1. “Rhapsody in Blue,” George Gershwin, 1924
“Rhapsody in Blue” is the first song I ever heard. When I was a little boy, very young, I heard it and said, “Mom, Mom, play it again!” I loved the part where the violins came in. I just got this overwhelmingly beautiful vibe from the music.
2. “Be My Baby,” the Ronettes, 1963
This is the song that inspired me to produce records. When I first heard it, it blew my mind. The drum sound that Phil Spector got, the harmonies, the piano and guitar sounds — I thought it was the greatest record I ever heard.
3. “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the Beatles, 1967
What a fantastic song. The lyrics are so expressive and different. “Could it be anybody?/I just need someone to love” — oh, I really love that part.
4. “My Obsession,” the Rolling Stones, 1967
“Satisfaction” is my second-favorite song by the Stones. This one is my favorite. They invited me down to their studio in Hollywood when they were mixing it. I remember sitting there and feeling that energy and that excitement.
5. “Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry, 1959
I met Chuck Berry one time on an airplane. I said, “Hi, I’m Brian Wilson!” He goes, “Hey,” and then he turned away. He wouldn’t talk to me. Too bad. But he taught me how to write rock & roll songs.
6. “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” the Four Freshmen, 1955
This is where I learned to arrange harmonies, and also where I learned to sing falsetto. Their four-part harmony was totally original — not five or three parts, but four parts. Wow.
7. “Rock Around the Clock,” Bill Haley and His Comets, 1954
I remember the first time a friend of mine played this for me on the phone. I just wanted to hear it over and over.
8. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Bob Dylan, 1965
“Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me/I’m not sleepy, and there ain’t no place I’m going to. . . .” I love those lyrics, really love them. “Poetic” is the word.