Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Album of the Week: It must be great, everyone says so

I've had this album queued up for an Album of the Week for awhile now because it is a curiosity; an album which is not among the top 100 sellers of all time, yet makes the top 10 of every respected top 10 of all time lists. I've never taken the band seriously and have never listened to it. Which is bad, I know. I don't hear any of you lot going on about it either though, so I'm thinking I'm not the only one.

Curious? See if you can spot this one, as E.C. says on Unplugged.

Rolling Stone Magazine, the 'bible' of pop music in America, chose for its top 10 of all time:
1. Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's
2. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
3. Beatles - Revolver
4. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
5. Beatles - Rubber Soul
6. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
7. Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
8. Clash - London Calling
9. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
10.Beatles - ("The White Album")

Our beloved Guardian picked:
1. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
2. Beatles - Revolver
3. Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
4. Nirvana - Nevermind
5. Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
6. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
7. David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust
8. Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico
9. Beatles - The White Album
10.Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

1 Beatles - Revolver
2 Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
3 Radiohead - Ok Computer
4 Nirvana - Nevermind
5 Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
6 Beatles - Abbey Road
7 U2 - The Joshua Tree
8 Oasis - Definitely Maybe
9 Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
10Beatles - Sgt Pepper

1 Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
2 Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
3 Beatles - Revolver
4 Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
5 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
6 Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
7 Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
8 Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
9 Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground & Nico
10 Patti Smith - Horses

National Association of Recording Merchandisers (UK):
1 Beatles - Sgt Peppers
2 Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
3 Michael Jackson - Thriller
4 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
5 U2 - Joshua Tree
6 Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
7 Carole King - Tapestry
8 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
9 Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
10Nirvana - Nevermind

... I found a site that mashes up lists, and if you feed into it the top album lists from all the leading music sources (print and radio), it gives us this:
1 Beatles - Revolver
2 Nirvana - Nevermind
3 Beatles - White Album
4 Beatles - Sgt Peppers
5 Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
6 Clash - London Calling
7 Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bullocks
8 Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
9 U2 - Joshua Tree
10Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Top 10 lists are subjective, as we all know, and I'm not here to open a debate on lists. I'm here to wager that the one thing we all have in common is not having spent any significant time with one and only one album from the above. I give you for Album of the Week, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. Discuss.


snadfrod said...

Can. Worms. Open.

Chris said...

I've never heard it either! I've been curious, but not curious enough, for reasons I simply cannot explain. I liked the classic singles but.....???

steenbeck said...

Very interesting, Tincanman. I've never quite taken the Beach Boys seriously, although I grew up hearing them on the radio all the time. But when I started RRing I was surprised to see them nominated quite a bit. I thought it might be one of those Jerry Lewis things, if you know what I mean.

Chris said...

Never heard 'Never Mind The Bullocks' either, mind you...

tincanman said...

I'm just commenting so I can click on that email replies thingee.

nilpferd said...

Iconoclast's threadjack!!

I don't own a single album on any of these lists.. any of them any good?

snadfrod said...

Me too. With the replies thingy, that is.

snadfrod said...

Actually, in all seriousness, I HAVE spent quite some time with Pet Sounds but with very few of the others on the lists, especially the last one.

Its an album that I really love in parts and am always left cold by in others. Sloop John B, Wouldn't it Be Nice, God Only Knows and I Just Wasn't Made For These Times are all just brilliant but, with a lot of the rest, I think its more to do with context than content.

I would probably compare the situation to those old Greatest Movies of All Time lists, especially the American Movie Critics Jobby that routinely puts Citizen Kane top. Now, I love Kane and am fortunate to have studied it and know a bit about its import, but not many people would honestly claim it as their favourite film evah!!!

This is becuae, I think, Kane (and indeed Pet Sounds) was a massively important film for lots of subtle and technical reasons which critics - never ones to knowingly undersell their own innate brilliance - love to take any opportunity to point up. "What, you mean you didn't know that Gregg Toland and Orson Welles practically invented the modern concept of cinematic focus? REALLY? Mwah ha ha..." etc etc.

Hence a film/album that is seen to be important, rather than necessarily popular, is promoted to the tops of these lists and that promotion, in itself, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - exactly as Tin says: the album's great because everyone says it is. Quid pro and so on.

So yeah, good shout tinny, its an album that maybe deserves a bit of honest reappraisal. I'll be digging it out later on, so lets see what these critics really know huh? HUH?

Blimpy said...

I bought my bro in law Pet sounds and the accompanying 33 & a 3rd book, mostly in the hope he'd lend them to me. He didn't.

