On the Beatles’ first listen to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds: ‘John and Paul made me play it twice’

Share this:

For Bruce Johnston, his first year as a member of the Beach Boys was a whirlwind of activity, punctuated by the recording and release of three albums — most notably Pet Sounds. Then he found himself in England, long before that career-defining 1966 project had been released, previewing it for the Beatles.

“When I got there, there was so much interest in Pet Sounds and everybody wanted to hear it,” Johnston tells Ken Sharp in Play On! Power Pop Heroes. “On one of my last nights in London, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Keith Moon were in my suite and I played them Pet Sounds — and John and Paul made me play it twice. It was really cool. They loved it. We all knew that it was a really wonderful thing to be listening to. There wasn’t much to say. It was like collectively watching a great movie and you go ‘Wow!,’ and just know it was cool.”

Johnston had actually been tooling around the whole time with Moon, who served as a kind of mobile-party/UK tour guide. If that sounds like a mismatch — the new Beach Boy and the wacked-out Mod drummer — then you don’t know Keith Moon very well.

“He loved surf music — he loved Jan and Dean and he loved the Beach Boys. Before he joined the Who he was in a surf band [called the Beachcombers],” Johnston adds. “When I was in Keith’s care — he had a 1951 Bentley with a driver — he would play music in the car, Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys and he played it on vinyl. We’d be driving and he’d hit a bump and the needle would go across record and it would skip, ‘It’s the little old (makes skipping sound) Pasadena …’ [Laughs.] It was so funny.”

Moon’s impression of the Beach Boys’ as-yet-unheard masterpiece, however, was far less enthusiastic than had been John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s. “I found out later Pet Sounds didn’t cut it for him,” Johnston says, laughing. “He was more into the early surf sound of the band.”

The Beach Boys also released 1965’s Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) and then Beach Boys’ Party! during Bruce Johnston’s initial months as a member. Johnston still tours with the group and its lone remaining founder, Mike Love. European dates continue this week. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson offers a gorgeous reinterpretation of “Wanderlust,” a Paul McCartney deep cut from 1982, on the forthcoming Art of the McCartney tribute project.

Something Else!

Something Else!

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Something Else!
Share this:
Close