When you’re one of the greatest pop music songwriters of all time, chances are you have an ear for the best. Whether it is being able to pick up on the vibrations of a new sound or simply recognising greatness in the sonic fields, knowing what makes a song tick is a unique skill that only a few true geniuses have. One such genius is The Beach Boys‘ musical impresario and all-around gentle charmer, Brian Wilson.
Displaying an uncanny ear during the recording of The Beach Boys Magnus Opus, Pet Sounds, Wilson is rightly regarded as one of the constructors of modern pop music as we know it. Without his foundational songs, who knows where music would be today. Regarding knowing what’s good and bad about music, another similarly influential group, The Beatles, was a constant source of inspiration for Wilson and, below, we have his favourite Beatles album of all time.
Like any true great, The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson needed some competition. Suppose you imagine the immense talents of football superstars Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo transferred into an auroral field. In that case, it is easy to see how Wilson needed the work of Paul McCartney and John Lennon to help fire him into volleying a single into the stratosphere. However, unlike that competition, Wilson and McCartney have always shared immense respect for one another.
McCartney has often shared his love for Wilson’s writing and, in particular, his song ‘God Only Knows’, which McCartney called his favourite song of all time. But what is Wilson’s favourite work by The Beatles? Funnily enough, it is the album that helped give Wilson the courage and desire to record his brilliant Pet Sounds, the 1965 album, Rubber Soul.
“The John and Paul combination in certain songs just blew me away,” Wilson told Esquire when picking out his ten favourite albums of all time. Of course, it must be noted; he also selected Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band within the assortment. But there are plenty of instances when Wilson has picked out the colossal effect Rubber Soul had on him.
“It had such a cool vibe, and I wanted to do something similar to it,” explained Wilson when readying himself to perform in Liverpool in 2014. The biggest compliment the Fab Four album could be played comes next when Wilson confirms, “That’s how I came up with Pet Sounds“. It also provided one of music’s most beautiful stories: “When I heard Rubber Soul, I was so inspired, and somehow I came up with ‘God Only Knows’, I can’t really explain how it happened. It just came to me”.
Later, when speaking to NME about a plethora of albums released in the 1960s, which are now considered all-time greats, Wilson cooly replied: “It’s a good album, but not the best. I think The Beatles’ Rubber Soul is still the best album of all time.” With that, it is safe to say the Rubber Soul deserves its place in the sun.
Not only is it considered one of the best albums ever made by one of music’s finest creators, but it also helped to inspire that creator to make a pure and unbridled rival for the crown.