The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ Was Inspired by Something That Scared Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” isn’t one of the classic rock band’s scary songs, however, something that scared Brian Wilson inspired him to write the song. The origins of “Good Vibrations” went all the way back to his childhood. Here’s what he had to say about the creation of one of The Beach Boys’ most famous songs.

The Beach Boys with a surf board
The Beach Boys | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

What scared The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson as a child

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Wilson explained the origins of “Good Vibrations.” He said he wanted to write a song inspired by R&B which was avant-garde. It took six months to create the song. Wilson described it as a “pocket symphony.”

He explained how the song was born out of childhood experiences. “My mother used to tell me about vibrations,” he said. “I didn’t really understand too much of what that meant when I was just a boy.” 

“Good Vibrations”

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“It scared me, the word ‘vibrations,’” he added. “To think that invisible feelings, invisible vibrations existed, scared me to death. But she told about dogs that would bark at people and then not bark at others, that a dog would pick up vibrations from these people that you can’t see, but you can feel. And the same existed with people.”

However, Wilson’s understanding of the term “vibrations” changed. “And so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations,” he recalled. “We went ahead and experimented with the song and the idea, and we decided that on the one hand you could say, ‘I love the colorful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair. I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind that lifts her perfume through the air.’” Wilson noted these lyrics refer to sensual things. He contrasted these lyrics with the chorus, which is about extrasensory perception.

How critics and audiences reacted to The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’

Wilson worried “Good Vibrations” was too sophisticated to find mainstream success. However, “Good Vibrations” was a huge hit. In 1966, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 14 weeks. “Good Vibrations” would be The Beach Boys’ final No. 1 song until 1988’s “Kokomo.”

“Kokomo”

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The song was a massive critical success as well. In their list of the 500 greatest songs, Rolling Stone ranked it the sixth greatest song. The only songs to beat it were Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” The Rolling Stones’ “(I Cant Get No) Satisfaction,” and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

How ‘Good Vibrations’ impacted pop culture

“Good Vibrations” had a bit of an impact on pop culture as well. For example, the phrase “I’m picking up good vibrations” appears in Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop.” Subsequently, “Good Vibrations” was in a scene of Jordan Peele’s horror film Us. “Good Vibrations” was born out of Wilson’s fears, but to critics and audiences, it seems to be a rock ‘n’ roll dream come true.

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