The use of session musicians on Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Cryptical17, Jul 14, 2021.

  1. Cryptical17

    Cryptical17 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    New York
    How do you feel about Brian Wilson using the Wrecking Crew for the sessions instead of The Beach Boys themselves? Does it take away from your enjoyment of the album?

    I know that the practice of utilizing session players was already common in the 60s, but I feel that an album that’s considered a masterpiece should be made (mostly) by the regular guys in the band. The guys who are on the album cover should be the main musical contributors. Occasional guest musicians are definitely great. But no matter how much I love Pet Sounds, I still feel that I’m not getting the entire Beach Boys experience. Great vocals by the guys though!

    What are your opinions about the above issue? Does it negate your listening enthusiasm or no?
  2. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Pet Sounds would not be Pet Sounds without the Wrecking Crew. Simple as that.

    No enthusiasm diminished here.
  3. SurrealCereal

    SurrealCereal Forum Resident

    The end justifies the means on this one. I’d much rather have the lush instrumental perfection provided by The Wrecking Crew than have Pet Sounds’ potential held back by adhering to a rock band format. Even if the arrangements were exactly the same but with The Beach Boys playing the guitar, drum, and bass parts, I can’t imagine it would have been as sublime as the version we got.
  4. Vic333

    Vic333 Forum Resident

    I have no emotional connection to the Beach Boys as a band. I do connect to Pet Sounds as an album, though.
    So, the right choice was made, IMO.
  5. JamieC

    JamieC Senior Member

    Detroit Mi USA
    I have heard the Beach Boys live at many points in their career. I was never amazed. The vocals ALWAYS were there, but they were above average as a band.
    They were on the road getting their clothes shredded while Brian put it together using Hal, Carol, and Glen et. al. It could never be Brians masterpiece with the Wilson family band. I just don't think they were capable of doing it in any sort of timely fashion. Brian would have gotten distracted by something or something....
  6. Moth

    Moth fluttering by

    Brian's instrumental vision for Pet Sounds was much wider in scope than the average rock n roll band, and it's clear from the session tapes that he knew exactly what he wanted from each arrangement, down to the intonation of the wind instruments. The Beach Boys, even though they were competent musicians, could not have provided all of the instrumentation nor to the degree of perfection that Brian demanded. If the alternative is an album with lesser arrangements or performances, then I say be grateful for what we got. The Wilson brothers do play together to form the basic track for "That's Not Me," though.
  7. TheMovieRad

    TheMovieRad If you want to count me, count me out

    Los Angeles, CA
    Honestly it makes me love it more. Brian ignored the naysayers and made a timeless album. In my opinion he could have done most of the vocals by himself but graciously got the others involved. Carl’s vocal for God Only Knows is probably the only vocal track Brian needed another vocalist for (imo.)
    Lee Davis, saborlord123, Tord and 9 others like this.
  8. lordcat

    lordcat Forum Resident

    I'd like to hear how The Beach Boys themselves had of played it, but that's what Brian wanted so thats how it is.
    At least we have them live performing some of the songs, I'm not sure how many they played live though?
    But I really enjoy The Beach Boys live.
    JSKC, Scott the Zip, Mr. D and 3 others like this.
  9. Toad of the Short Forest

    Toad of the Short Forest Forum Resident

    90220 Compton
    I sort of see it like how I see classical music. That is, an orchestra is necessary to perform the works of Beethoven, and Beethoven isn't any less of a composer because someone else plays his compositions.

    This kind of gets complicated with the "rock group" setting and the possibilities of overdubbing, but I think that Pet Sounds is a lot closer to Beethoven than Chuck Berry. I also feel that the group shouldn't be expected to know to play non-rock instruments like bass clarinets and tannerins. If having those instruments in there means "losing a bit of integrity," then I'm very okay with that.

    Plus they still sing all of the tracks themselves, and the vocal arrangements/performances are equally impressive imo.
  10. jwoverho

    jwoverho Licensed Drug Dealer

    Mobile, AL USA
    It fit in with Brian's admiration for Phil Spector's production techniques, along with using the same musicians. His arrangements required the kind of instrumental skill that the session musicians could provide. I'd rather him have used who he did than to have made something that was less than what he envisioned in his mind.
  11. Man at C&A

    Man at C&A Forum Resident

    It improves what I think of the album. Pet Sounds would sound dreadful if the Beach Boys played all the instruments. Getting the finest session musicians and arrangements was a masterstroke. I enjoy the Beach Boys as musicians a lot on Wild Honey but that were nowhere near capable of playing Pet Sounds. That's not a criticism of them, no self contained pop / rock band could have done it.
  12. Levi's Tubs

    Levi's Tubs Less cool than West Coast

    The Wrecking Crew on Beach Boys' records preceded Pet Sounds.
  13. Hershey

    Hershey I'm gonna meet you on the astral plane

    Squamish BC Canada
    As far as I'm concerned Pet Sounds is a Brian Wilson solo album not a Beach boys album.
    joseph maffei, parman, Binni and 4 others like this.
  14. vamborules

    vamborules Forum Resident

    tbh, I see it as a negative and something that makes me think of them a lesser band when compared to bands like The Beatles or the Rolling Stones.
  15. John Manning

    John Manning #FreeFeelFlows

    Yorkshire Dales
    I get like that when I listen to Elvis. The fact that he didn’t play drums or piano or even guitar on any of his hits diminishes them all, IMHO. Same with the Beatles - they had a horn section on SPLHCB, which was clearly cheating – the strings on A Day in the Life make the track utterly redundant. And anything with Billy Preston on it can’t really be regarded as The Beatles.

    It’s the same with so many modern acts. I threw out my Spice Girls CDs when I read that they didn’t do their own backing tracks.

    Why are we even discussing this?!?!?!
  16. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Dearborn, MI
    Correct. They were frustrated at how much he made them work on the vocals. Imagine doing the music too. Dennis wasn't able and Mike doesn't do anything but complain.
  17. John Manning

    John Manning #FreeFeelFlows

    Yorkshire Dales
    The Beatles and Stones had plenty of backing musicians… heck, the Stones even had ex-Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin for a long time!
  18. Popmartijn

    Popmartijn Forum Resident

    The Netherlands
    Do I consider Pet Sounds a lesser album because session musicians play on it?
    Hmm... Let's see... I consider Pet Sounds my favourite album ever, so I guess not. :)
    To be fair, I've never considered The Beach Boys as a group of musicians but more as a vocal group. And I don't have such a rockist view that a group has to play themselves and cannot be vocal only.
    Mr-Beagle, JSKC, OldSoul and 9 others like this.
  19. vamborules

    vamborules Forum Resident

    Not like The Beach Boys on Pet Sounds they didn't. There are no Beatles or Stones albums where pretty much everything is played by outside musicians.
    Alert and gregorya like this.
  20. fallbreaks

    fallbreaks Forum Resident

    I love the Beach Boys, love Brian, love Pet Sounds.

    I don’t mind the use of session musicians at all, but to be honest what does bother me is that Brian didn’t share more vocal opportunities with the guys.

    Pet Sounds comes very close to being a Brian Wilson solo album - Brian is the only Beach Boy to appear on the song Caroline No, which lead to it being released as a single under Brian’s name alone. Initially Brian was planning to sing God Only Knows before giving Carl a chance. Bruce’s ‘mini feature’ at the end of God Only Knows is more than Al and Dennis get on the whole album. Al suggested the song Sloop John B to Brian, but didn’t get to sing any of it. The album is credited to The Beach Boys, but half the group contribute only background vocals and nothing else.That’s more bothersome to me than session musicians. As recently as Beach Boys Today, they seemed invested in a more interesting and inclusive vocal split and all those songs still sounded like The Beach Boys. (And they actually played on some of the songs as a band.)
  21. TwentySmallCigars

    TwentySmallCigars Forum Resident

    Frank Zappa used the Wrecking Crew instead of the Mothers on Lumpy Gravy.

    This doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the album or tarnish my opinion of the Mothers.

    It's about using the best tool available for the job. The sounds coming out of the speakers are what's important.
    folkfreak, Boognish, enro99 and 7 others like this.
  22. BeatleJWOL

    BeatleJWOL Senior Member

    Yup. Sometimes that's session musicians, sometimes that's Autotune. That's just the reality of making music. Occasionally it's abused, of course (see: Monkees, The). Pet Sounds is not one of those instances.
    EdogawaRampo and John Manning like this.
  23. donstemple

    donstemple Forum Resident

    Maplewood, NJ
    Do people make these points about all the other hit songs backed by the wrecking crew or the Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed” or Sgt Peppers?

    Carl played on Pet Sounds a bit, but Brian needed session musicians to bring his vision to reality. He told them all what to play and arranged it all. I would say Brian (a Beach Boy) is responsible for how that record sounds, not the session musicians (as amazing as those musicians were).
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2021
  24. veloso2

    veloso2 Forum Resident

    the important thing is what we got in the end as it doesn't mind to know that some of the best paintings were made by workshop guys!!
    John Manning and Remy like this.
  25. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus

    No rock band could play those arrangements.

    Brian got the people who could do what he heard in his head.

    The Beach Boys vocals are still incredible probably the most complex vocal harmony in rock history (until they did SMiLE) and they sound so great too. Often imitated, but imitators always miss something magical those guys had as a vocal unit.

    The Beach Boys narrative is extremely complicated and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Boys, as individuals and as a group, the Wrecking Crew, Chuck Britt, Desper, Murry (yep), Christian, Usher, Parks and Asher….All deserve their due credit as does the mighty Brian Wilson, too.

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