Of late, the pet sounds influence has been all over some of the most lauded american indie rock bands (animal collective and panda bear are the first that spring to mind)

i used to find "wouldn't it be nice" incredibly saccharine, which (along with surfin usa) put me off the beach boys for a long while. I think it was Sloop John B that rehabilitated them for me .

listening to pet sounds now (via spotify) it doesn't sound dated at all.

i have 7 of the lps mentioned in the post - does this make me mainstream??!! oh no!!

more thouights to follow.

ejaydee said...

I agree with the tracks snadfrod, I would add I Know There's An Answer maybe, but looking at the titles now, I couldn't tell you what any of the other songs on the album apart from maybe the title track and That's Not me.

It's true that these lists tend to ruin objective appraisal, and it's always hard to really judge an album suc as this or Sgt Pepper or Astral Weeks or Dark Side Of The Moon, etc.

But just because it's not in my top 10, doesn't mean it's a bad album, it certainly has great songs on it. I'm listening while writing this, and currently on track 3, I wonder how often I'll play the whole thing in one go.

I went through a period of "catching up on musical education" and ended up listening to a lot of the albums featured on this list. It would actually be quicker to mention that I haven't heard, Never Mind The Bollocks, Definitely Maybe, Tapestry, Joshua Tree, Nevermind (I know the singles though), and I have the Rolling Stones albums mentioned, but never really had the courage to listen.

ToffeeBoy said...

Oy! Blimpy! How dare you call yourself mainstream. I'm Mr Mainstream around these parts. OK? I have thirteen of the albums listed - including Pet Sounds. I agree with snadford - it's a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. I also completely agree about the "it's always in these lists so it must be good" concept - and although Pet Sounds fits the bill here, I would nominate Astral Weeks as the ultimate example of this.

Research has shown that only 17% of people who vote for Astral Weeks in these polls have ever actually heard it!

Blimpy said...

i agree with toffeeboy, i own astral weeks cos i kept hearing that it was genius (which is a view I know at least one other 'spiller holds) and was sorely disappointed when i spent my 3 quid on it.

as an egg, i don't think pet sounds is so off that you can't eat at least half or two thirds of it happily. i think if i owned pet sounds on vinyl, it would get more spins.

treefrogdemon said...

I prefer early Beach Boys - Fun Fun Fun is my all-time favourite.

Sergeant Pepper is the only one I have from the list - and only on vinyl; I never bothered to get the CD.

Where's all the clog dancing then? I used to live in Crewe and in those days you could still buy the clogs in shops - people wore them for work.

Blimpy said...

i don't think the rock n roll blueprint has evolved much since some of the albums on those lists, especially the Bowie and Velvets LPs - which I think kick pet sounds into touch without breaking a sweat.

Blimpy said...

i am really enjoying listening to pet sounds right now though.

Blimpy said...

i think it could have been better as a half hour ten-track lp.

snadfrod said...

Me too. I agree with what Blimpy said about it's influence being felt a lot more right now.

I think it's true, also, that there is very little left that can be described as totally 'new', and as a result these lists tend toward the ice-breakers, the poster-boys and the odd revolutionary.

tincanman said...

I must say I am enjoying it too Blimpey, and am kicking myself for being too prejudiced/snobby to have listened to it before.

I guess I was expecting someone to take their T-bird away and sorry treefrog, but that's exactly why I never bothered with them before. Fun fun fun yes, but the early singles all seemed like one-hit wonder novelty songs.

The little sonic surprises in this are nice, and I'm surprised to find deeper lyrics than, well, parents taking kids' T-birds away.

Blimpy said...

i think i prefer the tracks where Mike Love takes more of a lead - a bit like when Panda Bear sings instead of Avey Tare.

Blimpy said...

Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear.

Blimpy said...

Tinny - this LP was an inspired choice for aotw, cos every time Sloop comes on my ipod, i think to myself, I need to get some more of that good stuff, but then never do.

The version of Sloop where Brian sings all the way through is definately not as good.

ejaydee said...

WHich ones are the ones where Mike Love takes the lead?
I've found a couple of new songs I like.

Tincanman, I once asked on the mothership where I should go if I liked some of Pet Sounds but not so much the early stuff, Dorian and a few others recommended Surf's Up and Sunflower (separate albums but they come in one CD), you might want to give them a go on spotify.

Abahachi said...

@ToffeeBoy: I'll see your thirteen and raise you fifteen - my God I was mainstream in my late teens... Not that I actually think much of most of them these days; Highway 61 Revisited excepted, I think the only one I'd now listen to all the way through for fun would be Pink Floyd. Pet Sounds was never one of them; I'm in the 'couple of great tracks, passes me by overall' camp. Very Q, I'm afraid.

Blimpy said...

For purposes of canonical comparison I am now going to listen to "Five Years" by David Bowie.

tincanman said...

cheers eJay

nilpferd said...

