Hear Beach Boys’ Tender Live ‘God Only Knows’ From 1966
May 16th will mark 50 years to the day that to the day that the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds. The album initially confused critics and fans, but went on to become a beloved pop masterpiece, which Brian Wilson is currently celebrating by performing the LP in its entirety. “It’s a nostalgic feeling,” Wilson tells Rolling Stone. “I go back to when I was 23 years old. It brings back a lot of good memories. It makes me really proud.”
Wilson had another idea to mark the occasion, too. “I told the guys, ‘I think we should do Pet Sounds anniversary album,’ and they all went for it. They said, ‘Yeah!’” So on June 10th, the Beach Boys will release Pet Sounds (50th Anniversary Edition), including remastered mono and stereo versions of the album, session outtakes, alternate mixes and isolated vocals.
It will also include a full disc of live recordings capturing early performances of the songs. One highlight is Carl Wilson’s showcase “God Only Knows,” which Paul McCartney has called one of his all-time favorite songs, recorded on October 22nd, 1966, at the University of Michigan’s Hills Auditorium. The band played three shows in two days at the University as a warm-up for their European tour.
At that point in their career, Brian Wilson had recently stopped touring with the band to stay at home in the studio, while Bruce Johnston took his place on bass. But according to Ian Rusten and Jon Stebbins’ extensive The Beach Boys in Concert, Wilson flew to the Michigan concerts with friend Mike Vosse to record them for a possible live album. (“All this stuff is getting recorded. Can you imagine if they put this out?” Mike Love joked.) Wilson mostly stayed in the shadows during the October 22nd show, but the band pulled him onstage to play bass on “Johnny B. Goode.” The book quotes a fan who was at the show saying, “When Brian came out at the end for a curtain call, it was absolutely surreal. A great, great memory.” Though Pet Sounds was recorded with world-class session pros, the Beach Boys prove here they could recreate the song impressively live, especially the winding harmonies. Right after playing the song, the group played “Good Vibrations” live for the very first time.
Wilson calls “God Only Knows” a highlight of his current tour. “It’s a great song, and a great album” he says. “I’m glad people have had all these years to discover it.”