Pet Sounds at 50.

BrianWilsonOn Friday night I saw Brian Wilson perform at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. The concert was part of his current tour in support of the 50th Anniversary of the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds album. Pet Sounds was not one of the Beach Boys bigger commercial successes peaking at #10. Interestingly the album was much better received abroad where it was appreciated for its breakthrough production. Obviously it is appreciated more over time for its more complex arrangements, and music that stands the test of time.

Seeing Brian Wilson is not going to a Beach Boys concert. Beach Boys concerts are merely upbeat oldies concerts of familiar songs, while seeing Brian Wilson perform makes you appreciate the genius of the man who created the music and survives to this day having suffered years of depression. The Pet Sounds album, while attributed to the band, was really considered a Brian Wilson solo album. It was the creation of Brian Wilson who dropped out of touring with the band, and created the album while the band toured. Brian was tired of simplistic surf/car songs and wanted to evolve their music and Pet Sounds represented that evolution.

PetSoundsCoverThe album’s first single was Caroline No, which in fact was released as a Brian Wilson song. The catchy Sloop John B was the subsequent single as was Wouldn’t It Be Nice. God Only Knows ironically was the original B side of Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Interestingly God Only Knows is now considered one of the best songs of all time and was #25 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Best 500 songs of all time. Paul McCartney (no slouch himself) has often said it’s his favorite song of all time.

The concert consisted of two sets and an encore. The first set was a 17 song collection of Beach Boys favorites created by Wilson:

1. California Girls
2. Dance, Dance, Dance
3. I Get Around
4. Shut Down
5. Little Deuce Coupe
6. Little Honda
7. In My Room
8. Surfer Girl
9. Don’t Worry Baby
10. Salt Lake City
11. Wake the World
12. Add Some Music to Your Day
13. California Saga: California
14. Darlin’
15. Sail Away
16. Wild Honey
17. Sail On, Sailor

The second set was the full 13 songs of Pet Sounds played in order:

Side 1

1. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
2. You Still Believe in Me
3. That’s Not Me
4. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
5. I’m Waiting for the Day
6. Let’s Go Away for Awhile
7. Sloop John B

Side 2

1. God Only Knows
2. I Know There’s an Answer
3. Here Today
4. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
5. Pet Sounds
6. Caroline, No

And it was followed by a 6 song encore featured Beach Boy favorites with the finale a Brian Wilson song– Love and Mercy—also the name of the recent terrific movie about Brian Wilson.

1. Good Vibrations
2. Help Me, Rhonda
3. Barbara Ann
4. Surfin’ U.S.A.
5. Fun, Fun, Fun
6. Love and Mercy

36 songs in total –all from the mind of a true genius Brian Wilson. His life story is fascinating and he had many years of seclusion and overwhelming emotional issues. Today, his voice is not as strong and his stage presence is limited to sitting at keyboards and singing. But his band (which also featured Beach Boy Al Jardine—and Jardine’s son who has a great voice) was tight, they were great musicians and, along with Brian Wilson, recreated the music that made for a terrific show.

Brian Wilson is now 74, and while I hope this is not the last time I get to see him, if it is, I am grateful to have had the opportunity. Sail on Sailor.

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