|Single by The Beach Boys|
|B-side||"Let's Go Away for Awhile"|
|Released||October 10, 1966|
|Recorded||February 17–September 21, 1966,
United Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Gold Star Studios, and Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood
|Genre||Psychedelic pop, rhythm and blues, acid rock|
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
"Good Vibrations" is a song by American rock band the Beach Boys, released as a single in October 1966, and backed with the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile". The song was composed and produced by Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love. Initiated during the sessions for the Pet Sounds album, it was not taken from or issued as a lead single for an album, but as a stand-alone single, although it would be later considered for the aborted Smile project. It would ultimately be placed on the album Smiley Smile eleven months after its release.
Wilson has recounted that the genesis of the title "Good Vibrations" came from when his mother explained to him as a child that dogs sometimes bark at people in response to their bad vibrations. Fascinated by the concept, Wilson turned it into the general idea of limbic resonance or extrasensory perception, and developed the rest of the song as it was recorded.
Building upon the layered production approach he had previously formulated on Pet Sounds, Wilson famously labored over the song's production by recording it in piecemeal using several Los Angeles studios throughout the course of eight months, resulting in a cut-up mosaic of musical episodes marked by several discordant key and modal shifts which underlay choral fugues. Band publicist Derek Taylor dubbed the work a "pocket symphony," as it features an exotic array of instruments considered unusual for a popular song of its time, including prominent use of a jaw harp and the relatively new device the Electro-Theremin, along with conventional instruments played in ways novel to a pop hit, such as its cello and string bass which plays a bowed tremolo over the song's chorus. Its production costs were the most expensive of any single ever produced.
Acknowledged as a work of 1960s Modernism, Wilson is credited with further developing the use of the recording studio as an instrument. Its success 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. An early psychedelic pop classic of the counterculture era it has featured highly in many charts, being voted number one in the Mojo Top 100 Records of All Time chart in 1997 and number six on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." The song "Good Vibrations" is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
- 1 Composition
- 2 Recording and production
- 3 Promotional clips
- 4 Commercial performance
- 5 Cultural response
- 6 Personnel
- 7 Variations
- 8 Charts
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
Brian Wilson was largely responsible for the track's composition and its vocal arrangement, with band mate Mike Love contributing lyrics and the "I'm picking up good vibrations / she's giving me excitations" vocal riff in the chorus. From the start, he envisioned applying a theremin for his likening it to "a woman's voice or a violin bow on a carpenter's saw." Characterizing the song as "advanced rhythm and blues," Wilson himself has also stated that the triplet cello beat on the chorus was based on the Phil Spector production "Da Doo Ron Ron". Other reports suggest that it was actually either Van Dyke Parks or Carl Wilson that had suggested the idea of a cello to Brian. Its theremin and cello has been called the song's "psychedelic ingredient."
There are six unique sections to the piece. Although the song begins in the minor mode of E♭, it is not used to express sadness or drudgery. The song's opening verses ascribe to i – ♭VII – ♭VI – V chord progression (called an Andalusian cadence) followed by a refrain suggesting ♭III which transposes up by two whole steps. While the verses are set in E♭ minor, the refrain begins in the newly tonicized relative major G♭. It ascends to A♭ and then B♭, thus making a perfect cadence back into E♭ minor. This verse/refrain device repeats once before digressing into two more episodes, a retro-refrain, and then its coda.
According to academic Rikky Rooksby, "Good Vibrations" is an example of Wilson's growing interest in musical development within a composition, something antithetical to popular music of the time. Suppressing tonic strength and cadential drive, the song makes use of descending harmonic motions through scale degrees controlled by a single tonic and "radical disjunctions" in key, texture, instrumentation, and mood while refusing to develop into a predictable formal pattern. It instead develops "under its own power," and "luxuriates in harmonic variety," exemplified by beginning and ending not only in different keys but also in different modes. Comparing "Good Vibrations" to Brian's previous work Pet Sounds, biographer Andrew Hickey has said: "[T]he best way of thinking about [the song] is that it's taking the lowest common denominator of 'Here Today' and 'God Only Knows' and turned the result into an R&B track. We have the same minor-key change between verse and chorus we've seen throughout Pet Sounds, the same descending scalar chord sequences, the same mobile bass parts, but here, rather than to express melancholy, these things are used in a way that's as close as Brian Wilson ever got to funky."
