The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album originally was released on May 16, 1966, as Capitol album T 2458. It entered the Billboard "Top LPs" chart on May 28, 1966, was on the chart for 39 weeks, and peaked at #10 on July 2, 1966.
All tracks produced and arranged by Brian Wilson.
Tracks 1-13 are presented in their original mono mixes. Track 14 (Hang On To Your Ego) is mono, mixed from the original four-track master tape. Tracks 15-27 are stereo, remixed from the original three-track, four-track and eight-track master tapes.
Wouldn't It Be Nice expresses "the need to have the freedom to live with somebody," according to Brian. "The idea is, the more we talk about it, the more we want it, but let's talk about it anyway." The song is "one of the few" for which Tony Asher wrote the lyric by himself. "I took the tape home and came back a day or two later with the lyric completed," he recalled. Mike Love's writing credit is for the "Good night, my baby / Sleep tight, my baby" lines in the song's fade.
The backing vocals on the song were especially problematic for the group during recording. "We re-recorded our vocals so many times, [but] the rhythm was never right," recounted Bruce. "We would slave at Western for a few days, singing this thing, and [Brian would say], 'No, it's not right, it's not right.' One time, he had a 4-track Scully [tape recorder] sent to his home, but that didn't really work out."
The track for what eventually became You Still Believe In Me was recorded with the title In My Childhood, which explains the bicycle bell and horn heard on the track. When Tony Asher began his collaboration with Brian, the track for In My Childhood was one of the first things Brian played for him. Brian had discarded the melody and lyrics that had been written for the song, then used the chord changes heard in the track for a new melody, to which Asher wrote the lyrics for You Still Believe in Me. The backing track retained the bell and horn sounds because, as Asher explained, "It had already been combined with the rest of the track and couldn't be removed or even de-emphasized."
The introduction to the track was recorded by Brian and Asher several months after the rest of the track. "We were trying to do something that would sound sort of, I guess, like a harpsichord but a little more ethereal than that," Asher recalled. "I am plucking the strings by leaning inside the piano and Brian is holding down the notes on the keyboard so they will ring when I pluck them. I plucked the strings with paper clips, hairpins, bobby pins and several others things until Brian got the sound he wanted."
"I think That's Not Me reveals a lot about myself," Brian said in 1976. "Just the idea that you're going to look at yourself and say, 'Hey, now look, that's not me,' kind of square off with yourself and say, 'This is me, that's not me.'"
That's Not Me is the only song on Pet Sounds on which The Beach Boys played the basic track. Brian filled out the sparse track (only drums, organ, guitar and tambourine) with overdubs from several of his usual crew of session players.
Interestingly, That's Not Me is the only song on Pet Sounds that does not feature strings, horns or woodwinds.
Don't Talk is one of two Brian Wilson solo recordings on Pet Sounds (the other is Caroline, No). Brian sings the lead vocal by himself, and there are no backing vocals.
Writing the song proved challenging, Tony Asher recalled. "It's an interesting notion to sit down and try and write a lyric about not talking. That came out of one of those conversations where [Brian and I] were talking about dating experiences... I think at some point we were talking about how wonderful non-verbal communication can be between people."
One of the defining moments of the track for Don't Talk is the point at about 1:50 into the song where the bass line simulates the beating of a heart after Brian implores, "Listen, listen, listen."
I'm Waiting For The Day originally was copyrighted on Feb. 1, 1964, with only slightly different lyrics. Late in the sessions for Pet Sounds, apparently in need of another song, Brian reached back for this previously-unrecorded song.
Brian has indicated that I'm Waiting For The Day is "the one cut off the album I didn't really like that much... It's not a case of liking or not liking it; it was an appropriate song, a very, very positive song. I just didn't like my voice on that particular song."
Originally recorded with the designation Untitled Ballad, this song apparently had several tentative titles before Brian settled on Let's Go Away For Awhile. A Feb. 23, 1966 Capitol memo lists the song by the title The Old Man And The Baby. And Tony Asher recalled Brian having an acetate disc of the track bearing another title.
"There was an album out called How to Speak Hip ... a lampooning of the language instruction albums," Asher explained. "I played it for Brian, and it destroyed him, killed him. Brian picked up a couple of references on the album. One of them was this hip character that said if everyone were 'laid back and cool, then we'd have world peace.' So Brian started going around saying, 'Hey, would somebody get me a candy bar, and then we'll have world peace.'" Asher said Brian "even made an acetate disc with a label on it with the title. He talked about calling Let's Go Away For Awhile 'And Then We'll Have World Peace.'"
