They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
It’s a good time to be Brian Wilson. Earlier this spring, he released No Pier Pressure, his first album of new material in seven years. He is currently touring with Rodriguez, of Searching for Sugar Man (finally-)fame. Love & Mercy, the biopic featuring Paul Dano and John Cusack as different-era Brians, has been getting rave reviews. He’s not Mike Love. And today is his birthday.
After all the difficulties he’s had in his life, it’s so nice to see that the chorus he wrote half a century ago – “Don’t worry, baby / Everything will turn out all right” – turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’d like to wish Brian a happy 73rd by dipping our cup into the ocean of Beach Boys and Brian Wilson cover songs and bringing up some special ones. Drink deeply.
Gazelle Twin – Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson cover)
Gazelle Twin, a.k.a. electronic artist Elizabeth Bernholz, was commissioned to record this cover of “Love and Mercy” for the season five finale of the TV show The Walking Dead. Bernholz later said she was “sick with excitement” to weave together Brian’s sunny, positive outlook and her darker aesthetic. As soon as the episode aired, Brian’s “Love and Mercy” YouTube clip was flooded with people announcing that Walking Dead had brought them to see and hear the original. Any way to be exposed to genius is a good way; the fact that the Gazelle Twin cover works so well is the icing on the cake.
The Descendents – Wendy (Beach Boys cover)
Named for Brian’s daughter, “Wendy” was another example of Brian making something beautiful out of something sad. The Descendents’ punk-pop sound and gleeful obnoxiousness wouldn’t seem to make them prime candidates to cover “Wendy,” but cover it they did, playing a Beach Boy ballad under hard fast rules. It’s the only cover in the Descendents catalog, and as it turns out, they chose very wisely.
Reigning Sound – Waiting For The Day (Beach Boys cover)
Reigning Sound are known as a garage-punk band, but their cover of “I’m Waiting for the Day,” from their 2001 debut album Break Up Break Down, has more country boogie than the usual distorted squall one associates with the garage-punk sound. Which is all for the best, as they keep the song’s yearning feel and still make the listener want to get down and dance and roar along with the band.
Louis Philippe – I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (Beach Boys cover)
Louis Philippe’s cover of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” was performed on piano, and nothing else. That means all the strings and percussion noises you hear on the track are the sounds of parts of the piano being plucked or struck. But it’s not a cacophony of noise; indeed, the whole cover is nice and melodic, even without any theremin in sight.
Ronnie Spector – Don’t Worry Baby (Beach Boys cover)
Brian was inspired to write “Don’t Worry Baby” after hearing the Ronettes do “Be My Baby.” In fact, he wrote the song for Ronnie Spector to sing, but Phil Spector wouldn’t let that happen. Ronnie didn’t get to record it until her 1999 album She Talks to Rainbows. Brian didn’t know she’d made the recording until KROQ’s Rodney Bingenheimer sprung it on him while they were on the air together. The moment was captured for the documentary about Rodney, Mayor of the Sunset Strip; to see Brian finally getting to hear Ronnie sing the words he wrote for her is a truly bittersweet moment.
We said happy birthday to Brian four years ago, too.