The Beach Boys’ iconic album Pet Sounds was, and remains, one of the most revolutionary albums of the 20th century. Brian Wilson’s vision was so perfectly enacted that it set a precedent for future iconic albums to come.
Widely regarded as Wilson’s best, the album is full of dancefloor ditties and deeply personal moments of reflection. The 1966 record is undoubtedly a powerhouse of creativity and artistry, it’s Wilson’s masterpiece. A crucial puzzle piece in that particular jigsaw was the enigmatic song ‘God Only Knows’.
The album was a big move on from The Beach Boys party at the beach vigour of old. Now, they offered a little more meat on the bones of their songs. ‘God Only Knows’ is a perfect reflection of that big step forward. The song was released a few months after Pet Sounds hit the shelves and is thought of as one of the most iconic songs ever written.
Although it may seem trivial these days, the song was avant-garde for its use of ‘God’ in the title of the track and not making any real connection to God in any way. The song is actually a track written about moving on following a devastating loss. Wilson later explained that the intentions his and co-writer of the song, Tony Asher, was to create the feeling of “being blind but in being blind, you can see more”. Miraculously such a paradoxical notion is seemingly perfectly achieved.
Before Pet Sounds people loved The Beach Boys because they were clean-cut, good American boys with soaring harmonies and shining smiles. Wilson was desperate to get away from that image and sonic style but all too aware that the people wanted yet another ‘Surfin’ USA’. Instead, he decided to marry the two styles, using deeply personal and emotive lyrics but still including the vocals many had come to expect.
In the isolated vocals of ‘God Only Knows’ this marriage is perfectly shown. Although missing Wilson’s simply sumptuous arrangement, his lyrics combined with the harmonising vocals of the band, all added up together with the powerful poetry of the song’s intent means that this is not something to be missed.
Listen below to the isolated vocals of The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ below.