We know about the timeless musical legacy of the Beach Boys, and how their recordings have endured across so many decades. But when exactly were they first deemed worthy of a compilation album? The answer is within the Billboard album chart of October 8, 1966, when the first Beach Boys Best Of peaked at No.9.
Capitol released the 12-track collection in early July that year, just two months after the Pet Sounds album and just as that future classic was, incredibly, spending its only week in the US top ten at No.10. Best of the Beach Boys, in its American edition, contained all the group’s early single successes such as “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfer Girl” and “Little Deuce Coupe,” as well as “In My Room,” “You’re So Good To Me” and “Wendy.”
But because the label rushed the album out, and in a marked contrast from industry practice these days, it didn’t include anything from Pet Sounds, and therefore didn’t feature either “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” or “God Only Knows.” Those two tracks were released on a US single from Pet Sounds at the same time of the best-of album, with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” reaching No.8 as the A-side and “God Only Knows” listed separately at a modest No.39 peak.
Internationally, “God Only Knows” became the top side, going on to reach No.2 in the UK, where a different version of the Best Of album then came out in the November. It had an alternative track listing that allowed for the inclusion of “God Only Knows” as well as the two previous UK singles of 1966, both of them top three hits, “Barbara Ann” and “Sloop John B.”
The US album, after reaching No.8, went gold six months later and, by the early 1990s, was double platinum. The UK version was a huge success, peaking at No.2 and mounting a 139-week run on the charts. Brian Wilson may not been best pleased that his and the group’s creativity was being interrupted by such retrospective attention, and the first compilation was superseded by more recent ones such as 50 Big Ones. But in 1966, the first wave of Beach Boys nostalgia had well and truly arrived.
Follow the official Beach Boys Best Of playlist.