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The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (33 1/3) Paperback – February 11, 2005
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'The idea was simple: to ask a group of authors to each write a book about a classic album. What emerged became Continuum's 33 1/3 series. Without guidelines or rules, each author embraced their own favourite album and chose exactly how they wanted to write about it.As a result, each book is by turn anecdotal, obsessive, technical and personal, but always passionate.' (Swell Music, December 2006)
About the Author
Jim Fusilli is chief rock music critic for the Wall Street Journal and a frequent contributor to National Public Radio's All Things Considered. In addition, he is the author of the award-winning mystery series featuring private investigator Terry Orr and his daughter Bella. The series includes Closing Time, A Well-Known Secret, and Tribeca Blues. The fourth novel in the series, Hard, Hard City, was published by G. P. Putnam in the fall of 2004.
Top customer reviews
1) Lots of info about the band, recording sessions, reception, etc.
2) Huge doses-sometimes an overdose-of personal opinion.
This book falls in the latter. The author is a good writer, so it makes for a quick and easy read. I still think this album is under-documented in the actual making of, what the songs are about, etc., and this book is patchy in that area. But it's a good library addition for fans of this album and the "33 1/3" series in general.
Unfortunately, Fusilli proves more adept at characterizing his own euphoric perceptions of California as he grew up in Hoboken during that period. Please pardon me for sharing my own personal notes, but I'm doing so because Fusilli is so willing to make this book his own memoir. I grew up on California beaches in the '50's and '60's. I used to surf. I know what the high school and college scenes were like then. Fusilli obsesses over Walt Disney in his intro. I met Disney, practically lived n Disneyland, etc.
I remember the Beach Boys. I also remember even better the Beatles, and I know how completely, from a cultural standpoint, the Beatles blew by the Beach Boys after 1964. We didn't even notice Pet Sounds when it came out. That was something for teeny-bopper girls. My rediscovery of Brian Wilson's work is largely a retroactive effort to pick up the thread that many of us lost back then--just as Fusilli's work does a lot of retrospective reading into the Beach Boys' history that reflects more how we feel in the 2000's than what things were really like in the 1960's.
So I actually lived through and was immersed in the things Fusilli presumes to write about. And as I read his book, I continually was concluding that he didn't really know what he was talking about.
What Fusilli conveys in this book are the superficial understandings of someone who has read a lot about the Beach Boys but not taken the time to learn how things really felt firsthand in California at that time. He mentions industry insiders like Phil Spector but never brings them alive as characters. He documents Brian Wilson's personal angst with little real feeling for the man. Everything is transmuted through Fusilli's East Coast haze that is self-indulgent and more revealing of Fusilli than the people he writes about. He does manage to discuss the eventual production of Pet Sounds. But his efforts to discuss Wilson's chord progressions and overall approach to harmonizing constitute obtuse eulogizing that will leave many with the sense that Fusilli knows something important but doesn't want to share it in intelligible English meant for the general reader.
You will learn about the Beach Boys in this book, but you will learn just the basics. You won't learn to love them. Fusilli educates us in the end about how much more he apparently loves himself. You will gain a greater appreciation of this group from other books and Wilson's own autobiography.
I consider Leroy's work to be outstanding, but I had similar expectations for The Pet Sounds installment of the series. What a colossal disappointment. I had heard complaints that some books in the 33 1/3 series are tainted by author's including themselves too often in their writing. This is a prime example, but sadly, not the only problem with the book. I wouldn't mind a few personal anecdotes to contextualize the information if it was organized well, but Fusilli is all over the place. He bounces back and forth between prior albums and frequently includes detailed chord breakdowns of songs. Although this is probably interesting to professional musicians, it doesn't really lend itself well to this book series. It is by no means an easy task to dedicate an entire book to the creation of an album of such importance, but someone with Fusilli's experience and knowledge should have at least been able to understand what readers were looking for, like Wilson knew what his listeners wanted to hear.
I definitely learned some interesting new things, and it did allow me to listen to the album with some new ideas in mind, but overall there was just so much more that could have been done with this book. Very disappointing.