The Best Vibrations For Forty Years

Today’s record review will be a bit different because it is a very special day. The record is Good Vibrations, possibly the best known record by the band, and the only one that charted #1 in the both the UK and USA. It was released exactly 40 years ago today on 10 October 1966, and was backed by the Pet Sounds instrumental, Let’s Go Away For Awhile (Wendy was the UK B-side). So great tunes on the flipside but today is all about the A-side….

The genius of Good Vibrations is that is managed to be both a groundbreaking and experimental record, and a massive commercial hit. The song reflected the modular approach that Brian wanted to take to his music as a follow-up to Pet Sounds (the gestation of the song was during those sessions), and it is amazing how seamless the various sections are. The other fascinating aspect of the record is the vast amount of different instrumentation used, including the eerie theremin and cello, distorted to emulate a fuzz guitar.

Good Vibrations was the high point of the Beach Boys in terms of commercial success and mass appeal- in the UK their popularity was close to, if not greater, than the Beatles- in the USA, they were clearly one of the few acts that had survived, and indeed thrived, during Beatlemania as the chart success showed. The modular approach which had worked (although it needed great effort) for one chart-topping single proved frustrating when applied to a whole album (which took almost 40 years to put together..) plus a million other factors conspired to knock the group from their commercial pinnacle. However, today, let’s not worry about what happened afterwards…let’s celebrate this very special record and moment in the band’s history.

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