Love Songs for Your Loved Ones

Love Songs for Your Loved Ones

By David Beard

Valentine's Day usually marks the one time of year when love seems to flourish and enrich our lives in ways that can stay with us forever. Whether the memories are created by a romantic dinner, marriage proposal, or even that very first candygram in grade school – Valentine's Day is a day associated with affection. The Beach Boys have written more than their fair share of beautiful ballads, some of which are so achingly beautiful they take on a deeply personal connection with the listener. With Valentine's Day being celebrated on February 14, I've culled together my top fourteen Beach Boys love songs, and why I think they make the perfect collection. The criteria: original songs written by The Beach Boys that are being sung directly to someone.

FOREVER (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) This song says it best, "I've been so happy loving you." This was Dennis' chance to open himself up and his heart through his music in ways that he might not be able to otherwise. With "Forever" you're seeing this vulnerable side of Dennis that heretofore had not been associated with him. So perfect and universal, "Forever" has become the perfect 'first dance' song at weddings, which honors Dennis' legacy and the quality of his songwriting. "I think Dennis' best song as a Beach Boy is probably 'Forever.' The lyrics: 'If the song I sing to you could fill your heart with joy I'd sing forever' ... I like those lyrics. [He should be remembered] as a great singer. — Brian Wilson

ALL I WANNA DO (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) Say what you will about Mike's great lead vocals on all the early group hit records, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more wistful and breathtaking recording by Mike. This song is pure 'Beach Boys gold.' The vocal and track are equally hauntingly beautiful, and the group's backing vocals trickle in a cushiony haze. When I look at all the Brian Wilson/Mike Love hit record collaborations, this stands at the top. It never topped any of the record charts, but it firmly cements the Sunflower album as a perfect example of music magic when Brian and Mike wrote together. I even hear a bit of Pet Sounds sprinkled into the track. It's easy to picture a couple walking hand in hand along the shore as the moon dips over the ocean's horizon. This song reminds us to cherish love. "The lyrics for 'All I Wanna Do' were heavily influenced by my (early) experience with Transcendental Meditation, and my vocal tone developed with the mood, feeling, and thought process that went into the creation of that song, and the chorus is really cool." — Mike Love

DON'T WORRY BABY (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) If the drumbeat doesn't get you at the beginning, the soaring "ahhs" by the group will surely hook you in. The song is primetime Beach Boys in the 1960s and represents one of the earliest examples of Brian Wilson pushing the creative envelope to invoke a 'feel.' While at its heart this song is indeed rooted in a car race, the underlying message is not to worry because love conquers all. Brian's beautiful falsetto floats atop the music with an assuring affirmation while Mike Love, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, and Dennis Wilson support him in a pillow-infused sonic blanket. And if you've ever seen the closing scene of the film Never Been Kissed, then you know all too well the power of this song. There isn't another like it anywhere. "With 'Don't Worry Baby' the lyrics are great, and the harmonies are phenomenal. I just loved – so much – singing the bass part, [sings] 'Now don't, now don't you worry baby.' I came up with that part in order to syncopate and add to the beat and the rhythm of the track. Brian's voice is utterly amazing! It's mind-blowing!! — Mike Love

SURFER GIRL (Brian Wilson) This song is the first ballad Brian Wilson wrote. It was so personal to him that it took a bit for it to see an official release in 1963. Inspired by "When You Wish Upon AStar," Brian tapped into his feelings towards an old high school crush and developed the words around the surf idiom the group was known for. This set the stage for Brian as the eminent producer and arranger in popular music and it demonstrates the depth of Brian's innate ability to communicate through song. Lush and beautiful, and the perfect slow dance song, "Surfer Girl" remains among the group's most popular recordings and represents young love no matter who you are or where you live.

TIME TO GET ALONE (Brian Wilson) This song began with the basic track recorded on Thursday, Oct. 12, 1967, at The Beach Boys home studio located in Brian's Bellagio home. Brian plays piano and harpsichord, Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night) also plays the piano. Within a few days, Brian recorded a mellophonium, trumpet, and flugelhorn, flute and clarinet, violins, violas, and cellos to add to the track. About a full year later Brian's then-wife Marilyn and her sister Diane Rovell (two-thirds of the Brian-produced 1960s trio The Honeys) added backing vocals to complete it in time for the group's 20/20 album. The song is a wonderful example of the stars aligning and resulting in a great recording. When it begins, the couple "sees love in another's eyes," so they escape while the music carries them. For this song, Carl Wilson takes the lead vocal, and the group's swooning vocals wrap around the shimmering string arrangement. The song communicates the elation of romance. While it isn't well-known, "Time To Get Alone" is a story of the perfect romantic getaway.

WHERE I BELONG (Carl Wilson/Robert White-Johnson) I've always enjoyed The Beach Boys 1985 album. Carl Wilson, in particular, rose to the occasion with some amazing material. This recording represents a lost soul that discovers the love of his life. The backing vocals, provided by Carl, Bruce Johnston, Mike, and Al harken back to the 1960s 'oohs and ahhs,' and Al's echoing refrain to Carl's lead – carries and lifts the senses. When Carl sings, "You are my shining star that navigates me home," the remaining Beach Boys' voices punctuate the emotion with the perfect emotive punch. Worth every second. "'Where I Belong' – in my mind – is probably the 'Feel Flows'-type vibe song on this collection. It isn't based on that song, but it has the same 'feel.' Carl was obsessed with my DX1; it was a very responsive instrument. If you pressed it hard you got more velocity out of the chords, and Carl loved that and found it very inspirational in terms of writing." — Steve Levine

PLEASE LET ME WONDER (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) The opening track for Side Two of the Today! album is truly one-of-a-kind. Brian was just beginning to explore the communication of thoughts and feelings through music on "Please Let Me Wonder," and the song points directly towards Pet Sounds. It's earnest and revealing and speaks to Brian's growing understanding of love and music. Brother Carl's "I Love you" at the end is the literal candle in the Valentine's Day cupcake.