In early 1966, Wilson first enlisted Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher for help in putting words to the idea. He explained that his first reaction to the unfinished song as it was played on piano by Wilson was that it had an interesting premise with the potential for hit status, but could not fathom the end result due to Wilson's primitive piano playing style. Asher remembers that Wilson wanted to call the song "Good Vibes", but Asher advised that it was "lightweight use of the language," suggesting that "Good Vibrations" would sound less "trendy". Soon after, Wilson asked his then-new writing partner Van Dyke Parks to pen lyrics for the song, although Parks declined. Ultimately, Love submitted the final lyrics for "Good Vibrations", claiming to have written them on the drive to the studio, and that they were inspired by the impending flower power movement occurring in San Francisco and some parts of the Los Angeles area. Reportedly, Capitol Records executives were worried that the lyrics contained psychedelic overtones, and Wilson is said to have based the song's production on his LSD experiences. Writer Bruce Golden observed:
The new pastoral landscape suddenly being uncovered by the young generation provided a quiet, peaceful, harmonious trip into inner space. The hassles and frustrations of the external world were cast aside, and new visions put in their place. "Good Vibrations" succeeds in suggesting the healthy emanations that should result from psychic tranquility and inner peace. The word "vibrations" had been employed by students of Eastern philosophy and acid-heads for a variety of purposes, but Wilson uses it here to suggest a kind of extrasensory experience.
Brian said about the lyrics: "We talked about good vibrations with the song and the idea, and we decided on one hand that you could say … those are sensual things. And then you'd say, 'I'm picking up good vibrations,' which is a contrast against the sensual, the extrasensory perception that we have. That's what we're really talking about."
Author Domenic Priore argued that the song was indeed advanced for its time, serving as a forerunner to later works such as Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (1971) and Isaac Hayes' Shaft (1971) which presented soul music in a similar, multi-textured context imbued with ethereal sonic landscapes. On the song's historical context, music journal Sound on Sound explained: "This was a period when pop records were either guitar, bass and drum combos or traditional orchestrated arrangements for vocalists … The exotic instruments, the complex vocal arrangements, and the many dynamic crescendos and decrescendos all combine to set this record apart from most pop music. In short, if there's an instruction manual for writing and arranging pop songs, this one breaks every rule." For the AM radio standards of late 1966, the song's final runtime (3 minutes 35 seconds) was considered a "very long" duration. Wilson considered the single a "Modern" record. Others continued to acknowledge the work as such.
Recording and production
The recording and production style used on the "Good Vibrations" single established Wilson's new method of operation: the recording and re-recording of specific sections of music, followed by rough mixes of the sections edited together, further recording as required, and the construction of the final mix from the component elements. This was the modular approach to recording that was used during the sessions for Smile, and to a slightly lesser degree, Pet Sounds. For "Good Vibrations", Wilson also applied the Wall of Sound formula to his arrangements. The various sections of the song were edited together by Wilson into an innumerable amount of sound collages, and its production spanned seventeen recording sessions at four different recording studios. The recording is reported to have used over 90 hours of magnetic recording tape, with an eventual budget estimated between $50,000 and $75,000 ($360,000 and $550,000 today), at that time the largest sum ever spent on a single. It's said that Wilson was so puzzled by "Good Vibrations" that he would often arrive to sessions, consider a few possibilities, and then leave without recording anything due to his indecisiveness, which exacerbated costs. Played by the classically trained Los Angeles-based session musician conglomerate informally known as the Wrecking Crew, the extent of the song's instrumentation included tack piano, jaw harp, Hammond organ, double bass, harmonica, several guitars, harpsichord, cello, unspecified percussion, and Electro-Theremin. According to Wilson, the Electro-Theremin work alone cost $15,000 ($110,000).
The instrumental of the first version of the song was recorded on February 17, 1966 at Gold Star Studios and was logged as a Pet Sounds session. On that day's session log, it was given the name "#1 Untitled" or "Good, Good, Good Vibrations", but on its master tape, Wilson distinctly states "'Good Vibrations'... take one". After twenty-six takes, a rough mono mix completed the session. Rough guide vocals were overlayed on March 3. The original version of "Good Vibrations" contains the characteristics of a "funky rhythm and blues number" and would not yet resemble a "pocket symphony." There was no cello, but its gliding electronic hook was present from the beginning. This sound was created with an Electro-Theremin, played by its inventor Paul Tanner, and was first executed on the Pet Sounds track "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" three days before. Brian thereafter placed the recording on hold in order to devote attention to the Pet Sounds album, later to be released on May 16. More instrumental sections for "Good Vibrations" were recorded on April 9, May 4–27, and June 12–18. Brian then forewent additional instrumental tracking until September when it was decided to revisit the song's bridge section and apply Electro-Theremin overdubs. Van Dyke Parks contributed some instrumentation to "Good Vibrations", and says to have suggested idea of cello triplets to Brian:
I was there on my hands and knees, playing the bass pedals of the B3 organ, which you’ll hear in the middle of "Good Vibrations", before the glottal "ahhh". It turns out that the bass response of the organ is much more luminous and broad than you could get from a bass guitar, and Brian liked that. The next thing I did, within a matter of a day or two, was to play the tack piano on the bridge — playing the notes he told me to play, exactly when he told me to play. And then I suggested how good a cello would be, and he got Jesse Ehrlich — who I knew — down there to play the triplet fundamentals. By suggesting that, and having him exploit it to such a hyperbolic degree, showed that he knew that I knew what I was talking about, and he knew what he was talking about, and we knew what each other was talking about.
According to Brian's then-recently acquainted friend David Anderle, Brian at an early point considered giving "Good Vibrations" to an undecided black rhythm and blues group signed with Warner Bros. Records such as Wilson Pickett, and then at his suggestion to singer Danny Hutton. Brian was contemplating in junking the track, but after receiving encouragement from Anderle, eventually confided in it as the next Beach Boys single. In the meantime, Wilson worked on writing and recording material for the Smile project, which before the completion of "Good Vibrations" included "Heroes and Villains", "Wind Chimes", "Look", "Holidays", and "Our Prayer". The first Beach Boy who heard "Good Vibrations" in a semi-completed form was Carl Wilson, who had previously participated in rough guide vocals with Brian for its initial February mix. Accordingly, after performing with the touring group in North Dakota: "I came back up into my hotel room one night and the phone rang. It was Brian on the other end. He called me from the recording studio and played this really bizarre sounding music over the phone. There were drums smashing, that kind of stuff, and then it refined itself and got into the cello. It was a real funky track."
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Recording of the vocals for "Good Vibrations" took place at CBS Columbia Square on August 24 and continued sporadically until the very last day of assembly on September 21. Evidently, the episodic structure of the composition was continuously revised as the group experimented with different ideas. Mike Love later recalled: "I can remember doing 25–30 vocal overdubs of the same part, and when I mean the same part, I mean same section of a record, maybe no more than two, three, four, five seconds long." Dennis Wilson was intended to sing the lead vocal, but due to a bout of laryngitis, Carl replaced him at the last minute. The final lead vocal in the verses is largely sung by Carl with Brian taking over for the "I hear the sound of a" and "when I look in her eyes" falsetto parts. The two bridges and chorus bass vocal are sung by Love with Brian on top of the harmony stack during the "good, good, good vibrations" part of the chorus.
Brian recalled that prior to completing "Good Vibrations", he attended an early August session for the Rolling Stones song "My Obsession" when record producer Lou Adler gave him marijuana, explaining: "They got me all stoned, they laid all this stuff on me and I couldn't find the door. It wiped me out so much I didn't know where the door was to get out of the studio." The following year, Beach Boys press agent Derek Taylor published an article which wrote of an arranged meeting between him, Brian, and Paul McCartney in August 1966, and that Brian had played an early acetate record of "Good Vibrations" for McCartney. In 1976, Brian explained that prior to the track's final mixdown, he had been confronted with resistance by members of the group which Brian declined to name. The subject of their worries and complaints were of the song's "modern" sound and perceptibly extensive length. In early September, Brian suffered through an incident where the master tapes for "Good Vibrations" had been stolen by an unknown party. Mysteriously, they reappeared inside his home two days later.
On September 21, Brian completed the track after a final Electro-Theremin overdub was added by Tanner, later again in 1976 elaborating on the event: "It was at Columbia. I remember I had it right in the sack. I could just feel it when I dubbed it down, made the final mix from the 16-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!'" Engineer Chuck Britz is quoted saying that Brian considered the song to be his "whole life performance in one track."
To promote the single, four different music videos were shot. The first of these — with Caleb Deschanel as cameraman — features the group at a fire station, sliding down its pole, and roaming the streets of Los Angeles in a fashion comparable to The Monkees. The second features the group during vocal rehearsals at United Western Recorders. The third is footage recorded during the making of The Beach Boys in London, a documentary by Peter Whitehead of their concert performances. The fourth is an alternative edit of the third. Brian also made a rare personal appearance on local television station KHJ-TV for its Teen Rock and Roll Dance Program, introducing the song to its in-studio audience and presenting an exclusive preview of the completed record.
"Good Vibrations" was the Beach Boys' third US number one hit after "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda", reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1966, as well as being their first number one in Britain. It sold over 230,000 copies in the US during its first four days of its release and entered the Cash Box chart at number 61 on October 22. In the UK, the song sold over 50,000 copies in the first 15 days of its release. "Good Vibrations" quickly became the Beach Boys' first million-selling single. Derek Taylor promoted the single by stating: "Wilson's instinctive talents for mixing sounds could most nearly equate to those of the old painters whose special secret was in the blending of their oils. And what is most amazing about all outstanding creative artists is that they are using only those basic materials which are freely available to everyone else." In December 1966, the record was certified gold by the RIAA. After the criteria for a gold record was modified, the RIAA failed to correct the listing, despite "Good Vibrations" being eligible for status as a platinum record today.
Both New Musical Express and Melody Maker gave positive reviews at the time of the single's release. Encouraged by the success of the song, Wilson continued working on the Smile project, intended it as an entire album using the writing and production techniques devised for "Good Vibrations". Praise was not universal, however, and Pete Townshend of the Who was quoted at the time as saying "'Good Vibrations' was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about," and feared that the single would lead to a trend of overproduction. Former Atlantic Records executive Phillip Rauls is quoted saying, "I was in the music business at the time, and my very first recognition of acid rock — we didn't call it progressive rock then — was, of all people, the Beach Boys and the song 'Good Vibrations'." Author Bill Martin suggested that the Beach Boys were clearing a pathway toward the development of progressive rock, writing: "The fact is, the same reasons why much progressive rock is difficult to dance to apply just as much to 'Good Vibrations' and 'A Day in the Life'." It is believed that "Good Vibrations" was a prime proponent in revolutionizing rock music from live concert performances to studio productions which could only exist on record. In a 1968 editorial for Jazz & Pop, Gene Sculatti prophesied:
"Good Vibrations" may yet prove to be the most significantly revolutionary piece of the current rock renaissance; executed as it is in conventional Beach Boys manner, it is one of the few organically complete rock works; every audible note and every silence contributes to the whole three minutes, 35 seconds, of the song. It is the ultimate in-studio production trip, very much rock 'n' roll in the emotional sense and yet un-rocklike in its spacial, dimensional conceptions. In no minor way, "Good Vibrations" is a primary influential piece for all producing rock artists; everyone has felt its import to some degree, in such disparate things as the Yellow Balloon's "Yellow Balloon" and the Beatles' "A Day in the Life", in groups as far apart as (recent) Grateful Dead and the Association, as Van Dyke Parks and the Who.
The song is acknowledged to have further developed the use of recording studios as a musical instrument. Upon release, "Good Vibrations" prompted an unexpected revival in theremins. When the Beach Boys needed to reproduce the sound of the theremin onstage, Wilson first requested that Tanner play the instrument live with the group, but he declined due to commitments. He recalls saying to Wilson, "I've got the wrong sort of hair to be on stage with you fellas," to which Wilson replied, "We'll give you a Prince Valiant wig." The Beach Boys then requested the services of Walter Sear, who then asked Bob Moog to design a ribbon controller, since the group was used to playing the fretboards of a guitar. Sears remembers marking fretboard-like lines on the ribbon "so they could play the damn thing". Moog then set out to manufacture his own models of theremins, but ultimately noted: "The pop record scene cleaned us out of our stock which we expected to last through Christmas."
Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Good Vibrations" at No. 6 in "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", the highest position of seven Beach Boys songs cited in the list. It outranked The Beatles's highest ranking song, "Hey Jude", which was placed at number eight. The song was also voted number 24 in the RIAA and NEA's listing of Songs of the Century. "Good Vibrations" is currently ranked as the number three song of all time in an aggregation of critics' lists at acclaimedmusic.net.
In 1976, a nearly identical cover version was released as a single by Todd Rundgren for his album Faithful. When asked for an opinion, Brian responded: "Oh, he did a marvelous job, he did a great job. I was very proud of his version." In 1996, experimental rock group His Name Is Alive recorded an homage entitled "Universal Frequencies" on their album Stars on ESP. Reportedly, Warren Defever listened to "Good Vibrations" repeatedly for one week before deciding that the song "needed a sequel," explaining that: "'Good Vibrations' is one of the first pop hits where you can actually hear the tape edits and I think that's wonderful." "Good Vibrations" inspired the title of French duo Air's fifth LP: Pocket Symphony, released in 2007. The song's lyrics "I'm picking up good vibrations" are quoted in Cyndi Lauper's 1984 single "She Bop".
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2014)|
- The Beach Boys
- Al Jardine – harmony and backing vocals
- Bruce Johnston – harmony and backing vocals
- Mike Love – lead, harmony and backing vocals
- Brian Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals; organ
- Carl Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals; bass guitar; percussion
- Dennis Wilson – harmony and backing vocals; Hammond organ
- Additional musicians and production staff
- Hal Blaine – drums, percussion
- Jimmy Bond – double bass
- Al De Lory – tack piano
- Jesse Ehrlich – cello
- Jim Gordon – drums
- Mike Melvoin – Hammond organ
- Tommy Morgan – harmonica
- Bill Pitman – guitar
- Ray Pohlman – bass guitar
- Don Randi – harpsichord
- Lyle Ritz – double bass
- Paul Tanner – Electro-Theremin
|Song by The Beach Boys from the album The Smile Sessions|
|Released||October 31, 2011|
|The Smile Sessions track listing|
Smiley Smile marks "Good Vibrations" first album appearance, with no differences from the single version. Both Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (1993) and The Smile Sessions (2011) box sets contain extracts and highlights from the song's extensive recording sessions. In early 2011, the single was remastered and reissued as a four-sided 78 rpm vinyl for Record Store Day as a teaser to the forthcoming The Smile Sessions box set. It contained "Heroes and Villains" as a B-side along with previously released alternate takes and mixes.
