“The Little Girl I Once Knew”: Pop’s Pregnant Pause

Brian Wilson’s “The Little Girl I Once Knew” languished in relative pop obscurity (on 45 only) until included as a bonus track on the 2-albums-as-1-CD reissue of The Beach Boys Today! b/w Summer Days and Summer Nights released in 1990.  It might be a little challenging for today’s ears to appreciate just how radical it was — especially when considered within the context of 1960s AM pop radio and its non-stop aural barrage — to play a song that contained two (mostly) full measures of musical silence.  Not just once but twice within the same song.  Rather daring for 1965.

Check out the deep bottom in this mono mix:

Carol Kaye’s bass line in the walk-up to the second pregnant pause, in particular, slays me every time — masterful in design and execution.

“The Little Girl I Once Knew” also includes one of pop’s all-time great intros.  As David Leaf aptly observes in the CD liner notes, this single is “the record that’s clearly a bridge between ‘Let Him Run Wild’ and the Pet Sounds album.”  And yet, the song is perceived as a relative chart failure (“only” reached #20 on the pop chart) “coming on the heels of consecutive top-five singles.”  Radio programmers, according to David Leaf, did not appreciate the song’s it’s-the-notes-you-don’t-play aesthetic and were, to some degree, responsible for holding back the single’s performance in the marketplace.

Little Girl - US

                Germany                                    Denmark                                 Sweden

Little Girl - GermanyLittle Girl - DenmarkLittle Girl - Sweden

                       UK                                       France                                    Holland

Little Girl - UKLittle Girl - FranceyLittle Girl - Holland

                   Norway                                   Japan                                   New Zealand

Little Girl - NorwayLittle Girl - JapanLittle Girl - New Zealand