The Pop Song Pantheon, Vol. 8
"Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys (1966)
Never mind that it's the opening track on an LP that changed the face of popular music ("Without Pet Sounds, there's no Sgt. Pepper, and with no Sgt. Pepper there's no...etc"), and that it's a model of mid-1960s production ("Oh, how that first big drum hit always gives me chills...etc."). This one belongs on my playlist-for-the-ages because it's the perfect example of Brian Wilson's singular genius at crafting songs from a fourteen or sixteen year-old's narrative view point, but that speak somehow to listeners well beyond that demographic. The simplicity of the speaker's wish (that it would be nice to be old enough to live together with his girlfriend and not have to part ways when darkness falls) is rendered musically in a way that becomes, well, appropriately pangy in any context. It's about longing, or wanting to be somewhere else, or something else, and it's dreamily executed, as all of The Beach Boys' best work is.