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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good Vibrations

"My mother used to tell me about vibrations", Brian Wilson once said in an interview. "I really didn't understand too much what that meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word 'vibrations' ". He was remembering how his mother, Audree, was telling him about the effect vibrations had on dogs and people. "To think that invisible feelings, invisible vibrations existed, scared me to death. But she talked about how dogs could pick up vibrations from people; they would bark at some people and not bark at others. And the same thing happened with people. And so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations."

I defy anyone to listen to The Beach Boys perform "Good Vibrations" and not feel better or uplifted afterwards. What a great song! I had the joy of hearing the song performed live about two years ago when Brian Wilson visited Melbourne, Australia with his Smile tour. Brilliant just doesn't cover it.

Good Vibrations was originally composed during the Pet Sounds sessions. Wilson first enlisted the help of Pet Sounds lyricist Tony Asher for help in putting words to the idea. Beach Boys frontman Mike Love supplied the final version around August 24, 1966.

Wilson recorded the song in sections, at different studios, in order to capture the sound he heard in his head. The production of the song is reported to have spanned seventeen recording sessions at four different recording studios, and used over 90 hours of magnetic recording tape. He is credited with developing the use of the recording studio as an instrument. Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and dozens of top studio musicians, recorded and re-recorded seemingly unrelated musical and vocal sections for the song, then edited and mixed these sections into a 3 minute 35 second pop masterpiece.

Some of the unusual sounds employed have been credited to the use of a Theremin-like instrument called "The Box". It was built and played by a Dr. Paul Tanner. A Theremin is a strange instrument that uses electric current to produce sound. It is played by moving a hand near an aerial involving an electric field and is very hard to control. You have heard them used in all those old science fiction movies. "Paul's Box", as it became known, was used on several Hollywood productions and was included in the 1960's TV show "My Favourite Martian" (the sound of Martin's antennas raising).

When Dr. Tanner felt it was time to retire his "box" it was given to a hospital in Santa Monica, California, because they were interested in using it for hearing tests. The box had a range of tones that would extend outside of the upper and lower limits of human hearing. Years later Dr. Tanner checked back with the hospital to find out what had happened to "Paul's Box". It had unfortunately been destroyed in the earthquake of 1971!

"Good Vibrations" was released as a single on October 10, 1966 (backed by the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile"). It was the band's third U.S. number one hit, the other two being "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda". This song also became The Beach Boys first British chart-topper.

Music seems to be therapeutic to many of us. It can be expressive, uplifting, energizing and empowering. I know for a fact that if you want to lift heavier weights and perform more repetitions than usual during a workout - put on some music. It works every time! When my wife plays her grand piano for a while it's not too long before our dog settles down nearby to listen. Our daughter once earned some money to help cover her university costs by acting as a Musical Therapist (she is a violinist) at a home for the elderly. The music helped to calm and to heal. Some Quantum Scientists believe that music is the most important force in existence and could prove to contain the answers to life.

So next time all the vibrations around you seem to be of a negative nature, empower yourself, take action, take my suggestion, and try some "Good Vibrations".

4 Brian Wilson Quotes:

"Beware the lollipop of mediocrity; lick it once and you'll suck forever."

"I'm not a genius. I'm just a hard-working guy."

"I've never written one note or word of music simply because I think it will make money."

"A voice or a song can be so comforting to someone who really needs it."

Buy the book: "The beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio"

Buy the CD: "The Sounds Of Summer - The Very Best of The Beach Boys"

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