Paul McCartney is the people’s poet. With and without The Beatles, he’s written some of the most beautiful songs in existence. However, there’s one track that’s a cut above the rest, inspired by a Beach Boys classic, that McCartney himself later remarked: “Was the only song that John ever complimented me on.”
The Beach Boys and The Beatles created the definitive sound of the 1960s, sonics that would shape music and culture for decades. The two groups were never rivals, but there was a friendly competition between them as they tried to one-up each other. When Paul McCartney heard Pet Sounds, he knew that The Beatles couldn’t rest on their laurels, and Revolver was their visceral response.
‘God Only Knows’ is McCartney’s favourite track from Pet Sounds. The Beatle has talked up the song in interviews on numerous occasions in ways that he’s never spoken about any other piece of music, and he’s even performed it on-stage with Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys mastermind is one of the few men on the planet who can make even Macca’s knees quiver.
“‘God Only Knows‘ is one of the few songs that reduces me to tears every time I hear it. It’s really just a love song, but it’s brilliantly done. It shows the genius of Brian,” he once said in a past interview. He added: “I’ve actually performed it with him and I’m afraid to say that during the soundcheck I broke down. It was just too much to stand there singing this song that does my head in and to stand there singing it with Brian.”
That whole album changed how McCartney approached music. During the recording process of Revolver, he and Lennon attended an early listening party for Pet Sounds, which led to the creation of his finest hour, ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’.
“It’s actually just the introduction that’s influenced,” McCartney once revealed. “John and I used to be interested in what the old fashioned writers used to call the verse, which we nowadays would call the intro – this whole preamble to a song, and I wanted to have one of those on the front of ‘Here, There and Everywhere.’ John and I were quite into those from the old-fashioned songs that used to have them, and in putting that [sings ‘To lead a better life’] on the front of ‘Here, There and Everywhere,’ we were doing harmonies, and the inspiration for that was the Beach Boys.”
Adding: “We had that in our minds during the introduction to ‘Here, There and Everywhere.’ I don’t think anyone, unless I told them, would even notice, but we’d often do that, get something off an artist or artists that you really liked and have them in your mind while you were recording things, to give you the inspiration and give you the direction – nearly always, it ended up sounding more like us than them anyway.”
The track has ubiquitous appeal even for the ultimate grouch John Lennon, who said of the song: “This was a great one of his,” before adding: “That’s Paul’s song completely, I believe. And one of my favourite songs of the Beatles.”
If ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’ is Paul’s most extraordinary moment with The Beatles, according to Lennon, then who are we to disagree? It’s a timeless piece of pop music that sees McCartney express his softer side as he displays his unrequited love, and we’ve got The Beach Boys to thank for its heavenly harmonies.