15 Fascinating Facts About Pet Sounds

Capitol Records
Capitol Records

Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds forever changed the landscape of pop music. It's a deeply personal album, and Wilson's meticulously complex and bizarre arrangements elevated the three-minute radio tune to art.

The story of how Pet Sounds was made has been told and retold (and parodied) plenty of times since its release in 1966, but there are still many fascinating little stories about the album that may have gone under the radar. In honor of Wilson's 75th birthday, we're taking a look back at the highly influential album.

1. PET SOUNDS WAS INSPIRED BY THE BEATLES' ALBUM, RUBBER SOUL.

"Rubber Soul blew my mind," Brian Wilson once said. "When I heard Rubber Soul, I said, 'That's it. That's all. That's all folks.' I said, 'I'm going to make an album that's really good, I mean really challenge me.' I mean, I love that f*cking album, I cherish that album."

2. IT STARTED WITH A PANIC ATTACK.

In December of 1964, while on a flight to Houston to start yet another Beach Boys tour, Brian Wilson had a panic attack, which led to him collapsing in the plane's aisle and sobbing. He had to return to California, where he recovered and realized that he could tour no longer. He called a meeting with the rest of the band and said, "Listen, I'm going to have to quit the touring group. But it's going to be well worth it, because I'm going to write you some good songs."

3. WHILE THE BAND TOURED IN 1965, BRIAN WILSON STAYED AT HOME AND WORKED ON PET SOUNDS.

Throughout 1965, while the rest of band toured, Wilson worked on his new project. He arranged, composed, and produced the album and conducted an army of L.A.'s best studio musicians, a.k.a. "The Wrecking Crew," to perform on it. Wilson had unprecedented control over Pet Sounds, and he was just 23 years old at the time.

4. IT TOOK AN ENTIRE WEEK TO RECORD THE VOCALS FOR "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE."

Once the rest of the band returned from international touring, Wilson had them come into the studio to put vocals down on top of his compositions. It took a full week to record the voice track on “Wouldn’t it be Nice.” Wilson was so demanding that Mike Love began referring to him as "Dog Ears" and joked that Wilson was able to hear things that normal human beings could not—including "an impure thought."

5. THE TITLE TRACK WAS WRITTEN FOR A JAMES BOND MOVIE.

Wilson wrote the instrumental track “Pet Sounds” with the intention that it would be used in a James Bond movie. The original title was "Run James Run."

6. THE ALBUM'S COMPOSITIONS ARE EXTREMELY COMPLEX.

Wilson's arrangements on Pet Sounds are so musically complex and meticulous that meaning can be derived at a remarkably technical level, as music critic Jim Fusilli explained in his book about the album:

["You Still Believe in Me"] begins in B major, a key rarely used in pop, and remains in B major. The G# major chord below the first, and only, time the word "love" is invoked in the song is particularly striking; on the second pass, the G# major chord hits below the word "fail." In a rare example of the bassist emphasizing the root in a Brian Wilson arrangement, Carol Kaye hits the G# in both instances. It's as if Brian wanted there to be no confusion for the listener: in his mind, at least in this song, love equals failure.

7. THERE WAS SOME MAJOR FAMILY DRAMA DURING THE RECORDING OF "HELP ME, RHONDA."

The Wilsons' abusive father/manager Murry Wilson had effectively been kicked out of his sons' musical lives after a drunken, in-studio tirade during a recording of "Help Me, Rhonda." Despite this, he managed to use his clout with Capitol Records to speed up Brian's vocal track on "Caroline, No" to make it sound higher to his liking.

8. THE BARKING AT THE END OF "CAROLINE, NO" IS REAL.

The barking came courtesy of Brian's two dogs, Banana and Louie.

9. THEY USED SOME UNIQUE METHODOLOGIES TO GET JUST THE RIGHT SOUNDS.

The dreamy, plinking sound at the beginning of "You Still Believe in Me" is achieved by someone reaching inside an open piano and directly plucking its strings. This effect is used in other songs on the album as well, but it is isolated in this case..

10. THE BAND EMPLOYED A NUMBER OF BIZARRE INSTRUMENTS ON THE ALBUM.

Besides its orchestral strings and wind sections, Pet Sounds is famous for its unusual and almost comedic use of bizarre instruments, including bicycle horns, vibraphones, timpani, finger cymbals, Coke cans, accordions, modified 12-string mandolins, and water jugs.

11. CAPITOL RECORDS WASN'T IMPRESSED WITH THE FINAL RESULT.

Capitol Records wasn't thrilled with the album and how far it strayed from the band's usual sound. The company refused to issue a single with it until months after its release. ("Sloop John B" and "Caroline, No" were released as singles months before the album, with the latter published as a Brian Wilson solo.)

12. THE RECORD LABEL WAS SO SURE THE ALBUM WOULD BE A FAILURE THAT THEY RELEASED A "BEST OF" ALBUM AROUND THE SAME TIME TO MITIGATE THE DAMAGE.


Photo by George Stroud/Express/Getty Images

Capitol had such little faith in Pet Sounds, they decided to release The Best of The Beach Boys, a collection of the band's well-known surf and party hits, around the same time.

13THE BEST OF COLLECTION MANAGED TO OUTSELL PET SOUNDS.

Pet Sounds peaked at number 10 on the charts in the United States. The Best of The Beach Boys landed at number eight.

14. THE BEATLES INSPIRED PET SOUNDS, THEN PET SOUNDS INSPIRED THE BEATLES.

Pet Sounds was a hit in the UK, where it topped the charts. Before its release there, Brian Wilson's tour fill-in Bruce Johnston took two copies with him to London and managed—through Beach Boys fanatic Keith Moon—to arrange a meeting at a hotel with John Lennon and Paul McCartney to play it for them. They listened to it once through, paused, and immediately asked to hear the album again. Shortly afterward, the two began to work on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

15. WITHOUT PET SOUNDS, THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.

According to The Beatles's producer, George Martin, "Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened ... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."

7 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian

© Lucasfilm
© Lucasfilm

From the moment he appeared onscreen in the closing moments of the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey. The Rock has displayed his affection for the cooing green infant on Instagram; a man purportedly got a tattoo of Baby Yoda holding a White Claw seltzer and insists it’s permanent; and a Change.org petition is underway demanding a Baby Yoda emoji.

That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues its weekly run through December 27. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far about the alarmingly adorable creature canonically known as “The Child.”

1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.

Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda’s age in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.

And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.

2. Baby Yoda is male.

After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing, (Omid Abtahi) refers to the character as “him.” A pre-order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he." We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a green-skinned Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.

3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.

Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode three, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.

4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.

In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a Mudhorn, a savage beast. Channeling his (presumed) Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.

5. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.

Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.

6. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.

Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”

Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”

7. Baby Yoda bootleg merchandise has become a force.

When Favreau decided to keep Baby Yoda under tight wraps before the premiere of The Mandalorian, it forced Disney to postpone plans for tie-in merchandising, which can often leak plot points from film and television projects in retailer solicitations months in advance. As a result, precious little Baby Yoda merchandise is available, save for some hastily-assembled shirts and mugs on the Disney Store website. That leaves craftspeople on Etsy and other outlets to fabricate bootleg Baby Yoda plush dolls and other items.

The shortage runs parallel to the predicament faced by toy maker Kenner upon the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Faced with a huge and unexpected holiday demand for action figures, the company was forced to sell consumers an empty box with a voucher for the toys redeemable the following year.

The Most Popular Christmas Movie in Each State

dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images
dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone has a favorite classic holiday movie, from 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life to 1983’s A Christmas Story to 1988’s Die Hard, which may or may not fit the criteria for a festive film depending on who you ask. Home advice website House Method decided to see if those favorites varied by state. To find out, the site polled 4580 people and compiled the results into handy infographics.

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by state is pictured
House Method

As you can see, A Christmas Story dominates the country, with 24 states and a total of 12.8 percent of respondents naming it their favorite. The 2003 Will Ferrell comedy Elf came in second, with 11 states and 11.2 percent of the vote. Rounding out the top five—when looking at the overall percentage—are 1990’s Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life, with a dark horse—1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas—scoring 6.3 percent of voting and winning over Tennessee. Nebraska was an outlier, naming 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation their favorite.

Here’s how it breaks down by count according to state:

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by state is pictured
House Method

By percentage is where animated classics like 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas rank:

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by percentage of votes is pictured
House Method

Kansas and Vermont selected Die Hard, an often-contentious choice. (The film is set during Christmas in Los Angeles, with Bruce Willis’s everyman cop forced to battle terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza during a holiday party.) House Method decided to throw in a bonus question: Does the film qualify as a Christmas movie? The survey says no, with nearly 60 percent declaring it ineligible for holiday status. Sorry, Bruce.

An infographic depicting survey results about 'Die Hard' being a Christmas movie is pictured
House Method

[h/t House Method]

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