Pet Sounds’ 50th Anniversary: A Retrospective of Influence


Jack Murphy

“Who’s gonna hear this? This ears of a dog?” These words uttered by Beach Boys band member Mike Love supposedly lead to Brian Wilson’s decision to name said album “Pet Sounds”. Even though the album was a commercial flop at the time, it would later be cited as one of the most influential albums in pop music. The Beach Boys are now well-known for being progenitors for many of the sounds we hear in pop music today. Practically every pop artist you can think of was influenced either directly or indirectly by The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson is known by many as one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century along with the Lennon/McCartney duo, Lou Reed, and Chuck Berry. To demonstrate this influence, I sought to ask people what some of their favorite modern pop artists are to hopefully tie them back to this 1966 masterpiece.

First, I asked my sister, Dowling alumna, Monica, what her favorite modern pop album was. She gave me “Honeymoon” by Lana Del Rey. Lana is most well known by her R&B influenced beats and singing. However, there is one clear tie back to “Pet Sounds”: orchestration. Pet Sounds was one of the first albums to have a large-scale for orchestra for many of its songs. The songs are ridiculously complex. On some tracks like the opener “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” there is a mandolin, woodwinds, bass harmonica, strings, timpani, brass, and two upright basses in two different keys. Brian was a fan of 40s Jazz and modern classical, and brought this influence into his music.

Senior Nate Kouri said his favorite modern album was Animal Collective’s 2016 album “Painting With.” Here, Animal Collective is very obviously influenced by the psychedelic sound most well-known for being pioneered in the 70s. However, the Beach Boys were also early to this game as well in Pet Sounds, being cited as one of the earliest examples of Psychedelic Pop/Rock. Animal Collective are also notable for their layered-vocal stylings, which the Beach Boys also helped innovate through their quintet vocals.

Recently, fellow Dowling Catholic Post staff member Stevie LeWarne has been singing praises (rightfully) for Beyoncé’s newest album Lemonade”. This album is notable for its overarching concepts and tying-together between tracks. Pet Sounds was one of the first albums to take advantage of the album format. Before the 60s, many record companies would use singles to drive sales, rather than selling their music mostly through album sales. Pet Sounds is often cited as one of music’s first “concept albums” along with Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out” and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. And that’s not even the start of it. The Beach Boys also helped innovate and create sunshine pop, baroque pop, use of moog synthesizer and Theremin, new wave, and chamber pop. It’s important to celebrate the Beach Boys as we continue to celebrate current works, because the later would not exist without the former.