LONELY SEA: Recorded June 1962 and from the second Beach Boys album, Surfin' USA, this shows Brian's musical ambition at an early age. Brian already brings up themes of loneliness and loss and uses the ocean context of the surfing craze to evoke something much deeper.
SURFER GIRL: Brian's first song, released on their third 1963 album Surfer Girl. Deceptively simple song evoking the innocence of young love.
IN MY ROOM: Also from the Surfer Girl album, this keynote song hints at Brian's alienation from the world. He is secure in his room but cut-off from reality.
YOUR SUMMER DREAM: A third selection from the Surfer Girl, this is a perfect evocation by Brian of a romantic fantasy.
DON'T WORRY BABY: From the 1964 Shut Down Volume 2 album, this classic is ostensibly a car song but highlights the theme of insecurity, which will become more and more to the forefront in Brian's music.
THE WARMTH OF THE SUN: Also from Shut Down 2 and written at the time of Kennedy's assassination, and also probably inspired by a break-up of Brian. Mike Love's lyrics evoke the pain of loss but also a hint of sustaining love.
I DO: This song was given by Brian to a group called the Castell's and the Beach Boys' version was only released in 1990. Simple little song but a tremendous production by Brian make it one of my favorite BB up-tempo songs and on my list of songs to be played at my own wedding :)
AFTER THE GAME: Very obscure, this was the B side of a single by the Survivors which was Brian Wilson and friends in a disguised name. This is effectively a Brian Wilson solo production and shows that Brian can evoke a magical romantic mood without the need for lyrics.
GIRLS ON THE BEACH: From the 1964 All Summer Long album , this is the ultimate Beach Boys female fantasy song, also from the movie of the same now. Heavenly harmonies and who can't be moved by "one there's waiting for you"
(WHEN I GROW UP) TO BE A MAN: The 1965 Today album highlighted Brian's production genius already at the heights of its powers and lyrics reflecting the move from teenagerdom to the responsibilities of adulthood. This advanced production reflects the uncertainties of getting older in simply but accurately...Mike sings "won't last forever", Brian replies "It's Kinda Sad" and they evoke the dreams and regrets of millions.
PLEASE LET ME WONDER: Also from Today ..Side 2 had five ballads in a row and this is one of them. One of the greatest evocations of the excitement and uncertainty of blossoming love.
KISS ME BABY: Another selection from the ballad side of Today, and another song about growing up realising love is more than just a game.
SHE KNOWS ME TOO WELL: A fourth selection from Today, this is pretty lyrically advanced for when it was written (late 1964) and discusses the tension and suspicions between partners in relationships.
GUESS I'M DUMB: A 1965 Glen Campbell single, but written, arranged and produced by Brian and for me, one of the greatest testaments to his genius. Once again, discussing changing views of love over time and highlighting the theme of insecurity. A killer horn arrangement.
LET HIM RUN WILD: From the 1965 Summer Days (And Nights), this is testament to the ever-growing complexity of Brian's production as well as a powerful lyric about the pain of watching your loved one seeming to give their hearts to a rival.
SUMMER MEANS NEW LOVE: Also from the Summer Days album, a big orchestral production and another evocation of the mood of romance without words.
WOULDN'T IT BE NICE: Pet Sounds from 1966 is rated by many as the greatest album ever. With big, innovative productions and lyrics evoking the hopes, joys and losses of everyday life, it has become a friend and inspiration to many. This opening track evokes a feeling of longing and fantasy and has some of the most magic tempo changes in popular music.
LET'S GO AWAY FOR AWHILE: Without words, this intricate production evokes feelings of escape, movement, getting away from the mundane. For me, the greatest instrumental piece in rock music. From Pet Sounds.
GOD ONLY KNOWS: Paul Mc Cartney's all-time favorite song and sometimes mine. This keynote Pet Sounds song has one of most exquisite instrumental arrangements, Brian uses instruments like no-one before. The lyric suggests feelings of pure love, a little insecurity, an invocation to a Higher Power. Brian's younger brother Carl gives a magic vocal.
