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Listening Post: The 50th Anniversary of the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds'


The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds – 50th Anniversary Edition” (Capitol/Ume, two discs)

Music gets old. But then so do we all – if we’re lucky. That doesn’t mean it ages, though.

Just ask those people who’ll bring children and grandchildren to catch John Fogerty this coming week at the Fallsview Casino. Or those who listened recently to the first Monkees record in 20 years, “Good Times!” (Rhino), only to discover that Mike Nesmith is still smart and Mickey Dolenz claims to be ready to perform just about anywhere if we’ll only just ask. Especially ask those who went to Fallsview last October to catch Brian Wilson who has been, for a while, celebrating the 50th anniversary of what many assume to be his masterpiece, the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.”

What comedians say of old jokes is true of genuinely classic pop records: It’s not old if you’ve never heard it before. That certainly applies to any new ears that encounter “Pet Sounds.” But that applies to its older listeners, too. All right, who hasn’t heard the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” Or their version of the Kingston Trio’s “Sloop John B?” Or their wondrous “God Only Knows” (the one Brian Wilson record that made it impossible for Americans with ears to say anything remotely condescending about Brian Wilson ever again)?

But when you know how much the astonishing Wrecking Crew (Frank Capp, Barney Kessel, Al Casey, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, etc.) had to do with this, it’s not hard to hear “Pet Sounds” as state-of-the-art California studio pop music circa 1966. “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” is the record’s definitive statement. “All my friends thought I was crazy to do ‘Pet Sounds’ ” is Brian Wilson’s immortal comment on the record now marking a half-century of triumph.

Here it is on two discs – in mono, stereo, instrumental versions, live versions. Yes, it’s been around for a half century. It hasn’t aged a day.

4 stars (out of four)