|Single by The Beach Boys|
|B-side||"Let's Go Away for Awhile"|
|Released||October 10, 1966|
February 17 –September 21, 1966 ,
United Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Gold Star Studios, and Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
"Good Vibrations" is a song by American rock band the Beach Boys, released as a single in October 1966. 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 rather as a stand-alone single, with the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile" as a B-side. "Good Vibrations" would later be considered for the aborted Smile project, and ultimately was placed on the album Smiley Smile 11 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 recorded it 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 Electro-Theremin, along with conventional instruments played in ways novel to a pop hit, such as its cello and string bass which play a bowed tremolo over the song's chorus. The total production costs exceeded those of any music 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.
- Origins and lyricism 1
- Music structure and style 2
Recording and production 3
- Development 3.1
- Timeline table 3.2
- Promotion 4
- Reception 5
- Accolades 6.1
- Personnel 7
- Alternate releases 8
- Todd Rundgren version 9
- Brian Wilson version 10
- Other cover versions 11
- Charts 12
- Footnotes 13
- References 14
- Sources 15
- External links 16
Origins and lyricism
Bandleader Brian Wilson was largely responsible for the track's composition and its vocal arrangement, with bandmate Mike Love contributing lyrics and the "I'm picking up good vibrations / she's giving me excitations" vocal riff in the chorus. Wilson explained that the song was inspired by his mother: "[She] used to tell me about vibrations. I didn't really understand too much of what it meant when I was just a boy. It scared me, the word 'vibrations'. She told me about dogs that would bark at people and then not bark at others, that a dog would pick up vibrations from these people that you can't see, but you can feel."
Most of the song's structure and arrangement was written as it was recorded.[nb 1] From the start, Wilson envisioned applying a theremin for his likening it to "a woman's voice or a violin bow on a carpenter's saw." AllMusic reviewer John Bush pointed out: "Radio listeners could easily pick up the link between the title and the obviously electronic riffs sounding in the background of the chorus, but Wilson's use of the theremin added another delicious parallel – between the single's theme and its use of an instrument the player never even touched." Brian credited his brother Carl for suggesting the cello as an instrument to use. He also stated that its triplet beat on the chorus was his invention, and that it was based on the Phil Spector production "Da Doo Ron Ron". Alternately, Van Dyke Parks says to have suggested the idea of making the cello play triplets to Brian and believes that having Brian exploit the cello "to such a hyperbolic degree" was what established the musical credulity between the duo. Brian claimed in 2012 that the song's "gotta keep those good vibrations" bridge was inspired by Stephen Foster. Al Jardine compared the section to Foster's "Down by the Riverside."
In early 1966, Brian 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 Brian was that it had an interesting premise with the potential for hit status, but could not fathom the end result due to Brian's primitive piano playing style. Asher remembers that Brian 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, Brian asked his then-new writing partner Van Dyke Parks to pen lyrics for the song, although Parks declined.[nb 2] 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. 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.
Reportedly, Capitol Records executives were worried that the lyrics contained psychedelic overtones, and Brian is said to have based the song's production on his LSD experiences. In 2012, Brian clarified that the song was written on marijuana, not LSD. In earlier years, he 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."
According to Love, the lyric "'she goes with me to a blossom world' was originally meant to be followed by the words 'we find,'" but Brian elected to cut off the line in order to highlight the bass track linking into the chorus.
Music structure and style
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 an 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. Stebbins says that the section which follows the second chorus "might be called a bridge under normal circumstances, but the song's structure takes such an abstract route that traditional labels don't really apply."
Brian characterized the song as "advanced  Professor of American history John Robert Greene named "Good Vibrations" among examples of psychedelic or acid rock. Biographer Jon Stebbins wrote that the song was "replete with sunshine [and] psychedelia." John Bush compared the track's fragmented cut-and-paste style to 1960s experimentalists such as William S. Burroughs. Steve Valdez says that, like Pet Sounds, Brian was attempting a more experimental rock style. Uncut wrote that "Good Vibrations" was "three minutes and thirty-six seconds of avant-garde pop." Tom Roland of American Songwriter described the piece: "...with its interlocking segments – a sort of pop version of the classical sonata, consisting of a series of musical movements...".
According to academic Rikky Rooksby, "Good Vibrations" is an example of Brian'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." Stebbins adds that "unlike Pet Sounds, the chorus of 'Good Vibrations' projects a definite 'rock and roll' energy and feel."
Recording and production
The recording and production style used on the "Good Vibrations" single established Wilson's new method of operation: recording and re-recording 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 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, editing the various sections of the song together into innumerable sound collages.