WE'LL RUN AWAY (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) There are love songs, and there are love songs. This song is pure Brian Wilson. His heart on his sleeve. Letting it all out there. His falsetto is finding its emotive footing and ends up standing firmly on sonic perfection. A love song for the ages.

WOULDN'T IT BE NICE (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher/Mike Love) The quintessential and era-defining 'young love' song. No matter where you hear it you know it's The Beach Boys and it feels good to hear it. It's kind of like the little brother of "Good Vibrations." And when anyone in their late teens or early twenties hears the song for the very first time, they immediately relate to it, thinking "Someone knows exactly how I feel." So much so, "Wouldn't It Be Nice" has been used in countless films to communicate 'the crystallization of a budding romance.' The bridge, where Mike sings "Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true, baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do," is a moment where any guy in the middle of a new romance might think, "I better write this down so I can recite it … " The real clincher is Brian's falsetto bridge coda vocal, "Oh, we could be married (oh, we could be married), and then we'd be happy (and then we'd be happy)." In addition to being a universal love song, the track is brilliant, and the song marks the early development of the group's use of 'voices as instruments' philosophy. This song is love. "The instrumentation was really novel and cool. … Special attention was always given to the fade tags with the vocals that created a very angelic feel and sound." — Brian Wilson

BABY BLUE (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson/Karen Lamm) When it comes to songs that involved Dennis and Carl Wilson something magical always happened. "Baby Blue" is a perfect example. Carl's 'angelic-like' lead on the verses lift the song into that 'ethereal auditory' level that so many Beach Boys recordings are known for. Dennis shines as a writer and vocalist. His raspy voice slowly rolls over the orchestration like an open wound. Brilliant and subdued, this song represents the longing to reconnect. "('Baby Blue') in some ways it's my favorite song on the album. … This song is like in three sections. I sing the first part, and then Dennis does the middle section (where the background voices come in pretty strong there). … This tune has a real nice beat to it." — Carl Wilson

GOD ONLY KNOWS (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) Another gem from the Pet Sounds album, and, like "Wouldn't It Be Nice," a recording that changed the world. The arrangement and instrumentation are gorgeous, and Carl Wilson's voice glides atop the track as a calming reminder that everything will be alright. In this song, the protagonist professes his love and admits that if they break up he'll have trouble moving on and continuing to live. It's a true "What's the point in living if I don't have your love?" song. Brian and Carl held prayer sessions when they were working on this song, and I think – whatever the prayers were – God was listening. The cascading fade where Carl, Brian, and Bruce trade vocals remains a fan favorite, and a great moment in music history. There really is nothing else like it on the planet. "I told Carl to, 'Please sing sweetly, and sing from your heart and soul.' When I wrote 'God Only Knows,' I knew immediately that it was meant for Carl's voice, and it was. And it was spectacular!" — Brian Wilson

KISS ME, BABY (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) Brian's opening 'aahhs' immediately conveys the feeling of longing, and his singing with his cousin Mike is a great example of 'primetime Beach Boys.' The "kiss a little bit, fight a little bit" refrain speaks to the emotional tug of war that couples sometimes find themselves in. Mike's "We both had broken hearts," and Brian's "Were you still awake like me?" just nail it all down. This is everything you'd want a love song to encompass, and it does.

LADY LYNDA (Alan Jardine/Ron Altbach) Opening and closing with a wink at Bach's 'Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring,' this song represents Al Jardine at his most open and sincere. Unlike Brian and Dennis Wilson, Al wasn't accustomed to putting his feelings into the recorded format, but this song was a literal love letter to his (then) wife Lynda. "We wanted to write something for the band, and it felt like we needed something to express our great harmonies. This Bach thing came to my head, and I told Ron Altbach our English fans are going to love this. Something about England was in my head. Lady this, lady that, etc., and my wife at the time name was Lynda. So why not "Lady Lynda?" I added some analogist's [sic] lyrics based on the Big Sur Ranch property that I own here, and then put the Beach Boys' harmonies on top of that … with some Bach overtones … this thing couldn't miss in England! I figured (maybe) the whole world would like it. Sure enough, it was a Top 10 hit in England." — Al Jardine

CUDDLE UP (Dennis Wilson/Daryl Dragon) A truly beautiful 'let's warm-up together by the fireside' recording. Dennis wrote some of his most memorable and breathtaking songs in the early 1970s when he was married to Barbara Wilson. She brought out the best in him. This song was co-written with Daryl Dragon (Captain & Tennille), who helped Dennis hone his songwriting potential. In life Dennis was a ball of energy, but when he recorded it was his heart that took over with a restrained emotive beauty. "I compare a lot of Dennis' music to (German composer) Richard Wagner. He broke some rules, but he made things better. Wagner made music more listenable, he changed the rules to where it was pleasing and more involved. How do you prove it? It's like being a scientist and saying, "My theory's right." The only way I can prove it is by saying that success proved it and it's pleasing. And unless you get some hard-core musicologist, they're gonna say 'brilliant' – the word is brilliant." — Daryl Dragon

Courtesy David M. Beard ©2022 Read more articles like this by subscribing to Endless Summer Quarterly, or visit the ESQ Store for back issues of the magazine.

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