The music of the Beach Boys before Pet Sounds was very Surf-Rock/Bee-Bop sounding. The pounding drums with the duhduh-duh-duhduh-duh snare, the twangy guitars, and the vocal harmonies all gave their songs this classic original sound; when heard is related to surfing, or surf-rock. Songs like Surfin’, Surfin USA, 409, and many more released in 1962-1963, gave the image of the Beach Boys and their home state California. Their music was about surfing, cars, and romance, which gave them the image of these “cool” guys singing about “good-feeling” things (such as what I listed before).
“One of the undisputed geniuses in popular music, Brian demonstrated an uncanny gift for harmonic invention and complex vocal and instrumental arrangements (Hall of Fame, 2013).” Even though he is the front man of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson is always considered the main songwriter in the Beach Boys because he did complex arrangements, heavy producing, and engineering tricks. He also takes the groups songwriting and album making very serious, to the point where he will make sacrifices to further their success. “On December 23, 1964, Brian Wilson decided to stop touring with the band and focus on studio productions (Cherry, 2002).”
Brian Wilson wrote and recorded Pet Sounds because of the Beatles. “It was upon hearing the 1965 Beatles album Rubber Soul that Wilson felt compelled to produce a work of uniform quality that would stand comparison (Stevens, 2007).”
What made Pet Sounds stand out was the fact that almost every song on the album had a unique characteristic to it, which made it different than most music that was being recorded and released at that time. One of the songs, “God Only Knows,” was unique in the name and instrumentation. “The track notes for ‘God Only Knows’ offer some interesting tidbits, including anxiety over the decision to include the word ‘God’ in the title.” The instrumentation was also different in the fact that the song includes many unusual (unusual for 60’s pop era) instruments. “The instrumental group was large by 60s pop performance standards, including standard guitar, bass and drums, but also including several orchestral instruments – orchestral strings, French horn, percussion, piano and harpsichord (Ewer, 2011).”
Another unique aspect of the Pet Sounds album was that they used unique production when it came to the recording process. The album has a stereo and a mono mix because a producer named Phil Spector influenced Brian Wilson, and that is what Phil did with his records. This made a unique release with each version of the album having a different sound due to the Mono Mix and Stereo Mix.
The impression the Pet Sounds had on me, as a listener, was that the melodies were catchy and the music and instrumentation was very well done. As an industry professional I thought the different recording and mixing tricks done to the record was very interesting and I certainly learned a few tricks here and there just from researching it.