CAROLINE, NO: The final track from Pet Sounds is ostensibly about the loss of innocence of a loved one and the end of a relationship, but it could so easily be symbolic of the loss of innocence of Brian's world. The train at the end seems to indicate a sense of movement and change to a world that will never the same again. One of the saddest songs ever, for me, as well as the most beautiful.
WONDERFUL: After Pet Sounds, came the sessions for Smile, an album that was never released but may have been one of the greatest ever. This beautiful song has both religious and sexual connotations, once again discussing the loss of innocence but also a sense of sustaining, forgiving love.
CABINESSENCE: A huge production meant for the Smile album although eventually released on 20/20. Notice the contrast between the comfortable, homely atmosphere of the opening verses to the vast spaces evoked by the later section.
SURF'S UP: This could have been to Smile what "A Day In The Life" was to Sergeant Pepper. This is Brian's solo piano demo and for me one of the greatest performances ever. Van Dyke Parks lyrics use complex language and clever word-play and seem to discuss the fall, alienation and sudden re-birth of hope within an individual.
MEANT FOR YOU: The events leading to the non-release of Smile caused Brian to gradually withdraw more and more from making cutting edge music but the Beach Boys still managed to make magic, largely inspired by Brian, for the next few years. The 1968 album Friends is a favorite amongst many Beach Boys fans for it's simple feel and evocation of the joys of life. This short but stunning opener to that album features one of Mike Love's best vocals.
TIME TO GET ALONE: From 1969's 20/20 album, this is simply a beautiful song and production, once again going back to the theme of romantic escape.
BREAK AWAY: A 1969 single that flopped in the USA, but a wonderful production with an inspiring lyric. Absolute magic at the end with the vocal breaks there.
THIS WHOLE WORLD: The 1970 Sunflower album is another favorite amongst Beach Boys fans and showcases some of the best work by all members of the group. Written by Brian and sung by Carl, this deceptive song seems simple but in fact has an incredibly complicated structure. The catchphrase "late at night I think about the love of this world" seems so relevant in the age of the internet and has been the signature on my e-mails for a while.
FOREVER: Sunflower showcased that Brian's younger brother Dennis was a very competent songwriter when given the chance. While none of Dennis's songs have achieved classic status, this is maybe his best known. A simple, poignant and brilliant love song.
'TIL I DIE: By 1971, Brian was becoming increasingly alienated and this song from the 1971 Surf's Up album is a simple but eloquent and moving statement of a man seeing his life run away from him.
SANTA ANA WINDS: A released version of this song was on the 1980 Keepin' The Summer Alive album, but this is an earlier and far superior version of this song written by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, evoking past memories and personal change when reminiscing on a past love while still carrying a torch.
STILL I DREAM OF IT: This song was from an unreleased Beach Boys album from 1976 called Adult/Child which used a "big-band" sound on some tracks. Brian's most pained song , a man approaching middle age realizes he has never been in love before and starts doubting everything around him.
MELT AWAY: This song was on Brian's first eponymous solo album from 1988 although this version is from the 1995 soundtrack to the I Just Wasn't Made For These Times video. Evidence that Brian has never lost his songwriting magic as he sings of redeeming love in an unforgiving world.
FANTASY IS REALITY/BELLS OF MADNESS: Written with Sam Phillips and sung by Brian's daughter, Carnie, this beautiful tune once again addresses the healing power of love in everyday madness.
THIS SONG WANTS TO SLEEP WITH YOU TONIGHT: The last new song of Brian to have been released, at the end of 1995, and again hints that there are still great things to come. A wonderful song to evoke the emotions created whenever you miss someone dear.
GOODNIGHT MY LOVE: The final song goes back to 1970 to create a suitable ending to the tape. This is an old standard sung by the Honeys which included Brian's first wife and sister-in-law and once again highlights Brian's production magic, especially in the string arrangement.