In 1966 The Beach Boys released ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, the now-iconic opening track from the band’s pioneering album Pet Sounds. The song would be a shining piece of the album’s jigsaw and act as a bright and beaming pop refrain.
Two months after the album’s release date, the Beach Boys released ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ as the lead single and, quite remarkably, chose ‘God Only Knows’ as the B-side. As a simply astounding double bill, the two tracks have both had their iconic vocals isolated. It allows a window into the song’s conception.
While the song has been credited as being written by Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love, the band have since confessed that the band’s leader Wilson is predominantly responsible for its formation. “The innocence of the situation—being too young to get married—seemed to be immensely appealing to him,” Asher once said.
The somewhat intimate lyrics depict a young couple in love, resenting their age as a factor as to why they cannot go on the run to get married and, when discussing the words, Wilson described the song as “what children everywhere go through” before adding that “wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, or could run away and get married.”
He later added in 1966: “It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can’t have, what you really want and you have to wait for it… the need to have the freedom to live with somebody.
“The idea is, the more we talk about it, the more we want it, but let’s talk about it anyway. Let’s talk it over, let’s talk about what we might have if we really got down to it.”
Originally laying down the track at the LA studio Gold Star Studios in 1966, Wilson later insisted that the band continually run through the song until they landed the absolute perfect take. It was an arduous process for the perfectionist Wilson. The gruelling session resulted in 21 different instrumental versions of the track before they even attempted to add in their dreamy harmonies.
Later, the vocals were added to the track as part of two sessions which took place at Columbia records with engineer Ralph Balantin. While Wilson managed to nail his contribution, the backing vocals proved problematic given his unrelenting desire for perfection. It would almost evade them during the sessions.
“We re-recorded our vocals so many times, [but] the rhythm was never right,” Bruce Johnston once explained. “We would slave at Western for a few days, singing this thing, and [Brian would say], ‘No, it’s not right, it’s not right.’ One time, he had a 4-track Scully [tape recorder] sent to his home, but that didn’t really work out.”
Despite the battles, the end result became the perfection Wilson was looking for. Now, we’re going to explore the fruits of their labour and enjoy the vocal recordings in their isolated beauty. With it, the innocence of Wilson’s initial message sung loud and clear and his vision for the track is enacted by your very eyes and ears.
Listen to The Beach Boys isolated vocals for ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ below: