Just Listen: “God Only Knows”

When I was a kid, there was a period of time when The Beach Boys were my favorite band. I had purchased a cassette tape of one of their albums from a yard sale and listened to it until it broke. The two halves of the cassette came apart from each other and couldn’t be snapped back together. It was a most tragic day in my household.

While I enjoyed the entire tape (obviously), there were a few songs that stuck out in particular. One of my absolute favorites was/is “God Only Knows”. It’s a beautiful love song. I search youtube for the best versions and found so many treasures. Enjoy!

The Beach Boys (1966)

The original will always be my favorite version. It is such an epic masterpiece. It is said that Brian Wilson had an orchestra of over seventeen instruments and made them record twenty takes until he was happy with the results. The orchestra consisted of the usual guitar, drums and bass but also included the accordion, clarinet, flute, French horn (as heard in the intro), baritone saxophone, violin, viola and cello. It was basically the most amazing recording session ever. To say that Brian Wilson strives for perfection is a complete understatement. I feel like he achieved it here.

Claudine Longet (1972)

I have listened to this version about thirty times on my iPod. I really dig the guitar in this version. Her voice is quite beautiful- I quite enjoy the French accent.

The Langley Schools Music Project (1977)

They sound so innocent and full of hope. Such amazing quality for the time period and the fact that they were recorded in a school gymnasium. This makes me look forward to hearing more of their music.

Mandy Moore and Michael Stipe (2004)

Mandy Moore and Michael Stipe from REM sang a remake of the song for the Saved! soundtrack. Confession: I have a huge girl on Mandy Moore. I think her voice is just amazing, especially when she isn’t singing teen pop music. It sounds particularly sweet here, which matches the lyrical content wonderfully. Also, I really enjoy the use of bells. It gives it a little extra something.

Rivers Cuomo (2010)

I love how the song has been stripped down, relying only on his voice and the piano. It sounds so intimate. I have to disagree with the person in the youtube comments that said Rivers sounds like Kermit the Frog. Person, you are a jerk. And possibly deaf.


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