Most pop singles of the time were typically recorded in a day or two, but production for "Good Vibrations" spanned seventeen recording sessions at four different studios. It was 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. In comparison, the whole of Pet Sounds had cost $70,000 ($510,000), itself an unusually high cost for an album. According to Wilson, the Electro-Theremin work alone cost $15,000 ($110,000). It's said that Wilson was so puzzled by "Good Vibrations" that he would often arrive at a session, consider a few possibilities, and then leave without recording anything, which exacerbated costs.
Mostly played by the
"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
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"Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys is harmonically perfect, a fugue with a rhythmic beat.
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- Keith Badman reported that "Here Today" from Pet Sounds was a reworking of the earliest "Good Vibrations" session, conducted less than a month later, and that phrases originating from "Here Today" would reappear in subsequent recordings for "Good Vibrations." Andrew Doe and John Tobler have noted that the two songs share the same chord progression. Musicologist Philip Lambert said that a resemblance between the two songs is "apparent, especially in their opening bars." Lambert also observed some stylistic overlap in "Look (Song for Children)", another Brian Wilson composition written and recorded between sessions for "Good Vibrations". Lambert speculates that the ending choral fugato of "Good Vibrations" could have originated directly from a similar melodic section in "Look".
- According to Parks, he was offered the opportunity to rewrite Love's lyrics because "[Brian] was embarrassed with the 'excitation' part Mike Love had insisted on adding. But I told Brian that I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole and that nobody'd be listening to the lyrics anyway once they heard that music."
- The verses of "Good Vibrations" are in the key of E♭ minor.
- A memo dated February 23 was sent to Capitol that "Good Vibrations" would be included on the Pet Sounds album. Sessions would continue to be logged for Pet Sounds until after April. According to Al Jardine, the group insisted on including "Good Vibrations" on Pet Sounds, but Brian refused.
- Additional sessions occurred on April 9; May 4, 24–27; June 2, 12, 16, and 18, 1966.
- Before the completion of "Good Vibrations," this included "Heroes and Villains," "Wind Chimes," "Look," "Holidays," and "Our Prayer."
The song has also been covered by a range of artists including Groove Holmes, the Troggs, Charlie McCoy, and Psychic TV. John Bush argued "'Good Vibrations' was rarely reprised by other acts, even during the cover-happy '60s. Its fragmented style made it essentially cover-proof."
Other cover versions
"Good Vibrations" is the only track on Brian Wilson Presents Smile which eschewed the modular recording method. Its verses and chorus were recorded as part of one whole take, and were not spliced. In addition, the arrangement differs from the original by including an extra "hum-be-dum" harmony section based on a bridge outtake recorded in September 1966.
According to Wilson, his wife Melinda suggested that he use the original lyrics written by Tony Asher. 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.) Love was also credited on the 2004 album version, along with Asher.
In 2004, Wilson rerecorded the song as a solo artist for his album Brian Wilson Presents Smile. It was placed as the album's closer, immediately following the track "In Blue Hawaii". Prior to its release, it was issued as a single, where "In Blue Hawaii" served as its B-side. A different issue of the single included a live version of "Good Vibrations".
|Single by Brian Wilson|
|from the album Brian Wilson Presents Smile|
|Brian Wilson singles chronology|
Brian Wilson version
I used to like the sound of the Beach Boys, but it wasn't until they began to compete with the Beatles that I felt that what they were doing was really interesting – like around Pet Sounds and "Good Vibrations" ... when they started to shed that whole surf music kind of burden and start to branch out into something that was a little more universal. ... I wanted to reproduce that era, so I just took a handful of songs at random that were all hits on the radio and that you were likely to hear wherever you went. I tried to do them as literally as I could because in the intervening 10 years, radio had changed so much. Radio had become so formatted and so structured that that whole experience was already gone.
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." The single peaked at 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles. Rundgren explained:
|Single by Todd Rundgren|
|from the album Faithful|
|Todd Rundgren singles chronology|
Todd Rundgren version
There had never been an official true stereo release of the final track until the 2012 remastered version of Smiley Smile. It has been said that not enough stems exist to 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. 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 appears on the 2012 re-issue of Smiley Smile.
In celebration of its 40th year, the Good Vibrations: 40th Anniversary Edition EP was released. The EP includes five versions of "Good Vibrations" including the original single version; various session takes; an alternate take (previously released on Rarities); the instrumental track in stereo; a live concert rehearsal recorded in August 1967, Hawaii; and the initial B-side "Let's Go Away for Awhile".
