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October 12, 2016

Flashback: Production manager (and Beach Boys fan) Allison Felus recalls working on the first edition of Wouldn’t It Be Nice


Wouldn't It Be Nice_revised

Originally published in 2003, a revised & updated edition of Chuck Granata’s Wouldn’t It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds officially hit shelves on October 1. We asked our production manager, Allison Felus, to share her memories from working on the first edition.

Not long after I first started working as the editorial assistant for Chicago Review Press back in 2002, I was tasked with reviewing corrections for the first edition of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Charles Granata’s masterful book about the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds. It was fairly basic editorial procedure, mostly just making sure that the proofreader’s changes had been accurately entered by the typesetter, but still, I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, a recent college graduate, living in the big city, putting my English major to good use, getting paid to work on a book about one of the greatest albums of all time. How had this suddenly become my life?!

In those days before I could afford an iPod, I’d carry a portable CD player and a small batch of CDs with me on my travels around the city. The books from CRP’s A Cappella imprint that I happened to be working on at any given time naturally inspired my choice of soundtrack so, of course, Pet Sounds immediately went into heavy rotation. In those aimless days of being still relatively new to Chicago, I remember riding around on the red line, looking out the windows at the neighborhoods slipping by, listening to the album on my headphones, getting lost in the intricate vocal harmonies and the endless depth of Brian Wilson’s arrangements. I think back on that time in my life with a lot of fondness. And since my work on the book is a big part of those memories, I was thrilled when I learned earlier this year that Granata wanted to put out a revised second edition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album.

I’m also a musician in my spare time, and I grew up listening to my father, also a musician, talking shop with his friends about their gigs, their gear, and other tricks of the trade. Even when, as a child, many of the more technical terms and other lingo were completely foreign to me, there was something about the rhythm of that kind of specific, professional intimacy that lit me up inside like a Christmas tree. Secret knowledge is always kind of inherently thrilling knowledge to me. Though reviews of and writing about music by non-musicians can certainly be intellectually rigorous and enlightening in their own ways, there’s just nothing like hearing true pros discussing the ins and outs of their own discipline. And that’s what makes Wouldn’t It Be Nice such an exceptional book.



Granata of course approaches Pet Sounds as a fan—it’s borderline impossible to know the album and not to love it, not to want to gush about it. But he, crucially, manages to pivot away from effusive descriptions of how much the album meant to him as a young man in order to approach it like the historian and record producer that he also is. This redirection enabled him to get his all-star cast of interviewees to dish the dirt on their memories of the recording sessions in that delicious spirit of casually dispensed insider knowledge. Members of the Wrecking Crew, lyricist Tony Asher, and many of the Beach Boys themselves are all duly represented. One of my favorite passages comes early in the book, in a discussion of why the group’s vocal harmonies are so incredibly rich and resonant:


And that’s just pages 19–21 of the book! That’s not even getting into the writing and recording of the album itself yet!

Suffice to say, I adore this book. Granata’s attention to detail combined with his clear affection for the music and ability to translate it all into lucid, readable prose is a major gift to any Beach Boys fan or aspiring music writer. Check it out, learn from the best, and then let it lead you back to Pet Sounds with renewed love and admiration.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, revised & updated, officially pubbed October 1, 2016 and is available wherever books and e-books are sold.

[Get it now $17]  [Request a review copy]





Allison Felus has worked at Chicago Review Press in varying capacities since 2002, most recently as production manager. She oversees all aspects of book production, including budgeting, printing, and shipping.




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