Gut Rumbles
 

August 21, 2004

beach boys II

I've always liked hamony singing. I've done it all my life and I always believed that a good band should have tight harmony, not just a lead singer. That's the main reason I like the very first Crosby, Stills and Nash album so much. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is exquisite.

But I've listened to the Beach Boys sing "Good Vibrations" about a dozen times since yesterday and I don't believe I've ever heard better harmony. They were one of the first groups to learn about multi-tracking vocals in a studio and they did a damn fine job of it. Just sit and LISTEN to that song some time. They have seven different things going on at once in that song and it all blends perfectly.

They've got doo-whas and bop-bops and a strong bottom ("I'm picking up good vibrations, I'm feeling those exitations...") with falsetto high parts ("Doo-whee-OOO-OOO") planted all over it. GOT-DAM!!! That's good stuff. I'm sure that it was a lot of hard work to get it just right, but it paid off.

I'll bet they had a blast recording that song.

Comments

A couple years ago NPR's All Things Considered ran a series profiling classic pop hits. If I remember the piece on "Good Vibrations" rightly, they not only put a lot of hard work into it, it was one of the most ambitious and difficult recording projects attempted up to that time. The overdubbing, the different layers, the use of instruments like the theramin, which is hellishly difficult to control, all made it a real landmark project. In fact I think they pioneered a lot of the studio tricks the Beatles got so much credit for a few years later.

Posted by: Steve Teeter on August 21, 2004 03:08 PM

And, according to the movie I saw about them, if their Dad was there, it was even worse. That guy drove 'em ALL nuts...
He came across as a real bastard.

Posted by: Stevie on August 21, 2004 04:09 PM

Even Paul McCartney said "Pet Sounds" was their inspiration to do "Sgt. Pepper"

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip on August 21, 2004 06:50 PM

"Good Vibrations" is pure pop for now people, as Nick Lowe would say. Even Lennon and McCartney had to have shook their heads when they heard that song for the first time.

The Fabs took on "Back in the USA" with great skill, but I notice they never, ever tried to fuck with "Good Vibrations".

Posted by: Velociman on August 21, 2004 07:20 PM

you should pick up the Pet Sounds box set of CD's. There's a disc with just the vocals that is mind blowing. Brian, in spite of all his problems, is one hell of an arranger and producer.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Jeff Foskett at several private house concerts over the past few years, he played with the BB road band for eleven years, filling in for Carl when he needed a rest and still plays with Brian's band, and he can cover all the guys parts and can hold his own as a solo artist, you should check out some of his stuff.

Posted by: gregor on August 21, 2004 07:49 PM

If you take a step back a little farther in time, you'll find The Lettermen really had good harmony as well. Not quite rock n roll, but mellow.

Posted by: Denise on August 22, 2004 02:34 AM

On the other hand, "In My Room" is probably one of my favorite Beach Boys songs.

Posted by: Denise on August 22, 2004 02:36 AM

I've always said "great bands are built on great vocals". Nobody goes home from a show humming a guitar solo. For an insider's look at the Beach Boys sessions, check this link:

http://abbeyrd.best.vwh.net/carolkay.htm

Carol Kaye was the bassist on these sessions. She's the most recorded studio session bassist in history. Her discography will blow you away, as will her playing. Highly recommended read.

Posted by: mike on August 22, 2004 10:58 AM

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