‘Pet Sounds’ Was the First Time the Beach Boys Didn’t Play Instruments on an Album

The Beach Boys‘ album Pet Sounds features songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” and “That’s Not Me” — most of which were written by Brian Wilson. It was also the first Beach Boys album where none of the members played instruments on the recording. 

The Beach Boys released ‘Pet Sounds’ — written predominately by Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson recording 'Pet Sounds'
The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson recording ‘Pet Sounds’ | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Some know them for songs like “Help Me Ronda,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Kokomo.” In 1966, the Beach Boys released their full-length album Pet Sounds, which featured “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” and “That’s Not Me.” 

The Beatles’ Paul McCartney mentioned his appreciation for the bass tracks on the album. Brian Wilson even described Pet Sounds as a “religious experience.”

The record spoke for itself, and it was a religious experience,” Wilson said, according to Best Classic Bands. “Carl and I were into prayer. We held prayer sessions in our house on Laurel Way. ‘Dear God. Please let us bring music to people.’ It happened. A cool trip. A lot of people say to me that Pet Sounds got them through high school or college.”

‘Pet Sounds’ was recorded by ‘the finest session musicians in the industry’ 

According to Heroes And Villains: The True Story Of The Beach Boys, the album Pet Sounds mainly was the brainchild of vocalist Brian Wilson. This was also a collection recorded by musicians other than Brian, Dennis, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine.

Author Steven Gaines wrote, “Pet Sounds is the first album on which none of the Beach Boys played instruments. Diane Rovell was hired to be Brian’s production secretary, and set about hiring the finest session musicians in the industry to play on the album.”

Brian Wilson wrote the arrangements, with most tracks recorded “live.” That meant the instruments and musicians assembled in the studio to play simultaneously.

“Brian was producer, writer, and arranger,” engineer Jim Lockert said. The Spotify credits for specific songs acknowledge other composers. On “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” that includes Beach Boy Mike Love, as well as Tony Asher and Wilson.

“Because the bass parts resound better in a studio, and you can take three hours to get one line if you really needed it,” Wilson said of recording Pet Sounds, according to Best Classic Bands. “You could take forever and get a godd*** line, you know?”

“Larry [Levine] said Phil Spector uses a standup and a Fender [electric] at the same time,” he added, according to the same website. “And the Fender guy used a pick. So I tried it out at my session, and it worked great!” 

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Other Beach Boys shared their thoughts on the album ‘Pet Sounds’

The Beach Boys mentioned their appreciation for this release, even if Jardine misinterpreted the meaning of the Pet Sounds title

“I thought it was about making out. You know, petting in high school, I don’t know what they call it now,” Jardine said, according to Huffpost. Now, Pet Sounds is available on most major streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.