The 25 Best Beach Boys Covers
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It’s been a big week for Beach Boys fans. Yesterday the newly reunited group unveiled “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” the first single from their forthcoming album, and back on Monday the Flaming Lips released their own tripped-out version of the Pet Sounds classic “God Only Knows.”
Wayne Coyne and company are hardly the first to try their hands at a Beach Boys cover, however. Here are 25 of our favorites—plus one little gem that’s too delightfully cheesy to overlook.
10. Frank Black, “Hang On To Your Ego”
After the Pixies’ break-up, frontman Frank Black made his solo debut in 1993, featuring this cover. Bandmate Joey Santiago guests on lead guitar.
9. Rivers Cuomo, “Don’t Worry Baby”
Rivers makes this one his own, so much so that you’d almost swear it was a Weezer track to begin with.
8. Fleetwood Mac, “Farmer’s Daughter”
The group delivers some killer harmonies on their rendition of this Surfin’ USA track.
7. Paul Simon, “Surfer Girl”
Simon performed this as part of a 2001 tribute to Brian Wilson, and he more than does it justice.
6. The Ramones, “Surfin’ Safari”
Covers of covers don’t count for this list, which means The Ramones’ classic interpretation of Do You Wanna Dance is disqualified for being a Bobby Freeman original. Their take on the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari,” however, doesn’t disappoint either.
5. Ronnie Spector, “Don’t Worry Baby”
The mutual respect that exists between Spector and Brian Wilson should be clear, but in case it isn’t, watch him gleefully react to this version of his song here.
4. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Surfin’ USA”
This wonderfully fuzzed-out take on the classic surf track appears on the band’s 1988 album Barbed Wire Kisses.
3. Yo La Tengo, “Little Honda”
Yo La Tengo’s no stranger to covers—in fact, they’re known for whipping out stellar versions of other people’s tunes on the regular. It should come as no surprise, then, that their excellent, noisy “Little Honda” is one of their finest.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., “God Only Knows”
These Michiganders expertly toe the line between staying true to the original and making it their own. Check out their performance of it at our SXSW party below.
1. Sonic Youth, “I Know There’s An Answer”
This Goo bonus track fits in perfectly on one of the best albums of the ’90s.
Bonus: David Lee Roth, “California Girls”
We struggled over where this goofy take by the Van Halen frontman should fall on this list—or if it should even make the cut. Ultimately we decided it should remain unranked, in some bizarre category of its own. Regardless of what you think of it, it’s worth mentioning because when, decades from now, your grandkids ask you what the ’80s were all about, you can simply pull up this music video.