Enter Brian Wilson’s Creative Process While Making The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds 50 Years Ago: A Fly-on-the Wall View

Fifty years on, you can read all you want about the Beach Boys’ 1966 mas­ter­piece Pet Sounds (and here’s two books that are great), but to real­ly appre­ci­ate the intri­cate nature of the arrange­ments, you have to turn to the mul­ti-tracks them­selves.

Work­ing with ses­sion play­ers that could pick up the ideas tum­bling from his head (and hur­ried­ly tran­scribe them), Bri­an Wil­son cre­at­ed a son­ic tapes­try at L.A.‘s Gold Star Stu­dios that still sounds fresh and, as the years go by, oth­er­world­ly. Influ­enced by Phil Spector’s work, along with the tex­tures of the songs of Burt Bacharach and Mar­tin Den­ny, Wil­son cre­at­ed some­thing as unique as his own DNA. Pet Sounds con­tin­ues to reveal secrets and trea­sures the more you lis­ten to it–as this series of YouTube mini-docs from user Behind the Sounds reveals.

These videos use the raw ses­sion record­ings that were released in 1997, and anno­tates them, point­ing out moments of Wilson’s artistry as we hear these clas­sic tracks assem­bled. (Wil­son, it’s said, kept his swear­ing to a min­i­mum in order to be tak­en seri­ous­ly by the musi­cians.)

An expe­ri­enced arranger would prob­a­bly nev­er have come up with the recipe for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” for exam­ple: two pianos, three gui­tars, three bass­es, four horns, two accor­dions, drums, and per­cus­sion. And cer­tain­ly not for a pop song. But there it is.

Yet, as amaz­ing as Pet Sounds is, the album was also a cry for help as men­tal ill­ness began to real­ly take hold of Wil­son. The album would be the high point before a slow decline. It’s as if one man couldn’t hold all this art in his head. It was too much. Aware of the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of the stu­dio as instru­ment, and own­ing a per­fec­tion­ist nature, Wil­son came undone. These docs are an excel­lent insight into a beau­ti­ful, trou­bled mind, but one that recov­ered after a long spell. Wil­son con­tin­ues to record and tour, includ­ing full per­for­mances of Pet Sounds. Click here to find tour dates for Bri­an Wilson’s “Pet Sounds 50th Anniver­sary World Tour.”

Part 1

Part 2

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Car­ol Kaye, 81-Year-Old Pio­neer of Rock, Gives Kiss’ Gene Sim­mons a Bass Les­son

Inside the Mak­ing of The Bea­t­les’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Heart’s Club Band, Rock’s Great Con­cept Album

Leonard Bern­stein Demys­ti­fies the Rock Rev­o­lu­tion for Curi­ous (if Square) Grown-Ups in 1967

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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