When you think of Beach Boys songs, you probably think of the easy-breezy side of life – surf, sun, and sweetness. But there was more to The Beach Boys than the dream of California.
The musicianship was incredibly innovative and would inspire fellow composers for decades to come.
But which Beach Boys songs are their greatest?
We went surfin’ through their catalog to give you the list.
The Story of The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys is one of the most critically acclaimed, well-known American rock bands of all time. They formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961, where founding brothers Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Carl Wilson grew up.
The Wilsons’ cousin, Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine would come over to harmonize to their favorite 50s songs. With support from the Wilson Family, they quickly became a band.
By the time they released their first major-label album in 1962, Surfin Safari, Al Jardine had already left to attend college. David Marks briefly replaced him. But with the phenomenal success of The Beach Boys’ subsequent three albums, Jardine rejoined and remained in the band from 1964 to the present day.
Music producer Bruce Johnston folded into what would become the core Beach Boys members in 1965.
The Beach Boys’ golden years were between 1963 and 1969. They produced 14 studio albums, reaching their peak with Pet Sounds in 1966. Initially, the album received mixed reviews in the US. But it quickly topped the U.K. charts and established The Beach Boys as one of the most unique and innovative bands around.
Brian Wilson was at the forefront of this creativity. But his incredible talent came with a price. Brian began to have panic attacks in the mid-60s, preventing him from touring. He would later be diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder, which caused audio hallucinations and severe depression.
Thankfully, Brian and his bandmates easily surfed most of the heavy waves life brought them. They established the California rock sound and had almost 40 songs reach the U.S. Top 40 charts. According to All Music, The Beach Boys are the 6th most frequently cited artist influence in its database.
The Beach Boys’ legacy shines brightly on the history of rock n roll. Here’s our list of their seven best songs.
#7 In My Room
About the Song: In My Room is an excellent introduction to the vocal harmonies that define The Beach Boys’ sound. It starts with lead vocalist Brian Wilson and quickly builds to a choir of five. It was in the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks. The lyrics describe the peace of mind your room can give you.
In this world I lock out All my worries and my fears In My Room
First Appearance: In My Room first appeared on The Beach Boys’ third album, Surfer Girl, in September 1963.
#6 Surfin’ USA
About the Song: Surfin USA is a perfect sonic portrait of the pop surf culture of 1960s Americana. The lyrics mention over twelve surf spots, mainly in Southern California. If you’re hosting a beach theme party, this one’s definitely on your playlist.
Everybody's gone surfin', Surfin' U.S.A
First Appearance: The answer is somewhat nuanced. Both Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry are credited for writing the song. Wilson said Berry’s 1958 hit Sweet Little Sixteen inspired him, and Berry’s record label agreed. The lyrics are different, but the melody and structure are practically identical. That said, The Beach Boys released Surfin’ U.S.A in March 1963.
#5 I Get Around
About the Song: I Get Around was a top ten hit in the U.S and The U.K. when it came out. Considering this was during the height of Beatlemania, this was a huge success for The Beach Boys. The song reminds us of simple youthful fun with its classic California sound.
I'm gettin' bugged driving up and down the same old strip I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip
First Appearance: This Beach Boys released this song as a single in May 1964. It was released later that year on their sixth studio album, All Summer Long.
#4 Surf’s Up
About the Song: The Beach Boys’ songs are known for their upbeat, sugar pop style of the early sixties. Surf’s Up veers in another direction: resignation and self-doubt. The title is a play on words, stating that maybe it’s time to give up your old image and move on to something new.
Hung velvet overtaken me, Dim chandelier awaken me To a song dissolved in the dawn
First Appearance: This tune surfed up in late 1971 on The Beach Boys’ seventeenth album of the same name, Surf’s Up.
#3 Wouldn’t It Be Nice
About the Song: Wouldn’t it be nice is about the overwhelming feelings teenagers have when falling in love. The lyrics describe the longing of two young people for the romantic freedom of adulthood. The track pulls you in immediately with the effervescent, happy vocals.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up In the morning when the day is new? And after having spent the day together Hold each other close the whole night through
First Appearance: The band released this pop hit in the summer of 1966. It was track one on side A of Pet Sounds, as well as a seven-inch single.
#2 Good Vibrations
About the Song: Good Vibrations is the most well-known Beach Boys song of all time. It reached number one in the U.S. in 1966 and became a worldwide chartbuster by 1967. It was the most expensive single ever recorded.
Composer Brian Wilson had a massive vision with the song and took almost one year to produce it. He enlisted the best session musicians, adding cello and a theremin, among other instruments. The lyrics, written by Mike Love, take you right to the sunny surfy California landscape that The Beach Boys loved.
I'm pickin' up good vibrations, She's giving me excitations Good, good, good, good vibrations
First Appearance: Good vibrations shot to the tops of the charts shortly after its release as a single in October of 1966.
#1 God Only Knows
About the Song: God Only Knows is one of the most beloved love songs of all time. Many musicians, including Paul McCartney, have cited it as their favorite song. The musical arrangement is phenomenal.
Wilson’s 20 session musicians played instruments including French horn, harpsichord, and sleigh bells. The lyrics describe a melancholic wonder by its protagonist – only God could imagine a world without their love.
If you should ever leave me Though life would still go on, believe me The world could show nothing to me So what good would living do me
First Appearance: This Beach Boys classic was the first track on side b of the 1966 sonic masterpiece Pet Sounds. It was released as a single in July 1966, the b-side to Wouldn’t It Be Nice.
Which Song by The Beach Boys is Your Favorite?
With 29 studio albums and five decades of songwriting, The Beach Boys certainly made it a challenge to pick their greatest songs! But we think our list marks the spot for your essentials. What are your most cherished Beach Boys songs?