The track is very special to Brian. In 1967, he stated, "I think that the track Let's Go Away For Awhile is the most satisfying piece of music I have ever made. I applied a certain set of dynamics through the arrangement and the mixing and got a full musical extension of what I'd planned during the earliest stages of the theme. The total effect is ... 'let's go away for awhile,' which is something everyone in the world must have said at some time or another. Most of us don't go away, but it's still a nice thought. The track was supposed to be the backing for a vocal, but I decided to leave it alone. It stands up well alone."
Despite Brian's claim that the track was supposed to be the backing for a vocal, there is no evidence that lyrics were ever written for it. Asher recalls that he and Brian talked about writing lyrics for the song, but never did.
Alan Jardine's love of the Kingston Trio's version of this early 20th century West Indies tune led him to suggest to Brian that the group cover it. And the group's first vocal attempts were very true to the original folk version, featuring more Caribbean dialect in the lyrics than heard in the released version.
Sloop John B is unique among the tracks on Pet Sounds in that it was cut on three-track tape, then bounced two more generations on four-track tape to open up a sufficient number of tracks for vocals and overdubs. Every other track on Pet Sounds was cut originally on four-track tape, then bounced only once, to either another four-track or to an eight-track tape.
Guitarist Billy Strange was brought back into the studio by Brian for an overdub more than five months after participating in the original tracking session. "I had just gotten a divorce," he explained, "and I had my son one day a month. I had gone to pick up my son, and [Brian] tracked me down at my ex-wife's house in the Hollywood Hills. He said, 'You gotta come down to Western 3 right now and see if there's something you can do on it.' I said, 'I have my son, and I don't have a guitar.' He said, 'Don't worry about it.' So we went there, and he played it for me. He said, 'What I need is an electric 12-string guitar solo right here.' I said, 'Brian, I don't even own an electric 12-string.'
"So he called Glen Wallichs at home, the owner of Wallichs Music City. They got a Fender 12-string and a Fender Twin amplifier, brought it the studio. I tuned it up. I made one pass at this thing, it was either eight or 16 bars, and Brian was happy with it. He said, 'That's it.' He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills and gave me $500 and said, 'Don't forget to take your guitar and amplifier.'"
Even during the writing of the song, Brian and Tony Asher knew God Only Knows was going to be something special. "I really thought it was going to be everything it was," recalled Asher, "and yet we were taking some real chances with it. First of all, the lyric opens by saying, 'I may not always love you,' which is a very unusual way to start a love song."
"We did have this concern about using the word 'God' in the lyric at that time," Asher admitted. "It was a relatively controversial thing. And I think we would have given it up if we could have come up with absolutely anything else that would have satisfied us. In the end, I think it remained simply because we just couldn't come up with anything better."
For many listeners, the most distinctive aspect of the track is the French horn. "Brian came up to me and sang me the line," remembered horn player Alan Robinson. "He seemed to come up with it on the spot... Absolutely a wonderful line, and I played it. Then, he suggested that I play it glissando [gliding rapidly through the tones]. You can do a sweep on the French horn and get all the harmonic notes in between, maybe eight or nine tones between the five notes."
During the recording of the track, Brian had trouble getting the bridge to sound right. Pianist Don Randi suggested that it be played staccato, which produced the effect that Brian wanted.
When it came time to lay down a lead vocal, Brian tapped younger brother Carl to do the honors. "I thought I was gonna do it ... but when we completed creating the song, I said my brother Carl will probably be able to impart the message better than I could... I was looking for a tenderness and a sweetness which I knew Carl had in himself as well as in his voice."
The final defining moment for the song was the creation of the ending vocal round. "At one point," Bruce Johnston recalled, "he had all The Beach Boys, Terry Melcher and two of the Rovell sisters [Brian's wife, Marilyn, and her sister Diane] on it. It just got so overloaded, it was nuts. So he was smart enough to peel it all back, and he held voices back to the bridge, me at the top end, Carl in the middle and Brian on the bottom... He was right to peel everybody back and wind up with the three parts."
But, ultimately, there were only two voices heard in the round. "At the end of the session, Carl was really tired, and he went home," Bruce continued. "There were just the two of us. So, in the fade, [Brian]'s singing two of the three parts. He sang the top and the bottom part, and I sang the middle."
I Know There's An Answer began life as Hang On To Your Ego, a song with the same verses, but a different chorus. A version of Ego with Brian's guide vocal and no backing vocals is included as a bonus track on this album.
The original lyrics created quite a stir within the group. "I was aware that Brian was beginning to experiment with LSD and other psychedelics," explained Mike. "The prevailing drug jargon at the time had it that doses of LSD would shatter your ego, as if that were a positive thing... I wasn't interested in taking acid or getting rid of my ego."
Alan recalled that the decision to change the lyrics was ultimately Brian's. "Brian was very concerned. He wanted to know what we thought about it. To be honest, I don't think we even knew what an ego was... Finally Brian decided, 'Forget it. I'm changing the lyrics. There's too much controversy.'"
