sex, love, hitchhiking, and other excitations

JUST AS LOVE AND SEX are not syn­ony­mous, nei­ther is a great song syn­ony­mous with a great record. Hell’s Belles, in such genres as rock & roll and rhythm & blues and even country & western, a great song may ac­tu­ally im­pede the making of a great record! This is es­pe­cially so if the artist and the pro­ducer focus too much on a pretty melody or a clever lyric and not on the ac­tual making of the record. 1

Just as a great song does not en­sure a great record, nei­ther does a weak or just plain silly song mean an in­con­se­quen­tial recording. As one ex­ample, Hound Dog is one of the greatest and most fa­mous rock & roll records ever made.

 

I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind that lifts her per­fume through the air. I’m picking up good vibrations—she’s giving me ex­ci­ta­tions.

 

Its melody is per­func­tory and its lyrics are so dumb (d-u-m-b with the ac­cent on the ‘b’) that they have been the butt of both good-natured satire and nasty con­de­scen­sion since its re­lease.

Big Mama Thornton cut a mambo-ish rhythm & blues ver­sion of Hound Dog in 1952, making it sixty-three-years old; Elvis Pres­ley’s balls-to-the-walls rock & roll in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ’56 is al­most sixty. Both have aged well: they re­main land­mark record­ings and are al­most as ex­tra­or­di­nary a lis­tening ex­pe­ri­ence now as they were then! 2

But this essay is not about that song or those singers. It’s not even about rock & roll or records, al­though it’s going to seem that way.

 

Elvis_HoundDog_sheet

This is a cool piece of sheet music with a photo from the Pres­ley’s ap­pear­ance on the Steve Allen tele­vi­sion show on July 1, 1956. This is one of rock & roll’s most fa­mous mo­ments as Allen was a de­tractor of the new music and in­sisted that the singer wear a tuxedo and sing to a real dog as a prop. Need­less to say, Elvis han­dled it with aplomb.

The joy of hitchhiking

Flash­back to yes­terday: I had to walk a couple of bags of re­cy­clable refuse to the dump­ster. I took the shortcut through the green-belt, so I was walking on the grass sur­rounded by trees. It was in the high 40s and the sun was shining. I be­came aware that I ac­tu­ally had a bit of a spring in my step!

And I thought, Wow! I’m feeling the kind of ex­ci­ta­tions I used to feel decades ago when Spring was ap­proaching and then I re­mem­bered the joy the thrill the trep­i­da­tion of hitch­hiking when the weather was nice and I was young and full of joie de vivre!

And that’s what kicked this off: I ac­tu­ally think in terms of ex­ci­ta­tions! I am amazed that fifty years after its re­lease, a clever word in a song not noted for its lyrics still has meaning to me in my everyday life!

 

BeachBoys_GV_Sheet

All 45 rpm sin­gles and most album re­leases cred­ited Good Vi­bra­tions to Brian Wilson and Mike Love, as did the sheet music pic­tured above. Bri­an’s re­cent record­ings of the song in­cor­po­rate lyrics that Tony Asher had written for the song in early 1966 when it was being con­sid­ered as part of the PET SOUNDS album. These new record­ings credit Wilson, Asher, and Love.

Some kinda vibrations

In this case, the song is Good Vi­bra­tions and the writers cred­ited for it were Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mike Love. I at­tribute most of the lyrics to Love, along with coining ex­ci­ta­tion. I do this de­spite the fact that the song was orig­i­nally written by Wilson with Tony Asher as part of the PET SOUNDS album.

When it was pulled from the album and set aside as a single, Brian had Mike write new lyrics. So, what were Asher’s orig­inal lyrics? Tony had the fol­lowing to say:

I would have been de­lighted to be asked to work with Brian again. But I as­sumed, given the dis­ap­pointing sales of [PET SOUNDS] and the group’s un­hap­pi­ness with the ma­te­rial, that my ser­vices were no longer needed. That as­sump­tion seemed to be con­firmed when Good Vi­bra­tions came out without any of my lyrics. As this is a some­what con­tro­ver­sial and in­flamed sub­ject, which con­tinues to fester de­spite my best ef­forts to put it be­hind me,

Per­haps I would do well merely to refer you to disc 5 of the 1993 Beach Boys boxed set which con­tains some of the lyrics I wrote. Some will con­clude that if Mike Love gets writing credit for his ‘work’ on Wouldn’t It Be Nice, [then] I should surely get credit for mine on Good Vi­bra­tions. ‘Nuff said.” (Surfer Moon) 3

So, is it pos­sible that Asher chose the word ex­ci­ta­tions for the song but Love got the credit? I don’t know. 4

 

GOOD VIBRATIONS (HD) THE BEACH BOYS

This is not the orig­inal mono 45 rpm single mix of Good Vi­bra­tions. This is the same recording as the single but in new im­proved, full-dimensional stereo. Also, there are bits of the orig­inal ses­sion out­takes grafted on to the latter part of the recording (at 2:54).

