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Wouldn't It Be Nice

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"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.

Composition

In November 1969, the Wilsons' father Murry Wilson sold the copyrights to the band's songs to Irving Almo for approximately $700,000. In April 1992, just after Brian Wilson had won a lawsuit in which he received $25M for damages but failed to recover his claims to ownership of the copyrights, Mike Love filed a lawsuit against Brian Wilson for $13M claiming that he had not been given credit, and therefore hadn't received royalties, on over thirty of the band's songs, many of them hit singles and was therefore entitled to some of the reward. One of these songs was "Wouldn't It Be Nice". The original credit read "Wilson/Asher" but Mike Love claimed that he had a hand in writing the lyrics, specifically the tag lines "Good night my baby, sleep tight my baby". Mike Love won the lawsuit and the song-writing credit was amended, therefore ensuring future royalties on all of the songs that he had claimed he had a hand in writing.

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".

Recording

The instrumental track was recorded in Los Angeles, California at Gold Star Studios on January 22, 1966. The session was engineered by Larry Levine and produced by Brian Wilson. It took 21 takes of recording the instrumental track before Brian Wilson decided that it was good enough to be the master take. Highlights of these sessions can be heard on the 1997 box set The Pet Sounds Sessions as well as the master take. The full recording of the instrumental track, all 21 takes, can be heard on the Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 13 bootleg box set.

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.

Single release

On July 11, 1966, "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was released backed with "God Only Knows" in the United States, which was the third single from the Pet Sounds album. It entered the Billboard chart on July 30 and remained there for 11 weeks, peaking at number 8 on September 17. The single also peaked at number 7 on the Cashbox chart. In Australia, the song was released in August 1966 as the A-side with "God Only Knows" as the B-side of the single. It entered the charts on August 24 at number 39 and spent 17 weeks on the charts, peaking at number 2. The song was also released as the A-side in New Zealand where it peaked at number 12. In July 1966 in the United Kingdom the song was released as the B-side of the "God Only Knows" single.

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.

Alternate releases

The song first appeared in monophonic sound on The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds which was released on May 16, 1966 in the United States and in June 1966 in the United Kingdom. The song was later released in November 1966 in the United Kingdom on the God Only Knows EP. Live versions also appear on two of the band's live albums. The 1970 release Live In London and the 1973 release The Beach Boys in Concert. On the 1986 Made in U.S.A. compilation, an alternate version with different vocals was used. That same version was also released on the 1989 Beach Boys album Still Cruisin'.

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.

Cover versions

  • Hollyridge Strings covered the song instrumentally on their 1966 album The Beach Boys Song Book, Volume 2
  • Anni-Frid Lyngstad in 1975
  • Mike Post in 1975
  • 101 Strings Orchestra in 1976
  • Papa Doo Run Run on their 1985 album California Project
  • Jeffrey Osborne on the 1997 tribute album Wouldn't It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait Of Brian Wilson
  • Fred Simon in 1998
  • Jan Krist in 2002
  • John B. & The Surfin´ Safaris in 2002
  • Fource in 2003

At the 2001 special An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson, Wilson sang a duet with Elton John to this song.

Cultural references

Wouldn't It Be Nice was played over the closing credits in Hal Ashby's 1975 Shampoo. It was also featured in the Michael Moore film Roger & Me and the 1994 Seinfeld episode "The Hamptons". It was also featured in the 1989 The Wonder Years episode "Summer Song", the 1997 King of the Hill episode "Plastic White Female," and in the 2003 Angel episode "The Magic Bullet". It was also featured in the 2001 Blair Hayes film Bubble Boy. It was also featured at the end of the 1997 Will Ferrell film Men Seeking Women. It was featured throughout the film 50 First Dates as the song that the character Lucy (Drew Barrymore) constantly sang and that Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) sang sadly and tearfully to himself but humorously to the audience. It was used in the teaser trailer for the film adaption of the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho.

The song was portrayed in the comic strip Doonesbury upon the passing of Andy Lippincott.

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.

Charts

Chart Peak
position
Australian Singles Chart 2
New Zealand Singles Chart 12
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8

See also

References

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