By 2002, former Beatles man Paul McCartney had achieved more than he could ever have imagined but there was still one thing left on his bucket list which he needed to tick off—performing his favourite song of all time, the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’, on stage with its creator Brian Wilson.
The Beach Boys and The Beatles created the definitive sound of the 1960s, one which would go on to shape music and culture for decades. McCartney has been a vocal admirer of the almost faultless 1966 record Pet Sounds, an album created by his contemporaries and he has talked up ‘God Only Knows’ on numerous occasions. When the opportunity arrived for Macca to perform the track with Wilson at the Adopt-A-Minefield Benefit Gala in Los Angeles in 2002, it was one he jumped at.
Speaking in 2007, McCartney described the event as a pinch yourself moment: “‘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.”
Adding: “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.”
In a separate interview with The Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood on the former’s YouTube page from 2013, McCartney also waxed lyrical about the track, stating: “Brian Wilson proved himself to be a really amazing composer and I was into chords and harmonies at that time and we ended up kind of in a rivalry.
“We’d put a song out then Brian would hear it then do one, which is nice,” he added. “It’s kind of like me and John, you’d try and top each other all the time. He eventually came out with ‘God Only Knows’ on Pet Sounds, I just think it’s a great song, it’s got the melody, harmonies, words, it’s just a great song and I love it.”
McCartney has also discussed how the seminal Pet Sounds influenced The Beatles, a time when they created the magnificent ‘Here, There and Everywhere’. “It’s actually just the introduction that’s influenced,” he said. “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’.”
He continued: “John and I were quite into those from the old-fashioned songs that used to have them, and inputting 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. We had that in our minds during the introduction to ‘Here, There and Everywhere’.”
The former Beatle, who has achieved everything there is to achieve in music and beyond, went on to prove that the possibilities to secure your dreams continue. Listening to him collide with Brian Wilson on reaffirms that the wild passion he had for music all those years ago, a time when his journey began, hasn’t declined one bit.
See the performance, below.