Behind the Hit- Good Vibrations
Brian Wilson's "Pocket Symphony" inspired by his mom..
Brian Wilson told Rolling Stone magazine: "My mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn't really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word 'vibrations' - to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn't bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations."
At the time, this was the most expensive pop song ever recorded. It cost $40,000 to make.
Brian Wilson worked on this obsessively. At the time, he stayed home and wrote music while the rest of the band toured. Wilson was just starting a very bizarre phase of his life where he would spend long periods in bed and work in a sandbox. During this period, many considered him a genius because of the groundbreaking songs and recording techniques he came up with.
This was recorded over a 2 month period. About 90 hours of studio time and 70 hours of tape were used. Because so much tape was recorded for this, there are many alternate versions.
Wilson recorded this with session musicians, not his fellow Beach Boys. Glen Campbell played lead guitar.
Some of the unusual sounds were produced using a Theremin; a strange instrument that used electric current to produce sound. It was played by moving the hand across the electric field, and was very hard to control.
Wilson called this a "Pocket Symphony."
Wilson started writing this while recording The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album. Once the album was finished, he focused on this song. Wilson was not happy about the poor reviews critics gave Pet Sounds, which today is considered a landmark record, so he worked even harder on this.
This was recorded in fragments - 6 different LA studios were used in the recording process, and tape from four of these studios was used in the final cut of the track. It was the first pop song pieced together from parts. In the next few years, The Beatles did a lot of this, as they took various unfinished songs they had written and combined them to make one.
Most of The Beach Boys songs featured the vocals of either Mike Love or Brian Wilson, but Carl Wilson was the lead singer on this. Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson was initially tagged to sing the lead vocal but eventually brother Carl was chosen. Dennis claimed to have played the organ on the "na na na na na na" build up.
This was the beginning of what was going to be an album called “Smile”. Wilson recorded the album in about 50 sessions, but it was never released. Brian Wilson finally went back and re-recorded the complete album. When it was released in 2004 it was an instant success and was considered by many critics to top even Wilson’s masterpiece “pet Sounds”
This was the last US #1 hit for The Beach Boys until "Kokomo" went to #1 22 years later. This is the longest anyone has gone between #1 hits.