Saturday, September 16
Scotiabank Centre, 5284 Duke Street
It seems almost inconceivable that the now 75-year-old Brian Wilson was only 23 years old when he produced The Beach Boys' magnum opus Pet Sounds, an album widely considered by many to be the greatest pop album of all time. When asked over the phone if he had any idea he was building a new musical lexicon that would alter the face of music production and songwriting for the next half century, he answers with almost comedic modesty: "I wanted to try something different than just, you know, car songs and surf songs," Wilson says.
Wilson had already shown plenty of compositional brilliance with many of the songs on the previous Beach Boys albums, but he largely did so within a template of what was deemed acceptable pop music for the time. Pet Sounds, on the other hand, shepherded in a world that simultaneously pushed both the boundaries of lyrical intimacy and sonic grandiosity while eschewing conventional song structure and instrumentation and no one quite knew what the hell to make of it. It's hard to imagine now, but for that time in musical history and relative to the existing Beach Boys canon, Pet Sounds was positively alien.
Despite the album's tepid reception stateside, one song, "God Only Knows" rose to the number two position in the UK. Arguably the most beloved song on Pet Sounds, if not in Wilson's entire catalogue, this staggering composition was written in under an hour. "It came to me very naturally. I wrote some of the melody and I had my friend Tony Asher come over and write the lyric and we had a great song. He had the knack for lyrics," Wilson says.
There now exists a vast expanse of 50 years between the Brian Wilson who created Pet Sounds and the Brian Wilson who is currently performing the album in its entirety on tour for the last time, but Wilson still feels a meaningful connection to the album's creation. "The memories come back to me on stage. It takes me back to when we recorded it," he says.
From its inclusion into the Library Of Congress to Paul McCartney and George Martin's admissions that Pet Sounds was the catalyst for Sgt. Pepper, it's a fair assumption it will likely be Wilson's greatest legacy. "It was the best album that we've ever done," he says. "We will probably never do an album as good as that ever again."—Jason MacIsaac