beach boys bob dylan

Two all-time classics, from the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan, hit the half-century mark today. Prepare to feel old and unaccomplished.

Bob Dylan may be the greatest lyricist and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson the greatest composer in American popular music. And 50 years ago today, they each hit a high point at a freakishly young age. So kick off the week with these fun facts about a double dose of masterpieces. Feel free to give them a listen here and here on Spotify—a couple of the tunes still hold up.

Age at Time of Release
Blonde on Blonde: Dylan was about to turn 25.
Pet Sounds: Oldest Wilson brother Brian was 23; baby bro Carl was 19.

Albums Already Recorded
Blonde on Blonde: 6 albums. But he was a late bloomer because…
Pet Sounds: 10 albums. Brian was 19 and Carl 15 at the time of their debut.

Top U.S. Chart Position
Blonde on Blonde: #9
Pet Sounds: #10

Top U.K. Chart Position
Blonde on Blonde: #3
Pet Sounds: #2

Were There Hits?
Blonde on Blonde: Only 12 of the 58 singles Dylan has released over five decades reached the Top 40. Three are from this album, including a rare top 5 single.
Pet Sounds: Two top ten singles and two more went Top 40. (The Beach Boys had a #1 single a year earlier, so it was considered a commercial disappointment.)

Do You Still Know These Hits?
Blonde on Blonde: For non-fans, probably no. “I Want You” isn’t “Like a Rolling Stone” ubiquitous; “Just Like a Woman” was famously mocked in Annie Hall; and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” hit #2 but is known mostly for the “Everybody must get stoned” chorus.

Pet Sounds: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B” went top 10; “Caroline, No” (released as a Brian solo effort) and “God Only Knows” did not. There’s a chance you’ve heard these.

Unexpected Legacy
Blonde on Blonde: By recording in Nashville with Nashville musicians and striking up a friendship with Johnny Cash, Dylan brought together the rock and country worlds. (As currently documented by Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.)
Pet Sounds: Inspired by the BeatlesRubber Soul, Brian returned the favor by making an album that spurred Paul and John to get off their asses and create Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Would They Equal It?
Blonde on Blonde: Arguably, Dylan topped it in 1975 with Blood on the Tracks.
Pet Sounds: It may be the greatest album ever; by basic definition, no one has. That said, when long, long delayed 1967 follow-up album Smile was finally released as The Smile Sessions in 2011, it was clear those Wilson boys came damn close.