It was on this day, October 22, 1966, The Beach Boy’s ‘“Good Vibrations’ made its debut on the US singles chart. Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, the track was recorded over several month’s in four different Los Angeles studios. The recording engineer would later say that the last take sounded exactly like the first, six months earlier. The record would reach No.1 on the US charts in December 1966.
Characterized by its complex soundscapes, episodic structure and subversions of pop music formula’s, it was the most expensive single ever recorded at the time of its release. “Good Vibrations” later became widely acclaimed as one of the finest and most important works of the rock era.
The making of “Good Vibrations” was unprecedented for any kind of recording. Building upon his approach for Pet Sounds, Wilson recorded a surplus of short, interchangeable musical fragments with his band mates 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. Band publicist Derrick Taylor dubbed the unusual work a “pocket symphony“. It helped develop the use of the studio as an instrument and heralded a wave of pop experimentation and the onset of psychedelic and progressive rock. The track featured a novel mix of instruments, including jaw harp and Electro-Theremin, and although the latter is not a true theremin, the song’s success led to a renewed interest and sales of theremins and synthesizers.
Good Vibrations” received a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Group performance in 1966 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994. The song was voted number one in Mojo‘s “Top 100 Records of All Time” and number six on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time“, and it was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll“. In later years, the song has been cited as a forerunner to the Beatles‘ “A Day in the Life” (1967) and Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975). A 1976 cover version by Todd Rundgren peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beach Boys followed up “Good Vibrations” with another single pieced together from various sections, “Heroes and Villains” (1967), but it was far less successful.
Let’s listen again, like it’s the first time! ( Don’t miss the “Lost studio footage”)