The Beach Boys

Sloop John B

Song Review by

This folk standard ended up becoming a pop favorite in the 1960s thanks to the Beach Boys. However, it was a popular item long before it was dipped in California sunshine and was frequently recorded by folk artists like the Kingston Trio. The narrative of "Sloop John B" is a straightforward one, chronicling the homesickness of a seaman trapped on a boat journey fraught with bad luck. The melody is similarly forlorn but is tinged with a catchy, singalong quality that made it a natural for folk groups. In the mid-'60s, Alan Jardine (a longtime folk music fan) suggested to fellow Beach Boy Brian Wilson that they tackle "Sloop John B." Wilson took the song to heart and transformed it into a California pop gem with a gutsy arrangement that married the group's formidable vocal harmony prowess to a wall-of-sound arrangement inspired by Phil Spector. The result was almost symphonically complex, driven along by a pulsing bass line and featuring a heart-stoppingly lovely a cappella harmony bridge. This dazzling sound allowed "Wouldn't It Be Nice" to fly into the Top Five area of the pop charts and inspired a new wave of cover versions by surf rock performers like Dick Dale and the Surfriders. However, the Beach Boys version remains the best-known and loved thanks to its enduring symphonic-pop beauty. Even today, it manages to make the feeling of homesickness sound almost thrilling.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Pet Sounds 1966 Capitol / EMI Records
No Image 1973 Axis / Capitol
20 Golden Greats 1976 Capitol
No Image 1982 Capitol
No Image 1983 EMI Music Distribution
No Image 1983 EMI Music Distribution
No Image 1985 Pioneer
Made in U.S.A. 1986 Capitol 0:00
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: The Beach Boys - 1962-1967 1988 2:57
Beach Boys' Party!/Stack-O-Tracks 1990 Capitol / EMI Records 3:06
No Image 1993 Pair
Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys 1993 Capitol / EMI Records 2:57
Greatest Hits [Hollywood] 1994 Hollywood / IMG 0:00
Forrest Gump 1994
Original Soundtrack
Epic 2:56
Hollywood's Hottest Hits 1995
Various Artists
CEMA Special Markets 2:58
Billboard Top Pop Hits: 1966 1995
Various Artists
Rhino
Perfect Harmony 1997 EMI Music Distribution / Capitol 2:57
The Pet Sounds Sessions 1997 Capitol / EMI Records 3:18
Dutch Singles Collection 1998 EMI Music Distribution 2:57
Nashville Sounds: Making of Stars & Stripes [Intersound Video] 1998 Intersound
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [1998] 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:54
Capitol Years 1999 EMI Music Distribution 2:57
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 1999 Capitol 2:56
Original Gold [2 CD Set] 1999 Original Gold (Netherlands) 2:57
No Image 1999 Disky 2:57
Spirit of the 60's: Folk Rock, Vol. 1 2000
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:00
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Disky 2:55
California Dreamin' 2001 Disky 2:57
The Very Best of the Beach Boys 2001 Capitol 2:55
Complete Collection 2001
Various Artists
Disky 2:56
California Dreaming 2002 B.R. 2:56
The Folk Years: Yesterday's Gone 2002
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:57
Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys 2003 Capitol / EMI Records 2:59
The Folk Years [Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:57
Almost There! CD3: A Collection Of The Greatest Original No. 2 Hits 2003
Various Artists
Disky 2:55
Rock On 1966 2004
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:57
Almost There! A Collection of the Greatest Original Number 2 Hits [Box Set] 2004
Various Artists
Disky 2:53
Greatest Hits of the 60's 2006
Various Artists
Disky 2:56
Summer Crush: Songs We Love to Love 2006 Hear Music 2:59
Hits of the Beach Boys 2007 EMI 2:57
Forever Beach Boys 2007 Madacy 2:57
101 Pirate Radio Hits 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:55