Album Of The Year: 1966

The idea behind this ‘series’ is that once every two weeks another year will be brought into attention, starting with 1963 and moving onward chronologically. One and only one album will be selected and written about from each year, the criteria being a mix of personal preference and historical relevance. If you stumble upon this article by any chance and end up not clicking the ‘x’ button in disgust, keep in mind that I would love to hear your choice for the respective year – from a simple comment stating the album’s name, to detailed analysis that will destroy my argument and make me reconsider my reasoning. Remember, one of the main reasons I’m doing this is to get a better perspective of what albums I’ve missed out on, from each period of time.

Today’s Pick: The Beach BoysPet Sounds

Pet+Sounds

Had ‘Pet Sounds’ been released as a completely instrumental album, it’d still be hailed for the incredibly creative melodies and the diversity of instruments arranged in such a head-spinning manner. Had the Beach Boys suddenly became so bankrupt that they had to sell all of their instruments and equipment and ended up recording a garage-quality album of nothing but their voices singing and harmonizing these songs, it would still be better than what most bands had accomplished in their entire career. But when you take them both together and add the lyrics you get an album that’s just…

…just too much. And I know my 16-year old self, listening to it for the very first time around 6 o’clock A.M. after a sleepless summer night, would agree with that if it wasn’t for the fact that he was completely speechless throughout those 36 minutes. But that’s not really it – I have such great memories with dozens of other albums. What truly makes ‘Pet Sounds’ such a special record is that it always stays with me – with each new listen I experience the same amazement, the same overwhelming sense of wonder, the feeling that this sounds unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Just yesterday I played it and I still couldn’t tell whether it was the 100th listen or the 1st. Maybe the place and time are not the same, maybe I see the things from a different perspective, but the emotional impact is always undisputable.

And Paul McCartney seems to share my feelings. It has become a well-known fact by now that he cited the album as one of the biggest influences on both Sgt. Pepper and himself on repeated accounts. While it is great to find out that your heroes are fans of each other’s work, I’ve always felt that this record’s importance goes way beyond just inspiring The Beatles to create Pepper (which is no mean feat in itself). I can’t even begin imagining what it would feel like hearing it when it came out. To witness a pop/rock album taking the shape of a journey that starts with the couple longing for the idea of growing old together and ends with the boy running into the girl long after the relationship is over and realizing how much she’s changed. To hear all these little emotional, teen-angst episodes riding on a wave of hypnotic harpsichords, flutes, theremins and whatnot playing gorgeous melodies and clashing into each other.

And finally, to realize that holding the wheel is a musical genius reaching his peak in terms of both creativity and craft, with the rest of the passengers always ready to give him a hand in doing so. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy and respect the work of the rest of the band, as well as the hired players’, but this is Brian Wilson’s show and the reason he’s my all-time favourite artist. Likewise, I enjoy and respect many albums released in 1966, but none can really compete with The Beach Boys at their absolute best.

Do you agree? What’s your favourite album from 1966?

Find the previous parts here: 19631964, 1965

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Categories: Album Of The Year

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8 replies

  1. Could not agree more with you on this one – Blonde on Blonde, Parsley Sage…, and Face to Face are all enjoyable, but there’s only one Pet Sounds. Good point about every listen being different, what a record!

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  2. Would probably take Revolver and then Pet Sounds.

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    • Revolver is pretty much perfect, too. On some days, Here, There and Everywhere is my favourite song of all-time. And Tomorrow Never Knows…how does one attempt something like that as early as the mid 60’s? Thanks for dropping by.

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  3. I’ve been following along but haven’t commented previously. I really enjoy the blog, especially as narrowing down to the 1 album I would pick as my favorite is probably impossible for me to do.

    For 1966, I am pretty much sold on either Revolver or Pet Sounds, but at the same time Aftermath by the Stones has Out of Time on it, which is very high on my personal favorite songs of theirs, along with Under My Thumb & Mother’s Little Helper. Of course, since this is Album of the Year, that does sort of relegate them to at least third, as the rest of the album is nowhere near the same level for me personally compared to Revolver or Pet Sounds. Other favorites from 1966 would be Face to Face by The Kinks, which is actually stronger than Aftermath song for song IMO but doesn’t have the high single(s) in my personal list, and The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, which has a couple songs with the rest of the album blending together (I really love Fire Engine & You’re Gonna Miss Me).

    Overall, I love Pet Sounds & I love Revolver, and having to pick between the two would be nigh impossible for me. Kudos to another well put together post.

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    • Hi arsenalfanmsp, thanks for commenting. I love all 3 albums you mentioned, Psychedelic Sounds has actually been my go-to-sleep album for a few months now – those grooves are just hypnotic. They truly were the quintessential psych band. Looking forward to reading your opinions on the following years.

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  4. I would put both Revolver and BonB ahead of Pet Sounds. As much as I dig the Beach Boys I never got the vast importance of Pet Sounds. I’ve read pieces on how it is among the most important works in the history of music. I may not have had enough BB Kool Aid yet….

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  5. It’s interesting, because I think that if you took the collective opinion of rock music fans, the favorite album would be the one mentioned so much in these replies — Revolver. (I actually prefer Rubber Soul to Revolver, which are the two Beatles albums so ofter compared, but that’s just my personal opinion.)

    On the whole, I think that Revolver had more impact but Pet Sounds had more influence. The splash Revolver made was bigger, louder and the ripple effects are still felt today. But Pet Sounds set a lot of other artists up to reconsider what they could achieve in the studio. It reminds us that among so many instruments available, the voice is still the most versatile, and often the loveliest.

    At any rate, this puts me in the mood to listen to Pet Sounds today.

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