Sounds with Sgt. Pepper. It was released under the pseudonym "The Beachles".[91]

In the mid-1990s, Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo and Jim McIntyre of Von Hemmling founded Pet Sounds Studio, which served as the venue for many Elephant 6 projects such as Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and the Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage.

Live performances[edit]

The entire Pet Sounds album has been played live by The Beach Boys and by Brian Wilson. Several of its songs have become live staples for the group, including "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows".[92]

Brian Wilson performed the entire album live on three occasions on his 2002 and 2006 Pet Sounds tours, which included fellow band member Al Jardine at several shows. He also performed it twice on his 2013 tour, which again included Al Jardine as well as original Beach Boys guitarist David Marks.[93]

"Wouldn't It Be Nice", "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows" have been performed at most Beach Boys shows since the album release. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" has had several lead vocalists over the years due to Brian Wilson's absence from touring, including Carl Wilson, Al Jardine and Jeff Foskett. "Sloop John B" has also been a live staple with Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston or Carl Wilson often covering Brian's part. "God Only Knows" was long considered Carl Wilson's signature song at live shows until his death in 1998. Following his death Bruce Johnston began to sing the lead at live shows. During the band's 50th Anniversary Tour all three songs were played including "God Only Knows" featuring Carl Wilson's pre-recorded vocals and a tribute video.[92]

"I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and "Pet Sounds" were both performed live by The Beach Boys for the first time on the band's 50th Anniversary Tour. "Here Today" has only been performed by the Mike Love-led Beach Boys with he and Bruce Johnston alternating on the lead.[92]

"Caroline, No" and "You Still Believe in Me" have been played by the band at several times during their live history. "Caroline, No" was played infrequently throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's with Carl Wilson on lead vocals. "You Still Believe in Me" was also played infrequently during the early 70's and again in the early 90's with Al Jardine on Brian's original lead.[92]

"That's Not Me, Let's Go Away For Awhile" and "I Know There's An Answer" have only ever been performed by Brian Wilson during his Pet Sounds tours, the Beach Boys have never performed the songs live.[92][94]

"Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" and "I'm Waiting For the Day" were both performed by Brian Wilson, but also by the Beach Boys in the 70's.[92] With Brian absent from the group, "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" was performed with Carl Wilson on lead vocals. "I'm Waiting For The Day" was performed with backing member Billy Hinsche on lead.[95]

Close Beach Boys friend Scott Mathews planned a "Pet Sounds Live" world tour project that he designed and began spearheading in 1983 with full participation from Brian Wilson. However the tour never took flight due to one band member having creative difficulties in adjusting to changing the tour formula, even for such a special event and the much needed credibility the band would gain. When an unacceptable offer from the 'swing voter' was finally proposed in 1991, Mathews officially passed on pursuing the Pet Sounds performance project as he preferred to protect his relationship with close friends Carl Wilson. Brian Wilson however would go on to tour the album as previously mentioned.[96][97][98][99]


In 1995, nearly thirty years after its release, a panel of top musicians, songwriters and producers assembled by MOJO magazine voted it "The Greatest Album Ever Made." It was number one in New Musical Express's list "The 100 Best Albums". In 1997, Pet Sounds was named the 33rd greatest album of all time in a poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM.[100] In 2006 Q magazine readers voted it the 12th greatest album of all time; critics of German magazine Spex voted it the best album of the 20th century; in 2001 the TV channel VH1 placed it at number 3. The Times magazine ranked it the greatest album of all time.[101]

It placed number two on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time behind only Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.[9] In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2006, the album was chosen by TIME as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[102] The album has inspired many progressive rock bands and was later named as one of Classic Rock magazine's "50 Albums That Built Prog Rock".[103][104] Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it as the second greatest album of all time.[105] Pet Sounds also helped cement The Beach Boys as the founders of California Rock.[106] The Beach Boys managed to creatively incorporate both forward-thinking values, while continuing to perpetuate the American teenage fantasy of that era.[105]

The TimesUnited KingdomThe 100 Best Albums of All Time[107]19931
New Musical ExpressUnited KingdomNew Musical Express Writers Top 100 Albums[108]19931
MojoUnited KingdomMojo's 100 Greatest Albums of All Time[109]19951
The GuardianUnited Kingdom100 Best Albums Ever[110]19976
Channel 4United KingdomThe 100 Greatest Albums[111]199733
Grammy AwardsUnited StatesGrammy Hall of Fame Award[112]1998*
VirginUnited KingdomThe Virgin Top 100 Albums[113]200018
VH1United KingdomVH1's Greatest Albums Ever[114]20013
BBCUnited KingdomBBC 6 Music: Best Albums of All Time[115]200211
Rolling StoneUnited StatesThe 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[116]20032
Jim DeRogatisUnited StatesOne Hundred and Ninety Eight Albums You Can't Live Without[117]20032
Robert DimeryUnited States1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[118]2006*
Time MagazineUnited StatesThe All-TIME 100 Albums[119]2006*
QUnited KingdomQ Magazine's 100 Greatest Albums Ever[120]200612
The ObserverUnited KingdomThe 50 Albums That Changed Music[121]200610

(*) denotes an unordered list


In 1990, Pet Sounds was released in mono CD format with three bonus tracks: "Unreleased Backgrounds"[nb 15], "Hang On to Your Ego" and "Trombone Dixie" all of which were described as unreleased.[122]

In 1997, The Pet Sounds Sessions box set was released. It included the original mono release, the first stereo release and three discs of outtakes and rehearsals.[123] The stereo mix was released in 1999 on vinyl and on CD. The current CD release has the original mono version, followed by "Hang On to Your Ego" as a bonus track, and the album remixed in stereo.[123]

Recordings from Brian Wilson's 2002 concert tour, in which he played the whole album live on stage, were released as Pet Sounds Live.[124]

On August 29, 2006, Capitol released the 40th Anniversary edition. The new compilation contains a new 2006 remaster of the original mono mix, DVD mixes (stereo and Surround Sound), and a "making of" documentary.[69] The discs were released in a regular jewel box and a deluxe edition was released in a green fuzzy box. A two disk colored gatefold vinyl set was released with green (stereo) and yellow (mono) disks.

