The Beatles and The Beach Boys are two of the defining artists of the 1960s, bands who spurred each other on throughout their heightened period of fame as they continued their playful career of trying to outdo one another with their greatness.
Paul McCartney has previously spoken on multiple occasions about how ‘God Only Knows’ from The Beach Boys’ seminal masterpiece Pet Sounds — which was actually inadvertently inspired by Macca himself.
Speaking in 2007, the McCartney said having the opportunity to perform The Beach Boys classic alongside Brian Wilson which was a pinch yourself moment even for the former Beatles bassist: “‘God Only Knows’ is one of the few songs that reduces me to tears every time I hear it,” he said. “It’s really just a love song, but it’s brilliantly done. It shows the genius of Brian.”
Macca continued to heap praise on the song and shared his personal connection to the track, “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.”
The awe he felt by being in Brian Wilson’s company was one that The Beach Boys leader shared, with him being just as inspired by McCartney as the former Beatles man. Pet Sounds was a game-changing album when it was released in 1966 and, quite rightly, it is still held up as one of the finest LP’s in existence.
Wilson had suffered a sudden surge of creativity following hearing the mercurial Beatles record Rubber Soul, material which immediately inspired him to get into the studio and alas, ‘God Only Knows’ was born which started the Pet Sounds journey. “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,” Wilson said to Beatles Story in 2017.
“Rubber Soul blew my mind,” Wilson remembered to Paste in 2004. “I liked the way it all went together, the way it was all one thing. It was a challenge to me to do something similar. That made me want to make Pet Sounds, I didn’t want to do the same kind of music, but on the same level. Smile. wasn’t the same kind of thing; it wasn’t anything like The Beatles. It wasn’t pop music; it was something more advanced,” he proudly stated.
This was truly a golden era of pop music, a groundbreaking decade that saw a plethora of artists break down barriers and create experimental work in uncharted territory as they constantly tried to outperform each other—which resulted in bags full of timeless records with Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds being up there with the best.