If you can possibly listen past the veneer of immaculate, lush, and imposing compositions within The Beach Boys masterpiece Pet Sounds, it feels nearly confessional. With the help of jingle writer Tony Asher, who ended up writing most of the lyrics for Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson co-wrote a largely sentimental rock record that tackles issues like love, isolation, and moments of hazy angst. The lyrical content of Pet Sounds almost stands in direct opposition to wheelhouse Beach Boy topics: ‘”fast cars, cute girls, and sunny beaches.”
Wilson’s touring break and subsequent decision to record Pet Sounds, gave listeners the a succinct glimpse of this mastermind on tape. After listening to the Beatles Rubber Soul and catching the fever to make the “best album of all time,” Wilson flexed his one-man-band chops using band mate Mike Love – not unlike Jordan and Pippen worked on the early-mid nineties Chicago Bulls championship teams. One role was primarily supplemental. He then enlisted the rest of the Boys along with his own army of creatives to follow his flawless compositional compass. Why the obvious need for control? Where most bands team up to agree on approach, content and direction, there was obviously something blooming or dying within Wilson that couldn’t find its way into the world following democratic rock band methods. He wanted the ball.
As J. DeRogatis noted, “While psychedelic drugs inspired the Beatles to look at the problems in the world around them, they made Brian Wilson turn his attention inward and probe his emotional longings and his deep-seated self-doubts.” (Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock). Inspiration or not, by all accounts, Wilson was looking for personal meaning from within at this juncture in his career (10 albums in) and Pet Sounds comes across like a man handing over wildly complex musical and lyrical coordinates to his listeners in order to be discovered and loved.
Now, here at the ATL Collective, we’re very interested in the narrative in which our main protagonist songwriter finds him or herself at the time the chosen record was made. Whether it’s a band or folk singer, we’re looking to re-interpret the record as narrative in order to put brilliance under a microscope, capture a moment in time, and bring not just a song, but an entire story back to life through song. The centerpiece we choose to branch out of is always the primary songwriter. Tomorrow night, that’s Brian Wilson. Tomorrow night, as a group of fans, artists, and writers, we’ll give it our best to follow Mr. Wilson’s fantastic coordinates and hopefully understand what he wanted us to know. And, while taking care of his ‘pet sounds’, perhaps we’ll get an idea of what he wanted himself to know.
By Micah Dalton.
Micah is the co-founder of the ATL Collective, a touring singer/songwriter, and is looking for a cheap bike.