I gave Pet Sounds a try, I only really liked the title track though, I think the sound of the vocals are the main problem for me, although the harpsichord grates as well. Musically I did warm to Caroline No and Hang on to your ego, and I quite liked the generous range of instruments including harps and accordians. But the sharp edged vocals really turn me off, although I quite like the softer harmony parts in, say, Wouldn't it be nice. Strange in a way, because I know that Martin Phillips of the Chills was heavily influenced by this album, among others, but often you don't necessarily like things which influence your favourite artists.

DaddyPig said...

I play "Pet Sounds" quite a lot, gorgoeous album, and was introducing my children to the Beach Boys' greatest hits on Monday (not so good for settling them down). I'm with TFD (though I'm now hearing a Breton pipes version of Fun Fun Fun in my head).

But you have a point Mr Canman, The Guardian's recent "1,000 songs you must hear" series included a ??well-informed Guardian person stating that 'Good Vibrations' was on the album; people assuming they know the album but haven't listened to it.

sourpus said...

Got to wade in here.

Like Snad, I was tempted just to go the 'got three words for you' route on this one, although mine ought to be:

shoot fish barrel

Partly because its potentially hard to argue with the place that nearly all of these albums occupy, particularly their undeniable 'historical significance'; from this point of view, it seems all too easy to jump down the neck of such major icons of rock's narrative arc as these...

Bugger that though!!

Ive ALWAYS held the belief that a REALLY great album should (at the very least) tick the box that says 'satisfying, front to back' and that definitely ISN'T the case with the following in particular, in sourpus' opinion:

Pet Sounds (oooh yes! And I LOVE the Beach Boys with a passion; they made MUCH more rewarding albums - step forward 'Surf's up')

Dark Side of the Moon (I get sleepy from the first couple of minutes and it only gets worse...sorry PF lovers all!)

Exile (though it pains me somewhat to say this - they were probably THE major influence of my youth - it always sounded like one big overcooked stew to me)

If we go the 'satisfying, front to back route' though, its amazing to me that, from the all time icons collection, the following albums dont get mentioned more often than those that perpetually haunt the lists above:

Chelsea Girls - Nico

Black and Blue - aforementioned Stones

Everclear - American Music Club, (yes, better than U2, I would say)

Revolver - The Fabs

Rumours - Fleetwood Mac (I know its probably in one of the top twenties above - but deservedly so by my reckoning)

Now...THERE'S controversy!

tincanman said...

I've said this before on here and will keep saying ti cause it's true - Everclear are vastly underestimated.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ tincanman - you can keep saying 'ti' all you like - we're not listening.

ALthough I'm not a huge fan of The Beach Boys, two of my favourite artists, are: Paddy McAloon and Sean O'Hagan. So perhaps I should listen to more of them. Caroline, No and In My Room are absolute genius ...

sourpus said...

Sorry Tin, I think you must be referring to the band Everclear, are you? I was talking about AMC's greatest album.

tincanman said...

yup, sourpus, that I was

oh oh oh


that's why I typed ti instead of it

cause you said everclear - and I read - everclear, and .... oh forget ti

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Abahachi - OK - the Mr Mainstream crown is yours. I've enjoyed the year or so that I've been wearing it but I realise that the time has come to give it up to one who is more deserving than I ...

barbryn said...

Interesting. I've got a bit of me-time (having left two girls in the hosptial for hopefully the last night and got the other one off to sleep) and had decided to sit down and listen to a "great" album. Almost chose Pet Sounds, but decided not to for similar sorts of misgivings other people have.

But very glad to have put it on - currently on "Don't talk...", which is gorgeous. My favourite moment (apart from the whole of "God Only Knows") is the line "Sometimes I feel very sad" on "I guess I wasn't made for these times". In its utter simplicity, it's the saddest line in all pop music.

Worth replacing "I Know There's an Answer" with "Hang Onto Your Ego" if you can be bothered to reprogram it.

I own over half of those various "greatest albums". They're not necessarily the albums I listen to the most though. Some because I know them inside out (Beatles), some because they need to be treated with a certain reverence ("Horses", Velvet Underground, Dylan) and some because I'm just not that into them.

ejaydee said...

I don't think I have Hang On To Your Ego, is it because I erased it after deciding I wasn't going to like it a long time ago and don't remember it?

Shoey said...

OK, bring on the clog dancing.

DarceysDad said...

Blimey! Where to begin?

First of all I suppose I'd better get off my coconut-shell-sound-horse, and despatch the Canuck Knight Of Ti with a savagely sharp celery stick >--- Never again shall you terrify the villagers of 'Spillalot with your strange-sounding syllables, hairy fellow!!

