"Wouldn't It Be Nice" is the opening track on the 1966 album Pet Sounds and one of the most widely recognized songs by the American pop group The Beach Boys. It was composed and produced by Brian Wilson, with lyrics by Tony Asher and Brian Wilson, and the lead vocal was sung by Brian Wilson with Mike Love singing lead vocals on the bridge.
The layering of harmonies upon harmonies, and lyrics on top of harmonies make this one of the quintessential Beach Boys songs. In the Endless Harmony documentary, Brian Wilson described this song as "what children everywhere go through… wouldn't it be nice if we were older, or could run away and get married".
Wilson was quoted as saying:
Listen for the rockin' accordions and the ethereal guitars in the introduction. Tony and I had visualized a scene. We had a feeling in our hearts, like a vibration. We put it into music, and it found its way onto tape. We really felt good about that record.
In a 1996 interview, Wilson stated, "'Wouldn't It Be Nice' was not a real long song, but it's a very 'up' song. It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can't have, what you really want and you have to wait for it."
Wilson also used the title of this song for the title of his autobiography.
Tony Asher has questioned Love's involvement in the song claiming that his involvement was "none, whatsoever" as the song "was one of the few songs [he] wrote the entire lyric to by [himself] at home".
The musicians present on the day of the instrumental recording were Hal Blaine on drums; Frank Capp on percussion; Roy Caton on trumpet; Jerry Cole on guitar; Al de Lory on piano; Steve Douglas on saxophone; Carl Fortina on accordion; Plas Johnson on saxophone; Carol Kaye on bass guitar; Barney Kessel on mandolin; Larry Knechtel on organ; Frank Marocco on accordion; Jay Migliori on saxophone; Bill Pitman on guitar; Ray Pohlman on mandolin and Lyle Ritz on upright bass.
The vocals were recorded over two sessions at Columbia engineered by Ralph Balantin. The first vocal session took place on March 10, which also saw vocal work on "I'm Waiting for the Day", "God Only Knows" and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times". This session was almost certainly for recording the backing vocals of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" as there is a recording of the instrumental track with the backing vocals that was released on The Pet Sounds Sessions box set. The next session around a month later on April 11 was most likely the session at which the lead vocal for the song was recorded. Vocals for "God Only Knows" were also worked on at that particular session.
On The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, two alternate mixes of the song can be heard. On one of the mixes, the song begins with the line "wouldn't it be nice to live together, in the kind of world where we belong", instead of the finished version of the song which opens with the line "wouldn't it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn't have to wait so long" and follows with the aforementioned lyric.
In April 1971, a live version of the song from the Live In London album was released in the United States as the A-side of a single which featured a different artist on the B-side. However, the single failed to make any impact on the charts just as many of the other Beach Boys singles from that period had failed to chart.
In July 1976, the song was released in the United Kingdom as the B-side of the re-issued "Good Vibrations" single. The single peaked at number 18.
In June 1990, a different recording of the song from 1966 that had appeared on the 1989 Still Cruisin' album was released in the United Kingdom as a single with the B-side featuring a Beach Boys Medley as well as the original recording of "I Get Around", which had also been released on the Still Cruisin' album.
The song appears on several occasions from different stages of the recording process and in different formats on The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, including the song in its original monophonic mix; the first ever original stereo mix of the song, which was remastered by Mark Linett; over seven minutes of highlights from the tracking date, which documents the progress of the recording of the instrumental track; the finished instrumental track; the stereo track with the background vocals; an A cappella mix of the song; and two alternate mixes of the song one of which has a slight difference lyrically.
At the 2001 special An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson, Wilson sang a duet with Elton John to this song.
It has also been featured in two advertisements in Australia and New Zealand the first also shown in Canada - a Cadbury chocolate advertisement ("Wouldn't it be nice if the world were Cadbury") and a lottery advertisement ("Wouldn't it be nice to win a million?").
The end of the "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Pancreas" (a style parody of Brian Wilson) sounds similar to the main chorus of "Wouldn't It Be Nice".
This song was also used in the film Das Experiment.