Good Vibrations was selected as the number 6 song in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and the RIAA named it the number 24 song OF THE CENTURY. Uploaded by wikia.com.
Between 1965 and 1967 a recording rivalry developed between Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys (Great American Things, May 16, 2009) in the U.S. and the Beatles in the U.K. The Boys had things their way before the Beatles wave swept over them. Even so, the two groups were frequently in the top 10 together – and then the Beatles released Rubber Soul.
Brian Wilson recognized the album’s groundbreaking production, which he tried to top with Pet Sounds. Lennon and McCartney then released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which inspired Wilson to create Smile. In the midst of this deluge of great music, studio recording changed forever. And “Good Vibrations” played a huge role.
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The song came into being through 17 recording sessions at four different studios. Wilson recorded elements of the song, then edited them together in a musical collage. Tony Asher wrote the original lyrics, but very little of his words made the final version (though he did come up with the words, “I’m picking up good vibrations”). Mike Love of the Beach Boys tried to turn the strange sound into a more accessible romance by adding “She’s giving me excitations.”
“Good Vibrations” is acclaimed as one of the top songs of the rock era. It made number six on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and made the top spot in Mojo’s Top 100 Records of All Time. The RIAA rated it number 24 in its list of Top Songs of the Century.
When released as a single, "God Only Knows" was on the flip side of "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which initially got more attention. Still, Mojo magazine named it the 13th best song of all time, and Rolling Stone had it as number 25. Uploaded by 24ur.com.
The Beach Boys (Great American Things, May 16, 2009) changed with the times during the sixties — or maybe, they made the times change. Known originally for surfing and car songs (“Surfer Girl” and “Little Deuce Coupe,” e.g.), the Boys – and particularly Brian Wilson — wanted to make songs with more complex structures, more unusual harmonies, different instruments. The song that led the way in this direction was “God Only Knows.”
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Brian Wilson wrote the melody and Tony Asher composed the lyrics. And they knew instantly that they had a hit on their hands. Asher bucked conventional wisdom by starting a love song with a negative: “I may not always love you.” Most producers would have insisted on a change, but Wilson embraced the innovative approach. This was also the first pop song to have “God” in the title, and this would bother me personally…except that it seems clear that this wasn’t using God’s name in vain. The singer doesn’t know what he’d do without his love, and seems to appeal to God for solace.
When released, it was on the flip side of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” another great song.Back in 1990, Paul McCartney said about “God Only Knows”: “It’s a really, really great song — it’s a big favorite of mine. I was asked recently to give my top 10 favorite songs for a Japanese radio station … I didn’t think long and hard on it but I popped that on the top of my list.” And Bono said, “The string arrangement on ‘God Only Knows’ is fact and proof of angels.” The song was named the best song of the 1960s by Pitchfork Media, the 13th best song of all time by Mojo magazine, and made number 25 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.