Wherein I take a song – the original and two covers – and lay them out side by side if you will. If I can find radical reinvention, I’ll go for that rather than rote covers.
Unlike a lot of music fans, I’ve never been a particularly big Beach Boys fan. I initially dismissed them as a surf band, then kinda liked some of their stuff, thinking of them as an occasional pleasant diversion on the radio. Then I came to realize that Brian Wilson was regarded as some kind of genius by those who make music. That didn’t turn me into a raving fan but I do dig some of their stuff.
Of all their tunes, “God Only Knows” is considered one of their best if not *the* best song they ever did. Famously, Paul McCartney is a huge fan of the tune. Some say he said it was the best song ever written but I believe he said it was one of the best songs ever written and certainly his favorite Beach Boys tune. (There was some level of rivalry between the bands. Rubber Soul begat Pet Sounds which begat Sgt. Pepper.)
Wikipedia: “‘God Only Knows’ is among the several songs that Brian Wilson and Tony Asher wrote for the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. Asher felt that it was the pair’s most effortless collaboration, remembering that Wilson “spent more time tweaking the instrumental part than we did writing the words!
Recalling “God Only Knows,” Wilson acknowledged that he had “not written that kind of song” before and said, “I think Tony had a musical influence on me somehow. After about ten years, I started thinking about it deeper … And I remember him talking about [the 1944 standard] ‘Stella by Starlight’ and he had a certain love for classic songs. Asher concurred that he felt he inspired Wilson to write the song.”
Carl Wilson sings lead:
How these three-song posts come to be typically is because I hear a cover version on the radio and go, “Oh, yeah. That’s interesting.” Well, to my great surprise, David Bowie did his own cover of it. Apparently, he was another great admirer of the Pet Sounds album and this was his second try at recording it. It is somewhat odd and typically Bowie.
A reviewer in writing about this cover – from Bowie’s 1984 Tonight album – said, “the TV-special-style cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ is as stirring, in its cold, almost Brechtian way, as Station to Station’s ‘Wild Is the Wind’ – it’s like watching Elvis in [Las] Vegas through a sheet of ice.” Could not have possibly said it better myself:
Joss Stone is a British singer/songwriter whose singing I enjoy but who I have never featured. It seems at this point like she’s been around forever but she’s only in her early 30’s. An interesting side note to her career was that back in 2011 she was part of a “supergroup” called SuperHeavy with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart. Not sure exactly what made this a supergroup as, for the brief time they were together, no one paid much attention to anyone but Mick.
Anyway, I heard Joss’ version of this song and it’s nice to hear a female version. I will herewith listen to it and pretend this beautiful lady is singing it directly to me: