Editors Note: To better understand how The Beach Boys later musical oeuvre transcends their surf music roots, we asked actor Paul Dano to curate a playlist for us. Dano plays the younger version of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson in the newly released biopic, “Love and Mercy,” in which John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also co-star. As “Love and Mercy” director Bill Pohlad told us last week, Dano prepared for the role by studying the recordings on “The Pet Sounds Sessions,” a comprehensive re-release that not only contained the original album tracks but also considerable sums of behind-the-scenes audio. Dano’s commentary appears alongside individual below; the complete playlist, save for one Beatles track unavailable on Spotify, appears at the bottom of this page.
I started this playlist with the first three tracks from the 1967 unfinished “Smile” album. It may be my favorite opening to an album ever. It is at once spiritual, playful, and in contact with something greater than itself.
I then went back to the beginning. “Rhapsody in Blue” was a song that influenced Brian Wilson from a young age. I didn’t include The Four Freshmen or other bands of the time, because they are no longer on my computer, and I decided to limit this playlist to songs that I did not need the internet to access.
Early Beach Boys are a lot of fun, and as much as I love the upbeat quality, I also love the romantic feel of this song, “Surfer Girl.”
“In My Room” is beautiful. We can all relate to this feeling. But I have also thought that this room turned into the studio. I feel like the studio may have been a room that Brian told his secrets to.
“Be My Baby” is a song that changed Brian’s life. I too, became obsessed with it. The opening drums!
“California Girls” definitely made me love Los Angeles more. What a song to drive around LA to! It is so smooth and catchy, but musically there is so much going on.
“Norwegian Wood” [from The Beatles album] “Rubber Soul!” This album meant a lot to many, including Brian. I think it changed the way he though about albums as a whole.
The next four tracks are from Pet Sounds. These are songs that really jumped out to me once I got to know Brian’s life more closely. I never realized how good the words are on this album. Pet Sounds is one of the greatest albums ever made.
Then I came back to “Smile.” For me, there is nothing like this album before or since. It is on another level. Spiritual music.
I remember Brian loved this Randy Newman album, “Sail Away.” I think one of Brian’s producers may have worked with Newman as well. Regardless, this is a great song.
“Love and Mercy.” These words. I had never heard this song before. Stunning.
Check out Dennis Wilson’s solo albums. I love his stuff.
I’ll end with “Good Vibrations” from the 1967 “Smile,” because it is mind-blowing bananas good. The part where they start to go “hum dee dum” blows me away every time!
Full playlist (minus The Beatles “Norwegian Wood”):