Saturday, December 10, 2016

Today in Music (1966): The Beach Boys hit #1 with "Good Vibrations"

Good Vibrations

The Beach Boys

Writer(s):Mike Love, Brian Wilson (see lyrics here)

Released: October 10, 1966

First Charted: October 21, 1966

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 GR, 12 UK, 2 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 45.3 video, 377.54 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“In the early sixties, the Beach Boys were a shimmering vision of American prosperity: five bright, handsome, presentable young men singing in pinched, nasal harmony about sun and surf and cars and girls.” BR They “presented an overwhelmingly white version of rock ‘n’ roll” BR modeling their “glee-club harmonies” BR after the vocal group the Four Freshmen. With the arrival of the Beatles in American in February 1964, the Beach Boys saw them as a threat and composer Brian Wilson stopped writing songs about surfing. BR He became enamored with the kinds of studio techniques producer Phil Spector employed in his famous “Wall of Sound” approach to recording.

In his obsession to outdo the Beatles artistically, Brian Wilson threw everything into the Beach Boys’ 1966 album Pet Sounds, which would see the Beach Boys begin “ to throw off their striped shirt surfer image.” LW Wilson became especially intent on making the song “Good Vibrations” into a “masterpiece, greater than anything he’d done before.” LW He was so determined “to make it perfect” SS that he pushed back against his bandmates and the record company who wanted it finished for inclusion on the album.

After suffering from nervous breakdowns, Wilson opted to stay home while the rest of the band toured. This allowed him “to pour all his creative energies into this one song.” SS He went wild in the studio using “an array of exotic instruments including sleigh bells, Jews harp, wind chimes, harpsichord, flutes, organ and a theremin.” LW The latter is a keyboard instrument best known for its use in soundtracks to horror films. HL Mike Love wrote the lyrics, Carl Wilson provides the “warm, tremulous lead vocal,” BR and the rest of the Beach Boys served up backing vocals, but none of them actually played on the song. KL

At the time of its release, “Good Vibrations” was the most expensive single ever released FB with one claim putting the total recording cost as high as a million dollars. DJ It was pieced together from hundreds of recording sessions NPR and more than seventy hours of tape TC generated in four studios over seventh months time. RS500 The result was “one of the most universally acknowledged classic pop records of the 1960s.” SS The “symphony in miniature” SS is the “crowning achievement” RS500 for Brian Wilson, who has been called “rock and roll’s finest composer ever.” PW

As for the term “good vibrations,” Wilson said, “my mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me…to think that invisible feelings existed.” DT He told Rolling Stone that his mother had explained how dogs barked at some people, but not at others. “A dog would pick up vibrations from some people that you can’t see, but you can feel. And the same thing happened with people.” FB

Wilson was convinced of the song’s good vibe, saying it would be better than the Righteous Brothers‘ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’” RS500 Beach Boy Bruce Johnston was a little more nervous, saying, “’we’re either going to have the biggest hit in the world – or the Beach Boys’ career is over.’” HL It turned out the public appreciated the song‘s vibe as well; it met with instant success, selling 400,000 in four days SJ and becoming the group’s first million-seller TB and third #1.


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First posted 10/22/2011; last updated 9/16/2023.

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