This song was released in 1966 by the Beach Boys on their seminal album Pet Sounds.
It is commonly listed in top 10s of the best songs of all time. So, what makes it so good?
- The unique sound is created by a very unusual combination of instruments (unfortunately you can’t see them in this video!): there is French horn, harpsichord, accordion, flute, a string quartet, and a rhythm section played mostly on plastic cups and sleigh bells (there is hardly any conventional drum kit in the song)
- It is very harmonically complex. Here is a representation of the chords and melody:
When you compare this to a lot of more modern songs (think of New Rules by Dua Lipa, which has two chords repeated throughout, or Shape of You by Ed Sheeran and Crown by Stormzy, both of which have four chords repeated throughout), this is massively inventive and quite elusive: it is difficult to pin down exactly what key it’s in.
- It is structurally unusual: it doesn’t really have a chorus, and finishes with a round (which in itself is very rare in a pop song)
If you would like to find out more about exactly how this song was put together, listen to this podcast, which unpicks it in a detailed but accessible way.