Thursday, 11 October 2012

My Top Ten Beach Boys Songs

50 years. Wow.

I could pick up any Beach Boys Greatest Hits album and the first ten tracks would blow most other records recorded in the last fifty years out of the water. With lots of surf spray. So, yeah, this was another damned hard chart to compile...

10. Lady Lynda

A late 70s comeback record that was a surprise hit in the UK. Mostly an Al Jardine song, it steals heavily from Johann Sebastian Bach's Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring. One of the few classic Beach Boys records I can actually say I heard first time round... unless you count Kokomo. Which I do have great fondness for, but not enough to include it in a Top Ten... or even Twenty.

9. Long Promised Road

Everyone always says Pet Sounds is the greatest Beach Boys album, and far be it from me to argue with the experts. However, my personal favourite is Surf's Up, from their troubled early 70s phase. Here, as on the best Brian Wilson songs, the sunshine is tempered with darker shadows. Surprisingly, though, this was brother Carl's first full composition for the band. You wouldn't know it.

8. Don't Worry, Baby

One of Brian's early heartbreakers.

7. Sloop John B

Not that I'm about to ignore Pet Sounds entirely. Not an original composition, Sloop John B is actually based on an old folk song, The John B. Sails. One of the most covered songs in the Beach Boys canon, the original is also heavily referenced by other artists, most notably Okkervil River's haunting John Allyn Smith Sails.

6. California Girls

I can't help but be upset when I type 'California G...' into youtube and all I get are Katy Perry tracks. I must be getting old.

Let's face it, when the Beatles write a song that's little more than a parody record of one of your songs, you've pretty much got it made.

5. Surfin' USA

The archetypal Beach Boys song, from the early days. That opening riff never fails to make me want to hit the beach. They're often pigeonholed for writing sunshine / good times surfing songs... but not every surfin' song is automatically about sunshine...

4. Surf's Up

Some accuse Van Dyke Parks of writing pretentious, pseudo-poetic lyrics. And if you were merely to read the words to this song, you'd probably agree. Yet, when you hear them sung by Brian Wilson, accompanied by his ethereal, piano-led music... it's hard not to find them magical. A song that reminds me of the dark, spooky atmosphere Ray Bradbury created when writing Something Wicked This Way Comes. Yes, it's that good. 

3. Good Vibrations

A truly revolutionary recording. Pop music would never be the same again.

2. Heroes And Villains

The first Brian Wilson / Van Dyke Parks collaboration, a song that gets inside your head and just won't get out. I've listened to it thousands of times and I still haven't a clue what it's about. Perhaps that's why I love it.

1. God Only Knows

The greatest love song ever written? And it begins with the line "I may not always love you." That is the very definition of genius.

So, it was a damned hard list to compile. Which of your favourites did I miss out? Darlin'? Tears In The Morning? Do It Again? I Can Hear Music? Wouldn't It Be Nice? Lonely Sea? The one with Paul McCartney chewing a carrot? And which would have been your surfin' supremo? Do tell...


  1. Whither The Warmth Of The Sun?

    1. Tragically absent from my record collection... until this morning.

  2. Ah Wouldn't it be nice? if you'd included it...but there's plenty to choose from...

  3. Good Vibrations does it for me every time.

    1. What you get up to in the privacy of your own home, Steve, is between you and your little friend.

  4. God only know is the end airport scene in Love Actually. It means more to me because of that.

    1. Ps this is my stern look in case you decide to have a pop at Hugh Grant :-|

    2. I'm more likely to have a pop at Richard Curtis. Hugh Grant is a harnmless enough fop. Curtis needs putting out of his - and our - misery... if not for Love Actually, then certainly for The Boat That Rocked.


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