Rock Blog: Brian Wilson Plays 'Pet Sounds'

August 4, 2016

Why a blog about Brian Wilson? He was a Beach Boy, or more specifically, he was THEE Beach Boy. KISW is The Rock of Seattle. The Beach Boys are…well… oldies, Right? 


Well sure, that's one way of looking at it, but I offer a different perspective. 


Back in the late 70s in college, I was coming out of a phase of Prog Rock and Hard Rock (the Who, Sabbath, Tull, Yes), going through a Grateful Dead / Little Feet full-on stoner phase and settling nicely into Punk Rock (The Clash, Ramones, Dead Boys). My roommate was a Beach Boys fanatic. He loved the worst pop music, oldies, assorted cheesy corny Top 40 fare. Lord, did he love the Beach Boys. Sang their praises. He never had a bad thing to say about my music, but of course I pooped all over his dorky pop music. We had nothing in common except that we both wanted to be in radio.


I controlled the stereo in the dorm room. He didn’t bring his albums (yes, vinyl) to school. Tough luck, I win. 


One night, me and a couple friends were getting high. Very high. We used to call it "Seeing God.” Whatever we were listening to at the time, he picked up the needle and fumbled his way into putting the Beach Boys’ "Pet Sounds" on. After a fair amount of passive stoned disagreement, I gave in. 


“Just sit back for 40 minutes and listen to the production, the layers, the instruments. I'm telling you, if you give it a chance, you might like it,” he said.


Here I sit, over 35 years later, and Pet Sounds stands as one of my top five albums -ever. Look at any Top Rock Album lists, and along with Back in Black, Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind and Are You Experienced, you will see Pet Sounds. You'll barely find a guitar, but you will find every other form of instrumentation. 


Pet Sounds is really a Brian Wilson solo album, with an all-star cast of the greatest studio musicians of the day. And if you think for one minute those goofy looking surfer guys were the faces of 60s California innocence, forget it. The Beach Boys saga is truly the great American drug fueled, manipulative dad - manager, family infighting, mental illness, Charles Manson associated, sandbox living psychedelic story. Books and movies have been made about it. Theres a four CD box-set dedicated to just this album alone! It's one man's imagination, complete with music, sound effects, lyrics, fear and innocence, with his band on the sidelines, and his hands on the controls.


But Pet Sounds broke the mold and set a standard. It didn't sell very well, didn't produce the hits that the band was expected to produce, and helped break up the core band. But it did go out of its way to push modern music in a new direction, create the first themed "Rock Opera,” and lives on for 50 years now. The album has inspired more musicians than any other.


I'll be at the Paramount Saturday October 8th seeing Brian Wilson play Pet Sounds in its entirety. You may not want to take that in, but I do recommend you download the album, turn it up loud and listen closely. You might even smoke something. Then consider 1966 and the quality of what was being made, and that this album made Paul McCartney blush.


- Sergeant Hairclub