The 10 greatest Beach Boys songs ever, ranked

17 March 2021, 17:04

The Beach Boys
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

If you need some happy music that's perfect for the sunshine, then the Beach Boys are the guys you've been looking for.

The Beach Boys were one of the most successful and iconic groups of the 1960s, and have had a legacy of music that will live on forever.

Led by the genius of Brian Wilson, the group started life as a surf rock band and soon created some of the world's most influential albums including the seminal Pet Sounds.

From their surf anthems to their orchestral pop classics, here are some of their very best songs.

  1. 'Surf's Up'

    The Beach Boys Surf's Up

    The title of this song is an ironic nod to the group's earlier associations with surf music, and nothing in the song is actually about surfing. The song is about a man who experiences a spiritual awakening, resigns himself to God, and predicts hope for those who can capture the innocence of youth.

    Originally intended for the Smile album, it was later included on their 1971 album of the same name.

  2. 'I Just Wasn't Made for These Times'

    Beach Boys "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"

    A Pet Sounds classic, this song is about Brian Wilson's insecurities and perceived shortcomings at the time.

    Wilson later said: "It's about a guy who was crying out because he thought he was too advanced, and that he'd eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds."

  3. 'Heroes and Villains'

    The Beach Boys - Heroes & Villians 1971

    This song was written as a three-minute musical comedy, and was the follow-up single to 'Good Vibrations'. It was intended as the main track on the unfinished album Smile. After the album was axed, the song was rearranged and released in 1967.

    Brian's then-wife Marilyn Wilson later said: "There are so many screwed-up people in the music industry. The good guys and the bad guys. That's one thing Brian had in mind when they did 'Heroes and Villains'."

  4. 'Surfin' USA'

    Surfin' U.S.A. (Stereo)

    One of the defining songs of the short-lived surf rock era.

    It was a rewritten version of Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' set to new lyrics, written by Brian Wilson and an uncredited Mike Love.

    Wilson later said: "I was going with a girl called Judy Bowles, and her brother Jimmy was a surfer. He knew all the surfing spots. I started humming the melody to 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and I got fascinated with the fact of doing it, and I thought to myself, 'God! What about trying to put surf lyrics to 'Sweet Little Sixteen's melody?'".

  5. 'Do It Again'

    The Beach Boys - Do It Again (1969)

    This track was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love as a self-conscious look back to the group's earlier surf image, which they had not used since 1964.

    It was a number one hit in the UK in 1968, with Love saying the success in Britain "was unbelievable. It showed how many fans we had there and how attractive the whole California lifestyle is."

  6. 'In My Room'

    Beach Boys-In My Room

    This laid back and melancholic ballad was taken from their 1963 album Surfer Girl.

    Gary Usher (who co-wrote the lyrics with Brian Wilson) later described that "Brian was always saying that his room was his whole world." Brian added: "I had a room, and I thought of it as my kingdom. And I wrote that song, very definitely, that you're not afraid when you're in your room. It's absolutely true."

  7. 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'

    The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice (Original Video)

    Taken from Pet Sounds, this song describes a couple in love lamenting about being too young to run off to get married, and thinking about how great it would be if they were adults.

    Brian Wilson composed the music, while the lyrics were written mostly by Tony Asher. Mike Love's contribution was the ending line "Good night my baby / sleep tight my baby".

  8. 'I Get Around'

    The Beach Boys - I Get Around

    This California Sound classic was The Beach Boys' first US number one single in 1964.

    The song was originally credited to just Brian Wilson, until a 1994 lawsuit by Mike Love amended the song's copyright to include him as a co-writer, as he claimed he came up with the famous "Round round get around" lyric.

  9. 'Good Vibrations'


    Written by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love, this iconic song is known for its subversion of the pop music formula of the time, and was the most expensive single ever recorded by 1966.

    Produced by Wilson, it was recorded during Pet Sounds, but not originally released as a standalone single. Its title came from Wilson's fascination with cosmic vibrations, as his mother would tell him as a child that dogs may bark at people in response to their "bad vibrations". Lead vocals on the song were shared between Brian, his brother Carl and their cousin Love.

  10. 'God Only Knows'

    God Only Knows (Remastered)

    One of the greatest love songs of all time, this Pet Sounds track names God in its title and lyrics, which was unusual for a pop single at the time. The title was apparently not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any higher force, creating a song about moving forward after loss.

    Sung by Brian Wilson's younger brother Carl, the track was produced and arranged by Brian using an intriguing selection of instruments, including French horn, accordions, sleigh bell, harpsichord, and a quartet of violas and cellos.