♫ Good Vibrations ♫

For some reason, my mood is more upbeat tonight than it has been for a while, despite the low growling in my throat from the behaviour of he-who-shall-not-be-named today!  And so, I went in search of an upbeat song to play.

I was never a huge fan of the Beach Boys in my youth, generally preferring something a bit deeper, something with soul or meaning.  But, that’s not to say I didn’t listen to them and have most of their more popular songs committed to memory.  This one seemed appropriate for tonight.

According to Beach Boys co-founder, Brian Wilson …

“My mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word ‘vibrations’ – to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn’t bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations.”

Released on October 10, 1966, the single was an immediate critical and commercial hit, topping record charts in several countries including the US, UK, and even Malaysia!

Brian Wilson worked on this obsessively. At the time, he stayed home and wrote music while the rest of the band toured. Wilson was just starting a very bizarre phase of his life where he would spend long periods in bed and work in a sandbox. During this period, many considered him a genius because of the groundbreaking songs and recording techniques he came up with.

This was recorded over a two-month period using top Los Angeles session musicians – the Beach Boys didn’t play any instruments on the track. About 90 hours of studio time and 70 hours of tape were used, and at least 12 musicians played on the sessions. It’s hard to know whose performances ended up on the record, but some of the musicians involved were Glen Campbell (lead guitar), Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (organ) and Al de Lory (piano).

Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love wrote the lyrics for this song, which he told us were “basically a flowery poem.” The song seems to describe a really good acid trip, and while there is nothing specifically in the lyrics about drugs, Love admits that the psychedelic vibe was an influence on his words.

“It was this flowery power type of thing. Scott McKenzie wrote “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” and there were love-ins and all that kind of thing starting to go on.

So the track, the music of ‘Good Vibrations,’ was so unique and so psychedelic in itself. Just the instrumental part of it alone was such a departure from what we have done, like ‘Surfin’ USA’ and ‘California Girls’ and ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’ all of which I had a hand in writing. I wanted to do something that captured this feeling of the track and the times, but also could relate to people. Because I thought that the music was such a departure that who knows how well it would relate to Beach Boys fans at that time.

The one thing that I figured is an absolute perennial is the boy/girl relationship, the attraction between a guy and a girl. So I came up with that hook part at the chorus. It didn’t exist until I came up with that thought. Which is ‘I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s giving me the excitations.’ ‘Excitations’ may or may not be in Webster’s Dictionary, however, it rhymes pretty well with ‘good vibrations.’ It was kind of a flower power poem to suit the times and complement the really amazingly unique track that Cousin Brian came up with.”

Good Vibrations
The Beach Boys

I-I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me the excitations (oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (good vibrations, oom bop bop)
She’s giving me the excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (oom bop bop)
She’s giving me the excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (oom bop bop)
She’s giving me the excitations (excitations)

Close my eyes, she’s somehow closer now
Softly smile, I know she must be kind
When I look in her eyes
She goes with me to a blossom world

I’m pickin’ up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations (oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations (good vibrations, oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)
Good, good, good, good vibrations (oom bop bop)
She’s giving me excitations (excitations)

Ah, ah, my my, what elation
I don’t know where but she sends me there
Oh, my my, what a sensation
Oh, my my, what elation
Oh, my my, what

Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’ with her
Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’ with her
Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’

Good, good, good, good vibrations (oom bop bop)
She’s giving me the excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations

Na na na na na, na na na
Na na na na na, na na na (bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)
Do do do do do, do do do (bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)
Do do do do do, do do do (bop bop-bop-bop-bop, bop)

Songwriters: Brian Douglas Wilson / Mike E. Love
Good Vibrations lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

33 thoughts on “♫ Good Vibrations ♫

  1. Jill, Brian Wilson is a song-writing genius. The album “Pet Sounds” was their attempt to respond to The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper.” The song you highlight, in particular, was such an attempt. Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell were part of studio band The Wrecking Crew which performed the music on countless albums. They played much better than those who were in the bands cutting the records. If you ever see old Glen Campbell performances with his guests on his TV show, he can play some guitar. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • You always amaze me with your knowledge, my friend! I thought I remembered that Glen Campbell had his own television show at one time! I’ll have to go check out some clips if I ever get my head above water! Thanks for adding some background here!

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      • Jill, thanks. Both Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash had TV shows. The quality of the musical guests was high and each host would play with them. PBS has a retro compilations of the musical guests of each show. Cash was highly respected by musicians of many genres, as was Campbell. Jim Webb, who wrote several songs for Campbell (he called them is geography songs – Galveston, Wichita Lineman, By the time I get to Phoenix), did a tribute tour after Campbell passed. Webb also wrote MacArthur Park, which Campbell did not sing. On the show, Webb would play that song with footage of Campbell playing a mean guitar. It is said Campbell gave guitar lessons to a young guy name Eddie van Halen. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow! Now you have fascinated both me and my daughter, who is also a music guru, but neither of us were aware of all this. I have to admit that I didn’t even know Glenn Campbell was dead. Thanks for the enlightenment. I wonder … I’ll check and see if there is perchance a YouTube clip of Webb playing the song with the footage of Campbell in the background, for I’d love to see that. I always liked Glenn Campbell, though I was not much a fan of country music. Glenn Campbell, John Denver, and oddly enough, Willy Nelson were favourites, though.

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  2. I wasn’t so much into the Beach boys then or US music. I was more into Brit Rock/Pop. Clapton was (still is) God. The Troggs, Jeff Beck, The Stones or Beatles. Then came the Doors, Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Woodstock, Credence, et al, and I reconsidered.
    Today? That song is a monument. Thanks Jill.
    (I did wear sideburns like that in the 70’s though…) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Entire chapters in books on rock music have been devoted to the making of ‘Good Vibrations’. If there was ever a song that summed up the ideals as to what folk thought the 1960s West Coast Psychedelic/Flower scene should (repeat that word…should) have been about this was it.
    It would be another 10-ish years before a song equal to its scope and depth would arise ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
    Very good choice Jill
    (Let us not discuss Scott McKenzie’s offering….. I might offend some folk’s memories)

    Liked by 2 people

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