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Music

The Beach Boys song Paul McCartney called "my favourite"

@TylerGolsen

The Beatles game of one-upmanship with The Beach Boys, specifically Brian Wilson, lead to the writing of some of the greatest songs of all time. Wilson felt that The Beatles were the first band to provide real competition to The Beach Boys, while Paul McCartney and John Lennon were admirers of the sophisticated harmony and advanced compositional techniques Wilson was integrating into The Beach Boys’ signature summery sound.

When Rubber Soul came out in 1965, Wilson understood that the next Beach Boys album had to be more ambitious than anything else they had put out. Largely working away from his bandmates, Wilson created experimental orchestrations that, when combined with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production style and his bandmates’ iconic harmonies, created the dense sonic world of Pet Sounds. McCartney, upon hearing the finished work, quickly took notice.

“Brian Wilson sort of proved himself to be a really amazing composer. I was into chords and harmonies and stuff at that time, and we ended up with kind of like a rivalry,” McCartney recalled to Ronnie Wood on The Ronnie Wood Show. “We put a song out and Brian would hear it, and then he’d do one. Which is nice – it’s like me and John. You know, you kind of try and top each other all the time.”

The former Beatle added: “He eventually came out with ‘God Only Knows’ on Pet Sounds. I just think it’s a great song: melody, harmonies, words! It’s a great song, I love it. It’s my favourite Beach Boys song.”

Armed with the challenge that Pet Sounds and ‘God Only Knows’ presented, McCartney began to envision bigger things for The Beatles as well. As a direct result of the musical rivalry, McCartney convinced the rest of the band to abandon the preconceived notions of what it meant to be “The Beatles”, and instead take on another guise that let them sound like anything they wanted: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Listen to McCartney discuss ‘God Only Knows’ down below.