|Single by The Beach Boys|
|from the album Smiley Smile|
|B-side||"Let's Go Away for Awhile"|
|Released||October 10, 1966|
|Writer(s)||Brian Wilson/Mike Love|
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
Released as a single on October 10, 1966 (backed with the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile"), it was the band's third U.S. 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 British chart-topper. 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, and later placed on the album Smiley Smile eleven months after its release.
Wilson's publicist Derek Taylor described "Good Vibrations" as a "pocket symphony". It featured instruments unusual for a pop song, including prominent use of the cello and an electro-theremin. It is #6 on Rolling Stone's 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.
Wilson recounted the genesis of the title "Good Vibrations" in his 1995 biopic, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, and at other times. When he was a child, his mother told him that dogs could pick up "vibrations" from people, so that the dog would bark at "bad vibrations". Wilson turned this into the general idea of vibrations (and Mike Love putting "good" in front of vibrations), and developed the idea of people being able to do the same with emotions.
Wilson first enlisted Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher for help in putting words to the idea. Soon after they met, Wilson asked his new writing partner Van Dyke Parks to pen lyrics for the song, but Parks declined. Beach Boys bandmate Mike Love supplied the final version of the lyrics around August 24, 1966.
According to Wilson, when he re-recorded "Good Vibrations" for his 2004 version of Smile, his wife, Melinda, suggested he use the original lyrics written by Tony Asher.
Originally composed during the Pet Sounds sessions with original lyrics by Tony Asher, Wilson recorded the song in sections, at different studios in order to capture the sound he heard in his head. Building upon the layered production approach he had begun to use with the Pet Sounds album, Wilson devoted months of effort to this single track.
The instrumental of the first version of the song was recorded on February 17, 1966. It was described in the session log as #1 Untitled (or as Good, Good, Good Vibrations), though on the tape Brian Wilson distinctly says "Good Vibrations, Take One". After 26 takes, a rough mono mix completed the session. Rough guide vocals were recorded the following day. By February 25, Wilson had placed the recording on hold in order to devote attention to the Pet Sounds album. The track was revisited on May 24, 1966, and worked on until June 18, at which time he put it aside again until August 24. The various sections of the song were edited together in a sort of musical collage, similar to The Beatles' later "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "A Day in the Life" records, both inspired by the works of Brian Wilson (according to Paul McCartney).
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The distinctive high-pitched sliding electronic sound in the choruses and at the end of the track was created with an electro-theremin, played by Paul Tanner, and first used by Wilson on the track "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times".
The production of the song is reported to have spanned seventeen recording sessions at four different recording studios, and used over 90 hours of magnetic recording tape, with an eventual budget of $50,000. According to Wilson, the electro-theremin work itself cost $15,000. Wilson is credited with developing the use of the recording studio as an instrument: He, the Beach Boys, and dozens of top studio musicians, including members of The Wrecking Crew, recorded and re-recorded seemingly unrelated musical and vocal sections for the song, then edited and mixed these sections into a 3:35 track.
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 next used on Smile.
David Leaf, author of the critically-acclaimed biography, The Beach Boys and The California Myth, said of the song, "Nothing but perfection here. The Beach Boys' first million-selling #1 hit...was a major technical breakthrough...the record that showed that anything was possible in the studio."
There has never been an official true stereo release of the final track, although bootlegs of this mix have been issued over the internet. It has been said that not enough stems exist to actually create a new stereo mix (This is because the vocal tracks are currently missing; Bruce Johnston has stated that he believes they were accidentally destroyed in 1967 during a cleaning of the Capitol Records tape vault). However, a stereo version of the instrumental backing track was issued in 2006 on the 40th "Good Vibrations" EP.
Inspired by the success of the song and the positive reaction to Pet Sounds, and wanting to top The Beatles' recently-released Revolver album, Wilson and lyricist Van Dyke Parks embarked on the Smile project, intended as an entire album using the writing and production techniques devised for "Good Vibrations." That album was never released as Wilson descended into depression, drug use, and paranoia; several tracks salvaged from those sessions were re-recorded in greatly simplified versions for the Smiley Smile album instead, on which "Good Vibrations" made its first LP appearance.
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. In addition to incorporating most of the original Tony Asher lyrics, the Smile version also includes the "Hum-Be-Num" harmony section not included in the 1966 release.
According to Badman, the single sold over 230,000 copies in the first four days of its release, and entered the Cash Box chart at number six on October 22.
Both the New Musical Express and Melody Maker gave positive reviews at the time of the single's release.
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 over-produced records in general.
"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 has featured highly in many 'Top 100 Records of All Time' charts and was voted #1 in the Mojo Top 100 Records of All Time chart in 1997. Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Good Vibrations" as the sixth best song of all time. The song was also voted #24 in the RIAA and NEA's listing of Songs of the Century. "Good Vibrations" is currently ranked as the #3 song of all time in an aggregation of critics' lists at acclaimedmusic.net.
In celebration of its 40th year, the Good Vibrations: 40th Anniversary Edition single was released. The single includes five versions of "Good Vibrations" including:
Except as indicated, all tracks are in mono.
|Smiley Smile Track Listing
|Heroes and Villains | Vegetables | Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony) | She's Goin' Bald | Little Pad
Good Vibrations | With Me Tonight | Wind Chimes | Gettin' Hungry | Wonderful | Whistle In