That's Not Me

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"That's Not Me"
Song by The Beach Boys
from the album Pet Sounds
Released May 16, 1966
Recorded February 15 – March 1966
Studio United Western Recorders, Hollywood
Length 2:31
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Brian Wilson, Tony Asher
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
Audio sample

"That's Not Me" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher for American rock band the Beach Boys, the third track from their 1966 album Pet Sounds. It is a work influenced by psychedelic drugs that inspired Wilson to turn his attention inward and probe his deep-seated self-doubts.[3] Wilson explained that the song "reveals a lot about myself, just the idea that you're going to look at yourself and say, 'Hey, now look, that's not me, kind of square off with yourself and say 'this is me, that's not me'." It is the only track on Pet Sounds that resembles a conventional rock song.

The song's structure contains multiple key modulations and mood shifts. On its recording, Mike Love shares lead vocal with Wilson, who plays the track's prominent, buzzing organ. Brian's brothers Carl and Dennis also contribute guitar and drums, respectively. Other band members sing backing vocals.

Background and lyricism[edit]

The song was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. While it is commonly understood that Wilson composed the majority of the music on Pet Sounds, it has been claimed in Steven Gaines' book Heroes and Villains that "That's Not Me" was one of three songs in which Asher contributed musical ideas rather than acting solely as a co-lyricist; the other two being "Caroline, No" and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times".[4]

Asher has expressed dissatisfaction with the lyrics for the song, describing them as "labored", and that he had "missed the mark".[5] In 1976, Wilson stated, "I think "That's Not Me" reveals a lot about myself, just the idea that you're going to look at yourself and say, 'Hey, now look, that's not me, kind of square off with yourself and say 'this is me, that's not me'."[6][7] According to Wilson, "Tony and I actually didn't even really realize who we were writing it for. We didn't really write for anybody; we just wrote the songs. So we had full carte blanche to create these songs."[8]

Musical structure[edit]

Allmusic considers "That's Not Me" to be "the closest thing to a conventional rocker" on the Pet Sounds album.[9] According to biographer Jim Fusilli, the harmonic structure of the composition is deceptive beginning in the key of E major. The choruses see the key modulate to B major. After the second chorus, it modulates again to C major. Fusilli notes that the arrangement does not indulge on string and horn orchestrations, unlike the rest of the Pet Sounds album, and as a result is an "avant-garde piece of pop music" which displays a "subversive performance" in the face of its sparse instrumentation and avoidance of major seventh chords.[10] As written in the Student's Guide to Music Tech,

"That's Not Me" is another example [re: "Wouldn't it Be Nice"] of the way in which the Beach Boys (or more properly, Brian Wilson) use texture to reflect changes of mood. Listen to the way the texture changes for the sections beginning "I'm a little bit scared" and "I once had a dream". The strong percussive elements drop out to leave a smooth, sustained organ and vocal texture with a heavily reverbed guitar. This song has no intro, but notice how unusual harmonic twists give variety to what might otherwise be a rather repetitive verse structure.[11]

Author James E. Perone recalled the song's use of a "sighing" motif present throughout the whole of Pet Sounds. He explains,

[The song] includes the Wilson sigh motive [sic] at the conclusion of each line of the verses. Here, the lead character, this time sung by Mike Love, defines his identity more in terms of what he is rather than who he is. Although this ultimately defines the character, the technique that Asher employs in his lyrics and Wilson's insistent use of the sigh falloff can give the listener the impression that the character's sense of self-identity is weaker than he might admit. The sigh motive also links "That's Not Me" musically with its predecesser ["You Still Believe in Me"] as well as with the next track, "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)".[12]


The basic track was recorded on February 15, 1966, with the additional instrumental track being recorded in either February or March.[6] The song consists of a strong buzzing organ presence, especially at the start; a characteristic prominent in psychedelic rock.[13] The minimalist arrangements and harmonic structures are in contrast with the rest of the album, but are equally revolutionary.[10] The lead vocal was sung by Mike Love with Brian Wilson during February and March 1966 at United Western Recorders. Wilson stated in 1996, "He just really nailed it, real powerful voice, very souped-up kind of a sound."[8]


Per Alan Boyd and Craig Slowinski.[14]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians

Although the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) sheets indicate the presence of Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston, they did not contribute to the recording of the basic track.[15]

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ Montes, Kevin (May 16, 2016). "From The Record Crate: The Beach Boys -"Pet Sounds" (1966)". The Young Folks.
  2. ^ Castro, Danilo (May 16, 2016). "Why Does the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' Still Have Its Hold on Us?". PopMatters.
  3. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-634-05548-5.
  4. ^ Gaines, Steven; Hajdu, David (2009). Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 145. ISBN 9780786751044.
  5. ^ Charles L. Granata, Wouldn't It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the making of the Beach Boys' Pet sounds (Chicago Review Press), ISBN 1-55652-507-9, p. 93.
  6. ^ a b Elliott, Brad (August 31, 1999). "Pet Sounds Track Notes". Retrieved March 3, 2009.
  7. ^ Fornatale, Pete (November 3, 1976). "Interview with Brian Wilson" (MP3). NY Radio Archive. WNEW-FM 102.7.
  8. ^ a b The Pet Sounds Sessions: "The Making Of Pet Sounds" booklet (1996)
  9. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Song review". Allmusic.
  10. ^ a b Fusilli, Jim (February 11, 2005). Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-1-4411-1266-8.
  11. ^ Bruce Cole; Andy Collyer; David M Howard, Andy Hunt, Damian Murphy (2005). Student's Guide to Music Tech. As, A2/Edex. Rhinegold Publishing Limited. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-904226-75-8.
  12. ^ Perone, James E. (2012). The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations [4 volumes]: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations. ABC-CLIO. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-313-37907-9.
  13. ^ D. W. Marshall, Mass Market Medieval: Essays on the Middle Ages in Popular Culture (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 2007), ISBN 0-7864-2922-4, p. 32.
  14. ^ Boyd, Alan; Slowinski, Craig (2016). "Pet Sounds Sessionography". Pet Sounds (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  15. ^ Waspensky, Russ (1997). "Pet Sounds Session List". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.

External links[edit]