“God Only Knows” / “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys (1966)

“‘God Only Knows’ is a song by American rock band the Beach Boys from their 1966 album Pet Sounds. Written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, it is a Baroque-style love song distinguished for its harmonic innovation and its subversion of typical pop music formula. It is often praised as one of the greatest songs ever written and as the Beach Boys’ finest record. The song’s musical sophistication is demonstrated by its multiple contrapuntal vocal parts and weak tonal center (competing between the keys of E and A). Lyrically, the words are expressed from the perspective of a narrator who asserts that life without their lover could only be fathomed by God—an entity that had been considered taboo to name in the title or lyric of a pop song. It marked a departure for Wilson, who attributed the impetus for the song to Asher’s affinity for standards such as ‘Stella by Starlight‘. Some interpretations of the lyrics project a suicidal inclination onto the narrator, although Asher said that such impressions were unintentional. Wilson produced the record between March and April 1966, enlisting about 20 session musicians who variously played drums, sleigh bells, plastic orange juice cups, clarinets, flutes, strings, French horn, accordion, guitars, upright bass, harpsichord, and a tack piano with its strings taped. His brother Carl Wilson sang lead, a vocal performance that became regarded as Carl’s best ever, with Brian himself and Bruce Johnston providing additional harmonies. … ‘God Only Knows’ contains a weak tonal center that is closest to E major and, in other sections, A major. Adding to this, almost all of the chords are inverted. An E major triad with its bass note in the root position is never invoked, and instead, the 64 position is favored. Of the tracks on Pet Sounds, it is the only one that lacks a strongly established primary key center (others employ key ambiguity to a lesser degree), and the only one that modulates its key up a fourth interval (others descend by a third). …”
W – “God Only Knows”
The masterpiece that changed the world: The comprehensive story of The Beach Boys song ‘God Only Knows’
W – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
YouTube: God only knows (Live), God Only Knows – a cappella, Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Original Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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