Today in 1966, The Beach Boys released the album Pet Sounds in North America. The album is now regarded as the masterpiece of composer-producer Brian Wilson. In 2003, it was ranked No.2 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, (The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s came first).
In June the album will receive a 50th anniversary deluxe reissue. The remastered album will be released in both stereo and mono forms alongside studio sessions outtakes, alternate mixes and unreleased live recordings from the era. Two-disc “deluxe editions” will feature the album in stereo and mono with highlights from the collectors edition’s additional tracks. Pet Sounds will also be reissued on vinyl in mono and stereo, with the album’s original artwork faithfully replicated.
3 Things You Didn’t Know About Pet Sounds
1. “God Only Knows” was written in under an hour. The track has become one of the most beloved in the band’s canon, famously praised by Paul McCartney as the greatest song ever written. Its legendary status is even more remarkable considering that it came together in less than an hour. According to a 2015 Guardian interview, Wilson claims that he and Tony Asher composed the song in just 45 minutes. “We didn’t spend a lot of time writing it,” confirms Asher. “It came pretty quickly. And Brian spent a lot of time working on what ended up being the instrumental parts of that song. But the part that has lyrics really was one of those things that just kinda came out as a whole.”
Author Jim Fusilli theorized that the song’s title was born out of a love letter Wilson wrote to his wife Marilyn in 1964, signing off with “Yours until God wants us apart.” Whatever the true genesis, this reference to God created a dilemma for the two collaborators. “We had lengthy conversations during the writing of ‘God Only Knows,'” remembers Asher. “Because unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America,’ no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a song. No one had done it, and Brian didn’t want to be the first person to try it. He said, ‘We’ll just never get any airplay.'” Though a handful of Southern radio stations banned the song for blasphemy, it was warmly received nearly everywhere else.
2. “Pet Sounds” was written as a potential James Bond theme. The record’s bossa nova-flavored title track began life as an instrumental called “Run James Run.” The James in question is 007 himself. Perhaps inspired by the 15-second James Bond-esque theme that opens the American version of the Beatles’ 1965 Help! soundtrack, Wilson apparently decided to take a stab at a full track. “It was supposed to be a James Bond-theme type of song,” Wilson revealed in 1996. “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 cinematic orchestration hints that Brian Wilson could have had a strong future in film scoring.
3. Session musicians used Coke cans, water bottles and orange juice jugs for percussion. The arrangements on Pet Sounds boast a dazzling array of percussion previously unseen in the rock-music arena. Sleigh bells, timpani, güiro, vibraphone, bongos and other exotic instruments all add color to the album, but certain sounds aren’t instruments at all. In order to create the music in his head, Wilson improvised a number of percussive instruments from whatever he had on hand. For the Latin-tinged “Pet Sounds” track, he encouraged drummer Ritchie Frost to tap two empty Coke cans for a distinctive percussive beat.
Drumming legend Hal Blaine, unofficial chief of the crack team of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, had something special up his sleeve for the clip-clop rhythm that kept “God Only Knows” galloping forward. “We used to drink orange juice out of the vending machines,” he explained. “I took three of these small six- or eight-ounce plastic orange-drink bottles, and I cut them down to three different sizes in length. And I taped ’em together, and I used a little vibraphone mallet. Brian loved that kind of stuff.” Session man Jim Gordon (later of Derek and the Dominos) actually played the OJ bottles, but Hal pulled off a similar trick on the introduction for “Caroline, No,” playing upturned Sparkletts water jugs like bongos.
See a full list of facts about the album at Rolling Stone.