The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’: Masterpiece

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1966 was a watershed year for the Beach Boys with the release of the album – Pet Sounds – that’s often referred to as Brian Wilson’s masterpiece.

“Good Vibrations” was recorded with the Los Angeles-based musicians known as the Wrecking Crew across several sessions at four Hollywood studios between February and September 1966. The song was released on October 10, 1966.

The single debuted at a rather pedestrian #83 on Oct. 22. However, one week later, it jumped to #45. On Nov. 5, its third week on the chart, it was already at #9. Two months after its debut, it reached #1 on December 10, 1966.

The top 10 singles on Nov. 5, 1966

The Beach Boys and Capitol/UMe celebrated the golden milestone with the worldwide release of “Good Vibrations” 50th Anniversary edition, a 12-inch sunburst vinyl EP, on October 7, 2016. (It’s available here.)

Per the announcement: “’Good Vibrations’ was a revelation upon its release, wowing musicians, critics and music fans and rocketing to the top of singles charts around the world. A crown jewel of popular music, ‘Good Vibrations’ has been called a ‘pocket symphony’, with its still-innovative production, lush, layered arrangements and range of instruments, including the world’s most celebrated use of the theremin.”

Watch members of the Wrecking Crew discuss their session work on the song

Related: The #1 singles of 1966

Carl Wilson, who died on February 6, 1998, from lung cancer, was the lead vocalist on the song. Mike Love is credited as co-lead vocalist. Have a listen…

Brian Wilson talked to Best Classic Bands about 1966. For him, Pet Sounds represents part of a continuum, the latest development in his evolution as an artist. By the time the album was released he was deeply involved in perfecting his next masterpiece, “Good Vibrations,” which he’d hoped to include on the album but continued to fine-tune for months. “I decided to experiment with a new kind of music,” Wilson says today about Pet Sounds. “I was young and creative and we really did good. I’m glad that people still like the album. It makes me proud.”

Related: Our interview with Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine

When Brian Wilson tours, tickets are available here. Beach Boys tickets are available here and here.

The Beach Boys hold Billboard’s record as the top-selling American band for albums and singles, and they are also the American group with the most Billboard Top 40 chart hits (36). “Good Vibrations” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame® in 1994.

The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and are recipients of The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.

Related: Meet the Wrecking Crew

Best Classic Bands Staff

7 Comments so far

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  1. steve b
    #1 steve b 11 December, 2019, 10:22

    Mike Love is not the beach boys and I wouldnt go see his version.Anyone could have done his part with the original band He would have been unknown if not for brian and carl

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 11 December, 2019, 12:07

      Gotta disagree. His distinctive lead vocals and songwriting with Brian were integral to their sound. As much as I love Brian, the Beach Boys were more than the Wilson brothers. Yes, even Al Jardine was essential!

      Reply this comment
    • fred
      fred 15 December, 2020, 14:57

      pumping gas somewhere

      Reply this comment
    • v2787
      v2787 10 October, 2023, 17:09

      You are totally correct. Love is the most overrated front guy in rock ‘n roll history. He’s an average singer at best, a boring stage presence, and (by all accounts) a complete jerk of a human being. (By the way, I’ve seen Love’s current version of the “Beach Boys,” and the band itself is wonderful. Those guys can really play and sing those great BB songs. Love is simply cashing the checks. He’s boring to watch and is a marginal singer, but the musicians are excellent.)

      Reply this comment
  2. Timflyte
    #2 Timflyte 11 December, 2020, 20:18

    I agree w Jeff on this. Try singing Mike’s bass vocal . its not singing the melody low, but is all over the place. Plus many times after singing the bass part he had to return to the melody line. Brian was fortunate he had 4 other guys that could sing the parts he taught them ( 5 once Bruce joined in ). That in itself says as much about Brian as it says about the abilities of the others. I’ve been in many bands and its not easy finding guys that can sing in pitch or sing what they’re suppose to sing. What makes the Beach Boys such a great band is all of them had talent. I’ve seen live many times since 1979…great times. Mike & Bruce show now is very entertaining. If people want to get out and hear some good music its a very fun time.

    Reply this comment
  3. v2787
    #3 v2787 10 October, 2022, 19:24

    I just saw the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston version of the band. I have no idea what Bruce was singing, because I certainly never heard anything from him. Mike Love was…well, Mike Love. He’s a jerk and we all know it. But the band itself was wonderful. Those guys can really sing and play Brian’s great songs to perfection. And Brian Eichenberger sings Brian’s falsetto stuff tremendously well. When you know and can sing along to every song, that’s pretty cool. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that Tower of Power and the Temptations were the opening acts.) What a fun evening!

    Reply this comment
  4. Da Mick
    #4 Da Mick 11 October, 2022, 18:26

    It’s really kind of a tragedy that at this late hour there has to be two bands playing the music of the Beach Boys, especially since the remaining original members were actually able to get together for their 50th anniversary CD and tour but were then unable to continue together. That said, I know that Mike Love’s band has some great musicians and vocalists, and I’m sure they pull those songs off really well. But frankly, I take exception to them calling themselves the Beach Boys, as they certainly are not, especially when you consider that founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine are out playing concerts with an orchestra doing the same thing to perfection. As might be expected for their ages, none of the original Beach Boys is able to do much anymore and have to rely on these great musicians and singers to keep this music alive. But that being said doesn’t it seem that much more ridiculous that there needs to be two camps doing this? I’m so appreciative of these younger folks, including Jardine’s son, that are performing this music to perfection. The Brian Wilson shows I’ve seen are magical and very emotional for an age-old fan. It just seems like, at this point in time, these two camps could get together and just be The Beach Boys for real, basically standing up there while the kids play the music.

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