When you think of the American rock band The Beach Boys, what do you think of? Easy pop songs, surfing, and some teenagers singing on the beach, most likely. At least that’s how I’ve always thought of them. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, so they were just a little before my time, but we were still listening to the fun Beach Boys tunes in my era. To me, they represented everything that was sunny, fun, and California. Honestly, I didn’t put a lot of thought into the sheer musical and harmonic genius this group of young men had.
The Beach Boys formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California. The original lineup of the group consisted of the Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis, and Carl), their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine. They made a name for themselves with their adolescent-oriented beach-themed songs, vocal harmonies that were out of this world, and musical ingenuity. They’re widely considered to be one of the most influential musical acts of the rock and roll era. In other words, they’re not just some guys who made some fun songs. They were truly musical revolutionaries in their time and are considered to be so even today.
To create their unique music, they drew on sounds from the past, including 1950s rock, older pop vocal music, and Black R&B music. Under Brian Wilson’s direction, the guys sometimes even incorporated jazz and classical elements into their songs, including unconventional recording techniques that they implemented in ways that were completely innovative.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is from their “Pet Sounds” album, which was released in 1966. The album was in part a collaboration with Tony Asher, a jingle writer. As it turns out, “Pet Sounds” was a huge departure from the group’s earlier sounds and according to Jardine, it took them a while to adjust to the new style because it wasn’t music you could dance to (according to Jardine). In his opinion, it was music you could “make love to.” The album showed a depth that the band had no previously displayed and it makes even more inventive use of chord voicings and harmonies.
Their harmony is so perfect that it nearly sounds like one voice in many places. Wow. Just wow. These guys. That is all. Listen below.
Here’s the recording with the music, for contrast.
I have a new appreciation for The Beach Boys.