"Who's gonna hear this shit?" Beach Boys singer Mike Love asked the band's resident genius, Brian Wilson, in 1966, as Wilson played him the new songs he was working on. "The ears of a dog?" Confronted with his bandmate's contempt, Wilson made lemonade of lemons. "Ironically," he observed, "Mike's barb inspired the album's title."
Barking dogs — Wilson's dog Banana among them, in fact — are prominent among the found sounds on the album. The Beatles made a point of echoing them on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — an acknowledgment that Pet Sounds was the inspiration for the Beatles' masterpiece. That gesture actually completed a circle of influence: Wilson initially conceived of Pet Sounds as an effort to top the Beatles' Rubber Soul.
Wilson essentially made Sounds without the rest of the band, using them only to flesh out the vocal arrangements. He even considered putting the album out as a solo project, and the first single, "Caroline, No," was released under his own name. The deeply personal nature of the songs, which Wilson co-wrote primarily with lyricist Tony Asher, further distinguished the album from the Beach Boys' typical fare. Its luxurious sound convey a heartbreaking wistfulness, as songs such as "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" and "I'm Waiting for the Day" bid farewell to the innocent world of the early Sixties and to the Beach Boys' fun-in-the-sun hits.
Unfortunately, Capitol Records proved no more enamored of Pet Sounds than had Love; the label actually considered not releasing the album at all. Not yet vindicated by history, Wilson withdrew further into his inner world. "At the last meeting I attended concerning Pet Sounds," Wilson wrote in his autobiography (which took the name of the album's opening track, "Wouldn't It Be Nice") about his dealings with Capitol's executive brain trust, "I showed up holding a tape player and eight prerecorded, looped responses, including 'No comment,' 'Can you repeat that?' 'No' and 'Yes.' Refusing to utter a word, I played the various tapes when appropriate."