Composer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Wilson, leader of US pop group the Beach Boys, began recording the single that would later become accepted as the group’s greatest achievement, Good Vibrations, on this day in 1966.
Representing a huge step forward from the band’s surfing-inspired output of the early 1960s, the song – and the album that preceded it, Pet Sounds – marked out Wilson as one of the most innovative composer-producers in pop, and the band as rivals to the Beatles in global popularity.
Wilson had given up playing live with the Beach Boys during 1965 in order to immerse himself in songwriting and recording, producing songs for the album involving symphonic arrangements, complex vocal harmonies, and unusual instrumentation and structure.
He would record small sections of music, edit them together, re-record and overdub onto them and then re-edit, a novel modular approach that would imbue his songs – and this single in particular - with a sound never heard before in popular music.
Inspired by the idea that dogs will bark at people who give off bad ‘vibrations’, Wilson composed the music and basic theme of the song – turning it into a positive experience based on the ‘good vibes’ of the burgeoning hippy movement - while his cousin and bandmate Mike Love finished off the lyric.
Featuring an array of off-beat instruments - not least an electro-theremin used to give a musical sense of the vibrations of its title - and dense vocal overdubbing, Wilson’s ‘pocket symphony’ began recording at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles and would take seven months to complete.
It became the band’s third US number one single, their first to top the charts in the UK, and their first to sell over a million copies. Now considered one of the greatest singles of all time, it is also credited with pushing the boundaries of pop and inspiring ‘progressive’ rock.