On the 17th February 1966 Brian Wilson, the co-founder of the Beach Boys, began the first recording session for the song Good Vibrations at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. Part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, Good Vibrations arguably established the recording studio itself as an instrument and secured the Beach Boys their first million-selling single.

The Beach Boys were recording their eleventh studio album, Pet Sounds, when the instrumental parts for the first version of the song were recorded on the 17th February. Originally logged as part of the Pet Sounds sessions, recording of Good Vibrations was put on hold while the album was completed. However, following the release of Pet Sounds a reported further 90 hours of recordings were made that were gradually edited into the three minutes 35 seconds that make up the final song.

Referred to by Wilson as a “pocket symphony”, the modular process used for Good Vibrations involved the recording and re-recording of individual sections of the song using the Wall of Sound formula, that had originally been developed by record producer Phil Spector. The sporadic sessions for instrumental sections alone lasted until August, after which the vocal parts were recorded. The final mix was completed on the 21st September, after a final Electro-Theremin overdub was added.

Finally released on the 10th October 1966, Good Vibrations reached the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It had cost up to $75,000 to produce, making it at that time the most expensive single ever recorded.

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© Scott Allsop