Study Guide

Good Vibrations Lyrics

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I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair

Quick Thought

This and other lines have led some to believe that the song is about an acid trip, which isn't exactly out of the realm of possibility given Brian Wilson's habits back then.

Deep Thought

Some have argued that "Good Vibrations" is about an acid trip. The references to color and light, a "blossom world," and even the basic concept of "good vibrations" are offered in support of this argument. Oh, and Brian Wilson did a bunch of acid in the '60s.

Wilson's use of certain drugs was extensive—they contributed to his increased mental instability and frequent absences from the group—but in his biography, Wilson claimed that he only took acid three times. Twice he suffered bad experiences, but his third and final trip, he said, was "everything it was supposed to be, four hours of enlightenment and spirituality" (source, 144).

Wilson didn't write the lyrics to "Good Vibrations" during this LSD experience, though. In fact, he didn't write the lyrics at all. But he claims to have imagined the "grand, Spector-like production" (source, 145) while on the drug. The details would have to be worked out during hundreds of hours in the studio (if he took that much acid, he'd be dead), but the drug led him to see that the song could be "the summation of my musical vision, a harmonic convergence of imagination and talent, production values and craft, songwriting and spirituality" (source, 145).

I'm pickin' up good vibrations

Quick Thought

Brian Wilson explained that his interest in vibrations was prompted by something his mother told him as a child.

Deep Thought

Brian Wilson told Rolling Stone that when he was a child his mother described vibrations to him as invisible currents or forces that could be sensed but not seen or heard. Even animals had this ability; dogs barked when they picked up "bad" vibrations. Wilson said that the entire concept frightened him, but in 1966, it helped shape what many consider his greatest song. (Source)

Mama Wilson's analysis of vibrations may have been screwy, but there was a bit of truth in her comments regarding our canine companions. In addition to their famous sense of smell, dogs also have a superior sense of hearing. Their lower range is similar to humans, but they can detect much higher frequencies than people. 

Since sound is essentially vibrations, dogs do pick up vibrations that we cannot sense. This train of thought doesn't, however, support Mrs. Wilson's conclusion that dogs bark when they pick up bad vibrations, unless you consider really high frequencies to be "bad," and that's just rude. What did those frequencies ever do to you?

Oooh, bop-bop, good vibrations

Quick Thought

The word "bop," which has been used in countless songs, was derived from the word "bebop," which describes a particular type of jazz.

Deep Thought

The word "bop" and its derivatives can be found in countless songs from the middle decades of the 20th century. Perhaps most famously, Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann wrote, "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)," which asked "who put the bop in the bop shebop shebop."

The term "bop"—or "bebop"—was originally used to describe a type of jazz that developed in the years surrounding World War II. This music was fast paced, and it incorporated more irregular rhythms than conventional jazz or swing. 

Musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are considered trendsetting figures in the development of bebop.

Ah, my my love sensation

Quick Thought

Other artists have used this line in paying tribute to the Beach Boys.

Deep Thought

In 1974, the Bay City Rollers, a Scottish pop band, recorded "Summerlove Sensation." In the song, they celebrated the coming of summer, which meant a "run in the sun" and a "walk in the sand," a "warm summer night," a "beach barbeque...and dancin' on until dawn." 

(Does this sound like Scotland to you?)

In 1980, R&B performer Loleatta Holloway released her own "Love Sensation." Her tribute to the Beach Boys was more direct (and more graphic). She sang "love sensation, oh, it's got to be at any expense, it's such a good vibration, a feeling that I know so well, well."

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