OK, Pet Sounds: nope, don't own it, never heard it front to back. 'Spose I should rea...ah, yes, Spotify, good suggestion! Hang on -

- Yup, it's the Astral Weeks argument again *Hi, Blimpy!!* only this time Jon Wilde isn't around to berate me on my ignorance of rock music's "classics". Including double-counting when the same LP is on more than one of the above lists, I only just creep into double figures. Astral Weeks and Exile On Main Street are only in my collection because I fell for being told they had to be.

So yes, I'm a musical Philistine whose nom-de-blog file in the Music Journo Secret Service Underground Bunker is probably going to be changed from yellow to red for this, but ...

About the technological/sonic bells and whistles that Pet Sounds is renowned for: I'll admit my PC speakers aren't really up to standard, (though they do provide a realistic comparison with everything else I listen to whilst sat here at the desk,) but I'm either aurally-challenged (not a joke line, this is highly plausible in a non-musician like me) or I'm too blasé about the ubiquity nowadays of those techniques/effects to hear them as "WTF?!" revolutionary, because it doesn't leap out at me at all. In fact, if you push me, I'd have to say the whole thing sounds as if it were recorded cheaply, in a huge barn without sound-damping, but with a shedload of different instruments left lying around.

Well, we're up to Here Today, and so far I hear nothing to make me desperate to add to DarceysMam's Best Of The Beach Boys CD as our sole BB album.

One thought: is Pet Sounds the album that had the same effect on Sixties twentysomethings as OK Computer had on the Nineties twentysomethings? Or to turn that question around, and respect the chronology, is OK Computer the 90s Pet Sounds?

Hark the sound of another can being opened: these worms might not smell so old, but I'll bet they're wrigglier!!

Sorry, youselot, but that's the view from the DsD desk.

DarceysDad said...

And Good Evening Barbryn.

Enjoy the me-time, it's your last one for a while ...


Blimpy said...

@ejaydee "I Know There's an Answer" was originally entitled "Hang Onto Your Ego"

Blimpy said...

@darce, of late I have been thinking that music comes to us as and when it does, and forcing it is never a good thing (at one point, i, like ejaydee, tried to do the catching up with musical education thing). certainly i don't have the time or money to fill my head and wall with the complete history of music.

there have been classic bands i've come late to, but had i got to them earlier I'm sure my enjoyment would have been different. better or worse, it's hard to say.

not really sure what point i'm making about with this comment. ho hum.

DarceysDad said...

@ tfd & Shoey -


I need to pay another visit, actually. I've just had to bin my Derbys after 15 years service; quite fancy those recon paras this time.

BalearicBeat said...

I am unfortunately unavailable for comment, as Mrs BB has long since had a restraining order out on me, preventing me ever discussing The Beach Boys again, with particular reference to ruining God Only Knows for her by pointing out its decided similarity to the Jim'll Fix It theme song.

goneforeign said...

To me the Beach Boys were just that, a group that basically were the musical arm of the 60's surfer crowd, for my taste at that time, even though I lived at the beach in the midst of that culture, they were a bit too 'white bread' for me. Listening to 'em now the images that come back are clean cut Christian white boys in their blazers and crew cuts: I tended much more towards the West Coast hippy crowd, the Airplane, Janice, Dylan, CSN and what was coming out of MoTown and Stax plus the English invasion.
I couldn't avoid 'em on radio and there were a few songs that registered, John B and Surfin USA come to mind, John B became popular possibly because it has a similar quality to many of the Folk rock songs that were evolving at that time plus it sort of tied into the tail end of the popular folk music trend.
Pet Sounds doesn't do much for me today, it sounds like the soundtrack of a slick Sunday night TV program of the '60's, overdone orchestrations, harmonies and back up singers.
I mentioned last week that I'd started a specific plan to see how popular albums of that period stand up today, as a result so far I've played several Stones, the group sounds OK but Jagger sounds like what he is, a white boy trying to sound black, it doesn't work. All the 60's Dylan are OK, ditto Beatles, Van Morrison and Floyd, well at least Dark Side. The Clash are too jarring on my old ears these days and I never bothered with the Sex Pistols, couldn't relate to that name and somehow my copy of Ziggy Stardust has disappeared, I'd like to re-hear that one, I'll check spotty.
I've got 14 of those top 10 albums.

Japanther said...

OK, time for my tuppence worth.

I absolutely LOVE Pet Sounds, I was pretty obsessed with it for a while and listened to it nearly every day....

(..just stopped typing to chuck Teenage Fanclub off the turntable and replace it with Pet Sounds..)

