Musical moment

Can a song be both “revered and under-appreciated”?* Perhaps, if it’s Good Vibrations, the rock masterpiece by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. When discussing rock’s most celebrated efforts, it is mentioned with the likes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Day in the Life“. The excellence of the work is still discussed by rock historians in fawning tones. They struggle not to go too far.

I remember the first time I heard Good Vibrations. It was in an outpost in the Mekong Delta named Ben Luc. Night was growing, and the squad’s only radio was set to the Saigon station. During the introduction, the DeeJay laid out some bits about the upcoming song. He talked about how many studio hours it took to record. He told us how the people in the States couldn’t get enough of it. He called it the finest music he’s ever heard. My mind was in some form of suspension. He let the music roll out without saying who would sing it or even its name.

The Beach Boys’ distinctive sound made it clear who was singing. The words lifted from the radio, and the song’s simple title was reveled, “I’m picking up good vibrations.” Wow, what a great line! The song kept up its flowing lines. The matching music combined hard driving rock with orchestral tendernesses.

All too soon it was over. I wanted to hear it again, but I’m sure a foot hygiene spot played instead.

The music played by Armed Forces Viet Nam was usually months behind what played in the “Land of the All Night Generator”. In the following weeks, Good Vibrations seemed to play about once an hour on the radio. I guess the censors in Saigon enjoyed this tune as much as I did. Soon enough some guys received their copies from home. The magical way to listen was with headphones.

It has been fifty-three years since the launch of Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. He is often called a musical genius. I’ll add my name to the list of those who honor him.

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2 Responses to “Musical moment”

  1. Patrick Dennis Says:

    The Beach Boys was the first album I ever bought and always held a special spot in heart and my youth. I am seeing Brian Wilson perform with The Zombies (interesting pairing) in October.
    But the Vietnam song that holds the most meaning for me was “Whales and Nightingales” by Judy Collins. A Stateside friend sent me a tape with that song. The songs of the whales reverberated in my soul the first time I heard them. The beauty lifted me from my hootch in LZ English to some place far away – safe and peaceful.
    I seen Judy a few times since and was able to thank her for making my 363 days a touch better.

  2. John Morris Says:

    Great memory, Patrick. Judy Collins got Joni Mitchell into the public conscience with her cover of “Both Sides Now”. Collins’ “Ave Maria” was also a sparkling song.

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