Terry Sachen, who co-wrote the lyrics to this song, was the Beach Boys' road manager in 1966.
Here Today was the last song started for the Pet Sounds album. When the instrumental track was recorded March 11, it was logged as I Don't Have A Title Yet, likely a reflection of some of the confusion surrounding its writing.
"That's a song that has a number of little sections to it that are quite different," explained Tony Asher. "It was not one of the easier songs to write on the album. It was, as I recall, a song that I wrote quite a lot to, much of which we didn't use. It was sort of a struggle before we got a lyric that Brian was happy with."
Among knowledgeable fans, Here Today probably is most discussed for the talking that can be heard at various points in the background. During the instrumental bridge, there is a conversation between Bruce Johnston and a photographer about cameras. Then, Brian says, "Top, please," which was an instruction to the engineer to rewind the tape to the beginning of the song so the group could attempt another take of the vocals.
According to Brian, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times reflects his life and his feeling that he doesn't fit in with society. For Tony Asher, that presented a problem.
"In many of the other songs, when Brian would express a feeling, I would say, 'Oh, yes, I've had those feelings,'" Asher explained, "maybe not in the same way or the same degree, but I understood them. But this one I didn't relate to. It was more trying to interpret what he was feeling than having this joint feeling in our various ways."
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times features Brian's first experimentation with a theremin, probably the very first time it had been used on a rock record. "I was so scared of Theremins when I was a kid," admitted Brian, "the thing about the '40s mystery movies where they had those kind of witchy sounds. I don't know how I ever arrived at the place where I'd want to get one -- but we got it." Dr. Paul Tanner played the theremin on both I Just Wasn't Made For These Times and the single that followed Pet Sounds, Good Vibrations, on which Brian continued his experimentation with the instrument.
Dennis originally was slated to sing I Just Wasn't Made For These Times, but when the lead vocal finally was put on tape, it was Brian doing the singing. Perhaps not coincidentally, the lead vocal session for I Just Wasn't Made For These Times was the last documented session for the Pet Sounds album -- April 13 at Columbia Studios.
Pet Sounds began life under the title Run James Run, although that was never considered a firm title. The session sheet for the recording date carries the notation, "This is a working title only."
"It was supposed to be a James Bond theme type of song," explained Brian. "We were gonna try to get it to the James Bond people. But we thought it would never happen, so we put it on the album."
The unique percussion sound heard on the track is drummer Ritchie Frost playing two empty Coca-Cola cans, at Brian's suggestion.
Brian has called Caroline No "one of the prettiest, most personal songs" he's ever written. "Caroline No concerned growing up and the loss of innocence," he explained. "I'd reminisced to Tony [Asher] about my high school crush on [blonde cheerleader] Carol Mountain and sighed, 'If I saw her today, I'd probably think, God, she's lost something, because growing up does that to people.' But the song was most influenced by the changes Marilyn and I had gone through. We were young, Marilyn nearing 20 and me closing in on 24, yet I thought we'd lost the innocence of our youth in the heavy seriousness of our lives. [Tony] took a tape home, embellished on my concept, and completed the words."
For Asher, the song encapsulated "Brian's wish that he could go back to simpler days, his wish that the group could return to the days when the whole thing was a lot of fun and very little pressure."
Of course, the question most asked is: who was Caroline? "Actually, I had recently broken up with my high school sweetheart who was a dancer and had moved to New York to make the big time on Broadway," admitted Asher. "When I went east to visit her a scant year after the move, she had changed radically. Yes, she had cut her hair. But she was a far more worldly person, not all for the worse. Anyway, her name was Carol. And when I sang the lyric for the first time to Brian, I was singing 'oh, Carol, I know.' Brian, understandably, heard it as 'Caroline, No.' which struck me as a far more interesting line than the one I originally had in mind."
During the recording of the track, Hal Blaine played an empty, upside-down Sparkletts water bottle, producing the unique percussive effect that opens the track. On hand for the session was Brian's father, Murry. "I continued to solicit his opinion," Brian explained. "He praised the song, but suggested that I change the key from C to D. The engineer put a wrap around the recording head, a technique which sped up the playback, and the two of us listened again. My dad was right, and I took his advice."
Caroline, No was issued as a single under Brian's name, the only time his name appeared on a record as a solo artist during the group's years with Capitol Records. The song features only Brian's voice -- he sings the entire lead vocal (doubled) and there are no background vocals. The track was released as a Brian Wilson single at Brian's urging. Capitol knew Brian was the sole singer on the record and that no other Beach Boys had participated, so they were agreeable. Unfortunately, Brian's name was far from a household word, and since there was no substantive promotional campaign to accompany the 45, it met with mixed response and ran out of steam at #32.
