‘Good Vibrations’: When The Beach Boys Gave Us Excitations

‘Should hit hard and fast,’ wrote Billboard of a song that helped to define the 1960s.

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Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

What do the Beach Boys have in common with the Dave Clark 5, Petula Clark, and BB King? They may not seem like the most obvious musical bedfellows, but the thing they shared in common was that they all had new entries on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 1966. The Beach Boys’ song? It was only “Good Vibrations.”

In its October 15 issue that year, Billboard had predicted that the daringly unusual single had top 20 potential. “Penned by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, group has sure-fire hit in this off-beat and intriguing rhythm number,” said its review. “Should hit hard and fast.” They were right, if not immediately.

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The song would become one of the truly classic pop singles of all time, but of the 17 titles that made their first appearance on that new chart, “Good Vibrations” was only the fourth highest arrival, at No. 81. It was beaten by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Look Through My Window” at 65, Petula Clark’s “Who Am I” at 70 and the Sandpipers’ version of “Louie, Louie” at 74. Further down, the Dave Clark 5 took their bow with “Nineteen Days” and BB King with “Don’t Answer The Door.”

But a week later, “Good Vibrations” had overtaken all three of the singles that had debuted above it, racing to No. 38, then again at top speed to 17, 4, 2, then 2 again, then 2 again… and, on December 10, just as it looked as if the song might end in runner-up spot, it made that final vault to No. 1. By then, it had also topped the UK chart for a fortnight, starting on November 19.

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As American Songwriter wrote: “At first, ‘Good Vibrations’ was not well received by critics who expected more sunshine pop from the band, but those opinions quickly changed. Since then, outlets like Rolling Stone have gone on to say that ‘Good Vibrations’ is one of the best and most significant rock’n’roll songs of the 20th century.”

In an interview for that article, co-writer Love said: “We felt it was completely unique and avant garde. It was totally different. In fact, Cousin Brucey, who was the #1 DJ in America at the time on ABC in New York City said when he first heard ‘Good Vibrations’ he didn’t like it. But he got to like it. Because it was so unlike ‘California Girls’ and ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ and ‘Surfin’ USA’ and ‘Help Me, Rhonda’ and all that. So, it took some getting used to. But, it certainly caught on and it was appropriate for the time. It was our psychedelic anthem.”

Listen to “Good Vibrations” as you’ve never heard it before on The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.



  1. Jim Pauloski

    October 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I first heard “Good Vibrations” when it was played on WABC radio in New York 45 years ago. I didn’t care for it. It had to grow on me. Now, it’s one of my favorite Beach Boys song, and it’s a classic in its own right.

  2. Helen Brandsgard

    October 23, 2014 at 2:26 am

    I love all the Beach Boys, and I would love to sometime meet them.Of course I would like to have a talk with Mike if it would be possible sometime in the near future. I wish all of u good luck in everything u do

  3. george wilson

    October 24, 2014 at 2:09 am

    I bought the Good Vibrations single the Monday after the Beach Boys played it Saturday night at the University of Michigan Homecoming Concert. Mike Love said “this will be the second night we tried it”.. This performance can actually be heard on the “Sessions”, the 5th CD in the Beach Boys box set.

    • uDiscover

      October 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Very cool, George!

  4. Major Foe-Parr

    October 24, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I first heard it in about 1976, I was twelve years old. I was transfixed, stunned and awestruck for the whole three minutes plus, from beginning to exultant end. I have not been the same since, ever. Music began for me that day. I became hooked when a friend said ”Those Beach Boys all have beards and live in California, they go surfing. We have some of their albums…”

  5. Dawn Thompson

    October 24, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Still have the tape in my car and I am 74 years old

  6. ron edgington

    December 4, 2014 at 2:26 am

    the best band ever to come out of the USA, by far…

  7. Ralph Jr Andejeski

    December 11, 2014 at 1:43 am

    “Good Vibrations ” and “I Am A Rock,” by Simon and Garfunkel were the first two pieces of music I ever purchased. I was 11 years old at the time. “Good Vibrations ” was one of the longest playing 45 singles back then; if not the longest. Quite simply, it’s a masterpiece.

  8. David Young

    December 11, 2015 at 2:27 am

    There have been some truly great songwriters and singers. But the decade of the early 1960’s to early 70’s produced music like no other era. 50 years later “Good Vibrations” still resounds with tight harmony and fabulous rifts of music. Great stuff.

  9. May Vincent

    December 11, 2015 at 8:39 am

    My first LP and my all time favourite was Good Vibrations.Still feel goose pimply when listen to tracks.Promised my nephew my copy as he loves them too.Thanks Beach Boys for giving me so much pleasure over the years.Im a young pensioner and still bopping.

  10. patsy

    December 14, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Love the Beach Boys still have my records/ album’s. Would love to see them in concert again!

  11. Joe Bennett

    October 10, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Bought single Readings Record store,Battersea,
    London.saw them live at Tooting Granada,London.
    November 1966.

  12. Joseph Harnett

    October 11, 2017 at 5:41 am

    I first heard on the radio and knew it was different when it faded out and came back with the chorus i thought thats cool one of my favorite Beach Boy songs

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