Tuesday, October 7, 2014


You may remember the BBC commercial from a few years back, a version of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" with Reed and about two dozen other artists. They've just made another commercial utilizing the same formula. This one is "God Only Knows", the Beach Boys song from Pet Sounds, written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. (In case you've been living under a rock, Pet Sounds is a 1966 album that Brian Wilson created while the rest of the Beach Boys were on tour. Their vocals were added after all of the grunt work by Wilson and the Wrecking Crew was done,)  Wilson is in the video, along with Pharrell Williams, Elton John, Lorde, Chris Martin, Florence Welch, Stevie Wonder, Brian May, Chrissie Hynde, Baaba Maal, Dave Grohl and a bunch of others that, presumably, are better known in the UK then they are here. (The full cast is listed at the BBC.). As well done as the video is, and as well written as the song is, can it really be a fully realized interpretation if it doesn't employ Wilson's production? I mean, come on, that's part and parcel of its epicness. It may be part of some future "Great American Songbook" but what it really is, is a great American record. As in the original version, the context in which it was created. Sure, trying to add current relevance is well intended, but is it timeless? The record is.

What amazes me the most is that the song was written forty eight years ago, and Wilson is still around. Without gushing too much (dude's one of few that can get me gushing), it reminds me how lucky we are that he has survived, against all odds, and still performs. There was a time when Wilson all but checked out due to psychiatric and health problems. Even when he started to recover, it was under the watch of Eugene Landy, a controlling shrink fond of keeping him heavily medicated. That Wilson was able to break free of Landy's control is a story in itself. Which reminds me, there's a biopic of Wilson that covers that, as well as the boy genius years. It's Love and Mercy and it just debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. It's got John Cusak cast as the older Wilson, and Paul Dano, (the son in Little Miss Sunshine) as the younger Wilson. A review from the Los Angeles Times seems to be positive enough that it may be worth seeing.

Rather than continuing to stray all over the place, I'll just duck out now. Here's the original version of "God Only Knows" (remastered in stereo), along with a rehearsal take. There's also a couple annotated videos about the recording of the original, with audio from the sessions featuring the Wrecking Crew. You fiends ought to dig that.

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows mp3 at Illustr
The Beach Boys - God Only Knows (rehearsal) mp3 at Electric Adolescence
More Brian Wilson stuff in past posts (scroll down)

Behind The Sounds: God Only Knows Part 1 at YouTube About the original, audio from the sessions.
Behind The Sounds: God Only Knows Part 2 at YouTube
The Making of the BBC's "God Only Know" video at BBC
God Only Knows - Wikipedia entry
Love and Mercy - Review at L.A. Times

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