By now, I think I have bought the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album at least five times. The only time I did not buy it was when it was released in 1966, 40 years ago. You see, I was only eight then and not aware of what was going down at the historic Western Recorders studio in Hollywood, California, the gifted 23 year old Brian Wilson directing the best studio musicians in L.A., most of whom were at least 15-20 years older than him, recording all the music for the record before the rest of the Beach Boys returned from an overseas tour. That record became one of the most famous records of all time, a direct response to the Beatles' Rubber Soul, and a sufficient challenge for the Liverpool quartet that they cranked out another famous record, Sgt. Pepper, as a response. As Sir Paul says himself, "No one is educated musically until they've heard Pet Sounds. . . It is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways."
I wasn't completely unaware of the Beach Boys at eight. I remember an older cousin had some very scratched vinyl LPs of their All Summer Long and Beach Boys Concert recordings. I do remember the energy of those recordings. But I believe my first real appreciation of their music came when I was in high school, in 1972, when I bought their 1970 album, Sunflower. It was love at first listen. I could put that record on and just let it wash over me -- pure aural beauty. I think I realized then that, at least at that point in their life as a band, they were making serious music. I began to buy up the catalog and, in the process, discovered Pet Sounds. My appreciation has grown over the years as I have learned more about music and the recording process. Of course, Capital Records has been only too glad to assist me by continuing to remaster and re-release it over the years.
The latest reissue came this week --a Beach Boys Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary double disc set, limited edition, in a fuzzy green packaging (not sure what's going on there). Of course, I had most of what's offered here -- the original mono recording, the stereo remix,the 5.1 surround sound mix, and, of course, like all true fans I bought the 2000 Box Set Pet Sounds Sessions, which seemed to be the definitive word on/sound of Pet Sounds. But, in addition to hearing a beautiful record again, there are a few things here that we haven't seen or heard before.
First, there's some previously unseen footage from The Making of Pet Sounds promotional video released in 1997. Second, there's a 1966 promotional video set to the music of "Good Vibrations." Is that his first wife Marilyn goofing around with a basketball? The boys are riding a fire engine around Hollywood, basically goofing off a la Hard Day's Night style. Most interesting is just seeing the footage of the neighborhoods there in the Sixties. Finally, and best of all, there's a video of Sir Geroge Martin (producer of most of the Beatles' records) riding down Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, crossing Larrabee Street, in a classic red convertible, with his shock of white hair, driving up Brian Wilson's driveway and sitting down with him at the piano and discussing the songwriting process with a very articulate Brian. Then, the scene ships to Western Recorders, the site of the original recording of Pet Sounds, and George is sitting with Bran at the mix board, segregating each chanel so you can hear each voice or instrument in the song "God Only Knows." Two highlights -- hearing the recording stripped away to just Carl's clear, boyish voice, and also when, hearing the mix, Brian sits back and says to George "You know what? You're making a better mix than I had with the master. You did it! I can't believe this."
I love this record. I think it's pure genius. If you don't have it, this edition is a good place to start. You'll have the best mixes, the best sound, as well as some commentary to assist you in better appreciating its beauty.
How did 23-year old Brian make such a beautiful record? God only knows.