Beach Boys: ‘God only knows’, the love song that arose between discussions jumps to ‘OT 2023’ to make you fall in love

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In just 45 minutes the one that stops Paul MCCARTNEY It is “one of the best songs ever written.” And its two composers were long time disagreeing. For example, about including ‘God’ in the title, it was a handicap. Still, they took the risk. And although in 1966 did not meet the expectations of the Beach Boystoday is an iconic song just like the album – ‘Pet sounds’ – in which it was included.

‘God only knows’ was a matter of an instant. As they say, was written in one sitting, in less than an hour. And it was a matter of two: Beach Boys genius Brian Wilsonand jingle composer Tony Asher. They were both practically strangers when they made it. They had met for the first time very recently, in a studio in Los Angeles. While working side by side on what would become the Beach Boys’ eleventh studio album – the iconic ‘Pet sounds’ (1966) – they got to know each other more deeply.

Went to Asher who came up with the title, ‘God Only Knows’. Wilson was reluctant to include the reference to ‘God’since it was considered a kind of taboo in pop and could have a negative impact when it comes to airplay on the radio. Finally he agreed. Brian explained it in an interview for Goldmine in 2011: “Tony appeared with the title. I was terrified that they could ban it from the radio just because of the title…but they didn’t.” Likewise, Tony explained: “Most of the time we spent on the song was arguing about the advantages or disadvantages of using the word ‘God’ in a song.. But it didn’t take us long to write it… “It came out pretty quickly.”

Brian Wilson, lead singer of the Beach Boys / Michael Ochs Archives

Exactly 45 minutes. The co-founder of the Californian band told The Guardian: “I wrote ‘God only knows’ in 45 minutes. Me and Tony Asher.” He even admitted that It’s the song he’s spent the least time on. of all those he has created. And Wilson “hated” the phrase with which the topic opened: “I may not have always loved you.” He didn’t like it at all because “It was too negative.” That was another reason for discussion with Tony, who however loved it. “How many love songs start like this? I liked that twist and I fought to start the song that way,” he declared in the book ‘Would n’t It be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys’ Pet sounds’.

Between March and April 1966, Brian Wilson hired and He brought together about 20 session musicians, some of the best in Los Angeles. Studio 3 at Western Studios, Hollywood, was a relatively small space for both musician and instrument: drums, bells, plastic orange juice glasses, clarinets, flutes, harpsichord, accordion… A total of 22 shots were taken. Finally shot 20 was chosen. To Wilson It was difficult for him to find the instrumentation that the song required. The session started at 12:30 am It ended at 4:30 am

Initially Brian Wilson was in charge of singing the song, but finally decided that his brother Carl Wilson (died 1998) was a better fit: “I was looking for the tenderness and sweetness that he had inside, as well as his voice. He brought dignity to the song”. In fact, that interpretation is remembered like the best he’s ever done. For Carl it was an honor: “I felt very honored to sing this song. It is such a beautiful composition that it sings alone. Brian told me something like, ‘don’t do anything with it, just sing it. Effortless”.

Guitarist Carl Wilson and drummer Dennis Wilson

Guitarist Carl Wilson and drummer Dennis Wilson / Michael Ochs Archives

When it was released in 1966, it was far from what I expected from a group like the Beach Boys. In fact, there was so little confidence in the song, that it was only released as Side B of the single ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’. Partly, They feared that the public would not understand the inclusion of ‘God’ in the title. At that time, it only reached number 39 on the American charts. Today, both ‘God only knows’ and the album ‘Pet sounds’ are included among the great musical releases of all time. Until Paul McCarney once said it was “one of the greatest songs ever written.”

‘God only knows’ is Brian Wilson’s definitive love song. One more example of that genius that breaks with the typical conventions of popular music, both in lyrics and music. ‘God only knows’ a song about the inability to imagine a life without the person you love. Coincidentally, or not, ‘God only knows’ is also the song they have entrusted to Juanjo and Martin; a duet highly anticipated by the audience of ‘Operación Triunfo’, who awaits with expectation the performance of the two contestants in gala 4.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.