Wouldn't It Be Nice

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"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Pet Sounds
B-side "God Only Knows"
Released July 18, 1966 (1966-07-18)[1]
Format 7"
Recorded January 22, 1966 (1966-01-22)–April 11, 1966 (1966-04-11),
Gold Star Studios and CBS Columbia Square, Los Angeles
Genre Baroque pop[2]
Length 2:25
Label Capitol 5706
Writer(s) Wilson/Asher/Love
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Sloop John B"
(1966)
----
"Cool, Cool Water"
(1971)
"Wouldn't It Be Nice"/"God Only Knows"
(1966)
----
"Wouldn't It Be Nice" (live at the Big Sur Folk Festival)
(1971)
"Good Vibrations"
(1966)
----
"Long Promised Road"
(1971)"


Music sample
'Pet Sounds' track listing

"Wouldn't It Be Nice" is the opening track on the 1966 album Pet Sounds and one of the most widely recognized songs by the American rock band the Beach Boys. It was composed and produced by Brian Wilson, with words largely by Tony Asher; Mike Love having a hand in the coda's vocal arrangement and lyric.[3] The lead vocals were sung by Brian Wilson and Mike Love.

Pitchfork Media placed it at number 7 on its list of "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s".[4]

Composition[edit]

In the Endless Harmony documentary, Brian Wilson described the song as "what children everywhere go through ... wouldn't it be nice if we were older, or could run away and get married". Wilson added in 1996, "'Wouldn't It Be Nice' was not a real long song, but it's a very 'up' song. It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can't have, what you really want and you have to wait for it."[5] The song expresses "the need to have the freedom to live with somebody," according to Brian. "The idea is, the more we talk about it, the more we want it, but let's talk about it anyway."[3] The lyrics describe a couple in love lamenting about being too young to run off to get married, fantasizing about how nice it would be if they were adults. The song was written almost entirely by Tony Asher in one or two days; Mike Love's single contribution was the ending couplet "Good night my baby / sleep tight my baby".[3] Asher has said, "Brian was constantly looking for topics that kids could relate to. Even though he was dealing in he most advanced score-charts and arrangements, he was still incredibly conscious of this commercial thing. This absolute need to relate."[6] In response, music journalist Nick Kent wrote:

To this effect, "Wouldn't It Be Nice", the song that would lead off their finished creation, was little more than a sophisticated lay-off on the old "We're too young to get married" teen angst dialogue that Wilson had already zeroed in on in "We'll Run Away", the song he'd written a year or so back with Gary Usher, not to mention his plaintively fulsome reinterpretation of the Four Teens' vintage heartbreaker "I'm So Young". But this time Brian Wilson was out to eclipse these previous sonic soap operas, to transform the subject's sappy sentiments with a God-like grace so that the song would become a veritable pocket symphony: two minutes of limpid harps imitating a teenage heartstrings in a tug of love, growling horns, joyous little bells, cascading strings, harmonies so complex they seemed to have more in common with a Catholic Mass than any cocktail lounge acappella doo-wop—in short, a fantasy island of the most exquisite musical longing imaginable.[6]

Recording[edit]

Instrumental sessions[edit]

The instrumental track was recorded in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios on January 22, 1966 (1966-01-22).[7] The session was engineered by Larry Levine and produced by Brian Wilson. It took 21 takes of recording the instrumental track before Brian Wilson decided that it was good enough to be the master take. Highlights of these sessions can be heard on the 1997 box set The Pet Sounds Sessions as well as the master take. The full recording of the instrumental track, all 21 takes, can be heard on the bootleg Sea Of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters series Vol. 13 box set.[8]

The musicians present on the day of the instrumental recording were a group of Los Angeles session players commonly referred to as The Wrecking Crew.[5] Wilson says, "Listen for the rockin' accordions and the ethereal guitars in the introduction. Tony and I had visualized a scene. We had a feeling in our hearts, like a vibration. We put it into music, and it found its way onto tape. We really felt good about that record."[5] Accounts differ as to which specific instrument was employed on the song's distinctive, harp-like intro, with candidates including one or more 12-string electric guitars, an electric mandolin, or similar short-scale instrument, such as a Vox Mandoguitar.

Vocal overdubs[edit]

The vocals were recorded over two sessions at Columbia engineered by Ralph Balantin.[citation needed] The first vocal session took place on March 10, 1966 (1966-03-10), which also saw vocal work on "I'm Waiting for the Day", "God Only Knows" and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times".[7][9] The next session around a month later on April 11, 1966 (1966-04-11) was most likely the session at which the lead vocal for the song was recorded. Vocals for "God Only Knows" were also worked on at that particular session.[7][9] The backing vocal sessions were problematic, as Bruce Johnston recalled, "We re-recorded our vocals so many times, [but] the rhythm was never right. We would slave at Western for a few days, singing this thing, and [Brian would say], 'No, it's not right, it's not right.' One time, he had a 4-track Scully [tape recorder] sent to his home, but that didn't really work out."[3] During sessions, Brian taught brother Dennis Wilson a recording technique involving cupping his hands over his mouth, elaborating: "Well, he had a lot of trouble singing on mike. He just didn't really know how to stay on mike. He was a very nervous boy. Very nervous person. So I taught him a trick, how to record and he said, 'Hey Brian. That works great. Thank you!' And I said, 'It's okay, Dennis: He was really happy. I showed him—not how to sing, but I showed him a way to get the best out of himself—just 'cup’ singing."[5]

