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Sunday, November 24, 2013

God Only Knows by The Beach Boys

The Pet Sounds album by The Beach Boys was released in 1966. The album ranks in the top ten of almost everyone's list of best albums (English/American culture). It's #2 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Tine.

I wasn't a big fan of the album but I adored God only knows, and I still do.1 It's one of my top ten favorite songs. The song ranks at #25 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Paul McCartney, who played for another popular group in the 1960s, says that God Only Knows is his favorite song of all time.

The music was written by Brian Wilson2 and the lyrics are by Tony Asher. I don't know very much about music so you'll have to read the Wikipedia article to appreciate why so many people admire Brian Wilson. Carl Wilson, Brian's younger brother, sings the song.

The video is from Good Timin': Live at Knebworth England 1980. It's one of the rare occasions after 1965 when all six Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston) are together. I think it's the only video where Brian Wilson is playing on God Only Knows. (That's him on the piano.)

I never saw a live performance of the original Beach Boys but I've seen the Mike Love version twice.

1. Some atheists will never like this song because it mentions God. That sort of thing doesn't bother me. I can still sing God Save the Queen and the Canadian national anthem without batting an eyelash. There are much more important things to fret about.

2. I just read in the Wikipedia article that he was inspired by the Lovin' Spoonful song You Didn't Have to Be So Nice. That song is also one of my personal favorites but I never twigged to the similarity until now.


Veronica Abbass said...

Oh my God, is that the best Beach Boys song you can come up with?

Re: There are much more important things to fret about.

Yes, there are more important things to fret about, for example Paul Anka's song "You're Having My Baby."

Unknown said...

Yeah I agree I always thought "Good Vibrations" was the best Beach Boys song.

Larry Moran said...

Oh my God, is that the best Beach Boys song you can come up with?

No. I agree with most of the experts that Good Vibrations is their best song.

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos said...

Trying to select the best Beach Boys song is a hopeless task. I would rate "California Girls," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Caroline, No," "Sloop John B," "Help Me, Ronda," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" right up there, too.

I saw the Beach Boys 50th reunion concert in Boston in 2012. It was quite a treat to see all the living members back together again.

~~ Paul

John Harshman said...

I like "California Saga" off Holland. Mostly for the chorus.

Robert Byers said...

Must disagree that this beach boys song is the best of anything.
This is middle aged people talking.
The beach boys and beatles are about fast music(rock and roll) these slow songs picked would fit any age. Naw they are not the best but just attempts to legitimize kids music. Sorry Paul its true!
They always do this because as Herbert Spencer, who darwin mentioned, can be seen as saying the last emotional sounds put to music would occur eventually. He said this in the 1890's. The last sounds of emotion being the most silly.
Therefore always lists of Rock songs are dominated at the top by non rock songs.
Its silly to have YEah, yeah, yeah as opposed to YERSTERDAY.

By the way , somewhere, I read the GOD ONLY KNOWS song was resisted because it mentioned God. liberals didn't want God mentioned on THEIR radio stations.
Unless attacking God and the concept of God.
Paul Simon could mention Jesus but it was in a critical way and not affirming God.
Brian Wilson wasn't affirming God but it comes out that way because of how its sumg so passionately.

Strider said...

I'm a fan of their work, "Sail On Sailor" and "The Trader" come to mind, and I've tried to like "Pet Sounds" but, honestly, I don't see what the fuss is about. After I listened to it all I could muster was "Meh".

judmarc said...

Completely love God Only Knows, and several other songs from Pet Sounds. Garry Trudeau had one of the characters from Doonesbury pass away to the strains of "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

McCartney not only was knocked out by God Only Knows, he wondered after he heard Pet Sounds about what the Beatles could possibly do to top it. The result was Sgt. Pepper. Brian Wilson then wanted to top Sgt. Pepper in turn, and began work on Smile, from which Good Vibrations emerged. But Brian Wilson's mental health problems and other difficulties in the group's relationships with each other and personal lives prevented Smile's full realization.

Matt Talarico said...

I definitely agree that "God Only Knows" is the best Beach Boys song. Pet Sounds is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. The Beatles certainly have a stronger catalogue than The Beach Boys, but I'd argue that Pet Sounds is as good as any Beatles album.

In regards to Smile, after abandoning the project, Brian Wilson recorded and released it as a solo artist about ten years ago (, and it's a wonderful album. Further, two years ago the original recordings were released in the form of The Smile Sessions ( So the album can now be heard in two forms.