Every single is track is unique in itself and the whole album hangs together as a perfect whole too. One of the very very few albums that deserve classic status in my humble. To pick a favourite track, i'd go with "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"

The thing is with the Beach Boys, I find there are 2 kinds of fans. The casual ones who think the BB are all about Fun Fun Fun and Surfin' USA and are surprised when they hear Pet Sounds/Smile etc. And the other kind of elitist uber-fan who disdain the early stuff as pop fluff and hail Paul McCartney chewing some celery as the hallmark of musical genius.
For me, I love it all! But looking through my seven-album strong BB collection it seems I like the early stuff more!
If you haven't already, please please read Brian Wilson's autobiography "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (which I mentioned recently on the book thread) a truly extraordinary story of one musical visionary (Brian), one self-destructive drifter (Dennis) and a bunch of Machiavellian chancers (the others).
Gruff Rhys out of Super Furries described them as something like " a bunch of fat businessman playing Republican barbecues" (that may be completely wrong!!I realised as soon as I started typing that I couldn't remember the quote at all!!) which is sadly what they became until a re-energised Brian started the solo tours a few years back and restored some dignity to the BB legacy .

Oh...and about these kind of pompous self-righteous bullshit lists....I enjoy reading them, but don't take them seriously.

Japanther said...

forgot to say that it should be borne in mind that was still 1966, rock'n'roll was still only 10 years old and Pet Sounds introduced the world to the concept of "album" rather than a collection of singles or songs chucked together willy nilly.

(I know, I know, it could be argued that something like "Kind Of Blue" works as a complete album, but it wasn't intentionally made to be so, as far as I know. And I'm sure someone can point out an earlier example of a complete coherent album, but this was one by one of the biggest bands in the world which makes it a definite milestone)

re: Astral Weeks - funny it should come up here as I was going to mention it anyway. Just 2 days ago, I made yet another attempt to "get it" by listening all the way through as intently as I could, but I just wasn't feeling it, maybe one day something will click, maybe its just an overrated, dull as dishwater album!

ToffeeBoy said...

I know I've said this before in these parts but, as some of you have touched on in the comments above, context is all important in these matters. Discovering an album in your early 20s is an entirely different experience to coming to it in your mid 40s. If you're in love at the time you're introduced to an album it will always sound differnet to you than it would have done if you were going through a period of depression.

The same applies whether we're talking about so-called 'classic albums' or throw away pop. One man's (or woman's) Ernie is someone else's Bob The Builder.

gordonimmel said...

Hold on a minute!

[Reaches over and nicks Abahachi's 'Mr Mainstream Crown' from his head....]

I've got 18 of those albums or 72% of those listed if my counting is correct. It'll be quicker to say that I don't have any Dylan, Stones, Velvets or Patti Smith.
The Beatles ones I've gone out of my way to buy. Nirvana, Stone Roses, U2 and Oasis I bought when they came out because I'd heard they were good, the rest I've just picked up over the years if I've found them going cheap somewhere.

And I do have 'Pet Sounds' - bought cheap just to see what all the fuss was about.

Generally I agree with many others here that it's a bit of curate's egg. The well known songs are all good and a couple of others are OK but it has lain undisturbed on my shelf for a couple of years now because it isn't good enough throughout but I'm giving it another listen this morning, since tin has prodded us all in that direction.

As for the production, it might sound like great clanging levers and steam valves to us now but remember that at the time it was state of the art buzzers and bells.

tincanman said...

@ Gordon
Rather than listen to the album, could you pop round to Dsd's house and punch him in the nose?

He called me names and I think you are the closest.

ThartheysThad said...

*Knock knock*

Hang on, I'm coming ...


Oh hi, Gor-OOWWWW!

[Muffled] What was that for?

EJ said...

Japanther, I think the first album as an album was Sinatra's ..something something at night For Lovers (sorry, can't remember the title), and that inspired Kind Of Blue. However, you could argue that those weren't pop music. Part of the legend is that Pet Sounds was a reply to the Beatles' Revolver though isn't it?

Anonymous said...

@EJ - it was the other way round!

Pet Sounds came first, John Lennon heard it and thought "bloody hell, we better come up with something special to beat THAT", the result was Seargent Peppers. For my money, Pet Sounds is a far better record, but I do love the Beach Boys, so.....


ejaydee said...

OK, I read it had gone back and forth: Revolver-Pet Sounds-Pepper. Out of those 3 I would go for Pet Sounds though, I have to admit that Revolver never really didi it for me as an album.

ejaydee said...

Oh and about Astral Weeks, I don't feel there's something to "get" particularly. I decided to try it after hearing Sweet Thing in a John Peel compilation. I don't know, it's not like a Bitches Brew or something, it seems fairly straightforward.

steenbeck said...

I came home from work last night to 100s of comments!

