Pet Sounds is the 11th studio album by the Beach Boys. It was released on May 16th, 1966 on Capitol Records. In the US it was initially met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response. It peaked at number 10 on Billboard’s Top LPs chart. In the UK though, the album was lauded by critics and reached number 2 on the Top 40 Albums Chart. It remained in the top ten for six months. It was promoted in the UK as “the most progressive pop album ever”. Pet Sounds have been recognized for its ambitious production, sophisticated music, and emotional lyric content. It is still considered to be among the most influential albums in music history.
Brian Wilson produced, arranged, and was almost entirely composed by Brian Wilson with help from guest lyricist Tony Asher. The Beach Boys recorded the album between January and April 1966, a year after Wilson quit touring with his bandmates. It has been said that Brian Wilson was trying to create “the greatest rock album ever made”—a cohesive work with no filler tracks. It is has been considered a Wilson solo album that builds upon the advancements of The Beach Boys Today! (1965). Lead single “Caroline, No” was issued as his official solo debut. “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (backed with “God Only Knows”) have been credited to the group.
Pet Sounds revolutionized the field of music production and the role of producers within the music industry. It introduced new approaches to orchestration, chord voicings, and structural harmonies, and furthered the cultural legitimization of popular music. The album has topped several critics’ and musicians’ polls for the best album of all time, including those published by NME, Mojo, Uncut, and The Times. National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004 preserved the album for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It has been certified platinum by the RIAA, indicating over one million units sold.
Album Cover and Packaging
The front sleeve depicts a snapshot of the band feeding pieces of apples to goats at the San Diego Zoo while dressed in coats and sweaters. A green band header announces the titles of the artist, album, and each track on the LP, all written in the Cooper Black typeface. On the backside, the sleeve contained a montage of monochrome photos depicting the touring band on-stage and posing in samurai outfits during their tour of Japan, as well as two photos of Brian.
Mike Love said in his memoir that Capitol planned the cover shoot after the company had conceived the would-be album title Our Freaky Friends. The animals in the picture representing the group’s “freaky friends”. In 2016, when asked about the cover, Wilson could not recall who thought of going to the zoo. Al Jardine remembered that the Pet Sounds title had already been decided. Before arriving at the photoshoot, he thought that “pet” referred to petting or making out. He credited Capitol’s art department with the idea.
George Jerman took the cover photo in February of ’66 at the San Diego Zoo. A local news CBS News crew filmed the shoot. The footage was lost and later rediscovered in 2021. Zoo officials were not real excited about having their beloved beasts connected with the title of the album. They gave in when the Beach Boys explained that animals are an ‘in’ thing with teenagers and that the Beach Boys were rushing to beat the rock and roll group called The Animals.” In the end, the group was banned from the zoo, as the staff had accused them of mishandling the animals.
You can read more about the location for the photoshoot over at PopSpots – https://www.popspotsnyc.com/beach_boys_pet_sounds/