Study Guide

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations Introduction

In a Nutshell

The Beach Boys have had over 50 Hot 100 hits, but most people consider "Good Vibrations" to be chief songwriter Brian Wilson's greatest achievement. The lyrics were co-written with Mike Love, the band's lead singer, but Wilson spent months in the studio crafting the complex piece and taking the Beach Boys in a new musical direction.

Not everyone liked the new sound, though. Even some of the Boys preferred their simpler songs about surfing, sun-tanned girls, and muscle cars. They were the voice of California, and their update sunshine sound had made them as popular as the Beatles.

Despite initial reservations, "Good Vibrations" was the band's biggest hit up to that point. These "new" Beach Boys were opening brand new avenues of musical sound and production that would influence some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and they seemed poised to overthrow the Beatles as the biggest band in the world. 

And then it all came crashing down around them in a haze of drugs, depression, and mental instability. So, what exactly happened to "America's Band"?

About the Song

ArtistBeach Boys, The
Year1966
LabelCapitol
Writer(s)Brian Wilson, Mike Love
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
Musician(s)Brian Wilson (lead vocals), Carl Wilson (lead vocals, bass guitar, percussion), Mike Love (lead vocals), Dennis Wilson (back-up vocals, Hammond organ), Al Jardine (back-up vocals), Bruce Johnston (back-up vocals), Hal Blaine (drums, percussion), Jimmy Bond (upright bass), Glen Campbell (guitar), Al de Lory (tack piano), Jesse Ehrlich (cello), Jim Gordon (drums), Carol Kaye (bass guitar), Larry Knechtel (Hammond organ), Tommy Morgan (harmonica), Ray Pohlman (bass guitar), Don Randi (harpsichord), Lyle Ritz (upright bass), Paul Tanner (Electro-Theremin)
Learn to playGuitar
AlbumSmiley Smile

Music Video

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Influences on Beach Boys, The

Chuck Berry (The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." mimics Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" almost note for note. Berry was even awarded a co-writing credit for the song following litigation, although the royalties he received have always been a point of contention for Brian Wilson, who wrote the song's lyrics.)
Johnny Otis
The Four Freshmen
The Ventures
The Beatles
Perry Como
Rosemary Clooney

Influenced by Beach Boys, The

Paul McCartney
Jan and Dean
Tom Petty
Velvet Underground
R.E.M.

Good Vibrations Resources

Albums

Pet Sounds (1966)
After ten previous albums about surf, tanned girls, and Southern California culture, Pet Sounds marked a turn for the Beach Boys' sound.

Smiley Smile (1967)
"Good Vibrations" was initially released as a single, but here's the album it landed on in 1967.

Images

The Beach Boys
Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Brian Wilson.

Brian Wilson
Here's Brian Wilson working his studio magic. 

Brian Wilson and Eugene Landy
Here's the songwriter with his controversial therapist.

Charles Manson
Crazy story: Brian and Dennis Wilson tried to advance the maniac's music career.

Websites

Beach Boy Fansite
This is one of many fan sites devoted to America's Band, and it provides a decent timeline of the group's history.

Brian Wilson Official Site
This site includes a decent bio and information on Wilson's new band.

Theremins and Tannerins
If you want to know the difference between a Theremin and a Tannerin, check out this site.

Video & Audio

"Good Vibrations" Music Video
The song wasn't placed on an album until the 1967 release of Smiley Smile.