Smiley Smile marks "Good Vibrations"'s 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. It was the first single issued by the group since "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" in 1996.
|Song by The Beach Boys from the album The Smile Sessions|
|Released||October 31, 2011|
|The Smile Sessions track listing|
- Additional musicians (outtakes)
- Hal Blaine – drums
- Jimmy Bond Jr. – upright bass
- Chuck Britz – engineer
- Frank Capp – bongos, tambourine
- Al Casey – guitar
- Henry David
- Al De Lory
- Steve Douglas – saxophone
- Jesse Ehrlich
- Jim Gordon – percussion
- Billy Green – woodwind
- Sal Frohman
- Jim Horn – woodwind
- Mike Melvoin – harpsichord
- Jay Migliori – woodwind
- Tommy Morgan – harmonica, bass harmonica, Jew's harp
- Bill Pitman – guitar
- Ray Pohlman – bass guitar
- Don Randi – piano
- Lyle Ritz – upright bass
- Paul Tanner – Electro-Theremin
- Additional musicians and production staff
- Al Jardine
- Bruce Johnston
- Mike Love – co-lead vocals
- Brian Wilson – vocals, production, mixing
- Carl Wilson – lead vocals
- The Beach Boys
Credits taken from Keith Badman and AFM sheets which pertain to segments used for the single's final mix, except where otherwise noted.
The recording was nominated for numerous Grammy awards in 1966, including "Best Performance By a Vocal Group", "Best Contemporary R&B Recording (Single or Album)", "Best Contemporary R&B Recording (Vocal or Instrumental)", and "Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist(s) or Instrumentalist(s)". In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Good Vibrations" at number 6 in "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", the highest position of seven Beach Boys songs cited in the list. In 2001, the song was voted number 24 in the RIAA and NEA's listing of Songs of the Century. As of 2014, "Good Vibrations" is ranked as the number three song of all time in an aggregation of critics' lists at acclaimedmusic.net.
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".
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."
The song is acknowledged to have further developed the use of recording studios as a musical instrument. Author Domenic Priore argued that the song was 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.
"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.
Stebbins reflected that: "This signature sound would be duplicated, cloned, commercialized, and re-fabricated in songs, commercials, TV shows, movies, and elevators to the point of completely diluting the genius of the original. But 'Good Vibrations' was probably the quintessential 'sunshine pop' recording of the century." 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. Retrospectively, John Bush wrote that the single "announced the coming era of pop experimentation with a rush of riff changes, echo-chamber effects, and intricate harmonies." Tom Roland wrote that the song's "format" would later be "borrowed" by Wings ("Band on the Run"), the Beatles ("A Day in the Life"), and Elton John ("Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"). In a 1968 editorial for Jazz & Pop, Gene Sculatti prophesied:
Encouraged by the success of the song, Brian continued working on the Smile project, intending it as an entire album using the writing and production techniques devised for "Good Vibrations". "Heroes and Villains", a follow up single, continued Brian's modular recording practices, spanning nearly thirty recording sessions between May 1966 and June 1967.
When asked about the song in 1990, Paul McCartney of the Beatles responded "I thought it was a great record. It didn't quite have the emotional thing that Pet Sounds had for me. I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. It's that kind of an album for me." Pete Townshend of the Who was quoted in the 1960s 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. In an Arts Magazine issue published in 1966, Jonathan King said: "With justification, comments are being passed that 'Good Vibrations' is an inhuman work of art. Computerized pop, mechanized music. Take a machine, feed in various musical instruments, add a catch phrase, stir well, and press seven buttons. It is long and split. ... impressive, fantastic, commercial — yes. Emotional, soul-destroying, shattering — no." In the 2000s, record producer Phil Spector criticized the single for depending too much on tape manipulation, negatively referring to it as an "edit record ... It's like Psycho is a great film, but it's an 'edit film.' Without edits, it's not a film; with edits, it's a great film. But it's not Rebecca ... it's not a beautiful story."
Stebbins writes that the single "vaulted nearly every other rock act in their delivery of a Flower Power classic. It was just strange enough to be taken seriously, but still vibrant, happy, accessibly Beach Boys-esque pop." Both New Musical Express and Melody Maker gave positive reviews at the time of the single's release. Soon after, the Beach Boys were voted the number one band in the world in a readers' poll conducted by NME, ahead of the Beatles, the Walker Brothers, the Rolling Stones, and the Four Tops. Billboard speculated that this was influenced by the success of "Good Vibrations", and that "The sensational success of the Beach Boys, however, is being taken as a portent that the popularity of the top British groups of the last three years is past its peak." In a Danish newspaper, readers' polls voted Brian the winner of its "best foreign-produced recording award" for the single, its first that the publication awarded to an American.
