A Brand New Love Affair is Such a Beautiful Thing…
To the diehard music fan, there is nothing quite like finding a new record to fall in love with. That rapturous feeling of hearing something new and different: of hearing sounds or arrangements that you’ve never heard before, can be as addictive as a drug. Some records are for a moment and others begin a lifetime love affair with the sounds and textures of one particular artist or concept or performance. And while the “love at first spin” may not happen every day or even every year, sometimes they can surprise you, just as I was surprised by one such album a few weeks ago and as it turns out, it just so happens that this very album is celebrating a half century since its brilliance was unleashed on the masses.
I Had To Prove That I Could Make It Alone Now, But That’s Not Me…
To start the tale, we wind back the clock to Christmas week, 1964. It was then, following an appearance on Shindig, that surf pop rockers The Beach Boys found themselves on a Houston-bound flight during which young singer/songwriter Brian Wilson suffered a panic attack that cemented his decision to cease touring with the band the he and brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine had launched to international stardom in only the previous three years or so. Wilson allowed the Boys to carry on the touring front while he focused intently on songwriting and musical production, an effort that eventually led to the creation of some of the most groundbreaking and innovative music ever seen.
Having delved into the production style of Phil Spector that came to be known as the “Wall of Sound” technique and having been enormously inspired by the new Beatles release Rubber Soul, Wilson set out to create something that emulated both of these influences but that was also personal, deeply introspective and something so different that it would challenge every notion of what even The Beach Boys themselves were musically.
Wilson teamed up with lyricist Tony Asher and the two began fleshing out this new sound to present to the band upon their return from a tour in the earliest days of 1966. That product would soon become the iconic record known to the world as Pet Sounds.
Wilson employed a group of classically trained studio musicians known collectively as “The Wrecking Crew”, a group of top tier artists largely responsible for Spector’s “Wall of Sound” sessions. The young artist took the helm of this crew of legendary musicians and quickly left them all realizing that this young “Beach Boy” was, in fact, composing and arranging some of the most challenging and mature musical material that any of them had ever played.
After months of studio work at a cost that today would equal over half a million dollars, Pet Sounds was first released on May 16, 1966. The 13 tracks (including mega hits Wouldn’t it Be Nice and Sloop John B) presented what many musical historians have called the very first concept album in an evocative passion play that delves deep into the ideals of youth colliding with the realities of adulthood and the inevitable loss of innocence that all maturing people eventually face. Pet Sounds also holds the distinction of being one of the, if not THE first psychedelic record ever made, utilizing bizarre and spacy instrumentation and motifs and occasionally referencing themes of the growing acid culture of the time.
What you are left with at the end of the day is an album that reached the core group of Beach Boys listeners on many levels while expanding and exploring musical possibilities and stylings never before committed to vinyl, wax or acetate. And while it wasn’t a million-seller like their previous offerings, Pet Sounds has grown in its influence considerably in the years following its inaugural release. The Beatles themselves were so impressed with the album (which was the first U.S. made album to knock a British act off of the top of the UK charts for the first time in eight years) that they have repeatedly said that it was the reason they made Sgt. Pepper’s. The album is listed at #2 on Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Albums of All Time” list, second only to the good Sergeant himself.
They Say I’ve Got Brains But They Ain’t Doing Me No Good…
I’ve spent many years delving into the annals of music history exploring all sorts of musical incarnations and have had this particular record recommended to me so many times it’s impossible to even count. Somehow, I just didn’t get around to it until just recently and I can easily say that this is now my favorite record to ever see the light of day.
Through songs like Wouldn’t it Be Nice, you touch that sense of youthful optimism and romantic longing, in songs such as That’s Not Me and I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, you deal with the ideas of isolation and the longing for self identification. Through songs like Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) or God Only Knows, you get romance and sadness, and through Here Today, you live the fleetingness of love and satisfaction. Wilson was not scared to get honest and real about the way he felt about things we all feel and he not only explored those concepts openly, he did so against a complex musical backdrop that was infinitely ahead of its time and is genuinely nothing short of real genius.
There’s a reason that this is one of the most revered records ever made. My only regret is that I haven’t spent my whole life listening to the brilliance that is Brian Wilson and his masterpiece. A part of me thinks that maybe it’s a good thing, though. At this point in my life, I’ve experienced all those varied themes addressed in these songs and can wholeheartedly relate to those feelings. I’ve also grown and developed as a musician and listener enough to realize the magnitude of what this man did with 13 little tracks a half century ago. It goes a long way towards showcasing some of those elements that can make a piece of music truly timeless, and when you deal with such personal and universal emotions as this record does, it leaves me a firm believer that this record and this music CAN NEVER truly go out of style.
Something Is Happening Here…
For this issue’s edition of “Something Is Happening Here” we’re getting a tad out of the box! In keeping with the theme of today’s tale, we have a special concert announcement……. AND WE HAVE A GIVEAWAY!
Wednesday, March 29 – Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds – Saenger Theater, New Orleans
Celebrating 50 years, Brian Wilson took to the road this year joined by fellow founding Beach Boy Al Jardine for what is billed as his last tour of the iconic 1966 release Pet Sounds. The tour was slated to run from March of this year through its scheduled close in Acapulco in early December. HOWEVER, earlier this month it was announced that he is extending the farewell Pet Sounds tour into 2017 which will include a stop at the Crescent City’s famed Saenger Theater on March 29.
Yes… I already have my tickets and I certainly hope to SEE YOU AT THAT SHOW!
AND… IT” S CONTEST TIME! It’s been the better part of a year since I gave away one of those beloved slabs of vinyl and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to do so! Thanks to the good folk at The Round About we have a copy of the Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary vinyl reissue to give away to one of you lucky JMLC fans out there! Just like before, we’ll have a trivia question and we will randomly draw our winner from amongst the correct answers. All entries must include your first and last name and your guess to the trivia question and must be submitted to JMLC@justinmorrisentertainment.com by midnight Thanksgiving Day (11-24-16). We will announce the winner right here in JMLC in our issue hitting stands on December 1.
The question is: While Brian Wilson did use the legendary “Wrecking Crew” to provide his “orchestra” for this record, he brought in some other studio musicians as well, including one artist who as of today has released 70 albums under their own name, netted numerous Grammy awards and charted over 80 times, who is credited with offering guitar and/or banjo tracks to 5 of the 13 tracks on Pet Sounds. Who is this artist?
Just remember to submit your answers to JMLC@justinmorrisentertainment.com by midnight on Thanksgiving for your chance to win a copy of this legendary record! Good luck!
I Know There’s An Answer…
THERE IS! And you have just over one full month to figure it out! Best of luck to everyone who participates! We greatly appreciate you grabbing The Jam every couple of weeks to see what’s going down in Justin Morris’ Lake Charles. Much love to you all!
Get your guesses in and until next time…I’LL SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!