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THE UBIQUITOUS POP MASTERPIECE

Billboard feature on the Beach Boys Pet<br />
Sounds

“Sometimes I almost feel/Just like a human being.”
–Elvis Costello, “Lipstick Vogue,” 1978

The discovery of self, getting to know the inner you, is the very stuff of our troubled and crazy times. The growing number of support groups, the proliferation of psychotherapists, and the overwhelming and seemingly all-powerful self-help sections at bookstores attest to this fact. “Feel the pain,” sez Zippy the Pinhead as he hands a friend a box of Milk Duds just before he heads spiraling into a nervous breakdown.

Pop music abounds in such eccentric edifices of the inner self. In fact, pop music is such a refuge for so many selves in search of self that pop and rock are probably nothing more than the babble generated by a series of cathartic experiences. Many of rock’s landmark albums are probing works, painfully introspective, almost dull in fact, until you hear them in the isolation of your empty room after a long night of dark fear and sweaty terror.

To name but a few: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks,  Joni Mitchell’s Blue,  Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis,  Aretha Franklin’s Spirit in the Dark,  Otis Redding’s The Immortal,  Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love,  Big Star’s Third/Sister Lover,  and the near-forgotten Alexander Spence’s Oar.  (I mention with a cautionary note Nick Drake’s Fruit Tree box set, the most depressing collection of beautiful songs for suicidal late-nights ever assembled–beyond even Joy Division.)

These are all great works that seem to listen intently to

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eir own heartbeats. Particularly since the heyday of the singer-songwriter in the early ’70s, rock culture (and rock criticism) has especially courted such deep self-absorption.

Here, though, is the ultimate tribute to the ultimate pop masterpiece, Pet SoundsBillboard going haywire over Brian Wilson’s beautiful self-indulgent extravaganza. I have nothing to add to what has been said over time about the great Pet Sounds, except to say that the work began in Brian’s room, which is where great pop music often begins–exploring the inner self ad nauseam in isolation.

So what are you waiting for? Come on and discover your own inner child!  Just begin by exploring your memories and obsessions in the wacky world of popular culture.