The Beach Boys and The Sound of Music were both a big part of 1960s popular culture. Notably, Brian Wilson said The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” sounded like a song from The Sound of Music. In addition, Wilson revealed he was worried his band’s track would get banned.
Brian Wilson worked with a jingle writer
Tony Asher is a jingle writer and songwriter most known for his work with Wilson. In the 2017 book Wouldn’t It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Asher discussed collaborating with Wilson on the album Pet Sounds. “I’d take home what we had done during the day, and polish it at night,” Asher recalled. “I’d frequently add another verse to what we’d written, and then we’d work on it again the next day after I’d played it for Brian.”
Asher talked about a song from Pet Sounds that broke the mold. “But we did write some ‘complete’ songs during our sessions together — like ‘God Only Knows,'” he recalled. “It’s a short song, and I think Brian spent more time tweaking the instrumental part than we did writing the words. None of the others came that easily.”
Brian Wilson compared the melody of The Beach Boy’s ‘God Only Knows’ to the title song of ‘The Sound of Music’
During a 2011 interview with Goldmine, Wilson discussed the origin of “God Only Knows.” “Tony Asher and I tried to write something very spiritually,” he remembered. “It’s got a melody similar to the song [recites lyric to The Sound of Music], ‘I hear the sound of music … ‘ [sings lyrics to ‘God Only Knows’]’ ‘I may not always love you … ‘”
Wilson revealed Asher thought of one of the most famous parts of the song. “Tony came up with the title ‘God Only Knows,'” Wilson added. “I was scared they’d ban playing it on the radio because of the title but they didn’t.”
How The Beach Boy’s ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ soundtrack performed on the charts in the United States
“God Only Knows” became a minor hit for The Beach Boys. The song reached No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for eight weeks. The Beach Boys released “God Only Knows” on the album Pet Sounds. The album reached No. 10 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 47 weeks in total.
On the other hand, the soundtrack of the film version of The Sound of Music was a huge hit. It topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks. The soundtrack stayed on the chart for a staggering 238 weeks altogether. It remains one of the most successful soundtrack albums ever in the United States.
While The Sound of Music and The Beach Boys are very different entities in pop culture, Wilson saw a similarity between them.