Monday, August 23, 2021

Sonic Sorcery: The Fearless Modulations of "Good Vibrations"

In the third installment of this series, we took a look under the hood, as it were, at The Beach Boys song "Surfer Girl" which, harmonically speaking, is a gorgeous run through diatonic exploration. While it does possess a key change at the end (shifting up 1/2 step from D to Eb), the pay-dirt is really found in the prosody between the chord progression and melody.

By contrast, "Good Vibrations" (written just 3 years after "Surfer Girl" was released) leaps into the fires of modulation (aka: key change) with no reservations at all. Worthy of note: Brian Wilson was only 23 years old when he wrote this masterpiece that went on to hit #1 on the charts, be nominated for a Grammy, land on Rolling Stones "500 Greatest Songs list" at #6, and be cited as a major influence for songs like "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen (and, I suspect, much of Sting's work both solo and with The Police, which we'll examine in future installments).