Pet Sounds

ifty years ago, in the spring of 1966, the Beach Boys released their ground-breaking album "Pet Sounds." Brian Wilson, the co-founder and leader of the group, wrote the music and produced the entire album. He was only 23 years old at the time. Wilson directed a group of veteran top studio musicians (affectionally dubbed the "Wrecking Crew") to record the music tracks. The Beach Boys (which included Wilson and his two brothers Dennis and Carl, his cousin Mike Love, and bandmates Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston) provided the vocals.

Brian Wilson (center), flanked by Bruce Johnston (left), and Al Jardine and Dennis Wilson (right), as they record vocal tracks for Pet Sounds.

Pet Sounds is unlike any album you've ever heard. Many consider it one of the best rock albums ever produced. Paul McCartney said it inspired the Beatles to create "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which is considered their best album.

One of the things that makes Pet Sounds so unique is that Wilson used a wide (and sometimes bizarre) assortment of instruments for the album. In addition to orchestral strings and wind sections, Pet Sounds uses bicycle horns, vibraphones, timpani, piano strings, finger cymbals, coke cans, accordions, modified twelve-string mandolins, and water jugs. Wilson even included his dogs on the album: Louie, a dark brown Weimaraner, and Banana, a beagle. Both dogs are recorded barking as a train rolls by at the end of the album. Use the audio controls to play a clip -->

"The Wrecking Crew" — a collection of top Los Angeles-area musicians hired by Brian Wilson for Pet Sounds.

If you click on the individual pieces of sheet music in the collage near the bottom of this page, you'll see the lyrics for the songs appear. Below each set of lyrics are audio control buttons. If you click on the Play button, you'll hear a 30-second clip from the song associated with the sheet music and lyrics.

If you're using a mobile device, such as an iPhone, tablet, or iPad, the audio controls might not work. So I created a custom mobile device music player from a vintage 1966 Ford Mustang car stereo. Just click on the buttons in the stereo below the collage and you'll hear the music samples (Note: it may take a few extra seconds for the audio files to initially load, so please be patient). If you want to stop playing a song before the clip is finished, click anywhere in the gray area directly below the button you originally pushed.

The overlay of the collage below is a sketch of Wilson with his dog, Louie. If you have a pet, try playing the song "Pet Sounds" near the end of the album. Our cat is almost deaf, but she lets out a loud screech each time I play that song. Go figure.


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