It was 50 years ago today, on October 10th, 1966, that the Beach Boys released their masterpiece Good Vibrations. It hit number one for one week exactly two months later (December 10th to 16th, 1966).
“Good Vibrations was bandleader Brian Wilson’s first attempt at a “modular” recording approach, which pieced together many different musical sections to form a constantly changing musical landscape. The song was also unique for its choice of lead instruments, which included flutes, cellos, and a version of a theremin, called a tannerin, which provided the song’s eerie “woo woo” sound.
Wilson recorded the track over a series of months, using over 90 hours of tape and dozens of session musicians at several different Los Angeles recording studios. The song cost between $75,000 and $100,000 to record — an astonishing amount for 1966. Good Vibrations was such an immediate hit that it reportedly sold 230,000 copies in the first four days of its release and went on to become the group’s first million-selling single.
The song was originally begun during the group’s 1966 Pet Sounds sessions, with music by Wilson and lyrics by his then-collaborator, Tony Asher. Wilson continued to tinker with the song’s melody and production, but all without a permanent set of lyrics. Wilson’s first cousin and bandmate Mike Love asked to take a crack at the lyrics as he had done for the Beach Boys’ two other Number One hits, 1964’s I Get Around and 1965’s Help Me, Rhonda.”
Hear Brian Wilson and Al Jardine talk about making Good Vibrations: