On this day 45 years ago, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds—an album that not only emerged as their finest work, but also prevailed as a masterpiece influencing a countless acts to follow. The record, widely considered to be Brian Wilson’s magnum opus as a songwriter, marked the band’s transition from surf-rock icons to experimental musical innovators. While the record initially netted substandard album sales for a band who regularly topped the Billboard charts, Pet Sounds later defined the better portion of the band’s ultimate legacy.
At one point, Pet Sounds was even considered as America’s response to The Beatles’ sonic exploration with their transitional albums Rubber Soul and Revolver. While Wilson and the rest of The Beach Boys never matched the stretch maintained by their British counterparts, they still reached a level of success topped by few others to this day. To celebrate the anniversary of The Beach Boys’ greatest record, we present our picks for the band’s best songs.
20. “I’m So Young”
While this doo-wop classic (originally recorded by The Students) has been covered by many artists, The Beach Boys arguably do this song the most justice with their rendition.
19. “Dance Dance Dance”
One of the last Beach Boys’ songs featuring the light-hearted surf rock of the band’s earlier years. Soon after “Dance, Dance, Dance,” the band’s work prominently featured Brian Wilson’s increasingly complex and serious pop songs.
18. “Little Honda”
At just under two minutes, a perfect example of the group’s ability to write an infectious tune about just anything… underpowered motorcycles included.
17. “All Summer Long”
“All Summer Long” prevails as one of the better surf anthems written by the California natives.
16. “Caroline, No”
The Brian Wilson/Tony Asher partnership on Pet Sounds had one of its most poignant moments on the record’s final track.
15. “I Can Hear Music”
What happens when you remove Brian Wilson (battling his illness at this time), add in Phil Spector and let Carl Wilson take the reigns on lead vocals? You get one of the best songs that The Beach Boys have ever written.
14. “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
The ultimate surfer’s theme song.
13. “I’m Waiting For The Day”
A prime example of the group shifting away from straightforward surf-rock numbering, brilliantly exemplifying this with this song’s outro breakdown.
12. “Don’t Worry Baby”
Brian Wilson’s attempt to recreate one of his personal favorite songs, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”
11. “Barbara Ann”
This may be one of the band’s simplest songs, but it perfectly demonstrates how effective their harmonies could be.