Good Vibrations (1966) – The Beach Boys

It has taken me more than 30 years to appreciate the grandeur of Good Vibrations. I was always more-down for Don’t Worry Baby, Barbara Ann and I Get Around in my youth. Good Vibrations is undoubtedly my son’s favourite Beach Boys song. He just loves watching the Lost Studio Footage of the recording (seen below). It’s where Brian Wilson tests everyone’s patience by putting all band members and musicians through the ringer to create the ‘right’ arrangement, harmony, and sound.

It was the most expensive single ever recorded. Good Vibrations later became widely acclaimed as one of the finest and most important works of the rock era.

[Verse 1]
I-I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations (Oom-bop-bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (Good vibrations, bop-bop)
She’s giving me excitations (Excitations, bop-bop)

I watched again the Elton John biopic Rocketman on cable where he learned that he would be launching his American tour playing at the Troubadour at Hollywood, but he was hugely intimidated to be playing in front of The Beach Boys in audience. Who can blame him?

The title Good Vibrations was derived from Brian 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 nascent Flower Power movement. Engineer Chuck Britz is quoted saying that Wilson considered the song to be “his whole life performance in one track“.

Wilson 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, a process reflected in the song’s several dramatic shifts in key, texture, instrumentation and mood. Over 90 hours of tape was consumed in the sessions, with the total cost of production estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

1. Good Vibrations – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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6 comments on “Good Vibrations (1966) – The Beach Boys
  1. Badfinger (Max) says:

    When I hear the term “epic” this song is one of the things I think of. An excellent song all the way around…a masterpiece…or as I’ve heard it called… “a teenage symphony”

    • I came late to the party on this one. It was only after seeing it dramatized in the movie and then in the lost footage below that I had to take my hat off. The more I hear it, the more I like it. It isn’t my go-too Beach Boys song, but I can’t help but admire it and recognise how it surpassed in sound production and output so demonstrably anything before it or after. Monumental track and I like the reflection by the engineer: quoted saying that Wilson considered the song to be “his whole life performance in one track“.

      • Badfinger (Max) says:

        It’s not my favorite BB song either but like you said….you have to respect the sound art it is.

  2. “Good Vibrations” is my favorite Beach Boys song, and I would definitely call it a masterpiece. This past Sunday night, the American network CBS aired a special Grammy Tribute to the Beach Boys, which was surprisingly good. A large array of artists, including John Legend, Brandi Carlisle, LeeAnn Rimes, Hanson, Foster the People, Little Big Town and Fall Out Boy, sang the Beach Boys hits. Beck and the lead singer from My Morning Jacket did justice to “Good Vibrations”.

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