|Single by Brian Wilson|
|B-side||"Summer Means New Love"|
|Released||March 7, 1966|
|Recorded||January 31, 1966United Western Recorders, Hollywood,|
|Brian Wilson singles chronology|
|Song by The Beach Boys from the album Pet Sounds|
|Released||May 16, 1966|
|Pet Sounds track listing|
"Caroline, No" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, recorded during the Pet Sounds sessions. It was released as a solo Brian Wilson single in March 1966 in advance of the album's release. The single was only a modest success, reaching number 32 in the US national chart and number 16 in Canada's RPM chart. Later in the year it appeared on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, although Brian Wilson was the only member of the band to appear on the track.
The song was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher with the latter handling the majority of its lyrics. It was written in the key of G major before being transposed up one semitone into A-flat major.
The song was initially written as "Carol, I Know". When spoken, however, Brian Wilson heard this as "Caroline, No." After the confusion was resolved, the pair decided to keep the new title, feeling that it brought a poignant earnestness to the song's sad melody.  Co-lyricist Tony Asher believes the song encapsulated "Brian's wish that he could go back to simpler days, his wish that the group could return to the days when the whole thing was a lot of fun and very little pressure."
The song is said by Asher to have been inspired by his former girlfriend, who had moved to New York and cut her hair. "I had recently broken up with my high school sweetheart who was a dancer and had moved to New York to make the big time on Broadway. When I went east to visit her a scant year after the move, she had changed radically. Yes, she had cut her hair. But she was a far more worldly person, not all for the worse. Anyway, her name was Carol." However, in high school, Wilson also became obsessed with Carol Mountain, a classmate and unrequited love interest. He said, "If I saw her today, I'd probably think, God, she's lost something, because growing up does that to people.' But the song was most influenced by the changes Marilyn and I had gone through. We were young, Marilyn nearing 20 and me closing in on 24, yet I thought we'd lost the innocence of our youth in the heavy seriousness of our lives. [Tony] took a tape home, embellished on my concept, and completed the words." Academic Philip Lambert suggested that the songs lyrics were a continuation on themes established by Wilson's previous compositions "You Still Believe in Me" and "The Little Girl I Once Knew".
Both instrumental and vocal tracks were recorded on January 31, 1966 at United Western Recorders in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Wilson produced the session with Chuck Britz as the engineer. As with the rest of the Pet Sounds backing tracks, Wilson employed players from a select group of southern California session musicians, who were later nicknamed The Wrecking Crew. None of the other Beach Boys appeared on the record.
For "Caroline, No", harpsichord and bass flutes accompany more typical pop/rock instrumentation in a sound that, like other compositions from this period, reflects a jazz influence. The percussive exchange that opens the song features a tambourine and a large empty water bottle from the studio, played either by drummer Hal Blaine or percussionist Frankie Capp. Brian later stated, "'Caroline, No' was my favorite on the album, the prettiest ballad I've ever sung. Awfully pretty song. The melody and the chords were like Glenn Miller...a Glenn Miller-type bridge. The fade-out was like a 1944 kind of record...Listen for the flutes in the fadeout."
After Brian Wilson's double tracked vocals were overdubbed, the entire recording was sped up by a half step. This was done at the suggestion of Brian Wilson's father and erstwhile manager Murry. Brian explained that he preferred the "sweeter" sound of the sped-up version.
On the Pet Sounds LP, the sound of a passing train can be heard at the end of "Caroline, No", accompanied by barking from Brian's dogs, Banana and Louie. In the late 1990s, it was "rediscovered" that the train sound effect came from a sound effects LP titled Mister D's Machine, recorded in 1963 by Brad Miller. The album featured contemporary recordings of various trains around the Southern Pacific system. The sounds that were lifted for the end of the Pet Sounds album were that of Train #58, "The Owl", speeding through at 70 mph through Edison, California. The sound effects, minus Banana and Louie, are in true stereo on the original effects album.
"Caroline, No" was Brian Wilson's first solo single, released on Capitol Records as Capitol 5610 on March 7, 1966. Although Brian Wilson was the driving force behind The Beach Boys at the time, the solo release of "Caroline, No" was perhaps his first official recognition as an individual outside the band. However, it was also released on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album (as well as on subsequent Beach Boys compilation albums), where it is credited as a Beach Boys recording, even though Brian Wilson is the only Beach Boy performing on the record.
The song's first album appearance was on the Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds.
The song appears on several occasions from different stages of the recording process and in different formats on The Pet Sounds Sessions box set:
- It appears on disc one in the first original stereo mix of the song. Although it was possible, the ending train noises were not mixed in stereo.
- On disc 2, the 'Caroline, No' highlights from tracking date appears, which documents the progress of the recording of the instrumental track of the song. This track goes for over four minutes.
- Again on disc 2, the complete backing track is featured.
- On disc 3, an A cappella (or vocals only) version of the song is featured.
- A 32 second 'Caroline, No' promotional spot is featured on disc 3
- Also on disc 3 appears the song in stereo at its original speed.
- A second 'Caroline, No' promotional spot is also featured on disc 3 which goes for 28 seconds.
- Lastly on disc 3 appears the song in mono at its original speed.
- The song also appears on the bonus disc, disc 4, in its original mono mix.
- The Beach Boys
- Additional musicians
In popular culture
- The Velvet Underground allude to the song on their 1969 track "The Murder Mystery" from their self-titled 1969 album.
- Neil Young mentions the song in the title track to his 1976 album Long May You Run from 1976.
- A track titled “Does Caroline Know?” appears on Talk Talk’s 1984 album "It’s My Life."
- Yumiko Ohno of the Japanese group Buffalo Daughter is known in Japan for singing on several electronic avant-garde albums with Yann Tomita under the pseudonym Caroline Novac. Doopee Time by Tomita is a 1995 concept album which closes with Tomita's own cover version of the song.
- A song entitled "Caroline, Yes" appears on the Kaiser Chiefs' 2005 album Employment in reference to Brian Wilson's song.
- A track titled "Caroline, Please Kill Me" appears on Coma Cinema's 2011 album Blue Suicide.
- The song was covered by jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd on his 2009 album Mirror.
- The song was covered by singer/songwriter Dewey Bunnell, of the band America, on their 2011 album Back Pages.
- They Might Be Giants have covered this song on their Indestructible Object EP.
- The Aluminum Group covered the song on the 2006 tribute album Caroline Now!: The Songs of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
- Eric Carmen covered the song on I Was Born to Love You.
- The song was covered in 2013 by tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski on the album Maybe September.
- "Jim Esch review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- "The Rubberization of Soul". UNT Digital Library. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
- Panfile, Greg. "Mind of Brian 8: Caroline No". Cabin Essence Web Page for Brian Wilson. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
- "Tony Asher Interview". Cabin. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- Elliott, Brad (August 31, 1999). "Pet Sounds Track Notes". beachboysfanclub.com. Retrieved March 3, 2009.
- Lambert 2007, p. 235.
- Linett, Mark (2001). "Track-by-Track Notes". In Pet Sounds (p. 22) [CD booklet]. Hollywood: Capitol Records, Inc.
- Laura Tunbridge, The Song Cycle , (Cambridge University Press, 2011), ISBN 0-521-72107-5, p.173.
- "Employment review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- Granata, Charles L. (2003). Wouldn't It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. ISBN 9781556525070.
- Lambert, Philip (2007). Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: the Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1876-0.