The best Beach Boys songs

I don’t know how I got onto this, perhaps because I came across The Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains” the other day. I immediately thought of the group, which I liked a lot as a teenager, and wondered “what were their best songs?” And so I pondered a bit (I don’t really have to look up their music) and came up with four tunes, which I present for your delectation.

The Beach Boys were an excellent group–one of those who helped make the music of the Sixties the best of any decade (those who disagree are wrong)—but they were not the best group. They were not the Beatles, nor even Buffalo Springfield. Brian Wilson (75 this year) was a genius at production, but less so at songwriting—not nearly as much of a genius as were John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  Still, he and his band produced some wonderful music, and a lot of fairly good music.  I can take or leave their attempts to be psychedelic—the Beach Beatles—with songs like “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains.” Where they really shone were the romantic ballads (all of my four selections are in that genre), as well as the surfing, high school, and car songs. Their ballads shone with lovely tunes, great harmonies, and an economy of words. (I left out “California Girls,” but that would have been #5.)

Here are my four selections, in decreasing order of quality (but all great):

Caroline, No

God Only Knows (should be “Only God Knows”, but it wouldn’t sound the same)

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Don’t Worry Baby

“Caroline, No” (1966) is the last song on their great album Pet Sounds, which also contains #2 and #3 on my list. Written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher (the album was produced and arranged by Wilson), the short song (2:16) had this genesis:

It 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.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.” Asher says his contributions were 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.”

and production:

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.”

This song takes me back to high school, when a broken heart felt like forever. (I graduated the year after this song came out.) Who could guess how many breaks would follow?

For a superb version by Eagles member Timothy B. Schmit, with Wilson looking on and harmonies by the Beach Boys, go here (don’t miss it; it also has comments by band members).

“God only knows” also came from Pet Sounds. Notable for its repetition at the end (not at all bothersome), it’s one of the few rock songs featuring the word “God” over and over again. It’s a poignant love song with a grandiose opening, characterizing the album’s Spector-like “wall of sound”:

The song names God in its title and lyrics, unusual for a pop single of its time, as Asher recalled: “Unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one [in 1966] thought you could say ‘God’ in a song.” The sentiments expressed in its lyric were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any higher force, being a song about moving forward after loss. Wilson explained that his and Asher’s intention was to create the feeling of “being blind but in being blind, you can see more”.

Sung by his younger brother Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys’ recording was produced and arranged by Brian using an unorthodox selection of instruments, including French horn, accordions, sleigh bell, harpsichord, and a quartet of violas and cellos heard throughout the piece in counterpoint. The musical structure has been variously cited for its harmonic complexity, inspiring tension through its disuse of authentic cadences and a definite key signature. Its closing section features perpetual rounds, a device that was not normally heard in popular music of the era.

“God Only Knows” was voted 25 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time the second of seven Beach Boys songs to feature (the first being “Good Vibrations” at 6), and was ranked by Pitchfork Media as the greatest song of the 1960s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.

In “Wouldn’t it be nice”, the first song on Pet Sounds, the boys contemplate an impossibly idyllic life after marriage. Some Wikpedia notes:

Earlier Beach Boys songs celebrated adolescent fun and teenage love; “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” subverts this convention in its very first lyric: “wouldn’t it be nice if we were older“. In the Endless Harmony documentary, Wilson described the song as “what children everywhere go through … wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, or could run away and get married”.  Wilson added in 1996, “‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ was not a real long song, but it’s a very ‘up’ song. It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can’t have, what you really want and you have to wait for it.” The song expresses “the need to have the freedom to live with somebody,” according to Brian. “The idea is, the more we talk about it, the more we want it, but let’s talk about it anyway. Let’s talk it over, let’s talk about what we might have if we really got down to it.” Asher has said that Wilson was “constantly looking for topics that kids could relate to. Even though he was dealing in the most advanced score-charts and arrangements, he was still incredibly conscious of this commercial thing. This absolute need to relate.”

The instrumental track was recorded at Gold Star Studios on January 22, 1966. The session was engineered by Larry Levine and produced by Brian Wilson. It took 21 takes of recording the instrumental track before Brian deemed it the master. The musicians present on that day were a group of Los Angeles session players commonly referred to as The Wrecking Crew. Wilson says, “Listen for the rockin’ accordions and the ethereal guitars in the introduction. Tony and I had visualized a scene. We had a feeling in our hearts, like a vibration. We put it into music, and it found its way onto tape. We really felt good about that record.” During the recording, the two guitarists who played the intro were plugged directly into the mixing board, and no one in the studio could hear them. Drummer Hal Blaine was required to wear a pair of over-the-ear headphones so that he could signal the rest of the band.[

There’s a nice live performance on video here.