First of all, Lo siento mucho, mes amigos...I have some of those list albums (sex pistols, clash, patti smith, VU, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye) and I would argue that none of the ones I mentioned were "mainstream" at the time they came out. Which might make an interesting counter-argument to my ideas about Pet Sounds, because goneforeign pretty much summed up my ideas about the beach boys in his comments. (And Goneforeign has lived in America for a while, which brings me back to my Jerry Lewis idea). I can't separate my idea of them from memories of television commercials that used their songs. But I will listen to the album. Perhaps it's all about context...

I still have a lot of french music to listen to, though, so it might not be till all of you have tired of talking about it.

goneforeign said...

A couple of further comments: someone mentioned rock 'n roll being only 10 years old, 'tis true, that ten years was generally made up of variations on Bill Haley style rock, folk music was evolving into folk-rock and we weren't thinking concept albums, it was more related to 'vive la difference!' And as Toffee mentioned, context is all important in these matters, I'd take issue with the 'biggest band in the world' idea, it was a very small Southern California subculture, I had a friend with 7 daughters who lived in Redondo Beach, to them the world revolved around surfing, Beach Boys and RB high school, it was not much more than a community thing. But of course it spread, but mainly into middle America, the jazz fans, the hippies and the oddballs like meself weren't having it.
And re. Astral Weeks, I can't believe these comments about not getting it, it's as plain as the nose on yer face, it's all in the melodies and the amazing arrangements that the band were playing, I recently found myself wondering when re-listening, who did the arrangements, who conceived the musical structure and who was in charge whilst van was at the mic, nothing mentioned on the album sleeve but for me that's where the greatness lies. During that era pop music was disseminated by commercial AM radio stations many of which were on 24 hrs and played nothing but the latest hits or what they were paid to make the latest hits. When we started hearing Pet Sounds or Astral we didn't think 'concept album or top 10 classic, we thought 'that sounds a bit different' and some of them went on to become classics. I think some of the foregoing comments both here and on RR are muddied by listening as though they were recorded in the last decade and their originality is diluted by the 10,000 other bands you hear regularly. If you weren't there at the time you could have no concept of the anticipation and response to Sgt. Pepper, it was ENORMOUS, it was like the 'second coming', there's been nothing similar since. Some of the aformentioned AM stations played it ENDLESSLY, all day, every day!

tincanman said...

@ Steen
It's probably not a Jerry Lewis thingee if it makes the Guardian and the Rolling Stone lists.

frum Rockin' Mitch said...


I must admit, I'm not much of an album fan myself. I prefer 45s. As for those listed, as you know, I can't abide The Beatles or Rolling Stones and I preferred The Beach Boys when they were surfers, although Jan & Dean did it better. U2 I can take or leave (usually leave) and Pink Floyd were not my scene at all. My own list would be:
1.Gene Vincent Rocks (And The Bluecaps Roll)
2. Rockin' With Wanda - Wanda Jackson
3. Chirping Crickets - Buddy Holly & Crickets (this was the template for all groups thlo this came out, they'd ditched the slap-bass for a Fender)
4. Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
5. Times They Are A'Changin' - Bob D
6 Bringing It All Back Home - Bob D
7 Gene Vincent - A 1966 album that was very under-rated.
8.Hey! Bo Diddley
9. New Juke Box Hits - Chuck Berry
10. Rock & Roll Stage Show - Bill Haley & The Comets.
So you see, bit of an old curmudgeon! Most of my other albums are either compilations of various artists, "Best Of...." or "Greatest Hits...."
You can't stick an album on a juke box!

Exodus said...

I thought I'd be in more of a minority here, but the Beach Boys have always left me cold to the point of freezing - and I have heard the album several times all the way through (someone I knew years ago was a devoted fan & kept trying to convert me).

Astral Weeks was the same for many years, till I heard it one time after a long night of red wine, vodka & homegrown organic skunk & realised it was a work of true genius. I still love it & think it's an extraordinary piece of work even when completely sober, but can't bear pretty much anything else Morrison's done. As to the rest of the lists I have probably about 75% of them, but the only ones I think would be in my personal top 10 would be Horses & The VU & Nico (with Astral Weeks 'bubbling under' at 11 or 12)

DarceysDad said...

Oh, go on then, I'll blow the dust off Astral Weeks again, and let it queue-jump several dozen French-speaking artistes ...

goneforeign said...

DsD: Since I wrote that piece I've been to Wiki and there's a lot of info there re. the backing musicians and why it was so successful, check it!

magicman said...