On October 15, 1966, Billboard predicted that the single would reach the top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Good Vibrations" was the Beach Boys' third US number one hit after "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda", reaching the top of the Hot 100 in December, 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. In December 1966, the record was their first single 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.
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.
In July 1966, an ad was placed in Billboard for the Pet Sounds album which thanked the industry for the sales of their latest album, and that, "We're moved over the fact that our Pet Sounds brought on nothing but Good Vibrations." This was the first public hint of the new single. Later in the year, Brian told journalist Tom Nolan that the new Beach Boys single was "about a guy who picks up good vibrations from a girl" and that it would be a "monster." He then suggested: "It's still sticking pretty close to that same boy-girl thing, you know, but with a difference. And it's a start, it's definitely a start." Newly employed band publicist Derek Taylor is credited for originally coining the work a "pocket symphony." He promoted the single 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."
|February 17||Partial||"#1–Untitled"||Gold Star Studios||Pet Sounds session; only verse backing track in final mix|
|March 3||"Good Vibrations"||United Western Recorders||Pet Sounds session; vocal overdubs|
|March ??||"Good, Good, Good Vibrations"||?||Pet Sounds session; overdubs and early mix|
|April 9||"Good Vibrations"||Gold Star Studios||Pet Sounds session|
|May 4||?||"First chorus"|
|"Second chorus"||"First episode" in final mix|
|May 24||?||"Parts 1–4"||Sunset Sound Recorders|
|May 25||"Good Vibrations"|
|May 27||"Part C"||United Western Recorders|
|June 2 (1)||?||(Inspiration) "Parts 1–4"|
|June 2 (2)||?||(Inspiration) "Parts 1–4"|
|June 12||?||(Inspiration) "Parts 1–4"|
|June 16 (1)||"Part 1"||This session was filmed|
|June 16 (2)||"Verse"||This session was filmed|
|June 18||"Part 1"|
|August 24||"Good Vibrations"||Sunset Sound Recorders||Overdubs and early mix|
|August ??||"Good Vibrations"||CBS Columbia Square||Vocal overdubs|
|August ??||"Good Vibrations"|
|September 1||(Persuasian)||United Western Recorders|
|"New Bridge"||"Second episode" in final mix|
|September ??||?||"Good Vibrations"||Editing|
|September 12||?||"Good Vibrations"||CBS Columbia Square||Vocal overdubs; filming|
|September 21||"Good Vibrations"||Vocal and theremin overdubs; final mixdown; filming|
On September 21, Brian completed the track after Tanner added a final Electro-Theremin overdub. In 1976 he elaborated 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."
Brian recalled that before completing "Good Vibrations," he attended an early August session for the Rolling Stones song "My Obsession" at which 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, where Brian had played an early acetate record of "Good Vibrations" for McCartney. In 1976, Brian explained that before the final mixdown, he had been confronted with resistance by members of the group whom Brian declined to name. The subject of their worries and complaints was the song's "modern" sound and perceptibly extensive length. "I said no, it's not going to be too long a record, it's going to be just right. … They didn't quite understand what this jumping from studio to studio was all about. And they couldn't conceive of the record as I did. I saw the record as a totality piece." In early September the master tapes for "Good Vibrations" were stolen. Mysteriously, they reappeared inside his home two days later.
The vocals for "Good Vibrations" were recorded at CBS Columbia Square, starting on August 24 and continuing 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 to have sung 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.
One discarded alternate edit of "Good Vibrations" mastered on August 24, 1966. It included a faster bridge section, prominent fuzz bass, and additional vocals.
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According to Brian's new friend David Anderle, Brian early on considered giving "Good Vibrations" to one of the black rhythm and blues groups signed with Warner Bros. Records such as Wilson Pickett, and then at his suggestion to singer Danny Hutton. Brian considered junking the track, but after receiving encouragement from Anderle, eventually decided on it as the next Beach Boys single. In the meantime he worked on writing and recording material for the Smile project.[nb 6] The first Beach Boy to hear "Good Vibrations" in a semi-completed form was Carl Wilson, who had previously participated in rough guide vocals with Brian for the initial February mix. Following a performance 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."
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.[nb 4] 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. Some additional instruments and rough guide vocals were overdubbed 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 at this juncture, but the Electro-Theremin was present, played by its inventor Paul Tanner. It was Brian's second ever recorded use of the instrument, just three days after the Pet Sounds track "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times". Brian then placed "Good Vibrations" on hold in order to devote attention to the Pet Sounds album, which saw release on May 16. More instrumental sections for "Good Vibrations" were recorded between April and June.[nb 5] Brian then forewent additional instrumental tracking until early September, when it was decided to revisit the song's bridge section and apply Electro-Theremin overdubs.