Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Song of the Day: "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys

So, I'm thinking about starting this new thing. It might make me write here more often, hopefully everyday. Just going to toss a song I like or have been listening to a lot up with a bit of discussion what makes said song so great, or why I've been listening to it a lot, even if it isn't so great. Hey, sometimes we all listen to songs that aren't so great. Even me. 

So, recently I've become fascinated by The Beach Boys' album that only kind of was, their follow-up to Pet Sounds, Smile. The legend has it that Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown trying to make an album to top The Beatles' Revolver. Well, that's sort of true and sort of misleading. It is true that Wilson did care very deeply about topping Revolver and creating an album that could stand alongside it as a great album, but he was also in the throws of some heavy heavy psychadelic drug use and innerband turmoil. The truth was, a lot of the band members didn't particularly care for the music they were making on Smile. But the song now in question, while intended to appear in some form on Smile, was actually released as a stand along single in 1966.

The creation of "Good Vibrations" is a crazy story. Brian Wilson recorded 26 different takes of the song, which took up a reported 90 hours of magnetic tape, at four different studios. These different takes had wildly different instrumental parts. Wilson then, over the course of a few months, took the different takes and created layer upon layer of instrumental and vocal parts, using bits and pieces of each take from each instrument. It took nearly 9 months to finally complete and cost as much as 50,000 dollars. It was worth every penny.

It's such a strange song. It went to number one in the U.S. as well as the U.K., but it doesn't really sound like you'd expect a number one single to sound. The organ that begins the song is eerie, and this is underscored by the theremin that runs underneath the chorus. It is a chorus, by the way, that sounds like a train that's about to run off it's tracks. The cellos and guitars are chugging and sound as if they're about to spin out of control. It is a testament to all the players involved, but especially the rhythem section, they they were able to keep the whole thing under control as the time signature and tempos change several different times throughout the song. It is a masterful song that really captures how extraordinarily talented Wilson was, and also what a pity it was that he was never able to fully complete Smile in 1967 like he would have hoped. Who knows what kind of impact it could have had on the world of pop and rock music had it seen the late of day around the same time as Sgt. Peppers. Our conception of the Beach Boys would have been very different, that's for sure.  After the jump is a link to the "Good Vibrations" single/EP that is available at MySpace music. I'd definitely reccomend listening to the alternate versions of the song as well as the single. You really get a good idea of where the song came from and how it was made.  Great stuff.
The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" single/EP at MySpace Music

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