Serious Beach Boys Songs

I am not familiar with the Beach Boys songs at all. The only songs I know are the nice songs that usually featured in movies. Are there any serious Beach Boys songs?

‘Serious’ in what way? Serious themes? Complex music?

“Pet Sounds” is considered a classic. For a more serious sound, you could listent to “God Only Knows” from that album.

I meant serious themes.

I’ve listened to “God Only Knows” before and I find it to a be a nice, happy little song.

I’m wondering if there are any songs that have that Beach Boys sound, but are much more serious then “guy in love with girl” that I know them for.

You might start with two of their greatest albums: Sunflower and Surf’s Up.

Here is a link to the lyrics of 'Til I Die - a good example.

There are also the enigmatic songs that Brian wrote with Van Dyke Parks, notably “Heroes And Villains” and “Surf’s Up”.

If you’re talking about more moody, introspective types of ballads, I can think of several. “In My Room,” “When I Grow Up To Be A Man,” “Caroline, No,” “Heroes and Villains.” I would definitely recommend getting some Beach Boys albums, but try to stick with the ones released in the 60’s, when Brian Wilson was still in charge of the band. Nearly all of them are still in print, most of the CDs have two albums on them. Also, consider the 1993 box set Good Vibrations. And a must-have is Brian Wilson’s Smile, which is the completion of the Beach Boys album he abandoned in 1967. And definitely grab Pet Sounds, it has been acknowledged as the influence for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.

The album Pet Sounds is widely considered to be the Beach Boys’ masterpiece, and it’s a good example of their serious side. I love the album, but be warned: not everyone appreciates it at first listen, or at all. See the thread Man, “Pet Sounds” is really overrated. for some good discussion from both sides. Some of its tracks, like “I Know There’s an Answer” or “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” are indeed serious, though maybe in a teenage-angsty sort of way.

If you’re looking for songs that go beyond the boy/girl relationship kinds of themes to something more philosophical or political or socially conscious, your best bet may be the Surf’s Up album, with songs about, among other things, pollution and the Kent State incident—but the Boys are probably not really at their best on this kind of territory, and in any case this is a later album from when they’d left their earlier “beach party fun fun fun” sound behind.

Really, people who love the Beach Boys love them for either their (mostly earlier) fun pop songs, or for the musical brilliance and beauty of their vocal and instrumental arrangements, not for their lyrical depth.

If you want to hear what could have been The Beach Boys’ crowning achievement, please go get Brian Wilson’ “Smile” album. In a nutshell, it was the product of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks and a lot of drugs. Brian and Van wrote this large song cycle, with recurring themes. Brian wrote it out and had the music recorded by The Wrecking Crew while the BB were out on tour. When they came back and he assembled them to record the vocals, they were aghast. The lyrics were totally unlike anything the group had come up against. Mike Love, in particular, hated it. He is a large part of the reason why it never came out. Of course there’s the thing of Brian losing confidence in it (mainly due to harrassment from Mike), and it being overshadowed by “Sgt. Pepper” and Brian’s retreat into drugs and staying in bed.

But “Smile” is a fascinating epic. I’ve got all the bootlegs of all the sessions where they were recording the tracks, and it’s just incredible to hear all the work they put into it, ultimately for naught. When Brian resurrected it a couple of years ago, he was lucky to find musicians who already knew it, had rehearsed it and wanted to get Brian in on it. The new recording by the new musicians sounds exactly like the tracks laid down by The Wrecking Crew. It’s as though they didn’t change a hair, they just put some polish on it, and strung it together coherently where Brian had had some trouble in the past. The results are astonishing and moving.

It’s hard to say from this far away from 1967, but this could have been the record that made The Beach Boys a force to be reckoned with. However, Mike Love put a stop to it, citing the group’s need to be singing fun ditties about girls, cars and surfing. Thus started their long decline, their desperate bid to become hip that never worked, and a long string of uninteresting albums for the rest of their career, with only the occasional bright spot. They have been nothing more than a nostalgia act for decades. Thanks, Mike. Ya daft git.

I never noted it in the other thread, but I agree with VCO3 that Surf’s Up is a masterpiece. The title track just might be the perfect “serious” Beach Boys song.

I maintain that “Surf’s Up” is by far the greatest song that Brian ever wrote - it’s just an absolutely unparalleled song lyrically, sonically, melodically, production-wise, etc. etc. etc. Though the record it comes from has a few missteps (like “Student Demonstration Time”), it and “Sunflower” are their finest moments as a recording band.

I started that other thread just to get some discussion - I hope people understand that I’m an ENORMOUS Beach Boys fan who owns everything they’ve ever released as a band and solo, and things that they havent’ released like Dennis’ scrapped sessions for his first solo record and Brian’s psychiatrist recordings, as a well as a library of books about the band. :wink:

To the OP, here’s a reader’s digest answer: the Beach Boys were a surf-sun-girls-cars band until Pet Sounds, at which point Brian “went serious” and starting making incredibly artful, emotional records. Rather than being the culmination of this, “Pet Sounds” was merely the jumping off point, and the records that the band released afterwards are all serious, artful, emotional works. They’re also all available as “two albums on one CD” sets with great liner notes and bonus tracks; I suggest the “Smiley Smile/Wild Honey” and “Sunflower/Surf’s Up” discs if you want to hear the druggy, arty, serious, introspective, but still fun stuff that they did at their creative (but not commercial) peak.

I can hardly see straight, I’m so indignant about the cavalier attitude of the OP. :mad:

I mean, what’s NOT serious about:

The girls can’t stand her, 'cause she walks, looks, and drives like an ace, now


None of the guys go steady, 'cause it wouldn’t be right to leave your best girl home on a Saturday night.

or, most infuriating of all:

The poor cook he caught the fits / and threw away all of my grits

I mean, the NERVE! :mad: :mad: :mad:


There’s a thread in GD which asks “Why is God worthy of our worship?” I’d like to amend that to “Why is God worthy of our worship when we have Brian Wilson?” Anyhoo, “Caroline, No” is one of the most complex and heartbreaking love songs ever written. It’s right at the end of Pet Sounds. “That’s Not Me” from Pet Sounds is another very serious, adult song about serious adult issues. “In the Back of My Mind” from “Beach Boys Today” is a really scary insight into Brian Wilson as he is going through the process of cracking up. And “Keep an Eye on Summer” although also ostensibly a girls & surf song, is just so wistful and adult it goes way beyond the genre.


Well respecting your BB’s love enormously, I’d have to argue that Wilson made many “serious”, “artful”, “emotional” records before “Pet Sounds”. “When I Grow Up To Be A Man”, “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, “Kiss Me Baby”, “Girls On The Beach”, “Let Him Run Wild” (a particularly spectacular one, that), “I’m Bugged at My Old Man” (okay, little BB in-joke there), “And Your Dreams come True”, “Please Let me Wonder”, “She Knows Me too Well” - all emotionally complex, musically visionary records that are just at the forefront of where-it-was-at-dom for the time.

Pound for Pound, right up to “Good Vibrations”, the Beach Boys were way ahead of the Beatles for diversity, complexity and emotional resonance in their music. AND they did cool songs about cars and surfing!! :slight_smile: