"The Little Girl I Once Knew" is a song written by Brian Wilson for the American pop band The Beach Boys. It was released in November 1965, as a single 45 rpm, and reached #15 on the Cashbox chart, #20 on Billboard. The last new original song the group produced before the album Pet Sounds, it was not included on any regular Beach Boys album, but has since been collected on several anthologies and as a bonus track on reissues of Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!).
The song is notable for innovative use of two dramatic periods of near-silence lasting several seconds each. Although one of the Beach Boys' most exuberant songs, it was poorly received by radio stations preferring to avoid dead air time, which may account for its relatively low chart rating among their other singles of the period, including "California Girls" and "Barbara Ann". It is still rarely heard on oldies radio.
Capitol Records' rushed release of "Barbara Ann" in December ruined any chance "The Little Girl I Once Knew" had of continuing up the charts. Just after its release, John Lennon gave it a favorable review; another what-if for the Beach Boys.
So, poorly received by radio, given the stamp of approval by the "smart Beatle," the "last new original song" the Beach Boys recorded before Brian began working on the tracks for Pet Sounds was "The Little Girl I Once Knew." With the song divided into sections as it is, one can really hear the genesis of "Good Vibrations," and the other "sectional" types of things done for the scrapped Smile project. And to me, the music in this has always sounded very Pet Sounds-like. This was a preview of the main theme of Pet Sounds (i.e., "growing up is hard to do"), and a precursor to the real stand out on that album, the sad, yet so beautiful, "Caroline, No":