In the history of popular music no recording artist has been able to capture lyrical stories, carefree lifestyles, emotional gamuts, and exquisite vocal harmonies to their repertoire of songs like the Beach Boys. This versatile pop/rock group is not only successful in selling singles and albums, as they’ve performed the world over with their concerts too. When you think of the 1960's music The Beach Boys are definitely right up there.
They have crafted their exceptional sound and songs by getting you right in the mood to dance, drive away in a convertible sports car, go to the beach, or take a surfboard out to surf (and we don't mean the internet or rapidly changing channels on the TV remote). Without a doubt the Beach Boys helped create the huge craze with surfing back in the ‘60s. It was all the rage with anything to do with Southern California, because the Beach Boys sang about it as the greatest place to be! Of course those were during more innocent times when the California Dream was at its zenith. From one of the most enduring pop/rock groups of all time, The Beach Boys, here is their 10 greatest songs list.
10. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (1966)
What better way to start off this greatest hits song list than with the first track off their seminal album Pet Sounds. Interestingly a cover version of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was featured in the Season 3 premiere (April 2015) of “Orphan Black,” a sci-fi thriller series on BBC America. In the season premiere it opens with a dream sequence of wouldn’t it be nice if life was like this. It’s also been part of a soundtrack in films and a documentary. The song explores the idea of living together rather than getting married too young. At that time living together was not a social norm at all, that’s why young couples got married just out of high school or in their early 20s.
9. “Fun, Fun, Fun” (1964)
Apparently there are a number of back-stories regarding the basis of this song where a teen lies to their parents about going to the library while taking their parents car. Instead, they’re out doing something else. “Fun, Fun, Fun” captures a simplistic era of teenagers, unlike today’s teens who have a lot more complicated issues.
8. “Kokomo” (1988)
It’s the only song from the Beach Boys that was exclusively recorded for a motion picture soundtrack. “Kokomo” comes from the film "Cocktail" that’s about a bartender in Jamaica. The only positive piece from this unpopular Tom Cruise movie is the Beach Boys song which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. You honestly feel like you're being whisked off to the Caribbean from its tropical sounds of exotic steel drums throughout the song.
One of the best parts is the clever naming of the beautiful islands and Florida Keys that mostly landscape the Caribbean basin: Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-Au-Prince (Haiti). When the Beach Boys sing about something they make you a part of it.
7. “Little Deuce Coupe” (1963)
Brian Wilson stated in a liner note on a CD re-release from 1990 "This record was my favorite Beach Boys car song." Their car and surfing songs glamorized the teenage 1960's Southern Californian lifestyle. Even if one knows nothing about cars, much less the Deuce Coupe, a Ford Model B, this song gets one’s attention with its interesting rhythms. One of the memorable lines in “Little Deuce Coupe” is: "There's one more thing, I got the pink slip daddy." "Daddy" was the early ‘60s version of "man or hey man".
6. “Help Me Rhonda” (1965)
The hook "Help Me Rhonda, Help, Help Me Rhonda; Help me Rhonda yeah, Get her out of my heart" truly captures the teen angst of being infatuated. “Help Me Rhonda” is infectious so you can't help but not sing along to the chorus. Obviously it's about a break-up that isn't forlorn and weepy. Instead, it’s actually upbeat by taking a negative situation and turning it into a positive.
5. “I Get Around” (1964)
This is the definitive cruising around town song that gave the early Beach Boys their signature image. First it was surfing, and then it progressed into cars and girls. Whenever you hear “I Get Around” one may feel like their being transported to the mid-1960s with the lyric "driving up and down the same old strip." It has one of the most powerful opening introductions that goes right into "Round, round, get around; I get around" with their perfect harmonies. No other pop/rock group can even match their extraordinary singing technique, gifted songwriting abilities, and superb musical skills.
4. “Sloop John B” (1966)
Before the Pet Sounds album was released, this was its first single. Beach Boys band member Al Jardine was a lover of folk music at the time. He introduced the original version to Brian Wilson. It’s a traditional West Indies tune first recorded by the Weavers and then Lonnie Donegan. The Kingston Trio also recorded “Sloop John B,” which is the version Brian used. Much like their latter hit “Kokomo” 22 years later, this song has a Caribbean and nautical flair to it. Of all the single releases from Pet Sounds this charted the highest at #3.
3. “God Only Knows” (1966)
One constant about the earlier music of the Beach Boys is their upbeat high energy style that makes one happy and feel youthful. On the other hand "God Only Knows" is considered one of their most emotional and technically sophisticated masterpieces from Pet Sounds. This was actually the first time the word "God" was used in a pop song title. Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time ranked it at #25.
2. “In My Room” (1963)
If ever there was a song that evokes memories of those difficult teen years, this is its anthem. For those people who enjoy writing, or the other arts, where solitude is needed this is its ode. Even though it was written during the Beach Boys surfing, cars, and girls time period, “In My Room” clearly speaks of seeking a refuge from pain, fear and worries. No doubt it’s another one of their beautifully crafted and composed ballads that’s still timeless after 50 years of its release.
1. “Good Vibrations” (1966)
Hands down this pocket symphony, as it has been described, literally gives chills to the listener, even after repeated plays. This phenomenal pop single typifies, and is likely to have influenced the 1967’s Summer of Love sound. It is unusual in its radical music and unique sounds, lyrics, and vocals, especially those haunting harmonies. You are held spellbound by it at the same time. “Good Vibrations” is about how emotions send out vibrations. It is now a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.