“Don’t Worry Baby” shows off the group’s fantastic harmonies. Released in 1964 and written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian, it’s a “car song”, with the singer reassuring his girlfriend, after accepting a challenge to drag race, that things will be all right.

Wikipedia notes that the song influenced the Byrds’s version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man“:

Much of [that] track’s arrangement and final mixdown was modeled after Brian Wilson’s production work for the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby”



  1. Rita
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I hated the Beach Boys since I saw them very early in their career, performing at a conference of insurance companies. They totally pandered to that hyper-conservative audience by suggesting that it was inappropriate for high school students to be concerned about the war and civil rights to be protesting, that they should be more focused on just being young. Of course, the audience loved that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      The BBs did trend pretty conservative, both politically and musically, starting in the early Seventies, right after the release of their Holland album, is where I’d mark it from. From then on, they essentially became a novelty nostalgia act (and a favorite of reactionaries), touring and playing oldies.

      I still like ’em, though — both the earlier surf-‘n’-hotrod songs and, especially, the late-Sixties/early-Seventies stuff from Pet Sounds through Holland, Brian Wilson’s most fecund songwriting period, you ask me.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        I think Surf’s Up is Wilson’s absolute high-point – better than Pet Sounds, which is one of those albums like Sergeant Pepper’s and Highway 61 Revisited that’s seminal but not necessarily the artist’s best.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          Yeah, it’s a shame B. Wilson and Van Dyke Parks never finished writing the Smile album they’d been working on.

  2. Posted March 6, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Love the Beach Boys. We listen to them a lot. It’s very pleasant to have their up-beat music when I’m cooking dinner or working in my shop.

    These are good ones.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    “Brian Wilson (75 this year) was a genius at production, but less so at songwriting—not nearly as much of a genius as were John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”

    As a broadside, yes. And yes, these selections have really interesting melodic / harmonic structures.


    The factor of George Martin makes for a difficult side-by-side matchup.

    There’s a PBS show on Martin I’ve been meaning to see …

  4. Historian
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I agree that the music of the 1960s was the best, but, of course, I am totally biased. Coming of age during that decade, I remember it as one of ferment, excitement, and the possibility of great change (at least in its first half). For those of us who were young with a liberal bent, the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (through 1965 and his Great Society) made us think the country was heading towards one of being more equal (civil rights) and more economically secure. Then came Vietnam, disillusionment, Nixon and 50 years of largely conservative rule. The liberal moment in the sun was short lived and shows no signs of re-emerging.

    • Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Seems to me the Liberal Moment in the sun was: From the passage of the New Deal to 20-Jan-1981, when Reagan took office.

      My Dad was one of those Goldwater (originally) conservatives. The seeming chaos of the 60s and the Anti-war movement definitely motivated him. He became very active in conservatism in Minnesota.

      We all (his kids) went along until either high school (me) or college. Then we all, except my older brother, became liberals.

      (The GOP are right about one thing: Education does tend to shift you away from the “received wisdom” of your parents. Better home-school them and warn them about college, or, better yet, keep them out of college or send them to BYU or Liberty or Biola.)

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    One of my Beach Boy favorites also comes from Pet Sounds, “Sloop John B.”

    “God Only Knows” was used to great effect by PT Anderson over the closing montage in Boogie Nights. Funny how the use of some songs in certain movies is so apt — so juste — that the two become permanently linked. In my mind, they do anyway. (I know “God Only Knows” was also used in Love, Actually, but let’s not get into that kettle of fish right now. 🙂 )

  6. Jake Sevins
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Another great artist from the 60’s (and beyond). Elton John.

  7. Marou
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Being a beach bum in Birmingham UK where I grew up was tough but I Get Around gave me the mental framework.
    God Only Knows meets al the requirements of a pop classic: memorable tune, relevant teenage lyrics, unmatched vocals and vocal arrangement.
    Brian Wilson’s personal difficulties correspond with those of someone close to me and the line ‘When I lay down on my bed, I hear voices in my head’ from In My Room never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
    Heroes and Villains combines brilliantly evocative lyrics with superb vocals and a great tune – a pop masterpiece? No, just a masterpiece.

  8. Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Excellent choices. I think God Only Knows is peak Beach Boys.

