Mike Love Admits Making ‘Pet Sounds’ ‘Wasn’t Always Pleasant’
During an interview on The Vinyl Guide podcast, Love set the scene for Pet Sounds’ creation. As he explained it, the Beach Boys were “effectively two groups” at the time: one that went on tour and another - essentially made up of Brian Wilson and session musicians - that stayed in the studio working on new material. “The touring group was off in Japan while Brian was in the studio with some of the greatest musicians in the West Coast called the Wrecking Crew,” Love recalled.
“So he had all the tracks done and we came back from Japan, we labored over doing the harmonies and all the backgrounds and the leads for the Pet Sounds album. ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ we must have done 25 takes of certain sections of it, just to make sure it was perfect.”
Wilson was infamously difficult during Pet Sounds’ recording. The album was his most ambitious yet, and the songwriter and producer was determined to make it incredible – even if it meant exhausting his bandmates. The Beach Boys recorded their vocal parts many times to get them just right, and sessions often went long into the night.
“It wasn’t always pleasant or easy, but we were looking for the perfect blend, the perfect harmony, the perfect vibration together,” Love explained. “If one person sang just a little bit off on a four-part thing, they’re behind or ahead of something, or flat or sharp or whatever it might be, just a tad, just a little bit, most people wouldn’t pick up on it or care. But Brian was, I call him the 'Stalin of the Studio.' Because he wanted it perfect. And he was looking for something that normal human beings don’t hear.”
Listen to the Beach Boys' 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'
The Beach Boys’ Record Company Wasn’t Excited About 'Pet Sounds'
When Pet Sounds was completed, Love and Wilson took the album to play it for Capitol Records’ marketing team. The response from executives was less than enthusiastic.
“Gee, guys, this is great. But could you do something more like ‘California Girls’ or ‘I Get Around’ or ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ or ‘Don’t Worry Baby,’” Love remembered being asked. “In other words, they wanted that hit 45 formula to continue on ad infinitum. But we were interested in breaking boundaries, experimenting and in getting a little complex in the orchestration.”
Released May 16, 1966, Pet Sounds was initially met with a tepid response from fans and critics. Over time, the album’s true genius became appreciated. Songs such as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” remain beloved by generations of fans, while Pet Sounds continues to be hailed as one of the greatest albums in rock history.
Listen to the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows'