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"Good Vibrations"
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys

The record was intended to appear on Pet Sounds but eventually appeared on Smiley Smile.

The ultimate feel-good record of the 60s. Written by Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mike Love, it made number one on both sides of the Atlantic, proving to the Beach Boys and their fans that there was more to life than songs about cars and surfing (though perhaps not girls).

Wilson began what Derek Taylor later called this "Pocket Symphony" during sessions for The Beach Boys seminal album Pet Sounds. The record was intended to appear on Pet Sounds but eventually appeared on Smiley Smile. In his autobiography, Brian Wilson noted the influence of maverick 'Wall of Sound' producer, Phil Spector on the production of "Good Vibrations" "When I wrote it I imagined the grand Spector-like production while on an LSD trip."

Beach Boys
"... she talked about how dogs could pick up vibrations from people; they would bark at some people and not bark at others. And so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations."

The song required 17 sessions over a period of six months, and cost an unprecedented $50,000 to record. Made up of a series of sound collages mixed together, the record featured an array of exotic instruments including sleigh bells, Jews harp, wind chimes, harpsichord, flutes, and an organ, as well as numerous session musicians including legendary bassist Carol Kaye, and country singer/songwriter Glen Campbell on lead guitar. Astonishingly, the song was recorded in mono.

Wilson used regular lyricist and Pet Sounds collaborator Tony Asher to compose a draft set of words that were used during the recording, and Beach Boys lead singer, Mike Love, wrote the lyrics that were finally used.

Mike Love
"I thought - wow - that is so different, so unique. It's nothing like Surfin' USA or California Girls or any of those big hits that we had had at that time."

In a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Brian recalled the moment he finished the song: "I could feel it when I dubbed it down, made the final mix from the sixteen-track down to mono. It was a feeling of power, it was a rush. A feeling of exaltation. Artistic beauty. It was everything. I remember saying 'Oh My God. Sit back and listen to this!'"

Beach Boys
"It was a step towards a more serious look at things in terms of artistic or creative expression."

The "woooo wooow" sci-fi sound that can be heard on Good Vibrations comes from a Theremin, an instrument that looks as strange as the sounds it makes.

Invented by Russian scientist Lev Sergeyvich Theremin in 1921, the Theremin consists of a box of radio tubes attached to an antennae. The musician who plays it doesn't actually touch the instrument, but changes the volume and pitch by moving their hands around the antennae. However, it was an adapted version called an Electro-Theremin that was used on Good Vibrations. This device was more like a stringed instrument, with the player moving a finger across the board like a pedal-steel style guitar.

"Good Vibrations" earned The Beach Boys a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Group performance in 1966 and the song was eventually inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994. It's featured in most Top 100 records of all time charts coming number 1 in the Mojo Top 100 Records of All Time chart in 1997.

Recommended viewing:
Wouldn't It Be Nice - Brian Wilson. Bloomsbury (1996)

one of the best productions you could ever hope to hear in music

Ken Bruce

  Listen to Ken Bruce on "Good Vibrations" 

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