    One or two from later BB albums that I like are ’til I Die, All I Wanna Do and Feel Flows.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      That’s uncanny – I love those three songs, especially All I Wanna Do, which no-one ever seems to mention even though it’s one of the loveliest tunes they ever wrote.

      • Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        All I can say is: great minds :-).

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          I know. We are the exalted few. 😉

          Feel Flows is lovely too. Surf’s Up is a little gem of an album that was kind of ignored at the time. The first side is pretty unremarkable, but then it has one of the strongest second sides of any album in history, just five extraordinary, all-time great songs in a row. I even like Van Dyke Park’s deranged, serpentine lyrics.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Yes, surfin and car songs were the early Beach Boys. We were almost pre teen or certainly early teens and I suppose it was us who were listening to the music then. The west coast was hot cars and drag strips. I remember going to the Phoenix drag strip with my dad and a friend of his who ran a car in the D Gas class. Sometimes we towed the car and sometimes he drove it to the strip.

  10. Skip
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    No “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow”?! Forsooth!

  11. Jeff Chamberlain
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I’m especially fond of this performance of “Don’t Worry Baby,” by Lorrie Morgan (with a bit of help from the original bunch). She’s said that she was so awestruck to be working with the BB, on this song, that she was almost terrified to attempt it.

    • Frank
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      When Brian Wilson first heard the Ronettes “Be My Baby”, he was apparently floored, pulled his car over, and told his girlfriend that he could never write a song like that. He apparently still ranks it as one of the best pop songs ever – with no small contribution from Hal Blaine’s terrific drum pattern in the Phil Spector production. “Don’t Worry Baby” was his “answer” to “Be My Baby”. I am sure it is no coincidence that he eventually used Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew almost exclusively – including the wonderful bass lines of Carol Kaye.

  12. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    great topic. No idea how Jerry narrowed it down to just four songs though.

    I love the early, killer pop songs like Help Me Rhonda and All Summer Long and I love the Surf’s Up era, even if that album aside their LPs were pretty mixed.

    My top -5- -7- 8 Beach Boys songs* would be:

    1. A Day In The Life Of A Tree
    2. ‘Til I Die
    3. All I Wanna Do
    4. Surf’s Up
    5. Here Comes The Night
    6. Don’t Talk(Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
    7. Help Me Rhonda
    8. Do You Like Worms? (Smile version)

    *although I might as well call it ‘my top 8 Brian Wilson songs’.

  13. Liz
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Also Sloop John B, a favorite from anyone, Do You Wanna Dance?, Barbara Ann, and Kokomo.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      I really like the first three, but I must confess to a loathing for “Kokomo,” an exercise in crass commercialism. It also reminds me (as much as I hate to admit having seen it), of Cocktail, another exercise in crass commercialism, and an utter waste of the talents of Bryan Brown and the lovely Ms. Kelly Lynch. 🙂

  14. Craw
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Pet Sounds is the best rock album but their best song is Good Vibrations.

  15. Serendipitydawg
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Good Vibrations is one of my favourites – not for its intrinsic qualities, rather for its use of a Theremin.


  16. Stephen Caldwell
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Love all your selections, but I have to slip in “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”.
    The 40th anniversary release of Pet Sounds has outtakes and backing tracks; the backing tracks for “Wouldn’t Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” are crazy for their complexity.

  17. Robert Bray
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    ‘The Warmth of the Sun’

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I heard an interview with Linda Ronstadt a couple years ago where she was discussing the tight harmonies that only family members singing together seem to be able to achieve. She mentioned a few of the family groups from gospel and country, but especially the Beach Boys, with the three Wilson brothers and their cousin Mike Love. Linda said it’s why, before she got sick, she enjoyed singing with her nieces so much.

  19. DrBeydon
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I’ve always liked the Beach Boys in general, but I didn’t grow up with them, so, like the Rolling Stones, they have a much larger discography that I’ve heard casually. I’ve always been partial to Help Me, Rhonda, which the old Chicago DJ Larry Lujack (famed for his “Animal Stories” segments) would play a couple time a week in the mornings as I was getting ready for school.

  20. George
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Hard to pick a favorite Beach Boys’ song but the Sloop John B is fun to sing along with. Dangerous to listen to while driving.

    Easy to pick a best Beach Boys album since Pet Sounds is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

    • Robert
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Nobody can sing the Sloop John B like me. Everybody says so.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        That bad, eh? 🙂 🙂

    • Robert Bray
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Love the BB’s version of ‘Sloop John B.!’ It’s a traditional Bahamian song and remains vibrant in the culture ‘around Nassau town.’

