If you ever have been to a beach, or even a waterpark, you’ve probably heard songs about surfing and summertime fun. If so, thank the Beach Boys, the band that is as American as apple pie, baseball and…you get the idea. Ever since their start in the early 1960s, the Beach Boys have been an icon of Americana, with countless hit songs that extoll the joys of swimming, cruising in cars and quite a bit more. Although I’m tempted to rank every song from these not-so bad boys equally, the list calls for a top 10, so I will comply. Without further ado, here are the top 10 best Beach Boys songs of all time, ranked!
10. “Barbara Ann” (Beach Boys’ Party!)
The Beach Boys’ Party! album was designed to resemble a live party, with chatter and fun abounding during the songs. This little ditty about a gal named Barbara Ann fits in well with the theme and provides a sense of pure excitement to an already fun album. Keep on rockin’ and rollin’ with this tune!
9. “Don’t Worry Baby” (Shut Down Volume 2)
If the average listener believed the Beach Boys were a band that purely sang about cars, surfing and girls in no particular order, they’d have a fair point in 1964, when this album was released. As corny as it sounds, it’s hard to worry when this track comes on and the falsetto of frontman Brian Wilson. Sometimes, that’s enough to elevate a track.
8. “Fun, Fun, Fun” (Shut Down Volume 2)
Critics had the right to lobby criticism at the group, as they did with any other musical act. But if there’s one thing even the detractors would reluctantly admit, it’s that the Beach Boys’ songs are pure “fun, fun, fun”, as this tune emphasizes. In this tale of a wild young lady gone reckless, the Beach Boys describe a series of “fun, fun, fun” activities the mischievous protagonist engaged in, only before Papa catches her in the act and punishes the rebellious youngster.
7. “California Girls” (Summer Days (And Summer Nights!))
The Beach Boys would be nothing without their various tracks dealing with the various young women that are an integral part of any Californian upbringing. What better way to detail this than with the aptly titled “California Girls”? The answer is that there’s no better way, of course!
6. “I Get Around” (All Summer Long)
This is probably the first Beach Boys song that hardcore and casual listeners alike have heard, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Describing the adventures of a young man and his buddies cruising around town and picking up ladies, this energetic number epitomizes the fun of teenagehood, as detailed by the quintessential band of Americana.
5. “Surfin’ USA” (Surfin’ USA)
Perhaps THE best known Beach Boys song, “Surfin’ USA” best represents what the band was during its earlier days….a group of happy young men reveling in their youth. And this track about hitting the waves in good ol’ Cali-forn-i-a gives the listener a vivid picture of this fun-filled lifestyle. Remember to thank the group every time you’re down the shore and hear this blasting from the megaphone.
4. “I’m Waiting for the Day” (Pet Sounds)
Ah, surfing, cars, girls, rock and roll and….introspective lyric about desiring a future with that special someone? One of these things is not like the other! Indeed, Pet Sounds completely eschewed the carefree fun of earlier Beach Boys tunes, in favor of a more brooding, somber tone. This track, while containing upbeat instrumental work, definitely represents this side of the band well.
3. “Sloop John B” (Pet Sounds)
It’s no coincidence that these last two tracks were Pet Sounds ones. If you don’t mind spoilers, the next two songs will be Pet Sounds songs as well, so kiss the laidback, fun-loving Beach Boys goodybe and say hello to the moody, ambivalent Beach Boys. In this arrangement of a classic folk song, the protagonist goes on a fishing trip gone awry, which symbolizes the groups shifting image and departure from simple maritime tunes.
2. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” (Pet Sounds)
The opening track to “the most progressive pop album of all time”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” details the desire to build a future with that special someone and envision all the wonderful things that can be created together. As a nice segway into the more solemn atmosphere of this album, it’s a catchy, pleasing track.
1. “God Only Knows” (Pet Sounds)
Without a doubt, this is the best Beach Boys song of all time. Pet Sounds covers a range of emotions including idealistic dreaming, wistful longing and elated relief. This song covers the latter perfectly and describes the feeling of despair that would result if the protagonist didn’t have his special someone. If Pet Sounds is the Beach Boys at their best, this is the song that made it so.