Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Assuming You Love "Caroline, No"




My favorite Beach Boys song changes weekly. But, more often than not, my immediately reply is "It's a tie between Don't Worry Baby and Caroline, No."

If anyone reading loves "Caroline, No" as much as I do, can you offer a few words on just why those last seconds with the dog barking, presumably running after the train, is so affective?

The song is a stunner, an absolutely gorgeous two plus minutes, yet it's as if I just want to get to the end, hear that train and that dog, and marvel at its inclusion. A tidalwave of nostalgia, of longing for the old days on the farm, an innocent time, and yet I've never been anywhere near a farm. And the closest I've lived to a train was the D line in Sheepshead Bay.

I get this way when I watch certain episodes of The Simpsons. The jokes are so brilliant, I stop laughing and just sit in wonder.


8 comments:

jackiewilsonsaid said...

Agree completely. I am from Yorkshire, but was brought up on the coast, Whitby, and Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys represented escapism, a warmed up weather California Girls dreamland. Caroline No is a beautiful end to the album, lovely melody, heartbreaking words, and the sound of longing/heartache all wrapped up in the dog barking and the train disappearing into the distance. I heard all this as a kid and it became embedded in my brain. When family visited the South for a holiday to Florida/Georgia and onwards for a musical tour to Muscle Shoals, Memphis & Nashville, we stopped off in Madison. The hotel was adjacent to a railway line and a freight train passed just as we were settling in for the night. I opened the windows so my wife and daughter could listen and explained about Caroline No, with me taking the dog's part, howling for my childhood!

dogbreath said...

A gorgeous track to be sure & every time it comes around I tend to give Colin Blunstone's "Caroline Goodbye" a listen as well - just to add to the sadness and feeling of loss. And that's without ever having loved and lost a Caroline. Thanks, cheers, and stay safe.

Whattawino said...

Hmmm...After playing the clip a couple of times, I realized there was no “train sounds or dog barks” to be heard on that. I did go to a full blown copy and indeed, the “Pet Sounds” were there as was the train! Thought I might be losing it for a moment there! Yeah, gorgeous it is! Thanks.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thx for the info, Wino. I didn't even realize it. I swapped it out. The version now is complete.

Whattawino said...

Woof!

Ken D said...

My response covers both ends of the spectrum: on one hand, are there more sublime sounds—natural or man-made—than "Caroline, No"? Not many, to be sure. A masterpiece from the mountaintop.

However—and I know my reaction isn't widely shared—I hate hate hate the sound of barking dogs. And before you start sending the venomous wishes for my virus-hastened demise, I do not dislike dogs. I hate the sound of barking. Just annoys the hell out of me. Funny true story: a couple of nights ago, as we were going to bed, I put on the NYC public radio station and the "New Sounds" show (mostly avant contemporary art music) was beginning. The host opened with "Tonight, compositions that incorporate the sound of barking dogs..." My wife and and looked at each other. She smiled, I grimaced. "No, I really don't think so...".

Fortunately, the barking at the end of "Pet Sounds" isn't loud enough or long enough to spoil the fact that it's one of my favorite records ever. I do think it's unnecessary, but who am I to tell Brian Wilson what to do...

Peter Ames Carlin said...

I think the dogs/departing train sounds symbolize the sense of alone-ness that runs through the entire album. The train rumbling away through the night sounds to me like loneliness, and also a sense of being left behind. Other people are busy, doing things, heading off to new adventures in new places. But there we are, minus Caroline, feeling old and worn-out and lonely, with only a bunch of stray dogs for company. And to make matters worse, Chuck Britz won't let you bring a horse into the studio. (joke for outtake aficionados)

It just occurred to me that Brian uses found, or just unexpected, sounds to communicate thematic ideas throughout the album. Or at least in a few songs. Consider how the guitar opening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" sounds like a music box being opened -- the start of a fairy tale, almost. "You Still Believe In Me" has the boyish bicycle horn left over from when he still figured it'd be called "In My Childhood," and here it underscores the trust/belief in the love between the narrator and his (presumably) girlfriend. Then, um, what are the other distinctive/found sounds on the record? "Caroline, No" starts with Hal Blaine's mallets making those hollow, reverberating whops on the Sparklett's jug, and you can hear the BBs jabbering about cameras on the instrumental section of "Here Today," which places the listener alongside Brian in the recording studio. But is that significant in a narrative sense?

I guess we all have plenty of time to think that over these days. Or to forget all about it and go wash our hands again. I recommend the latter.

FD13NYC said...

I love Caroline, No. Among others of course. Gives me goosebumps and makes me sort of well up a bit.