We generally don’t think of Brian Wilson as the kind of artist who would record a stripped-down solo-piano album. At his peak, the former Beach Boys sonic mastermind was famous for complex orchestrations and layered vocal harmonies so ambitious that the rest of Wilson’s band rebelled against him. But later this fall, Wilson will release At My Piano, a new album of Beach Boys classics that consists entirely of Wilson playing piano.
Wilson has just shared his version of “God Only Knows,” the beloved classic from 1966’s Pet Sounds. Wilson co-produced the new version with Nick Patrick, and it’s not even a solo Wilson voice-and-piano version. Instead, it’s an instrumental, with nothing in the song other than Wilson’s piano. Playing by himself, Wilson really teases out the music-box simplicity at the heart of “God Only Knows.”
In a press release, Wilson says:
We had an upright piano in our living room, and from the time I was 12 years old I played it each and every day. I never had a lesson, I was completely self-taught.
I can’t express how much the piano has played such an important part in my life. It has bought me comfort, joy and security. It has fueled my creativity as well as my competitive nature.
I play it when I’m happy or feeling sad. I love playing for people and I love playing alone when no one is listening.
Honestly, the piano and the music I create on it has probably saved my life.
Below, listen to Wilson’s new version of “God Only Knows” and the Beach Boys’ original, and check out the album’s tracklist.
01 “God Only Knows”
02 “In My Room”
03 “Don’t Worry Baby”
04 “California Girls”
05 “The Warmth Of The Sun”
06 “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
07 “You Still Believe In Me”
08 “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”
09 “Sketches Of Smile: Our Prayer/Heroes And Villains/Wonderful/Surf’s Up”
10 “Surf’s Up”
12 “Till I Die”
13 “Love And Mercy”
14 “Mt Vernon Farewell”
15 “Good Vibrations”
At My Piano is out 11/19 on Decca.