On September 2, 2008, Capitol reissued a single LP version replicating the original artwork and the inner sleeve with the original mono mix on 180 gram vinyl.[125]

Track listing[edit]

Pet Sounds has had many different re-issues since its release in 1966, including remastered mono and stereo versions. The first release of the album on CD came in 1990, when it was released with the addition of three bonus tracks. In 2001, Pet Sounds was re-released with "Hang on to Your Ego" as a bonus track.[123][126]

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson/Tony Asher except where noted. 

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Wouldn't It Be Nice" (B. Wilson/Asher/Love)B. Wilson and Love2:25
2."You Still Believe in Me"  B. Wilson2:31
3."That's Not Me"  Love with B. Wilson2:28
4."Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)"  B. Wilson2:53
5."I'm Waiting for the Day" (B. Wilson/Love)B. Wilson3:05
6."Let's Go Away for Awhile" (B. Wilson)instrumental2:18
7."Sloop John B" (trad. arr. B. Wilson/Jardine)B. Wilson and Love2:58
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."God Only Knows"  C. Wilson2:51
2."I Know There's an Answer" (B. Wilson/Sachen/Love)Love and Jardine with B. Wilson3:09
3."Here Today"  Love2:54
4."I Just Wasn't Made for These Times"  B. Wilson3:12
5."Pet Sounds" (B. Wilson)instrumental2:22
6."Caroline, No"  B. Wilson2:51


The majority of the groups, session musicians and engineers information has derived largely from musician union contracts, web sources and books stating information about the record. This means that some of the information isn't certain or accurate. Furthermore, while contracts contain the session date, song title and hours booked, none was required to be precisely accurate. The date on the contracts were often changed to comply with union requirements.

According to Russ Waspensky,[127] Laura Tunbridge[3] and Brad Elliott,[16] except as noted.

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians and production staff

(*) denotes uncertainty where or if the musician plays the instrument on the album.

Sales chart positions[edit]

1966US Billboard 200 Albums Chart10
1966UK Top 40 Album Chart2
1972US Billboard 200 Albums Chart50
1990US Billboard 200 Albums Chart162
2001Top Internet Albums24
US Singles
1966"Caroline, No"US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart32
1966"God Only Knows"US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart39
1966"Sloop John B"US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart3
1966"Wouldn't It Be Nice"US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart8
UK Singles
1966"God Only Knows"UK Top 40 Single Chart2
1966"Sloop John B"UK Top 40 Single Chart2

Chart information courtesy of Allmusic and other music databases.[4][131]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Originally entitled "Run James, Run", the suggestion being that it would be offered for use in a James Bond movie).[10]
  2. ^ Wilson can be heard talking about it in a session outtake included on The Pet Sounds Sessions boxed set).
  3. ^ Sessions begun on July 12, 1965 (1965-07-12) with "Sloop John B". After finishing the rushed Party! album, Wilson returned to the studio sporadically throughout November and December to finish "Sloop John B", and to begin work on "You Still Believe In Me". Fervent sessions devoted to the now-entitled Pet Sounds album were kicked off in January 1966, when Wilson began work on the instrumental tracks to "Let's Go Away for Awhile", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", and "Caroline, No".[12]
  4. ^ Gold Star Studios, United Western Recorders, Sunset Sound Recorders, and CBS Columbia Square.
  5. ^ Arrangements were usually written in a shorthand form for the other players by one of his session musicians.[10]
  6. ^ This was done at Columbia, because it was the only facility in LA with an 8-track
  7. ^ The five-piece group was by then being regularly augmented by singer Bruce Johnston, who later became a permanent member
  8. ^ Tom Petty stated "I think I would put him up there with any composer – especially Pet Sounds. I don't think there is anything better than that, necessarily. I don't think you'd be out of line comparing him to Beethoven – to any composer."[68]
  9. ^ Elton John has said of the album, "For me to say that I was enthralled would be an understatement. I had never heard such magical sounds, so amazingly recorded. It undoubtedly changed the way that I, and countless others, approached recording. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius and beauty."[69][70]
  10. ^ Elvis Costello stated "I heard 'Don't Talk (Put Your Head on my Shoulder)' played on the cello. It sounded beautiful and sad, just as it does on Pet Sounds."[71]
  11. ^ Roger Waters stated that along with Sgt. Pepper, Pet Sounds "completely changed everything about records for me."[72]
  12. ^ Eric Clapton stated that "All of us, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and I consider Pet Sounds to be one of the greatest pop LPs to ever be released. It encompasses everything that's ever knocked me out and rolled it all into one."[73]
  13. ^ Pete Townshend of The Who stated "'God Only Knows' is simple and elegant and was stunning when it first appeared; it still sounds perfect".[74] In May 1966, Bruce Johnston flew to London with copies of Pet Sounds and recalls Keith Moon loving the album.[54] Keith later stated "Pet Sounds was too far removed from the style he loved".[75]
  14. ^ Beatles producer George Martin stated that "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."[63][76][77]
  15. ^ An a cappela demo section of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" sung by Brian Wilson.


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Further reading[edit]