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Wild But True Stories From The Making Of The Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations'

Updated January 9, 2020 6.4k views15 items

The Beach Boys' 1966 "Good Vibrations" was an innovative single that broke new sonic and musical ground. The song was not included on any of the band's albums and became notable for its complex composition from bandleader Brian Wilson, layered arrangement, and costly production. At the time, Brian Wilson's "Good Vibrations" was one of the most expensive songs ever recorded, thanks to dozens of studio sessions in several studios with the top session musicians in the country. In other words, making "Good Vibrations" was no simple task. 

Despite its ambitious nature, "Good Vibrations" became a major hit for the Beach Boys, and it set the standard for what was supposed to become Wilson's next project, the ill-fated Smile album. Making the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" was a massive, legendary undertaking - one that many don't realize has a complicated story behind it. 

  • Brian Wilson Was Inspired By A Dog Barking At Him

    As the story goes, Brian Wilson was inspired to write "Good Vibrations" thanks to a childhood memory of a dog barking at him. His mother told him to act unafraid towards the dog because they "pick up the vibes." That memory triggered the lyrical concept of "good vibes," which was expanded upon by lyricist Tony Asher.

    Asher later recalled:

    I remember when he began to play this little riff, which he said he had been working on. He was saying something like, you know, "Good, good vibes, I get good vibes," or something like that.

    And I kept saying to him, "You know, it really ought to be vibrations."

  • Wilson Was Influenced By Stephen Foster's 'Camptown Races'

    Wilson Was Influenced By Stephen Foster's 'Camptown Races'
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Wilson was heavily influenced by the composer Stephen Foster and his compositions - including the staple "Camptown Races" - when writing "Good Vibrations."

    "[Foster] was a big influence on me, especially the sound of 'Gotta keep those lovin' good vibrations happenin' with her.' I never would have thought of that myself," he later recalled in an interview.

  • The Band Recorded For 36 Hours

    The Band Recorded For 36 Hours
    Photo: ABC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The band that played on "Good Vibrations," which included members of the legendary session collective The Wrecking Crew, reportedly recorded the music on the song for 36 hours, as part of over a dozen studio sessions at numerous facilities. Carol Kaye, who played electric bass on the song alongside upright bassist Lyle Ritz, recalled how the initial marathon sessions were structured.

    "He did the very first take on that with Ray Pohlman at Goldstar and scrapped that. And the other 12 dates I'm playing on - that's 36 hours - he did not change that bass part all during that time," Kaye said

  • The Song Cost $75,000 To Record

    The groundbreaking recording ended up costing a whopping $75,000 to complete - which adds up to around $550,000 today.

    With 17 sessions taking place over the course of several months, it's no wonder that the song was so expensive to create. It's still perhaps the most expensive song ever recorded.