  21. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    That version of “Don’t Worry Baby” is the horrible original stereo mix – very hard to listen to. Brian Wilson’s vocal lead waaaay over there on the left & backing vocals waaaay over there on the right, it’s like Brian is in one room & the other guys are in another room, but somehow their instruments are in some middle space. Very long arms!

    This version is from the same tapes, but a more natural sound stage mix:

  22. John Dentinger
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    In college, a guy down the hall played “Catch a Wave,” from the Surfer Girl album almost continuously. I will always remember the song punctuated by the sound of doors slamming.

  23. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The best Beach Boys song without a doubt is Sloop John B , a modified traditional folk song already covered by around a dozen bands before they had a go at it.

    Great harmonies, interesting chord changes, over the top multi-instrumental backing & it isn’t a ‘navel-gazer’ or a silly love song. As the last track on Pet Sounds it’s the antidote to all that went before it, it makes the album & it’s the perfect bookend to it.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      ‘best BB’s song without a doubt. . . .’ As I’ve observed on threads here before, ‘best’ means no more than ‘it’s my favorite.’ There is no objective measure of ‘best’ in the arts, and your ‘without a doubt’ strikes me as ironic, for two reasons: first, there are lots of people (some of whom, primarily women, I know) who can’t stand the BBs and wouldn’t deem any of their songs ‘best.’ Second, the group didn’t write but only arranged ‘Sloop John B,’ which is a traditional Bahamian song.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the humourless lecture Robert.

        You’ve made that observation before on other threads you inform me – now might be a good time to unrein the poor literalist beast for good. Release it to the dewy, dappled meadow in its creaky-boned dotage. 🙂

        • Robert Bray
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          Ad hominem rather than substantial response is for folks who want to win rather than engage.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            Probably most/all the people you raised this point with before was employing hyperbole – I certainly was. You could ask if that’s the root of it & deploy the lecture later only if they say they’re being serious.

      • Nick
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Good grief, Robert. Take the rest of the day off.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Okay, sir: consider it done!

    • Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Ever hear Dick Dale’s version? It sounds much more despondent (appropriately so, imo.)

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        I now of Dick Dale of course, because of his influence on guitar & associated technology, but I’ve not heard him cover that tune. I’ve just listened to his ’62 version here:

        And yes I agree – maudlin squared. I didn’t notice before that strange Scot’s rolling burr he puts on some words – a few artistes of the time did that. I wonder who started that affectation? An exaggeration of Buddy Holly?

        • Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Also check out Dale’s cover of Smoke on the Water.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

            That was fun. I found it as a medley of Shake and Stomp, Death of a Gremmie, Smoke, Peter Gunn, Hot Links: Caterpillar Crawl & Rumbley

            Amazed the guy has any hearing left

            • Posted March 6, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

              I was gonna hire him to play my 40th birthday party — he was only asking $4K a gig. But my life changed dramatically by then.

    • Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I loved the Beach Boys primarily for their harmony. All through high school (graduating in 1958) I sang in a capella choir, ensemble,
      duets, solos in church, a bit part in the musical “Oklahoma”, a minuscule weekly 15-minute radio program called Teen Tunesters. Music made this time livable. Many of the BB’s songs are still good for playing loudly in the car while driving somewhere, singing along with, and pretending I can still sing.

      One thing I love about this thread is that disagreements are usually handled in a civil
      manner. we don’t all agree, but we can learn from each other, preferably without snark. I
      am so grateful for the many interesting topics here and the information from so many different perspectives. Especially the expertise and humor. Thanks again, PCC(E).

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Oklahoma! the film version was the first proper film I ever saw: Bristol Cinema, Bristol Road, 5 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B5 7TT around 1963 when I was eight. Only two TVs on our entire street then & of course TV was B&W, mono, 12″-ish screen.

        That evening at the cinema blew my mindfuse – one huge tennis court sized, curved screen with a high colour film in 70mm [I now know]. Had to move my eyes side to side to grok the whole panorama & sound coming from all over the show. The bit I remember most was the visuals that went with Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ – I also viscerally [?] remember my mum’s perfume when I hear that tune to this day…

        I like your memories! Pity we can’t package ’em 🙂

        You will like this isolated vocals version of Wouldn’t It Be Nice – It’s luverly!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        A photo’ of the cinema screen is HERE – note the two fellows for scale

  24. Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Though largely panned when released, Saying Something, The Folksmen’s lyrically potent foray in psychedelia, is now recognized as an underrated work of genius, where they transitioned from acoustic troubadours to boundary-pushing avant-gardists with a profound social message.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never thought of their oeuvre in that way before, but how true! An original pressing of that [the single] goes for five figures – if you can find a copy. And of course they went electric-folk two years before Dylan.

