bookbanner
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, June 18, 2012

SONGS I LIKE - God Only Knows (Beach Boys)

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me


I grew up listening to the Beach Boys and loving their harmonies and happy, fun sounding music. We used to tease a cousin with the song "Help Me Rhonda" because of her name, I loved the theremin sound in "Good Vibrations" and on the whole, the Beach Boys were just a fun part of life for me.

I always liked their music but I never really paid that much attention to it, it was so familiar I just didn't think about the songs until later in life when I kept reading people referring to Brian Wilson as a genius. That I couldn't understand. Sure his songs were neat but genius? "Surfin' USA?" "California Girls?"

But then I sat down and really listened to what the songs were like, particularly off of Pet Sounds and I started to understand. Under the fun lyrics and mindless topics, under the doo wop harmonies, there was a brilliance of composition and layered sounds. And when you put the music the Beach Boys were putting out in context with what else was coming out at the time, it stands out even more clearly how incredibly talented these guys - especially Wilson - were. Nobody, and I mean nobody was putting out anything like this.

Not only was their tight harmony unique, but what was going on behind it with the music, the layers of tracks, the key and tempo changes and more was just unknown at the time. Revolver by the Beatles came out that year, as did Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkle, Aftermath by the Rolling Stones, and Freak Out! by Frank Zappa, so it was a banner year - not 1968, but really good. But Pet Sounds pushed music beyond simply great songs to something amazing.

And so now as I listen to the Beach Boys I try to imagine what it would have been like to hear these songs for the first time. Yes, "I Get Around" and "Stay True To Your School" are light hearted fun but they're also amazing compositions that I never gave enough credit to in the past. I was enjoying them too much to even notice, which is probably the highest praise you can give an artist. Sure, Dylan's lyrics leap out at you as art, but they're pretentious art, they glow with artsy nature instead of pull you in and entertain while being art. Yes, Jimi Hendrix' pyrotechnical guitar playing is spectacular, but you pay more attention to that than just the song too often. Putting out something that's amazing and groundbreaking that you just enjoy anyway is truly talented.

And one of the best of the songs the Beach Boys put out, one of my favorites (along with Wouldn't It Be Nice for different reasons) is God Only Knows. The first pop song ever with the word "God" in the title, this song is one of the most honest and believable love songs ever written. He starts out flat out admitting he might not even feel the same way forever but he'll always make sure she thinks and feels as if he does.

This song blows up the old lovey dovey topic, saying that he wouldn't actually die if she left him, but he'd wish he had because life would lose all its meaning. Its a more mature love song, about what you do with how you feel rather than how wonderful you feel. Its focused all on her rather than on the singer's guts. And in simple layered harmony, the Beach Boys put it all in simple, direct music with simple, stripped down drums and a fascinating keyboard theme.

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I'd be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me
God only knows what I'd be without you

God only knows what I'd be without you
If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I'd be without you
God only knows what I'd be without you
God only knows what I'd be without you...


This is part of the Songs I Like series.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home