Good Vibrations

"Good Vibrations"
Good Vibrations single.jpg
Single by the Beach Boys
B-side"Let's Go Away for Awhile"
ReleasedOctober 10, 1966 (1966-10-10)
Format7-inch vinyl
RecordedFebruary 17 (17-02)September 21, 1966 (1966-09-21)
StudioUnited Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Gold Star Studios, and Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood
Genre
Length3:35
LabelCapitol
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
(1966)
"Good Vibrations"
(1966)
"Then I Kissed Her"
(1967)
Music video
"Good Vibrations" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Good Vibrations" is a song composed by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love for the American rock band the Beach Boys, of which both were members. Released on October 10, 1966, the single was an immediate critical and commercial hit, topping record charts in several countries including the US and UK. Characterized by its complex soundscapes, episodic structure and subversions of pop music formula, it was the costliest single ever recorded at the time of its release. "Good Vibrations" later became widely acclaimed as one of the finest and most important works of the rock era.[12]

Produced by Wilson, the recording was initiated during the sessions for the 1966 album Pet Sounds, and was not originally issued as a track from an album, but rather as a standalone single, with the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away for Awhile" as the B-side. "Good Vibrations" was envisioned for the unfinished album Smile, but instead appeared on the 1967 substitute LP Smiley Smile. Most of the song was developed as it was recorded. Its title derived from Wilson's fascination with cosmic vibrations, as his mother would tell him as a child that dogs sometimes bark at people in response to their "bad vibrations". He used the concept to suggest extrasensory perception, while Love's lyrics were inspired by the Flower Power movement burgeoning in Southern California. Lead vocals were shared between Brian, his brother Carl and their cousin Love.

The making of "Good Vibrations" was unprecedented for any kind of recording. Over 90 hours of tape was consumed in the sessions, with the total cost of production estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Building upon the multi-layered approach he had formulated with Pet Sounds, Brian recorded a surplus of short, interchangeable musical fragments with his bandmates and a host of session musicians at four different Hollywood studios from February to September 1966. Only six sections were ultimately culled from the dozen-plus session dates, which were assembled through tape splicing to create a composite backing track, and is partly reflected in the song's several dramatic shifts in key, texture, instrumentation and mood. Band publicist Derek Taylor dubbed the unusual work a "pocket symphony". It contained previously untried mixes of instruments, including jaw harp and Electro-Theremin, and was the first pop hit to have a cello playing juddering rhythms.

"Good Vibrations" heralded a wave of pop experimentation and the onset of psychedelic and progressive rock, and helped develop the use of the recording studio as an instrument, revolutionizing rock music from live concert performances to studio productions that could only exist on record. Although it does not technically feature a theremin, the song is frequently cited for having one, which revitalized interest and sales of theremins and synthesizers. The song's success earned the Beach Boys a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Group performance in 1966; the record was eventually inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994.[13] "Good Vibrations" was voted number one in Mojo's "Top 100 Records of All Time"[13] and number six on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time",[14] and it was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".[15] In 1976, a cover version by Todd Rundgren was released as a single. It peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Background

The Beach Boys' leader, Brian Wilson, was responsible for the musical composition and virtually all of the arrangement for "Good Vibrations". His cousin and bandmate Mike Love contributed the song's lyrics and its bass vocalization in the chorus.[16][17] During the recording sessions for the 1966 album Pet Sounds, Wilson began changing his writing process. Rather than going to the studio with a completed song, he would record a track containing a series of chord changes he liked, take an acetate disc home, and then compose the song's melody and write its lyrics.[18] For "Good Vibrations", Wilson said, "I had a lot of unfinished ideas, fragments of music I called 'feels.' Each feel represented a mood or an emotion I'd felt, and I planned to fit them together like a mosaic."[18] Most of the song's structure and arrangement were written as the song was recorded.[19][nb 1] Engineer Chuck Britz is quoted saying that Wilson considered the song to be "his whole life performance in one track".[6] Wilson stated: "I was an energetic 23-year-old. ... I said: 'This is going to be better than [the Phil Spector production] "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."'"[23]

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