FMQB Retro-Active: Ken Sharp Revisits the Iconic Album Pet Sounds, and Delves Into New Music with Joyous Wolf
December 5, 2016 The Beach Boys’ 1966 album Pet Sounds is routinely singled out as among the best pop albums of all-time. The brainchild of Brian Wilson and lyricist Tony Asher, Pet Sounds still sounds timeless 50 years after it was recorded – it is a watershed of transcendent creativity, songwriting brilliance, spectacular arrangements, powerhouse musicianship, exquisite harmonies and most of all, heart. Eagle Rock’s line of Classic Albums DVDs have chronicled the making of some of rock’s most well regarded records by the likes of The Band, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and countless others but sadly, an examination of Pet Sounds was not one of those revolutionary albums documented in this exemplary series… until now. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds / Classic Albums (Eagle Rock) DVD offers a rigorously researched look at the making of a masterpiece. Produced and directed by Martin R. Smith, the documentary charts the story of this extraordinary album featuring archival footage alongside a wealth of contemporary interviews numbering all the surviving Beach Boys, session musicians and critical pundits. The DVD also includes a bonus 30 minutes of additional interviews that were not included in the broadcast edition.
Retro-Active’sKen Sharp spoke with various musical luminaries who are major fans of PetSounds and who shared their insight into what makes the album such a wondrous sonic achievement.
Tom Petty: Pet Sounds came from a holy place. It was from inside his soul. People are always looking for God and I’ve really come to understand that God is within you. There’s a deeply spiritual quality to that album because it did come from within his soul. It’s soul music in its most literal form. I know this to be true of many artists, especially really good ones. There’s something about when your life is very difficult, music becomes a safe place. It becomes your safe place and you could always go there to find peace. Perhaps that’s what he did. It’s just such a daringly beautiful record.
Eric Clapton: When we first formed Cream, and were trying to figure out who we were, and what we were going to sound like; all we listened to – along with Mingus, Skip James and Muddy Waters – was Pet Sounds! Believe it or not, that was exactly what we aspired to. It gave us permission to be free.
Elvis Costello: I remember sitting in a performance of Pet Sounds in London and thinking that people were right to say that this music was "strange," but only in the way of anything that is so imaginative, unprecedented and uniquely beautiful.
Linda Ronstadt: I bought Pet Sounds in 1970 and listened to it unendingly, but those songs were very available on the radio. They say the record wasn’t successful at the time but I heard many of those songs on the radio when it came out: “God Only Knows, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Caroline No” and “Sloop John B.” All those songs were hits. Today, if you have one hit from an album it’s considered a great success and that had three or four hits. There was an innocence to that record and an innocence to Brian that was beautiful. Before the singing starts on his songs, you’re grabbed by the emotion and wonder of his work. The way the chords were voiced gave it gravitas. There was an inner beauty to those songs; it’s very sophisticated music and he made it accessible, and that’s a hard thing to do. From Pet Sounds, I really love “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” and I did “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” on my Winter Light record. “Don’t Talk” is one of the most exquisite and beautifully constructed songs I’ve ever sung; the range and the melody came right out of the faerie bowers. In Ireland they say the faerie’s music was the most beautiful of all. “Don’t Talk” is just such a beautiful melody and such a sophisticated song coming out of a young person, especially at a time when the culture didn’t support that approach to music particularly. It just came out of the sky somehow. The architecture of the song is so exquisitely formed. If you can sing, it gives you something you can perform on because it goes to all of the beautiful places in your voice. I learned a tremendous amount about singing from hearing Brian sing. I love Brian and I love his work. He’s a true genius as a musician and I love the way that he writes harmonies and the way the words fit them in that pure straight forward way. He’s one of the few that were able to structure harmonies and voicings like the great classical masters. There’s something about Brian’s earnestness and brilliance and “aw shucks” attitude combined that seeped into the music.
Alice Cooper: Pet Sounds is arguably one of the five best albums of all time. It shows off Brian's genius, which is a term used way too much in our business; really, it should only be applied to a handful of people, Brian being one of them. The Beatles would not have made Sgt Pepper had it not been for Pet Sounds. Brian Wilson used to keep the tracks for Pet Sounds on his 72-track studio downstairs at his house. One time Iggy Pop and I were invited to his house, where we got to mix the album the way we wanted to hear it. It was his favorite toy. He then proceeded to go to the piano and play us what he considered the greatest song ever written, seriously. It was "Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortenin’ Bread." I dunno, maybe he was right...
Billy Idol: Pet Sounds through a combination of musical experimentation combined with incredible melodies and lyrics Brian Wilson spoke about our alienation from the mainstream society, the destruction of the self in “Hang On To Your Ego,” the loss of innocence with adult love “Caroline No” and the young adult day dreaming in “Wouldn't It Be Nice.” He took rock music where it needed to go and by fusing disparate elements of jazz, rock and musical harmony he forged music that is timeless in its beauty and continues to inform our world. Thank you, Brian.
WOLF TRACKS… Retro-Active tips you off to a new band on the move and ready to make their mark on the music scene: Joyous Wolf. Formed in 2012, the quartet – Nick Reese on lead vocals, bassist Greg Braccio, guitarist Blake Allard and drummer Robert Sodaro – has quickly garnered notice in the L.A. area, armed with a ferocious modern rock sound redolent of bands like The Black Crowes with a splash of mighty ‘60s soul added to the mix. Driven and determined to make it while holding true to their artistic ideals, lead singer Nick Reese explains, "We are bringing something that is completely our own identity to rock music. We want to push the boundaries of our creativity and musicianship in every direction, to make music that is true to us. We want to be heard and will do whatever it takes to accomplish that."
To that end, Joyous Wolf has become a favorite on KLOS-FM, receiving significant local airplay, a coup for a new band without a major label deal. They also won a prime slot on the fall 2016 Heidi and Frank’s Birthday Bash where they electrified a packed crowd at L.A.’s Regent Theater with their powerful sound, spectacular lead vocals, incendiary musicianship and infectious radio-ready tunes. Joyous Wolf have also made inroads in TV with their song "Sleep Weep Stomp," set to appear in the Baz Luhrmann-penned series Will airing on TNT in 2017. Having just completed their debut 13-track album, Enigma, make sure you remember the name Joyous Wolf as you’re likely to be hearing much more from this talented group in the future.
For a taste of Joyous Wolf in action, check out the music videos: