Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations" (the song remains the same)

I just finished reading "The Nearest Far Away Place", the 1996 biography of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys.  I believe it was a thrift-store find from Terry many years ago and I've just now gotten around to reading it.  I moderately enjoyed the book, but there were several features that limited my enjoyment: 1) it was written before the 1998 death of Carl Wilson, 2) there was way too much biography about the Wilson's grandparents and great-grandparents, 3) many of the stories reported in the book now have contradicting stories, and 4) Timothy Whites's "rock-n-roll" writing style was excruciating.  Having recently read Marc Spitz's "Bowie" I can only assume things have reached epidemic status and  Hunter S. Thompson was patient zero

Regardless, it was fun to revisit The Beach Boys; I've been busy ripping my old CDs and I've just now gotten around to ordering (and enjoying) the apocryphal "SMiLE".  I'm not quite ambitious enough to rehash the cultural importance of Brian Wilson, "Pet Sounds", "SMiLE"/"Smiley Smile", etc.  -- and really, what could I say that hasn't been said before?

But I will briefly mention the 1966 single "Good Vibrations".  Originally developed during the "Pet Sounds" sessions, it was left off that LP and released as an advance single for "SMiLE".  Nearly a year later "SMiLE" devolved into "Smiley Smile", and that was pretty much it for Brian Wilson.  But the fact that this song was ever a hit is nothing short of amazing.  Sure, the standard song structure is in place, but how many other hit songs that you know of feature an electro-theremin?!  If you could pretend that you haven't heard this song 1000 times before, you realize it is amazing that you ever heard it in the first place.  Before The Beach Boys became a Ronald Reagan-approved nostalgia act, there was the drug-induced breakdown, the TM, and of course Charles Manson (no, really).

And now I would like to draw your attention to Psychic TV's excellent cover of "Good Vibrations", which I believe first appeared on their 1986 EP "Magickal Mystery D Tour".  I'm not going to even try to explain Psychic TV / Genesis P-Orridge... other than credit Terry for my first Psychic TV experience too.  Psychic TV plays the cover pretty close to the original, with only the spoken word part during the break (~2:40), but that little touch makes the cover stand out. 

The Beach Boys: stereo version, mono version, 1976 live version

Psychic TV: 7" version, long version

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