      Underappreciated big time.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 6, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      You don’t have the single do you? First pressing, mono with Splint Wrap as the B side?

      • Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        No, but I do own a rare japanese issue 45 of Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom/Sex Farm.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Shark Sandwich. Knew that without looking. 🙂

  25. Joseph N
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think these are better than your top 4 but I really like: “Please Let Me Wonder,” and “When I Grow Up To Be A Man.”

  26. Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    “I can hear music”
    would top my BB tunes. Loved it, decided to learn it on guitar just so i could sing it.

    “Coraline No” i had never heard before until today, nice ballad.
    I saw the Beach Boys without Wilson mid/late 60’s. He’d stop touring by then also The Four Tops around about the same time. In NZ this was a treat. English bands would show up but not a lot from the US. I was still at high school.
    There is a drum fill at 1.40 in Caroline No, very strange and surprising but i quite liked it, as in made me smile.
    In the Timothy B. Schmit version i can hear how it should have been done, the drum fill that is.

    The BBC used “God only knows” to launch BBC Music. Nice imagery with multiple artist singing solo lines and B Wilson features.
    Tis’ worth a look.

  27. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m fascinated by the early encounter between Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and mass murderer Charles Manson when the latter was trying to break into pop music. Long before any knew what sort of a character Manson was the Beach Boys recorded an altered version of a song by him, credited to Dennis Wilson “Never Learn Not to Love”

    There’s actually a 1954 song “God Only Knows” by the Capris, and African-American doo-wop group.

    Since the Beach Boys title, we have had Paul Simon’s “God Bless the Absentee”, Cat Steven’s “Morning has Broken” (lyrics by Eleanor Farjean in 1931), “One of Us” by Joan Osbourne, and the rather skeptically minded “God” by Tori Amos, and similarly unbelieving “God” by John Lennon. These last two suggest that if ‘God’ is literally the ONLY word in the title, it may not be inspirational.


    In 1972 the Beach Boys gave a moderately loud concert in a fairly small open-air football stadium at Villanova University which was acoustically clear as a bell to anyone outside, though you couldn’t see them. I caught most of it.

  28. Posted March 6, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ did it for me, way back then.


  29. revelator60
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    In their prime (1963-1977) the Beach Boys were undoubtedly one of the greatest groups of rock’n’roll’s classic period. The Beatles were the greatest of course, but the Beach Boys continued into the 1970s and made some of their finest music in that decade. They made so many great songs it’s difficult to make a short list. If I had to choose four I might plump for…

    “‘Til I Die” — a stoic but terrifying song about depression and losing one’s way.

    “Forever” — composed by Dennis Wilson, one of the loveliest ballads by anyone.

    “Surf’s Up” — the cream of the psychedelic phase and the Beach Boys equivalent to “A Day in the Life.”

    “The Night Was So Young” — from the group’s last good album, their last great ballad.

    And here are the runners-up:

    “In My Room”
    “Be True to Your School”
    “Fun, Fun, Fun”
    “I Get Around”
    “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”
    “Help Me, Rhonda”
    “Please Let Me Wonder”
    “Kiss Me, Baby”
    “Let Him Run Wild”
    “California Girls”
    “You’re So Good to Me”
    “Barbara Ann”
    “Sloop John B”
    “Heroes and Villains”
    “Good Vibrations”
    “Cabin Essence”
    “Wild Honey”
    “Here Comes the Night”
    “Do It Again”
    “Add Some Music to Your Day”
    “All This Is That”
    “Cuddle Up”
    “Sail On, Sailor”
    “The Trader”
    “Funky Pretty”
    “Good Timin'”

    I also want to put in a good word for Brian Wilson’s 2005 reconstructed version of “Smile,” the Beach Boy’s lost, never-completed album. Had this record been released in 1967 it would have certainly given Sgt. Pepper a run for his money.

  30. Posted March 7, 2018 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    I’m a long-time Beach Boys fan, but I wonder if any of you in the US have heard this commercial based on California Girls? It was used in the 80s by a long-gone Scottish-based airline.

  31. Wotan Nichols
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    J. Chamberlain–thanks for the video link to the countrified version of Don’t Worry Baby. Here I am weeping in my cubicle.
    But I still favor all the ones with lyrics written by Van Dyke Parks.

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