I *am* working on my Batman posts (and on PEP! 2 – which I had to put off slightly, because I realised that I could write an essay about Doctor Who that *also* served as an example of what a truly Liberal attitude towards copyright would look like, and tie the issue together much more nicely than it is at the moment). But today I had some important displacement activity to do, so I decided to try to create a Spotify playlist containing covers of every Beach Boys song (or the originals, where the Beach Boys did a cover version). (Note, for these purposes ‘every Beach Boys song’ only includes tracks on the twofer CDs (except Concert/Live In London and Party/Stack ‘O’ Tracks), Still Cruisin’ and Summer In Paradise. I wasn’t going to go looking for cover versions of Kokomo (Spanish version) or Happy Endings).
I couldn’t quite find every one, but I did manage to put together a seven-hour, 149-track playlist which you can find here.
However, because I know most people won’t want to listen to that, I’ve also put together a much shorter sampler playlist, 54 minutes long, which can be found here, and it’s this that I will be annotating here. However, go for the full playlist if you want to hear such curiosities as a band who only do Beach Boys songs in the style of the Ramones, a Norwegian ‘doom metal’ band covering a Bruce Johnston song, the bloke who covered the whole of side two of the Beach Boys Today! album on the ukulele (including the spoken word studio chatter track Bull Session With “Big Daddy”), Lulu duetting with Sting, the King’s Singers pretending to be ‘cellos, or a cover of Still Cruisin’ done for an exercise CD…
So here’s the short version.
Wonderful/Song For Children by Rufus Wainwright is a straight cover of the first half of the second movement of Smile, and one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard.
Ne Dis Pas by Souvenir is The Beach Boys’ Ticket To Ride knockoff Girl Don’t Tell Me reworked as breathy French pop, and exquisite.
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder by Anne Sofie Von Otter is from an album Elvis Costello produced for von Otter, a classical singer, about a decade ago. At the time, Costello was interviewed saying that this song, originally from Pet Sounds is one that should be listened to every single day, and I can’t argue with him. This is an absolutely beautiful arrangement, only slightly inferior to the original (just because of the lack of the bass ‘heartbeat’).
Angel Come Home by Sal Valentino is the lead singer of the Beau Brummels reworking the Carl Wilson song from L.A. (Light Album) as Americana (or whatever we’re meant to call rockish country music that sounds more like Steve Earle or Mike Nesmith than Garth Brooks this week). More straightforward than the original, and an odd choice for a cover version.
Let’s Put Our Hearts Together by The Pearlfishers takes what was originally a duet and turns it into a solo piano ballad, making it much more plaintive and wistful, while still keeping all the eccentricity of the original.
Heroes & Villains by Geraint Watkins reworks the Smiley Smile track in the style of Louis Prima, scat singing and all. And is bloody fantastic.
The Warmth Of The Sun by Murry Wilson is by Brian, Carl & Dennis Wilson’s dad, and is from his muzak album The Many Moods Of Murry Wilson. I remember when you’d have to pay fifty quid and up for a vinyl copy of this album, but now you can have it piped into your home just like real muzak. Isn’t the internet brilliant?
Don’t Go Near The Water by Kirsty MacColl is actually a rather pretty cover version of what was originally a rather silly song by Mike Love and Al Jardine from Surf’s Up. If only she’d taken the advice in the title… Her harmonies on the tag are exquisite.
I Can Hear Music by Larry Lurex is a pre-Queen Freddie Mercury solo track, presumably an attempt to hop on the Gary Glitter bandwagon, though the music stays pretty close to the Spector original.
I’d Love Just Once To See You by The Elastic No-No Band is a very simple cover version of what was a very simple song to start with. I’ve always loved the melody of this one, and that lovely melody combined with the completely tossed-off lyrics has always somehow made it even better.
Wild Honey by Nazareth is the proto-metal band covering the Beach Boys’ attempt at R&B. It works better as a heavy metal song than you might expect (but then when I played the original for my mum a few years ago, she thought it was the White Stripes, so…)
On And On She Goes by Sandy Salisbury is a Curt Boettcher/Gary Usher reworking of what was originally a gentle ballad into an uptempo horn-driven track that is as influenced by Motown as by the Beach Boys.
MIster John B by Sylvie Vartan is odd, in that the lyric is reworked into French, but the English word Mister is stuck in for some reason. Other than that, it’s pretty faithful to the Beach Boys’ version.
