8/8/17: The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” 

I have to be honest, I was never too crazy about the Beach Boys’ early stuff. Songs about surfing and hot rods on California highways just didn’t connect with me, and while songs like “Surfing USA” and “409” were neat to hear every now and then, it was never my music. But when they starting doing other stuff, diving deeper into more complex music that appealed to more than just dreams of California, they really reeled me in!

Songs like “Good Vibrations” are what made me start to properly appreciate the Beach Boys. “Good Vibrations” was composed by Brian Wilson, as was most of the Beach Boys’ music, and Mike Love wrote the lyrics. It’s an amazing, intricate, beautiful tune… filled to the brim with harmonies and layered instrumentation brought to life with a combination of sheer musicianship and recording studio wizardry.

At the time, “Good Vibrations” was the most costly single ever recorded. The exact total amount of money spent isn’t known, but it’s estimated to be at least $50,000 – equivalent to almost $400,000 today! The track was an immediate critical and commercial success, and has been regarded as a masterpiece ever since. Every time someone is considering the most important, most influential pieces of rock or pop music, “Good Vibrations” is close to the top of the list, if it isn’t #1.

Brian Wilson, 23 when he pieced together a song that would directly inspire and influence musicians for decades to come, considered the song to be “his whole life performance in one track.” You can certainly hear his influence and creative force behind everything in the song, from intricate instrumentation and unexpected theremin to painstakingly constructed harmonies. The song is made up of six unique sections, together making a short-form symphony. On “Pet Sounds,” Wilson made great strides in the use of recording equipment and techniques as an instrument all their own, and “Good Vibrations” would come to represent the culmination of those efforts. Brian Wilson was a perfectionist, and his career gave him the clout and finances to pursue a project like “Good Vibrations” – and to make it happen exactly as he envisioned.

“Good Vibrations” is the song I was hearing first thing this morning, and I imagine it stays in a lot of other heads, as well. Whether they’re inspired by it, want to re-create it, or just want to listen to it… I think we’re all just glad that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were able to give it to us.

To read and listen to all of Ron’s Music in My Head entries, click here!

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