The trailer with the barking dogs and passing train was not part of the single and was added specifically to close the album. The dogs were his pets, Banana and Louie, recorded at Western Recorders on March 22, 1966. "I took a tape recorder and I recorded their barks," Brian remembered. "And we went through some sound effects tapes and we found a train. So we just put it together."
Hang On To Your Ego was recorded with the working title of Let Go Of Your Ego, but when lyrics were written, the sentiment of the song was turned around.
"The thing about ego," explained Mike Love, "was you take acid and you get rid of your ego."
When a dispute developed within the group over the lyrics, Brian opted to have the chorus rewritten. The reworked version, I Know There's An Answer, was included on the Pet Sounds album.
This version of Ego features only Brian's guide vocal, with no backing vocals.
Until recently, the insurmountable difficulty in preparing a stereo mix of the Pet Sounds album lay in the fact that the individual instrumental and vocal tracks for each song existed on separate tapes. With the advent of digital recording technology, however, the problem has been overcome.
In 1966, Brian recorded his instrumental tracks on four-track tape. The instrumentation was spread out across the tracks so that Brian would have at least some degree of control over the mix when he created a final, mono instrumental track. The goal was never to facilitate the creation of a stereo track.
Once Brian had completed recording of the instrumental track, he would mix the tracks down to mono on a single track of another tape -- either a four-track tape (at Western Studios), leaving three tracks open for vocals, or an eight-track tape (at Columbia Studios), allowing him the luxury of up to seven tracks for vocals.
When vocal sessions were complete, the end result for any given song would be (1) a four-track tape that contained the instrumental track, and (2) either a four-track or an eight-track tape that contained the instrumental track mixed to mono on one track, with the vocals spread over the remaining three or seven tracks.
Therefore, the only way to create a true stereo mix, with a stereo instrumental track and stereo vocals, was to sync the vocal overdubs to the original instrumental master tracks. In 1996, engineer Mark Linett did just that for entire Pet Sounds album. "The original instrumental multi-track was transferred onto a digital multi-track," he explained, "and then, after carefully matching the tape speeds of the track and vocal tapes, the vocals were manually synchronized to the track using the [mono instrumental] track on the vocal tape as a guide. The result was a single multi-track master tape of each song with all the discrete tracks that Brian recorded in 1966 in sync."
Once the digital multi-tracks were prepared, Pet Sounds could be mixed into stereo.
"In mixing Pet Sounds in stereo," Linett wrote in the technical notes for the Pet Sounds Sessions boxed set, "every attempt was made to duplicate the feel and sound of the original mono mixes. Vocal and instrumental parts that Brian left off the record in 1966 were noted and duplicated, as were the fades. The one exception was the talking that can be heard under some parts of the original album. Even though this talking is now regarded by some to be part of the album, after consulting with Brian, it was decided to leave the background chatter out of the stereo mix."
Nevertheless, despite all of the effort that went into creating the stereo mixes, there are instances where the stereo mix of a song differs significantly from the mono mix. Most notably, the bridge section of Wouldn't It Be Nice is sung by Brian in the stereo mix, while on the original mono mix, it is sung by Mike.
The bridge originally was sung by Mike during the sessions for the song, and a mixdown was made of the song that included Mike's bridge vocal. But at some later point, Brian decided he was unhappy with Mike's vocal for the bridge and re-recorded it himself, in the process erasing Mike's vocals from the vocal multi-track tape. Then, after mixing down a version with his vocal in the bridge, he decided that he liked Mike's vocal better after all. He literally cut the bridge (with Mike's vocal) from the earlier mono mixdown and spliced it into the finished mono mix in place of his. However, that meant, when it came time for Linett to create a stereo mix three decades later, all that survived on the vocal multi-track was Brian's vocal for the section.
Whereas the mono mix of You Still Believe in Me features a double-tracked lead vocal from Brian, the stereo mix contains only a single lead vocal. "The only major piece that we didn't find," Linett reported, "was the doubled vocal for You Still Believe in Me. That's probably a missing tape."
In the mono mix of God Only Knows, the ending vocal round has Brian doing two vocals and Bruce Johnston doing the third. In the stereo mix of God Only Knows, the ending vocal round has one of Brian's two vocals replaced by Carl.
During the 1966 vocal session for the round, Carl had become tired and left. Brian then sang Carl's part in the round, as well as his own. At the end of the session, Brian did a mixdown of that version. At a later date, Carl recorded his part, simultaneously erasing Brian's vocal on it. Ultimately, however, Brian decided to use the mixdown he'd done featuring only himself (twice) and Bruce on the ending round. Thirty years later, when Linett went to mix the song for stereo, he was forced to use Carl's previously-unused vocal for the round instead of Brian's more familiar vocal on the part.
The audible chatter heard in the mono mix of Here Today has been left out of the stereo mix.
Track notes by Brad Elliott. Used by permission of the author.
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