I’m picking up Good Vibrations….
So let’s think of classic, enduring, compelling songs from the rock or pop canon. What comes to mind? “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles is certainly on anyone’s list as would be “the Abbey Road Medley.” Certainly “Bohemian Rhapsody” is heralded for the complex arrangement, ambitious production, and we’ve all heard the legend of there being so many overdubs that the tape became so thin in parts that they could see through it. We can go on with tracks like “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin and so forth.
There’s one song thought that I seldom hear mentioned by even the most refined music fans and connoisseurs: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys.
The song pushed the boundaries of music as it existed in October 1966. During the week the Beach Boys released its monumental song, this is what the top five hits on the Billboard charts:
- Cherish – The Association
- Reach Out I’ll Be There – Four Tops
- 96 Tears – ? & The Mysterians
- Black is Black – Los Bravos
- Beauty is Only Skin Deep – The Temptations
The week after looked almost the same except Los Bravos and The Temptations were bumped by The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five.
Brian Wilson’s “pocket symphony” was built upon a boldly unique arrangement that stood apart from conventional pop music with its ascending and descending patterns, key shifts, and tape splices. Far from the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/out, “Good Vibrations” was assembled as much as it was written. With no digital workstations or MIDI instruments with which to work, Brian spent months recording and producing across multiple studios using The Wrecking Crew and the Beach Boys. After each session, he took test pressings home where he had several turntables set up in order to shuffle the records around in different orders in hopes of unlocking The Arrangement. It took over 90 hours of tape to produce the single, which of course was edited down a bit. The ambiguous lyrics are a blend of pop foundational “boy likes girl” musings framed within the growing fascination with psychedelic new age interpretations of The Unified Field theory and his mother’s thoughts on how animals can pick up on humans’ vibrations.
I could go on but I’ll just say this: listen, really listen, to the song. (I prefer the one with the “hum be dah” section that was not featured in the single.) Scrape away whatever preconceived notions you may have about the Beach Boys and for god’s sake erase that insipid Sunkist commercial from your mind.
“Good Vibrations” stands apart from everything before it and led the world into what would come after.
You guys listen to “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin much lately?
I adore it. As my friend David Elbert of Fake Believe and The Glass recently mentioned, “It makes me happy.” From the “aww baby” that Plant enters the song with to that classic and eye-crossing Bonham shuffle or boogie or shugie or whatever the hell he’s playing to that whistle he blows during that amazing crescendo leading into the guitar solo, everything about this song puts a smile on my face. If you haven’t spun that record lately, you need to do it…especially during these hot summer days.
Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits
My son and I have been listening to a lost gem. Back in 1995 MCA records released Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits. I bought this album when it came out because it had almost every contemporary artist that I was digging. Matthew Sweet rips through “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” Juliana Hatfield and Belly’s Tanya Donelly do “Josie and the Pussycats.” (Man…when Ms. Hatfield sings “huuury hurry. Rrrrrooowwwr!” The album also features the Ramones’ take on “Spider-Man,” the Violent Femmes’ “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” and on and on. Practically everyone is on here. Oliver’s current favorite is Liz Phair and Material Issue killing it on “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana).”
The album is out of print but copies can be gotten on eBay and the tracks can be heard on YouTube. Sadly, it is not on any of the streaming platforms, at least not on Google, Amazon Prime, or Spotify. I encourage everyone to check this album out though. There are fantastic performances on every track and the fun everyone is having just explodes through the speakers.
That’s it for today. Let’s slug through another week.
Be Well and Kind,