Since Brian Wilson’s tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds passed through town last night, this seems like a good time to talk a little about the Beach Boys.

Like The Beatles, the Beach Boys came from a teenybopper background but aspired to turn pop music into high art. After hearing The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson set out to top it by creating “the greatest rock album ever made.” The result was Pet Sounds, which was released May 16, 1966, as The Beatles were working on Revolver.

Pet Sounds is sometimes called the first concept album, but the “concept” seems to have been mostly just to make an album without filler — a worthy goal, but hardly a revolutionary breakthrough. It’s also credited with being a major influence on The Beatles’ subsequent work, with some calling Sgt. Pepper a “response” to Pet Sounds.

Well, maybe. Certainly The Beatles were aware of the Beach Boys, and certainly Pet Sounds raised the bar in terms of a certain type of musical and technical sophistication. It seems likely that the Beach Boys were more of an influence on Paul — who called “God Only Knows” “the greatest song ever written” — than on John or George.

Can we then blame the syrupy sweetness of “When I’m 64” and “She’s Leaving Home” on Brian Wilson? Possibly, but let’s try to stay positive. Wilson seems to — though clearly the worse for wear, he made a game effort onstage, and he and his band produced quite credible versions of the Beach Boys’ classics.

Given all he’s been through, it’s a miracle he was there at all. Tip of the hat to a survivor, a man who’s devoted his life to music and carried on through grave difficulties. Wikipedia says that Wilson is planning a new album with the wonderful title Sensitive Music for Sensitive People — I hope we get to hear it.

0 0 votes
Article Rating