Caroline, No

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"Caroline, No"
Single by Brian Wilson
from the album Pet Sounds
B-side "Summer Means New Love"
Released March 7, 1966
Format Vinyl
Recorded January 31, 1966
Western Studios[1]
Genre Baroque pop[2]
Length 2:17 (single version)
2:51 (album version)
Label Capitol 5610
Writer(s) Wilson/Asher
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson singles chronology
"Caroline, No"
"Gettin' Hungry"
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.[3]

It was named at #214 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[4]


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. [5] 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."[1]

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."[1] 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."[1]


Both instrumental and vocal tracks were recorded on January 31, 1966 at 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. Wilson chose the session players because of their work with Phil Spector. Although The Wrecking Crew were primarily younger musicians, most were formally trained and already veterans of session playing.

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.[1] 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."[6]

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 Murry. Although Murry was no longer managing the Beach Boys, it is often speculated that Brian Wilson was pressured into this decision. Brian, however, maintains 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 then-current 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. They appeared in mono on Pet Sounds, but were not remixed into stereo with the rest of the album in 1996.[1]


"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:

  1. It appears on disc one in the first original stereo mix of the song.
  2. 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.
  3. Again on disc 2, the complete backing track is featured.
  4. On disc 3, an A cappella (or vocals only) version of the song is featured.
  5. A 32 second 'Caroline, No' promotional spot is featured on disc 3
  6. Also on disc 3 appears the song in stereo at its original speed.
  7. A second 'Caroline, No' promotional spot is also featured on disc 3 which goes for 28 seconds.
  8. Lastly on disc 3 appears the song in mono at its original speed.
  9. The song also appears on the bonus disc, disc 4, in its original mono mix.

A live version of the song also appears on the band's 1973 live album The Beach Boys in Concert, with younger brother and bandmate Carl Wilson taking lead vocals.


The Beach Boys
Additional musicians
Overdub session

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.[8]
  • A track titled "Caroline, Please Kill Me" appears on Coma Cinema's 2011 album Blue Suicide.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Elliott, Brad (August 31, 1999). "Pet Sounds Track Notes". Retrieved March 3, 2009. 
  2. ^ "Jim Esch review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  3. ^ "The Rubberization of Soul". UNT Digital Library. Retrieved April 9, 2011. 
  4. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 
  5. ^ "Tony Asher Interview". Cabin. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  6. ^ Linett, Mark (2001). "Track-by-Track Notes". In Pet Sounds (p. 22) [CD booklet]. Hollywood: Capitol Records, Inc.
  7. ^ Laura Tunbridge, The Song Cycle , (Cambridge University Press, 2011), ISBN 0-521-72107-5, p.173.
  8. ^ "Employment review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 


  • Wouldn't It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds by Charles L. Granata. Chicago Review Press, 2003.
  • Pet Sounds reissue liner notes, written by Brad Elliott, 1999
  • Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys (sheet music), Warner Bros. Publications, Miami, Florida, publication PF9805, published 1998

External links[edit]