This year marks the 100th anniversary of the San Diego Zoo and the 50th anniversary of the classic Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.
Local history professor and music writer Steve Thorn has a pet project to honor the connection between the two California icons.
"God Only Knows"
...video footage of the Beach Boys
The cover of the 1966 release was photographed at the zoo’s petting zoo on February 15 of that year. The album was released a few months later, on May 16. Although the record wasn’t a sales success for the band, Pet Sounds has since become recognized as one of the greatest albums of all time.
“Back in December, Uncut magazine picked its top 200 albums and Pet Sounds was number one,” says Thorn, who was a 12-year-old living in the La Mesa foothills when the album came out. “To show you how I was thinking, I thought the album title referred to ‘petting,’ which was a term for making out. But I think the title was more because it was Brian Wilson’s pet project.
As brilliant as the music was, the green and yellow album cover wasn’t necessarily loved by all — or even the other Beach Boys.
“Mike Love once said something like, ‘Paul McCartney worked on a brilliant album cover when he made Sgt. Pepper, and we went to the zoo,’” Thorn says.
The 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds got Thorn thinking that it might be nice to have some kind of formal recognition at the spot where the album cover was taken. So, on the anniversary of the photo shoot, Thorn organized a get-together at the spot where the photo was taken.
He and a small group brought versions of the album, including vinyl, CDs, and the box set.
“The zookeeper there, Jacki Williams, knew of the album and said when she was a kid, she petted the white goat on the cover,” Thorn laughs.
Thorn is now trying to figure out a way to make the spot of the Pet Sounds photo into a historical landmark. There is a precedent in the form of a plaque at the site of the boyhood home of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson in Hawthorne, California.
A zoo spokeswoman tells the Reader that it would be nice to honor the Pet Sounds connection but they can’t have a plaque inside the children’s zoo because “it’s an animal habitat.”