Unlike Surfin’ USA by Melt Banana, a Japanese noise-rock band, whose version does settle down eventually into a fairly straight punk cover, but starts off wonderfully fragmented and distorted.
Disney Girls by Art Garfunkel is the polar opposite of that. Disney Girls is a song with which I have an uneasy relationship. I’m aware that it’s the single cheesiest song ever written (“She’s really swell, ’cause she likes church, bingo chances and old-time dances”), and that pretty much every time Bruce Johnston’s sung it other than on the original version he’s descended into lounge-singer hell. But for some reason, it still moves me far more than it theoretically should, and here Art Garfunkel gives one of his best vocal performances, his frail sincerity pushing the song well away from the elevator and into something close to genuine beauty.
Anna Lee, The Healer by The High Llamas takes this song, mostly by Mike Love, even further from its Louie Louie roots than the original version on Friends did, with the usual High Llamas combination of electronica and easy listening.
And finally A Day In The Life Of A Tree by Suzy And Maggie Roche is a cover of a song I’ve always loved (though no-one else does). Co-written by Brian Wilson and Jack Rieley, this environmentalist song is also clearly a metaphor for Wilson’s life at the time, and has one of his most gorgeous melodies. Jack Rieley’s original vocal was weak, and the song suffered by its placement on the Surf’s Up album (three Brian Wilson songs in a row were placed together, all with
Yes, it’s all your favourite 60s classics, right here in one playlist, including…
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by Manfred Mann. This is an instrumental cover that alternates seemingly at random between a straight fuzzed-up guitar version and freewheeling hammond-organ-and-tenor-sax led jazz. Absolutely great.
Surfin’ USA by Melt Banana is a noise-rock cover version by the Japanese alt-punk band, who I first discovered through their other Beach Boys cover Well, You’re Welcome (which also included a big chunk of this song). Gavin R, you might like this one…
You Really Got Me by Tom Baker Says… is an electro cover of the Kinks song by these people, who used British Telecom’s automated text-to-speech facility, while Tom Baker was the official voice of it, to record Baker saying all sorts of things. This works surprisingly well.
I Saw Her Standing There by Anthony Newley & The Baker Twins is a lounge cover of the Beatles song. For those of you who don’t know Newley (primarily Americans), Newley was a songwriter (he wrote Goldfinger, Feelin’ Good (the Nina Simone song) and most of the songs for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), actor, celebrity husband (married to Joan Collins) and soap star, among many other things, and a huge influence on David Bowie. No, honestly…
(Theme From) The Monkees by The Benzedrine Monks Of Santo Domonica is the Monkees theme as Gregorian chant.
Hello Little Girl by The Stool Pigeons is the first song John Lennon ever wrote, and a hit for the Fourmost, here done by Lisa Jenio’s other band, a Merseybeat covers group.
Mrs Robinson by Frank Sinatra is exactly how you think it sounds, but more so. Especially ‘good’ is the way Sinatra refuses to sing ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’, so it becomes ‘Jilly loves you more than you can know’, before he just starts making up his own words…
You’re No Good by José Feliciano is surprisingly dark and funky for him – it sounds a lot like I Just Popped In To See What Condition My Condition Is In, actually…
Twist And Shout by Ike And Tina Turner is closely based on the Isley Brothers’ version, but sped up, and shows what a great R&B screamer Tina used to be before she started making terrible 80s pop records.
Speaking of terrible 80s pop records… Beach Boys Medley: I Get Around/Good Vibrations/Barbara Ann by Russ Abbot… the title really speaks for itself here, at least for Britons over the age of about 25. For the rest of you… just be glad you don’t understand. Trust me.
Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey by Pat Metheny is a multi-tracked acoustic guitar performance by the noodlesome Kenny G-baiting jazzer, and actually manages to bring out the rather lovely melody in this horribly sentimental song.
Telstar by Duke Ellington exists, and that in itself is enough to make me very happy indeed.
Unchained Melody by The Goons was actually banned for many years – the composer withdrew his permission for the record to be released, and it was withdrawn from sale. Many of the things that George Martin did with the arrangement here would later make their way into Beatles records (compare that piano sound to the end of Tomorrow Never Knows, for example).
Sweets For My Sweet by The Sweet Inspirations is a pretty decent straight soul performance by the greatest female soul backing group of all time (they backed Aretha Franklin and Elvis among others).
And Can’t By Me Love by Peter Sellers is my personal favourite of Sellers’ Beatles covers (again produced by George Martin).