COLUMN: The Beach Boys wrote psychedelia music


Ellen Dooley

Ellen Dooley, Columnist

You may know The Beach Boys for creating upbeat music throughout the 50’s and 60’s. Their music usually involved surfing, fun times as a teen or even teenage love. Pretty harmless, right? Well, I recently learned of a different genre of music they dabbled in. The Beach Boys also wrote music categorized as psychedelia. 

Psychedelia music ranged from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s. LSD became popular during this time and experimental. It is said to be created in a lab to treat chronic migraines and headaches. People were said to find a “higher level of consciousness” while using LSD, so musicians sought to replicate this vivid feeling. This music was written for two reasons. To accompany using LSD or to mimic the feeling of a trip on LSD. 

Surprising to me, The Beach Boys wrote this genre of music. I would have never guessed these teenage, surf crazy singers would go anywhere near this kind of music. Other artists in psychedelia included The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and many others. The one song that has been stuck in my head is “Good Vibrations” written by The Beach Boys. 

During this song, they used a technique that is now today called “splicing.” It is taking two segments of sound or video and combining them. Back then they didn’t have this technology, so they recorded this all on one tape. Trust me, you can tell where they “spliced” it.  

The first segment is eerie. The organ in the background adds sort of a spooky-ness to the sound.

Then comes the second segment. This sounds like the famous Beach Boys sound. It has a peppy beat and some hints of 50’s doo wop.

An instrument called the theremin is controlled by moving your hands in a specific area, and it creates a high-pitched noise. It adds to the whole “vibrations” feel, and I think is a creative touch.  

The third segment goes back to the first segment sound. Still eerie, still creepy.

The fourth segment returns to what the second segment sounds like.

Notice the pattern? Well forget that because the fifth segment is completely different. It has a slower, half-time beat and sounds more like classic rock. There are a lot of longer sustained notes with harmony, a classic harmony for The Beach Boys.  

The sixth segment is also different from what we’ve seen. It is more ballad-like and smoother than the rest of the song. It is more of an instrumental break and features some harmonies.

The last and final segment is like the second and fourth. It is upbeat and has that doo wop feel. There are some variations, but still very similar.  

This song seems to contain three smaller songs, but I promise you it is all one song. I feel like this is sort of a hidden gem. Feel free to listen to it and get it stuck in your head like me!  

Ellen Dooley is a freshman special education major. She can be contacted at 581-2812 or [email protected].