Song of the Week – California Girls, The Beach Boys


Today’s SotW is a little out of the ordinary. That’s because it really only focuses on part of a song rather than the whole thing – the intro.

This idea popped into my head recently when I was watching a TV show and a commercial for AT&T Wireless came on. I wasn’t paying much attention but they use the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and the song’s intro instantly caught my ear. It’s really nice.

When used correctly, a pop song’s intro acts like a mini overture – it sets the mood for what follows. I’ve read a lot of “best of” lists for song intros on the internet and they’re littered with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Rolling Stones songs. Don’t get me wrong, they list countless great songs with great guitar “intros” but to my ear they mostly just establish the riff that get played throughout the rest of the song. That may be your criteria for a great intro, but not mine. I want something a little different and more sophisticated.

Brian Wilson was the master. My all-time favorite song intro is on “California Girls.” I know, “California Girls” doesn’t seem to qualify as Ignored Obscured Restored, but the intro certainly does. Beside, what’s more American than the Beach Boys on 4th of July weekend?

Where the hell did that intro come from? It’s so simple yet so perfect. It uses the notes of a B chord, repeated four times – first just guitar and piano, then with bass, then a horn in harmony, then the swell of a horn section in a more complex harmony – before moving down a step to A.

This wistful piece of music is a perfect contrast to the easy rolling feel of the song’s main verse/chorus structure. Brilliant!

In the harder rock genre, Joe Walsh had a good instinct for writing intros. Check out “Funk #49” when he was with The James Gang and “Rocky Mountain Way” for a couple of examples.

Enjoy… until next week.

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