254. Beach Boys – ‘God Only Knows’ (1966)

“I may not always love you”

Taken from the album Pet Sounds

UK #2, AUS #2, US #39

‘God Only Knows’ defies every popular image of the Beach Boys – the surfin’ safari ends here. The song still has a sunny, bright feel to it, but the lyrics and vocals portray another image altogether. The simple and surprisingly repetitive words are misrepresented by jangling bells, but that’s sort of the point. “God only knows what I’d be without you” is a desperate and difficult line, by sticking it into a pop song with lots of “do do do” and “ba ba ba”, it makes the situation seem better than it is.

One of the all time classic sixties records, ‘God Only Knows’ is my favourite Beach Boys song, and one that I consider up there with the best of their closest rivals, the Beatles. The production is impeccable, clearer and more exciting than a lot of productions that come out now, in more advanced times. It just goes to show that if you have a clear vision and a heart behind the work, technology is no limit to putting across your feelings.

Included in countless greatest songs lists, ‘God Only Knows’ has become a behemoth, praised by everyone from Paul McCartney to Bono, but it’s simplicity is still the main reason it sounds so good. Honest and unassuming, the song is an inspiration for pop songwriters everywhere, and it would be impossible to argue against the notion that it is among the most influential songs ever written.

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