Sep 302022

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40. Peanut – I’m Waiting for the Day

Vocalist Katie Kissoon and her brother Mac recorded a number of singles together as Peanut in the mid-‘60s after emigrating to the UK from Trinidad. Many of the duo’s splashiest recordings were also covers, but perhaps their brightest and most memorable cut is “I’m Waiting for the Day” — released as a single in the fall of 1966, hot on the heels of Pet Sounds’ big debut from just a few months prior. Whereas the original sounds like a mopey daydream—Brian & the Boys are dejected, watching from the sidelines—Peanut’s take brims with joy. Taking cues from both the Beach Boys’ massive production and, more locally, from the electric performances of peer Beat Girls on the London scene, Peanut’s “I’m Waiting for the Day” is full of giddy anticipation for the rekindled romance that’s on the horizon. – Ben Easton

39. Ricky Martin – California Girls / Help Me, Rhonda

Ricky Martin proves that he is more than “Livin’ La Vida Loca” in this 2001 Beach Boys mashup. He isn’t trying to show up the classic tunes but rather just celebrate the feel-good energy of both. The steady bass line makes a natural transition between the two songs, and it’s charming to see Martin groove and interact with the audience as he pays tribute to Brian Wilson. – Sara Stoudt

38. Carmen McRae – Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)

McRae’s easygoing style reinvents the Beach Boys’ classic track without having to change much in terms of the pace and instrumentation. She slides in and out of tempo, soaring into high notes but sounding especially compelling in her lower register. There’s something about the atmosphere of the track that makes it sound like it belongs on a Songs to Suffer Insomnia By playlist. In any case, save this one for a late-night play. – Mike Misch

37. French, Frith, Kaiser, Thompson – Surfin’ USA

There was a time (1987, to be exact) when the New York Times could declare Live, Love, Larf & Loaf, the first album from four fairly experimental and not commercially successful musicians–John French, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Richard Thompson–to be the “Rock Album of the Week.” It’s a strange and compelling album filled with brilliant musicianship and both darkness and humor (and dark humor). Among the songs is an insane cover of “Surfin’ USA,” with its classic surf lyrics over a melody nicked from Chuck Berry (who eventually got a writing credit). The cover starts off incredibly faithfully, before veering off into odd vocals, twisted music, surf guitar, and weird harmonies, as if the musicians wanted to gradually deconstruct a classic. Thompson once joked that if his inclusion in this project was expected to help it appeal to a wider audience, it didn’t say much for the state of their careers. I’m not sure it helped any of their careers (although it did lead to a second album a few years later), but it sounds like they had a blast. – Jordan Becker

36. Red Hot Chili Peppers – I Get Around

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beach Boys are not an obvious pairing, but this cover of “I Get Around” was created for RHCP’s Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Covers EP. This one is driving, and playful. It features lots of talking guitars, vocal harmonies, and (of course) some funky bass. The thing that stuck out to me the most was how well Anthony Kiedis’s voice fits this Beach Boys’ tune. – Aleah Fitzwater

35. Watkins Family Hour – Caroline, No

“Caroline, No” is one of the most stripped-back songs on Pet Sounds, with its relatively simple melody line and barely any harmonies from the group. But the Watkins Family Hour argue with their cover that it could be stripped down even further: just singer Sara Watkins’ voice, a trio of acoustic guitars, and a haunting violin solo. This translates the somber psychedelic tone of the original into an almost folk/blues number; add some 78-rpm record crackle and you could easily mistake this for a standard from the 1930s. – Brendan Shanahan

34. The Olivia Tremor Control – Do You Like Worms?

Like many fellow members of the Elephant 6 collective, The Olivia Tremor Control have long worn their psychedelic influences on their sleeves, and chief among these are The Beach Boys at their weirdest. The band’s spun-out cover of “Do You Like Worms?”—a mostly-instrumental opus from the heart of the Smile cycle—feels like a fitting summation of OTC’s own wild creative aims: surreal, jittery, overflowing with both DIY charms and big ambitions. – Ben Easton

33. Dwayne Gretzky – Don’t Worry Baby

Is “Don’t Worry Baby” probably my favorite Beach Boys song? Yes. Do I love its intricate harmonies and slow buildup? Yes. Do I think it would work as a pop-punk track perfect for the end of a high school rom-com? Well, no – that is, I couldn’t until I heard Dwayne Gretzky’s version. The most impressive part about this cover is how many of the original elements are still there – the harmonies endure, the melody is kept intact despite being sped up slightly, and the youthful positivity is here in abundance. – Brendan Shanahan

32. Jonatha Brooke – God Only Knows

After a number of albums with The Story (her collaboration with Jennifer Kimball), Jonatha Brooke started a solo career, but it wasn’t until her fourth solo album, 2004’s Back in the Circus, that she recorded any covers (three, to be precise), including her version of “God Only Knows.” The original is renowned for its layered production and vocal harmonies, but Brooke starts singing solo, later adding some self-harmonizing, recorded over a scratchy, slightly syncopated electronic backing track with some shimmering keyboards. Lyrically, it’s a dark song about, maybe, obsessive love, but where the original music seems more wistful than the lyrics, Brooke’s take is more downbeat. – Jordan Becker

31. Langley Schools Music Project – You’re So Good to Me

The Langley Schools, under the direction of music teacher Hans Fenger, recorded 21 songs for two albums in the 1970s (read our feature on the record compiled from them). Seven of these songs were Beach Boys songs. It makes sense – Brian Wilson understood both innocence and despair to his core, the way most children do and most adults forget. With “You’re So Good to Me,” the kids tap into the song’s exuberance, rushing and mumbling their way through most of the verses for the opportunity to shout out, “And I looooove it! LOOOOOVE it!” – Patrick Robbins


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  3 Responses to “The 40 Best Beach Boys Covers Ever”

Comments (3)
  1. Psychic TV’s Good Vibrations is great,

  2. Yo La Tengo’s Little Honda is last on my list. It’s just not a grungy song. I’d rather hear the Hondell’s hit, which was just a sterile copy. I’d rather hear Murray Wilson’s solo album!

  3. It’s hard to go wrong with those iconic melodies. I stuck to the arrangement but tried to imagine Good Vibrations as an ELO/Who mashup.

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