The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys elevated pop music to new artistic heights with the band’s 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds. With its ingenious orchestrations and earnest lyrics, the album remains an enormous influence to this day. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Jim and Greg present a Classic Album Dissection of Pet Sounds.

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Stairway to Heaven is one of the most well-known songs in the history of rock and roll. The 8-minute track is perhaps Led Zeppelin’s most iconic number, featuring an opening guitar riff that is legendary in its own right. However, people are now speculating that the band plagiarized the riff. The ‘60s-era rock group Spirit released a song with a suspiciously similar intro called Taurus in 1968, three years before Stairway. The late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe (otherwise known as Randy California) wrote the song, and two years ago his estate filed an initial federal lawsuit alleging that Zep had ripped him off. In April, a U.S. District Judge ruled that there is sufficient evidence to move forward with the trial later this spring. To get some perspective on the case, Jim and Greg talk with Jeffrey Brown, an intellectual property attorney at Michael Best & Friedrich and former concert promoter and producer.

Pet Sounds

Pet Sounds (Mono Version)

On May 16, 1966, The Beach Boys released their 11th studio album, Pet Sounds. It was a relative commercial failure for what was the biggest American band of the ‘60s. However in the ensuing 50 years, the album’s stature grew. Today, its influence pervades to the point that it is almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest albums ever released in the rock era. With Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson taking the album on tour again this summer, Jim and Greg feel it’s the perfect time to give Pet Sounds a Classic Album Dissection.

Due to a great deal of pressure, emotional turmoil, and mental health issues, Brian Wilson quit the Beach Boys as a touring entity at the end of 1964. While the rest of the band was on the road, Wilson spent ten months in the studio crafting one of the most intricate and expensive pop records ever made. Working with the famed session musicians of the Wrecking Crew, Wilson took a classical composer’s approach, layering instrument upon instrument to create lush, unique timbres. He collaborated with Madison Avenue writer Tony Asher on heartbreakingly earnest lyrics about his struggles to find his place in the world. The audience, the label, and his own bandmates didn’t quite know what to make of Pet Sounds when it came out. But artists from The Beatles to R.E.M. to Radiohead picked up on its brilliance and modeled their own music on Wilson’s ingenious arrangements. God only knows what rock would be today without Pet Sounds.

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