Single release[edit]

On July 18, 1966 (1966-07-18), "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was released backed with "God Only Knows" in the United States, which was the third single from the Pet Sounds album.[7] It entered the Billboard chart on July 30 and remained there for 11 weeks, peaking at number 8 in September 1966.[10] The single also peaked at number 7 on the Cashbox chart and #5 in Record World. It also peaked at number 4 on Canada's RPM national chart. In Australia, the song was released in August 1966 as the A-side with "God Only Knows" as the B-side of the single. It entered the charts on August 24 at number 39 and spent 17 weeks on the charts, peaking at number 2.[11] The song was also released as the A-side in New Zealand where it peaked at number 12.[12] In July 1966 in the United Kingdom the song was released as the B-side of the "God Only Knows" single,[13] which reached number 2.

In April 1971, a live version of the song from the Live In London album was released in the United States as the A-side of a single which featured a different artist on the B-side. However, the single failed to make any impact on the charts just as many of the other Beach Boys singles from that period had failed to chart. During Brian Wilson's absences from the group, the song was frequently performed with Al Jardine or Carl Wilson on lead vocal.

In July 1976, the song was released in the United Kingdom as the B-side of the re-issued "Good Vibrations" single. The single peaked at number 18.

In June 1990, a different recording of the song from 1966 that had appeared on the 1989 Still Cruisin' album was released in the United Kingdom as a single with the B-side featuring a Beach Boys Medley as well as the original recording of "I Get Around", which had also been released on the Still Cruisin' album.

Alternate releases[edit]

The song first appeared in monophonic sound on The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds which was released on May 16, 1966 in the United States and in June 1966 in the United Kingdom. The song was later released in November 1966 in the United Kingdom on the God Only Knows EP.[13] Live versions also appear on two of the band's live albums. The 1970 release Live In London and the 1973 release The Beach Boys in Concert. On the 1986 Made in U.S.A. compilation, an alternate version with different vocals was used. That same version was also released on the 1989 Beach Boys album Still Cruisin'.

Another notable difference is that Brian sings the bridge on the original stereo versions, while Mike sings that part in the mono version. The 2001 stereo remix of the song restores Mike Love's original bridge vocal, utilizing a mono mix, which causes slight phasing and sound quality issues. Brian's version has still been maintained in the "Pet Sounds Sessions" box set.

The song appears on several occasions from different stages of the recording process and in different formats on The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, including the song in its original monophonic mix; the first ever original stereo mix of the song, which was remastered by Mark Linett; over seven minutes of highlights from the tracking date, which documents the progress of the recording of the instrumental track; the finished instrumental track; the stereo track with the background vocals; an a cappella mix of the song; and two alternate mixes of the song one of which has a slight difference lyrically. In it, the song begins with the line "wouldn't it be nice to live together, in the kind of world where we belong", instead of the finished version of the song which opens with the line "wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long" and follows with the aforementioned lyric.

Personnel[edit]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Australian Singles Chart[14] 2
New Zealand Singles Chart[15] 12
UK Singles Chart[16] 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[17] 8

Other versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 142
  2. ^ Carucci, John (2012). "Review: Brian Wilson Writes New Beach Boys Album". The Big Story. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d Elliott, Brad (August 31, 1999). "Pet Sounds Track Notes". beachboysfanclub.com. Retrieved March 3, 2009. 
  4. ^ Staff, Pitchfork (2006-08-18). "Staff Lists: The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  5. ^ a b c d The Pet Sounds Sessions: "The Making Of Pet Sounds" booklet
  6. ^ a b Kent, Nick. The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music. Da Capo Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780786730742. 
  7. ^ a b c d Doe, Andrew G. "GIGS66". esquarterly.com. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Unsurpassed Masters Vol.13 track listing
  9. ^ a b "Beach Boys 1966 Recording Sessions". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard (Nielsen Company) 78 (38): 26. 1966. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Abbott, Kingsley (2003), Back To The Beach, Helter Skelter Publishing, ISBN 1-900924-46-3
  12. ^ New Zealand Single Charts
  13. ^ a b "UK 1960's Singles Charts". Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Australian Single Charts". Retrieved 9 November 2007. 
  15. ^ "New Zealand Single Charts". Retrieved 9 November 2007. 
  16. ^ "The Official Charts Company - God Only Knows by The Beach Boys Search". The Official Charts Company. 4 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "US Singles Charts". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 9 November 2007. 

External links[edit]