In November 1966, British fans were getting excitations from the Beach Boys. The Californian masters of pop harmony and invention had visited the UK Top 10 four times before, and were on a roll from the success of “God Only Knows,” when Brian Wilson’s new “little pocket symphony” “Good Vibrations” gave them their first No.1 single in Britain on the 17th of the month.
The famously epic recording sessions for “Good Vibrations” had been completed in early September at Western Recorders and Gold Star Studios, just before “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” gave them their latest US Top 10 hit. They had begun way back on February 17, as Wilson strove to find exactly the right sonic furniture for the production over the period of no fewer than 19 different studio dates.
Noted on the first union log of studio work simply as “Untitled,” the track would become Brian’s crowning glory. He later remembered his obsession with outdoing his production hero Phil Spector. “I said: ‘This is going to be better than ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.’”
The Beach Boys unseat the Four Tops
In October 1966, the group launched their own Brother Records, headed up by David Anderle, the Californian A&R executive much involved in the group’s career and that of Frank Zappa. By early November, with “Good Vibrations” climbing the charts, the Beach Boys were in the UK for a seven-date tour. They played shows twice nightly and were supported by the likes of Scottish pop fireball Lulu and David & Jonathan, aka British songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.
The promotion around that UK tour, and the rightful sense of awe among fans and media at the new level of creative brilliance of “Good Vibrations,” produced an unstoppable effect. Another all-time classic from 1966, the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” had been Britain’s favorite single for three weeks, before the Beach Boys took up residency at the chart summit for a fortnight. The track stayed in the Top 10 for seven weeks.
The group would continue to visit that Top 10 over the next 20 years, on a total of eight occasions, but only once more would they hit No.1, when “Do It Again” cast a glow of surfing nostalgia over the British bestsellers and hit the chart peak in 1968.
Buy or stream “Good Vibrations” on the Endless Summer compilation.