Powerful Innovation, Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary
Powerful Innovation – Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary
The days of love ballads and surfing songs were drawing to a close in the mind of Brian Wilson, the brilliant leader of the Beach Boys. His relentless pursuit of the next big hit kept him focused from sunrise to sunset for years. The sounds in his head bounced around relentlessly until he discovered the most efficient way transmit them to the public. His methodology, in most cases, was progressive and far ahead of his time. The finished songs that made it on the album “Pet Sounds” were a testament to his pursuit of perfection and sonic innovation.
The Beach Boys had reputation of setting the wheels of the California Sound in motion. They were recognized more for their pop songs about surf, sun, girls and cars in the early part of their career. They achieved great success with these catchy tunes and excellent harmonies. They were an inspiration to many bands of thier era. Brian Wilson had a different vision. From an early age he desired recognition and respect from his predecessors in the music industry. Just before the making of Pet Sounds he made the decision to stay at home while the rest of the group went on tour. This would be a major turning point in the creation of many popular songs by the band.
Brian Wilson was heavily influenced by the work of Phil Spector. He was also driven by his competitive nature and fueled by the rising success of The Beatles. He wanted the album Pet Sounds to carry a more mature lyrical message and maintain a developing storyline from start to finish. He used various acoustic instruments, orchestral instruments, accomplished session musicians, complex arrangements, and specific effects to set the vibe for the album. The session musicians often used were those frequently used by Phil Spector himself. Brian Wilson used instruments that were non-traditional to popular music of that time such as the Theremin.
After a closely listening to Pet Sounds both in mono and stereo, I’m amazed at the creative ingenuity that existed in Brain Wilson’s head. The recording of found sounds in the natural environment, at whatever the cost, is really inspiring. I can’t imagine stringing out extension chords from the houses of neighbors to record a single sound on tape. We are so fortunate to have a massive selection digital and analog tools for recording and editing at our disposal. He is an inspiration to sound designers and producers everywhere. One key takeaway is that he had the passion and motivation to do whatever it took to transfer those ideas into physical reality. Keep experimenting.