Our final featured album of this countdown is the 1971 classic Surf's Up. In addition to the two tracks featured in the list below, Surf's Up (#19 on this countdown), #38 Disney Girls (1957) and Feel Flows were incredible pieces of music. You can also learn about taking care of your feet, about the dangers of water pollution and about reasons to hide during a riot. It's quite an eclectic work. Carl Wilson did much of the production work on the album, but the entire band contributed to some extent. The title track was pulled from the SMile tapes and given some new lyrics and a different ending. The album is creative and unique, and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it #154 on its list of the top 500 albums of all-time. It was also featured in the musical reference book 101 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. And now on with the final countdown...
11) Sail On, Sailor (1973) - From the album Holland. This song was a late addition to the album because the record company thought it could be hit single. It was a minor hit twice, once in 1973 and again in 1975, when I heard it on the local rock station one day during high school study hall. It was one of the few Beach Boys songs with Blondie Chaplin as the lead vocalist. Favorite Lyric: "Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail, bought like a crust of bread but oh do I wail."
10) Do It Again (1968) - From the album 20/20. A bit of "pre-nostalgia," as only 3 years removed from California Girls the guys wistfully revisited their surf music past. They returned to the original formula, with Mike writing lyrics and Brian writing music, and Mike once again provided the lead vocal. Brian once called it their best collaboration- and that's saying something! Favorite Lyric: "Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine, the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather let's get together and do it again!"
9) I Get Around (1964) - From the album All Summer Long. When normal people are asked to pick their favorite song by The Beach Boys, this is nearly always in the top 3. It was their first #1 single and remains a classic, constantly featured in films and TV shows even now. Favorite Lyric: "My buddies and me are getting real well known, yeah the bad guys know us and they leave us alone!"
8) Wouldn't It Be Nice? (1966) - From the album Pet Sounds. The opening track on one of the greatest albums ever, this song captures like few others the joys and frustrations of young love. The vocals are classic. And the orchestrations behind them...just wow. In fact, you can watch the clip below and listen to the music without the vocals- Stack 'O' Tracks style! Favorite Lyric: "You know it seems the more we talk about it, it only makes it worse to live without it...but let's talk about it...wouldn't it be nice."
7) 'Til I Die (1971) - From the album Surf's Up. Along with In My Room (#13) this is considered to be the penultimate Brian Wilson autobiographical song. Brian wrote it all, and got it on the album against the wishes of his band mates. It is emotional and shows Brian's depression at the time. It is featured during a very moving montage of flashbacks near the end of the movie Love & Mercy. Favorite Lyric: "I'm a cork on the ocean, floating over the raging sea. How deep is the ocean? I lost my way..."
6) The Little Girl I Once Knew (1968) - From the album Best of The Beach Boys Vol. 3. I confess that until I started these posts I had no idea that this incredible song never appeared on a regular BB album. I knew it from the compilation Spirit of America, but it was released as a single in 1968. It's considered by many music scholars to be a masterpiece of writing and arranging. The totally silent pause before the chorus was the first time that had ever been done in a pop song played on AM radio, and they actually cause DJs not to play it because the dead stops made them uncomfortable. You may recognize it from the film The Devil Wears Prada. Favorite Lyric: "How could I ever have known that she'd be what she is today? Look at how her boyfriend holds her, I'll be moving in one day...'split man!'"
5) Long Promised Road (1971) - From the album Surf's Up. This is the late, great Carl Wilson's magnum opus as a singer/songwriter. He also produced it and played all the instruments. It was never a hit, at least in part because it came at a time when The Beach Boys were "out of fashion." It's also very complex, with tempo changes and deeply reflective lyrics. And to me, it's very nearly perfect. Favorite Lyric: "But I hit hard at the battle that's confronting me, yeah. Knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me, throw off all the shackles that are binding me down."
4) Good Vibrations (1967) - From the album Smiley Smile. Originally released as single meant to precede its inclusion as the closing track of SMiLE, this was their biggest seller and arguably most famous song. It was referred to by the great Leonard Bernstein as Brian's pocket symphony. It is one of the most complex recordings in music history, especially considering the technology of the time. And you can't help but smile when you hear it. Favorite Lyric: "Close my eyes, she's somehow closer now, softly smile, I know she must be kind."
3) Marcella (1973) - From the album The Beach Boys in Concert. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, this song was originally featured on the 1972 album Carl and the Passions: So Tough. It didn't really find an audience until the great 1973 double live album. I fell in love with it immediately and it remains one of the most listened to songs on my iPod. It might not make any other Beach Boys fan's top 100- but it's #3 on mine! Favorite Lyric: "One arm over my shoulder, sandals dance at my feet. Eyes that knock you right over, Ooo Marcella's so sweet."
2) California Girls (1965) - From the album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!). When I first started listening to the Endless Summer double album I would often play one side and then listen to California Girls, then play another side and listen to it again. It seemed like the perfect mix of amazing music and fodder for daydreams. If you were to surprise me and say "Name a Beach Boys song!" this would likely be the first thing out of my mouth. And it still holds up so well. Favorite Lyric: "The west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tanned. I dig a french bikini on Hawaiian island dolls by a palm tree in the sand."
1) God Only Knows (1966) - From the album Pet Sounds. After all of the thinking and writing and listing, #1 was a pretty simple choice. My favorite song on my favorite album. It's an amazing love song. Paul McCartney called it the best song ever written. Who am I to argue with Sir Paul? Favorite Lyric: "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? God only knows what I'd be without you."
So that's it. All done after 55 (technically 57) songs, plus 5 "almost songs," selected from 30 different albums spread out over 50 years. I hope you may have learned a few things you didn't know and discovered some new songs you can love at least half as much as I do. We'll close with one more Almost Song of the Week. It's time to Catch A Wave! What better way to close out this tribute to The Beach Boys than with one final surfin' song, right? Enjoy one last ride...