Sep 302022

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30. Grandaddy – Fun Fun Fun

When Grandaddy started selling their rarities compilation The Windfall Varietal at shows in 2000, how many buyers expected that the track labeled “Fun x 3 (1994)” would be a Beach Boys cover? It’s rough and ramshackle, sounding like a garage grunge recording that might have come off Nuggets. – Ray Padgett

29. Jackie DeShannon – Trader

Jack Rieley was the Beach Boys’ manager during the band’s wonderfully weird early ’70s era. He did double-time as a lyricist during that fruitful period and had a hand in some of the band’s most heavenly and eccentric songs. “The Trader” is one of the highlights of the BB’s 1973 cult classic Holland and easily the most ambitious of Rieley’s collaborations with Carl Wilson. Rieley explained the song’s meaning to Record Collector magazine this way: “‘The Trader’ is really about racism; these people who got their orders from the king or queen and colonized Africa. The tender part of the song asks the Africans to reply.” It’s a long way from “Surfin’ USA.” Not only did Jackie DeShannon sing the first hit version of “What the World Needs Now is Love” in 1965, but she also co-wrote “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” and “Bette Davis Eyes.” Her cover of “The Trader” is faithful, reverent, and sounds disconcertingly sweet for a song whose theme is colonization. – Hope Silverman

28. Shovels & Rope ft. Sharon Van Etten – In My Room

Even with the cheery guitar strum opening, this version sounds a bit more ominous thanks to the gravelly vocals. It sounds like a song that would be used to twist expectations in a horror film: the lyrics signal safety, but the sounds say otherwise. The drums also give a sense of impending danger; you can almost picture them as footsteps. Someone is coming towards a room where worries and fears are supposedly locked out. The pace of the drums escalate by the dark and alone point of the song, but the song keeps channeling courage nevertheless. – Sara Stoudt

27. Sixpence None the Richer – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

While Sixpence None The Richer’s love-struck original “Kiss Me” is by far their best-known song, their next two most-streamed songs are covers ( that’d be “There She Goes” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, both of which we’ve featured at Cover Me). When it comes to recording covers, the Sixpencers have the magic touch. Their version of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” was recorded for an album called Making God Smile: An Artists’ Tribute to the Songs of Beach Boy Brian Wilson which featured Contemporary Christian artists covering the band and its resident genius’s songs. On their version, the Sixers forsake the gorgeous over-the-top angst of the BB original and take things in a more groovy and subtly sad direction. There are some cool ’60s am radio pop flourishes in the instrumentation but the real cherry on the cake here is Leigh Nash’s vocal, which has a lovely, warm ‘n’ weary quality perfectly suited to the song’s sentiment. – Hope Silverman

26. She & Him – Wouldn’t It Be Nice

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is the opening track of the Beach Boys’ magnum opus Pet Sounds. The song is like a snapshot of the emotional whirlwind of teenage romance. She & Him, a duo featuring actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward, included a cover on their 2022 album Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson. With a bouncy groove that recalls the original, the duo delivers a dreamy cover of the track, providing an ideal showcase for Deschanel’s vocals. – Curtis Zimmermann

25. Les Missiles – Fume Fume Fume

The Beach Boys were southern California youth culture: their kind of Fun (Fun Fun) was sun, sun, sun and, of course, surfing, surfing, surfing. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean in the moody confines of urban France, it seems all the kids wanted to do was… smoke, smoke, smoke. In a gambit that reads like a perfect Christopher Guest gag and, really, must be heard to be believed, French pop sensations Les Missiles fully transmute the early Beach Boys single as their own kind of declaration of youth culture. Catch a puff and you’re sittin’ on top of le monde. – Ben Easton

24. Rumer – The Warmth Of The Sun

Saying Mike Love is a polarizing figure is an understatement. But no matter where you stand on the Love man, we can all agree that the lyrics he penned for “The Warmth of the Sun” are as heartbreaking and magical as anything in the entire Beach Boys canon. Rumer’s 2010 debut album was a welcome and warm throwback to ’70s AM radio, Karen Carpenter, and Dusty Springfield’s Memphis era. Her cover of “The Warmth of the Sun” is awash in strings and harmony and features a fatter, more fulsome production than the original version. But don’t worry (baby); those sonic extras haven’t diminished the song’s sublimely sad ‘n’ summery vibe one iota. Rumer’s honeyed, world-weary, and magnificently mournful vocal is the boss of this cover. She’ll break your heart… then she’ll heal you. – Hope Silverman

23. Wall of Voodoo – Do It Again

“Do It Again” was the first song by the Beach Boys that gave conviction they were more, so much more, than mere candy-striped pop music. As a precocious preteen, looking for a little bit more in a song than just a tune to hum, this hit a spot that remains stained into my soul. Wall of Voodoo, Stan Ridgeway’s quirky post-punksters, imbue it with all sorts of unease, yet maintain sufficient gravitas for it still to be a solid homage to Brian. Sure, as the video fairly inexplicitly depicts, maybe a Brian now banished to his sandpit; their version depicts an acid-fried daymare for Wilson’s addled years. A great cover and a statement both of their bona fide fandom and the sense of irony that Ridgeway always kept intact. – Seuras Og

22. Descendents – Wendy

The Descendents album Enjoy! reveled in bathroom humor; the front cover showed a roll of toilet paper, while the back listed a bunch of fake song titles, most of them slang terms for poop. And that’s just the artwork; the songs were mostly about the same level of maturity and suffered accordingly. But one of those songs floated above the others, like… well, one was much better, okay? It was “Wendy,” the only cover the Descendents ever did, and it stood out like something in a punch bowl. It’s got an energy absent from the original, and it serves as a reminder that love lost hurts so bad no matter how punk you are or aren’t. – Patrick Robbins

21. Bill Frisell – Surfer Girl

A few years ago jazz guitarist Bill Frisell recorded an album devoted to the pop music of his late 1950s/early 60s boyhood; he called it Guitar in the Space Age. For every guitar-heavy piece like “Pipeline” (a natural pick for the project), there’s something like “Surfer Girl” — a highly unlikely candidate for a strictly instrumental excursion. But of course, it works. Space is the place for this band. Their approach can be downright airy. Frisell slowly, tentatively teases out the “Surfer Girl” melody, and then the band gradually eases in too, like sun lotion spreading over warm skin. Pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz contrasts with Frisell’s playing, until the two men begin to blend and mimic each other, before pulling apart again into different registers. It’s not always clear who, if anyone, is soloing. “Surfer Girl” is a lovely vehicle for this band, and they breathe a new kind of life into the song. – Tom McDonald


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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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