It’s already Pet Sounds anniversary month, so here is what I wrote almost twenty years ago, for the 30th anniversary
Happy 30th Birthday, Pet Sounds! You’re just over eighteen months older than me, and I’ve only known you for about six years, but you’ve been an important part of my life ever since then.
You do not talk about politics or religion, nor do you claim to have the solutions to the problems of the world. You don’t discuss the evils of society or tackle the dishonesty of the “establishment.” Instead, you tackle the issues closest to every person’s heart: love, the need for acceptance, self-doubt and the passing of time. You talk to every person; some choose not to listen but that’s their loss…
You do not announce yourself in an orgy of guitar noise or the metallic thudding of drums. Instead you come across gently in sensitive musical arrangements that transcend any artificial categories of rock or classical or whatever, and in vocal arrangements so heavenly that you forget the cares of this world.
You begin with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” an ideal of romantic love but also a longing for things that cannot be. Then there is “You Still Believe In Me,” a homage to trust but also an acknowledgment of human imperfection. Yet those vocals surging back at the end have to be divine. Then “That’s Not Me,” a person stuck in the rat race realising that love and acceptance is worth more than money and fame and a tune that will stay in your mind forever.
“Don’t’ Talk,” just listen. The most personal, heartfelt love song ever made. A moment of perfection caught forever. “I’m Waiting For The Day,” the astonishing changes of time, the achingly beautiful vocals, the anguish of expectation. “Let’s Go Away For Awhile,” the music says it all, maybe it says different things to different people, but for me it’s the contrast between dreams and reality and the hope that the two may some day become one.
“Sloop John B,” maybe it doesn’t belong on you, but on a day like this who’s quibbling? The a capella break is another moment of pure bliss. “God Only Knows,” acknowledging, maybe even calling on a Higher Power and sung in such tones that you almost have to believe on this evidence alone that there is more to man than a random collection of atoms. “I Know There’s An Answer,” bringing us back to earth and acknowledging mental isolation and the frailties of human relationships.
Love is “Here Today” and gone tomorrow. Again, doubt and disillusionment. “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.” No, Brian, you were not made for a cynical and cheap world, you were just too far ahead. The ghostly wail of the theremin, the ominous percussive effects, a sign that the road ahead for the creator of this music was not going to be easy. “Pet Sounds”, another wordless picture, maybe another escape from reality into the trance of this intoxicating rhthym.
And then you end with “Caroline, No.” A simple word picture, a tune that goes beyond a simple melody into uncharted waters. The loss of innocence, ostensibly of a girl, but surely also of a world that still hasn’t fully accepted the masterpiece that you are. And finally, the train going off into the distance, going on to a place unknown because the world has changed forever, while the witless dogs bark because they don’t really understand what is happening and they don’t know any better.
Thank you, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston, for your heavenly singing. Thank you to all the musicians who played with so much commitment on this album, not always knowing how things would end up. Thank you to the Beatles for being no doubt an inspiration to the creation of this album and for inspiring me personally to listen to it. An important thank you to Tony Asher for expressing the feelings of all of us so eloquently.
But the big thank you goes to Brian Wilson, the creator of the music and whose life must have been an inspiration of the mood of the album. Your generosity in sharing so much of your life with us, when it hasn’t always been easy, is something I cannot express in words. You have created what will be one of the defining artifacts of human art and creativity. I wish you tranquillity and joy on this special day.
Happy 30th birthday, Pet Sounds! I know you’ll have many, many more!