Undoubtedly one of the most impressive musical minds of all time, Brian Wilson’s opinion on classic pop is one you must always listen to. One of the architects of modern pop music with his game-changing work alongside The Beach Boys, what Brian Wilson hasn’t meticulously fretted over and manipulated for hours on end simply isn’t worth knowing. It means that his favourite song of all time is something every budding songwriter should know.
Wilson can rightly be credited for some of the most innovative music in pop. His seminal album with The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, turned Wilson into an icon of instruments but the genius behind the mixing desk (and on a lot of the instruments too) was always more than happy to cite others for his inspiration. As well as often referring to The Beatles outstanding output as a competitive nudge in the right direction, Wilson has often paid tribute to the infamous producer Phil Spector.
Spector, who has since disgraced his good name after committing and being convicted of the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, but his importance in pop music is sadly integral. Spector has a CV as impressive as anyone and as well as working with the aforementioned Fab Four, he also inspired Brian Wilson with one of pop’s greatest records of all time, and Wilson’s favourite, ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronnettes.
Usually when bringing you the favourite song of one of our heroes the term itself is rather loosely applied. As we all know, one’s musical preference can change regularly and in an instant. But for Wilson, there is absolutely no doubt to this song’s validity to the claim of being the Beach Boy man’s favourite.
In fact, Brian Wilson’s daughter Carnie has one distinct memory from her childhood which proves it. She remembers listening to, or perhaps more accurately, being woken up with, The Ronnettes classic song ‘Be My Baby’: “I woke up every morning to boom boom-boom pow! Boom boom-boom pow! Every day,” she said while confirming that it is her father Brian’s favourite song.
“This is the song that inspired me to produce records,” Wilson once recalled to Rolling Stone. “When I first heard it, it blew my mind. The drum sound that Phil Spector got, the harmonies, the piano and guitar sounds — I thought it was the greatest record I ever heard.” Wilson was instantly inspired by the track’s now-iconic ‘wall of sound’ production, as produced by the infamous Spector.
In the footage below, Wilson again recalls the song’s importance in his life as he gets ready to welcome Ronnie Spector on tour with him to sing a few tracks. “‘Be My Baby’ is my favourite song,” he remembered, “I was driving with my girlfriend Judy, and it came on the radio and after about thirty seconds I said ‘what is this!?’ We pulled over to the side of the road and I was like ‘What is this record!?’”
It has since become a mainstay of any proper record collection and the track remains a favourite for almost every generation. But, trust when we say, that the song’s ultimate fan, and quite possibly Ronnie Spector’s too, will always be Brian Wilson. That recommendation is good enough to push ‘Be My Baby’ into the highest of tiers.
The clips below come from Wilson’s 2002 performance at the Beacon Theater in New York in which he not only covered the aforementioned track and welcomed Ronnie on stage to sing The Beach Boys’ ‘I Can Hear Music’, but was serenaded by the singer with an impromptu backstage performance of his favourite song of all time.