Blimey you lot. SO disappointing ! But there you go. Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever made - and I should know, I've got ALL yes all of the albums on those hilarious lists above, although few of them would be in my top ten, and some of them are just dang annoying - U2, Patti smith, or sludgey - Exile. As for the rest you'd have to say Oasis was over-rated to say the least, and where's the Hendrix ? Marley ? A teeny weeny little bit white aren't they those lists ? Er - Stevie Wonder anyone ???
Worthless in other words.
Why Pet Sounds is there gawd only knows, but probably passed-down muso snobbery.
Sloop is the worst song on the album.
It was inspired by Rubber Soul. when Brian heard it he responded with PS which in it's turn inspired Sgt Pepper.
I have to come clean here folks and say that I play (part-time - we all are actually since it's a labour of love rather than a moneyspinner) in a band called the Brighton Beach Boys - yes I know - and once a year we play the whole of Pet Sounds followed by the whole of Sgt Pepper LIVE with a fifteen piece orchestra/brass section/tabla/bass harmonica/vibes/ kazoos and all the other instruments we can find. We haven't founf a harp yet (She's Leaving HOme - sampled keys) or a sitar (Within You Without You - we use a sitar guitar) or a theremin (I Just Wasn't Made For these Times)
If anyone's interested I'll post the programme notes from the show two years ago which discusses these two (yawn) seminal albums in relation to each other.
Pet Sounds has a soundscape and arrangements unrivalled by almost all pop albums, the compositions are remarkably original and emotional (except for SJB) and about love, loneliness and loss. It's a grower for sure and doesn't "hit" you on first second or third listen. I have deconstructed it with the band and put it back together and I am still not bored, I've heard it literally hundreds of times and played the songs dozens of times in rehearsal and live. Honestly, it's beautiful.
A massive influence on Macca, particularly the bass playing and arrangements, and also as an ambitious whole. The instrumental Let's Go Away For A While is simply magical, defying words.
That's all I'd say for now, I've blathered plenty.
Brian is special, honest - give it another go. It's his finest hour, although Smile is pretty amazing too.
Oh yes it is !
I have all the Beach Boys output, minus a few B-sides and eighties stuff, but I even have Carl Wilson solo albums, both of Dennis's which are fantastic, and all of Brian's.
So I'm a little bit biased.
Beach Boys ? tick !
oh and tincanman - thanks buddy !!!!

Japanther said...


programme notes?? We want photos and Youtube footage of the Brighton Beach Boys in action!

DaddyPig said...

Magicman, hear hear !

magicman said...

OK two supporters is all I need - here are the programme notes from Pet Sounds v Sgt Pepper.

We're there over on you tube and our own website or myspace page.
Pet Sounds vs Sgt Pepper - Live ! (part one)
Although billed as a Clash of the Titans, these two unique albums have much in common, and their writers and performers admired and inspired each other. Both albums reflect a particular post-innocent pop period after Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and the Beatles as a band had done with touring and were concentrating on working in the studio, with new instruments and particularly with new arrangements other than simple blues and pop. This fecund period coincided with advances in technology that were partly forced by the songwriters themselves, and with more complex songwriting led among others by Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone) which in turn led to other innovations such as the printing of the lyrics on the sleeve (Sgt Pepper).
There is a satisfying circle of influence at work here - we know the Beatles admired the Beach Boys - clear particularly on songs like Nowhere Man off Rubber Soul, the Beatles 1965 album. Brian Wilson was blown away by Rubber Soul, and announced that he would top it with a cohesive collection of songs of his own. The resulting album “Pet Sounds” was a massive influence on the Beatles (and particularly Paul McCartney), their creative response one year later was Sgt Pepper, which in it’s turn was so potent that Wilson subsequently shelvedhis magnum opus Smile (although there were certainly other contributory factors) an album which was not to see the light of day until 2004, some 37 years later.

Pet Sounds was recorded in Los Angeles between January and April 1966 with a band of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew while the Beach Boys were on tour with Bruce Johnson as Brian’s replacement. Brian Wilson wrote, arranged and produced the music while Tony Asher wrote the lyrics. Brian had retired from touring eighteen months earlier after a mini-breakdown on a plane in Texas, (initially replaced in the band by one Glen Campbell) and this mini-crisis left him free to concentrate on songwriting and arranging new material. His compositions became more complex, moving away from surfing, cars and girls - (well, to be fair he stayed with girls) - and his songs became more emotionally subtle, more original, and more musically ambitious. Although in some ways a radical departure from their early hits, The Beach Boys were of course drafted in for the vocals, and were as ever an integral part of the whole sound. The resulting album has been massively influential ever since, and remains one of the greatest pieces of music ever produced.

magicman said...

