Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

If anybody doubts the value of "cooperative competition," they should study the field of pop music from 1964 to 1969.
As the year 1964 dawned, I doubt that many American music stars such as The Beach Boys, Leslie Gore, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and others dreamed they were on the edge of precipice - of the greatest shift in the musical industry in their lifetimes.
They probably didn't realize it even after they watched The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show Sunday night February 9.

But before long, as the insane success of Beatlemania continued, it morphed into The British Invasion, including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies, Chad & Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, The Yardbirds, and The Dave Clark Five.
White American stars faded from the limelight. (Motown stars remained big, but that's a different area of the industry.)
I remember hearing one of the Beach Boys describe how, in this period, their leader Brian called a meeting of the group. The one telling this story said he expected Brian to announce they were disbanding, as so many other American former stars were doing.
However, Brian had the opposite reaction. His plan -- "We get better."
Instead of backing down from the challenge posed by The British Invasion, he proposed they meet -- and exceed it.
Up until then, The Beach Boys were known for songs for teenagers like themselves. About cars, girls -- and surfing. Although I didn't care about cars (and was too young to drive anyway), and couldn't surf in Illinois (but did swim a lot at a swimming pool), I could identify with the most important of the three, and that was enough.
For a time, the Beach Boys continued to release songs of teenage love in the summer, but they continued to grow, and so they still had hits even while the rest of radio station KXOK's time was filled with English artists.
In December 1965 The Beatles released their album Rubber Soul, which was quite innovative for its time. Not only did one track, Norwegian Wood, use an Indian sitar, it felt like a complete whole where the songs ran into each other - not like a bunch of songs just thrown together.
This inspired Brian Wilson to write songs for their album that were still about teenage love, but on a new level. It was released in May 1966 to universal acclaim.
Among the many people listening avidly were the five (counting producer George Martin) Beatles. Having been "bested" by the resilient Americans, they determined to raise the bar even higher. The result of course was Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. George Martin is on record as saying it never would have happened if they hadn't been trying to be better than Pet Sounds.
So it's not surprising that according to Rolling Stone Sgt Pepper is the greatest album of all time, with Pet Sounds as number 2.
And Paul McCartney proudly calls himself, "England's Number One Beach Boys fan."
Thanks to Brian Wilson's refusal to give up, and the competitive spirit and musical genius displayed by both groups, rock fans are much richer.

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