5 Cool Covers of Songs from The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ in Honor of the 1966 Album’s Anniversary

The Beach Boys’ critically acclaimed and hugely influential album Pet Sounds was released on May 16, 1966. Utilizing his bandmates’ pristine harmonies and the ample talents of the famed collective of Los Angeles-based session musicians The Wrecking Crew, Brian Wilson crafted a sonic masterpiece.

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Pet Sounds was filled with beautifully layered and innovative pop confections. Lyrically, the songs veered away a bit from some of the topics for which the group had been known: surfing, hot rods, dating, and fun in the sun.

[RELATED: The Beach Boys Says That Without John Lennon and Paul McCartney Their Classic 1966 Album “Could Have Failed”]

The Beach Boys’ change of course initially was a commercial disappointment, but Pet Sounds soon was embraced by the music world, and now is considered by many to be one of the all-time great pop-rock albums. Pet Sounds influence on other artists, including The Beatles, is well documented.

Over the years, many artists have recorded their own versions of songs from the album. In honor of the anniversary of its release, here are five noteworthy covers of Pet Sounds songs.

“God Only Knows” – Glen Campbell (1977)

“God Only Knows” is perhaps the most beloved songs from Pet Sounds, and has been cited by Paul McCartney as one of his favorite tunes of all time. The soaring love ballad has been recorded by various artists, and also has been used for the soundtracks of many films.

Like most of the songs on Pet Sounds, Wilson co-wrote “God Only Knows” with lyricist Tony Asher.

Glen Campbell recorded his own rendition of the song and released it on his hit 1977 album Southern Nights.

The country-pop star’s dramatic version of the tune showcased Campbell’s impassioned vocals, and featured soaring strings that built to a sonic crescendo.

“Hang On to Your Ego” – Frank Black (1993)

Pet Sounds features a song titled “I Know There’s an Answer” that Wilson co-wrote with bandmate Mike Love and Beach Boys road manager Terry Sachen. The song originally had featured different lyrics, and initially was called “Let Go of Your Ego.”

Wilson had been inspired to write the song after taking LSD. The lyrics were based on the concept that a positive after-effect of doing the drug is that it destroys one’s ego. Love apparently hated the drug reference and refused to sing the original lyrics. The song was then revised and retitled “Hang On to Your Ego.” It was then changed again, and recorded for the album as “I Know There’s an Answer.”

Pixies frontman Frank Black recorded the “Hang On to Your Ego” version of the tune for his self-titled debut solo album in 1993. Black’s alternative-rock take on the song was released as a single. The tune reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart.

“Don’t Talk (Put You Head on My Shoulder)” – Linda Ronstadt (1993)

“Don’t Talk (Put You Head on My Shoulder)” is a dreamy love ballad co-written by Wilson and Asher. Linda Ronstadt recorded a version of the tune that appeared on her 1993 album Winter Light.

Ronstadt’s ethereal rendition of the song gives the original a run for its money in atmospheric beauty.

“Caroline, No” – Chrissie Hynde (2019)

“Caroline, No” was originally released as Wilson’s first solo single in March 1966. Then, the track was included as Pet Sounds’ closing track. The melancholy and melodic ballad, co-written by Wilson and Asher, is sung from the perspective of a man lamenting how a former flame had become jaded with life.

Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde put an eclectically spacey and jazzy spin on “Caroline, No” for her 2019 solo album, Valve Bone Woe.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – She & Him (2022)

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was one of two hit singles released from Pet Sounds (along with The Beach Boys’ cover of the traditional tune “Sloop John B”). The upbeat pop gem, co-written by Wilson, Asher, and Love, peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song from the viewpoint of a teenager who is imagining what it would be like if he and his girlfriend were old enough to get married.

She & Him, the indie-pop duo featuring actress/singer Zooey Deschanel and guitarist M. Ward, covered “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” for their 2022 album Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson. Their faithful version of the tune showcased Deschanel’s sweet lead vocal and her and Ward’s layered harmonies.

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