Pet Sounds vs Sgt Pepper - LIVE ! (part two)

Sgt Pepper was recorded over a five month period between December 1966 and April 1967. The Beatles had finished touring after being forced out of the Phillipines at gunpoint in late 1966 and were free to concentrate on studio recording, particularly favouring the late-night session. Like Wilson, their musical repertoire had expanded from guitars bass and drums to include strings, woodwind, brass and Hammond organ not to mention sitar, tabla and comb-and-paper !(partly under the influence of LSD like Wilson, partly due to the presence of “5th Beatle” and producer George Martin)
The Beatles’ songwriting had evolved from early 60’s pop classics such as “She Loves You” and “Help” to a more poetic and off-beat approach influenced by Dylan, Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson, and Revolver (1966) had included Eleanor Rigby and Tomorrow Never Knows using string quartet and backwards tapes among other pop innovations. But “Pepper” was to prove another massive leap forward and in many ways was a peak moment for the band.
The first two songs recorded for Pepper were subsequently dropped from the album, but only because in those days the Beatles didn’t like singles appearing on albums. Under pressure from EMI, Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields was released as a 45 in Feb 1967. The two songs remain at the pinnacle of British pop songwriting, and it is interesting to note that they are both among those few songs to reference place names in British pop culture.
Sgt Pepper changed the course of pop music. It had a gatefold sleeve with it’s own concept, art-directed by Robert Fraser and designed by Peter Blake, with the lyrics. The sounds and scope of the music were unconfined by the standards of the day. They stretched themselves and produced a pop classic.
We are proud to present both albums to you today.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all !

DarceysDad said...

OK, magicman, are you going to come clean and tell us which one you are?


gordonimmel said...

I was going to ask that, Darceysdad. Do I remember him mentioning a Hull connection? It isn't Charlotte I assume.....

I've watched the vids of 'God Only Knows'and 'Sgt Pepper', magicman. Really excellent!

magicman said...

I'm the bald keyboard player on GOK, on the alto sax on Sgt P !

goneforeign said...

Magic: Thanks for the best bit of writing to appear on this site.

Japanther said...

Just watched the God Only Knows vid - great stuff! Wish I was back in Brighton to witness it first hand and the "programme notes" were very interesting too. Thanks Magicman!

magicman said...

Thanks goneforeign or "gawnabroad" as I like to think of you. I re-wrote it a few times til I liked it, so it's not exactly like the rest of this blog, which is more extemporore, ra-re, ra-ra-ra tara di boomdi-ay. Eh ?

with apologies to the late, great etc

Viv Stanshall

ejaydee said...

I have a mash-up album of Sgt pepper and Pet Sounds, as we say in French, le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
I can put in the dropbox if anybody's interested.

magicman said...

I think I have to hear THAT EJD !! 'The best is the enemy of the good ?"
why I'm not a translator !

I think dropbox is full up at the moment. It was on Monday.

ejaydee said...

OK magic, it's on its way.
It would translate as "the better is the enemy of the good. I guess it's the equivalent of "leave well enough alone".

magicman said...

actually a really good mash-up is Lush Life - Kanye West v Pet Sounds - this really works and I'll drop it if more than zero people are interested. Lush Life are Swedish. The Kanye album is College DropOut I think can't remember

ejaydee said...

+1 interested.

DarceysDad said...

And me.

And magicman? I'd love to hear your interpretation (over a pint, natch) of the end of Life On Mars ... it's been driving me crazy!


Back on-topic, the conclusion is that it's me thats got cloth ears then ... omigod, the Sinatra fan club were right!!!!!

DsD said...

And Happy Birthday, btw.

magicman said...

Well that's the end of my cosy anonymity on this blog then, it's been fun while it lasted. Didn't want to leave any other than a musical impression, but once Pet Sounds was album of the week (good bait tincanman) I was lured, hooked, and gillied.

I don;'t know what gillied means but that sentence necessitated three verbs.

Thanks for the birthday wishes DSD someone is researching fast o'clock !!

52 today

magicman said...

ejaydee - what a piggin' mess ! But some amazing moments nonetheless. We won't be tempted into repeating them LIVE don't worry !

ejaydee said...

It is very messy indeed, the way Lush Life did it, grabbing a few samples, works better, rather than slapping two tracks together hoping they'll stick.

ejaydee said...

Oh and Happy Birthday!

magicman said...

Thanks !!

Japanther said...


You may be interested in these Japanese dudes. I played a track of theirs on my first podcast. Very early Beach Boys.


- the sound on this clip is terrible i'm afraid!

ejaydee said...

Well done tincanman, I think you got the 'SPill's first mention on the Guardian podcast with this post.

tincanman said...

That would be we though.
What did they say?

ejaydee said...

Well, you really had to be there, it's after the first interview, during the singles review, because Rosie said she didn't really like the Beach Boys.

tincanman said...

ah yes, have heard it now.

I'm still always amazed when I hear people I know only on here for the first time and they have an English accent. Did everyone else know Paul Mac was English?

ejaydee said...

Tin, more dirt on Paul:



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Leslie Lim said...

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Nathalie Uy said...

When you feel like quitting think about why you started. (y)