40th anniversary single
In celebration of its 40th year, the Good Vibrations: 40th Anniversary Edition single was released. The single includes five versions of "Good Vibrations" including:
- the original single version
- various session takes
- an alternate take (previously released on the Beach Boys' Rarities album)
- instrumental track in stereo
- a live concert rehearsal (from Hawaii 08/1967).
- also included is the original B-side of the single, "Let's Go Away for Awhile" (stereo-mix).
Except as indicated, all tracks are in mono.
There had never been an official true stereo release of the final track until the 2012 remastered version of Smiley Smile, although numerous fan-created stereo mixes have been attempted over the Internet. In 2002 DSP (Disky Special Products) released in the Netherlands a various artist compilation CD named Radio 192 – The Radio's on – 40 Echte radio hits which contains a stereo mix of this song, possibly using the stereo instrumental track mixed with the mono vocals. It has been said that not enough stems exist to actually create a new stereo mix, something echoed by Mark Linett's 1988 rough mixes of the Smile material. This is due to the vocal tracks being currently missing. Bruce Johnston has stated that he believes they were accidentally destroyed in 1967 during a "spring cleaning" of the Columbia studio. However, a stereo version of the instrumental backing track was issued in 2006 on the 40th anniversary "Good Vibrations" EP.
The 2012 stereo mix was made possible by newly invented digital technology by Derry Fitzgerald, with the blessings of Brian Wilson and Mark Linett. This software extracted individual instrumental and vocal stems from the original mono master — as the multi-track vocals remained missing — to construct the stereo version that now appears on the re-issue of Smiley Smile.
Solo Brian Wilson version
|Single by Brian Wilson|
|from the album Brian Wilson Presents Smile|
|B-side||"In Blue Hawaii"|
|Brian Wilson singles chronology|
In 2004, a re-recorded version of Smile was finally completed by Wilson, Parks, and Darian Sahanaja, with Wilson's touring band in place of the other Beach Boys and studio musicians. It was released in September of that year, to widespread critical acclaim. "Good Vibrations" was released as a single prior to the album, also featuring a live version of the song.
According to Wilson, when he re-recorded "Good Vibrations", his wife, Melinda, suggested he use the original lyrics written by Tony Asher.[need quotation to verify] However, it was necessary to augment Asher's lyrics with Mike Love's, which include the opening line ("I, I love the colorful clothes she wears,") the chorus couplet ("I'm pickin' up good vibrations / She's givin' me the excitations") and the two bridges (the "I don't know where but she sends me there" section, and the "Gotta keep those lovin'-good vibrations happenin' with her" section.) Accordingly, Love was also credited on the 2004 album version, along with Asher.
In addition to incorporating most of the original Tony Asher lyrics, the Smile version also includes the "hum-be-dum" harmony section not included in the 1966 release.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||1|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||9|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||6|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||2|
|Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)||3|
|Germany (Media Control Charts)||8|
|Irish Singles Chart||3|
|Malaysian Singles Chart||1|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||4|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||4|
|New Zealand (RIANZ)||1|
|Rhodesian Singles Chart||1|
|Singaporean Singles Chart||2|
|South African Chart||3|
|UK (Official Charts Company)||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|UK (Official Charts Company)||18|
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"Winchester Cathedral" by The New Vaudeville Band
|US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
December 10–17, 1966
"I'm a Believer" by The Monkees
"Reach Out I'll Be There" by Four Tops
|UK Singles Chart number-one single
November 19 – December 3, 1966
"Green, Green Grass of Home" by Tom Jones
"No Milk Today" by Herman's Hermits
|Australian Singles Chart number-one single
December 10–17, 1966
"Ooh La La" / "Ain't Nobody Home" by Normie Rowe