Sensations and elations

Here are the lyrics to Good Vi­bra­tions in a more or less gram­mat­i­cally rea­son­able format. This is not nec­es­sarily how they were sung: I wrote “picking up” not “pickin’ up.” I also did not in­clude the doo-woppy back­ground sounds the guys were making, and I elim­i­nated ex­ces­sive re­dun­dan­cies.

I love the col­orful clothes she wear
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.
I’m picking up good vi­bra­tions,
she’s giving me ex­ci­ta­tions.

I’m picking up good vi­bra­tions,
she’s giving me ex­ci­ta­tions.

Close my eyes, she’s somehow closer now.
Softly smile, I know she must be kind.
When I look in her eyes,
she goes with me to a blossom world.
I’m picking up good vi­bra­tions—
she’s giving me ex­ci­ta­tions.
I’m picking up good vi­bra­tions—
she’s giving me ex­ci­ta­tions.

I don’t know where but she sends me there.
My what a sen­sa­tion.
My what an ela­tion.
Got to keep those love good vi­bra­tions hap­pening with her.

Everyone quotes the first line as ending with the plural “wears” be­cause it makes gram­mat­ical sense, but Carl clearly sings the sin­gular “wear.” That way it rhymes with “hair” in the second line. I don’t know why, but many sites on the In­ternet added a syl­lable to the final line so that it reads, “Gotta keep those lovin’ good vi­bra­tions hap­pening with her.” But that’s not what they’re singing.

In the con­text of the rest of the lyrics to Good Vi­bra­tions, the word ex­ci­ta­tions are easily heard or read as being about the singer being at­tracted to a girl and picking up some good vibes from her. Con­se­quently, I spent decades thinking of the word only in a sexual and ro­mantic con­no­ta­tion. 5

 

SexLove_Toklas2

When I try to con­jure up an ide­al­ized Six­ties hippie-chick who just nat­u­rally gives off end­less good vi­bra­tions, my mind often turns to Leigh Taylor-Young in the zany I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. When affluent-but-uptight at­torney Peter Sellers meets this Zen-like child of na­ture, he picks up on her truly good good good vi­bra­tions and gets the ex­ci­ta­tions so bad that he turns his life upside-down to be with her.

Sex, aging, and other excitations

A few years ago, a neighbor re­marked about the seem­ingly bound­less en­ergy that I displayed—especially for a man in his ’60s stuck in his apart­ment most of the time. (Not be­cause I’m an in­valid, but of choice, writing.) I told him that it was the ex­ci­ta­tions I get from too many cups of re­ally good coffee.

The neighbor was my con­tem­po­rary and im­me­di­ately got the mu­sical ref­er­ence: “Coffee and ex­ci­ta­tions. Good vi­bra­tions. Never thought of it that way.”

And I told him it was only par­tially about the caf­feine buzz: I drink the coffee be­cause I’m writing all day and I get the ex­ci­ta­tions from the com­bi­na­tion of the buzz of caf­feina­tion along with the joy of the writing and the re­search and the learning!

 

I am amazed that fifty years after its re­lease, a clever word in a song not noted for its lyrics still has meaning to me in my everyday life!

 

So there was al­ways the joy-of-girl-watching thing about the song and the word, then there was the joy-of-writing thing, and now I had the joy-of-Spring thing at­tached to that one word.

So the Wilson-Love ex­ci­ta­tions is now a reg­ular part of my verbal lex­icon. When I use it, few people fail to ei­ther rec­og­nize the word from the record, or they im­me­di­ately grasp its meaning. And of course, I al­ways use it in a very pos­i­tive sense—as the writers in­tended.

So this essay is NOT about Good Vi­bra­tions the song or the record. It is about how that record turned people on to the use of the term ‘good vi­bra­tions,’ no doubt also en­cour­aging them to rec­og­nize that there were such things and that they were em­a­nating from their lovers and their friends and their brothers and their sis­ters and their pets and from the trees and the plants and the bloody rocks that roll or lie about them every­where every day.

In fact, ex­ci­ta­tions may be my fav­erave word coined in the ’60s! 6

This essay is about the ex­ci­ta­tions that are all around you and me in this whole world that we are a part of. It’s about the coining of a great word that I use more now in MY 60s than I ever used in THE ‘60s.

Plus it’s an ex­cuse to ramble on about sex love hitch­hiking aging weather movies hippie-chicks rock & roll and other ex­ci­ta­tions.

I’m a se­nior cit­izen now and I still pick up on good vi­bra­tions and I ac­tu­ally think in terms of ex­ci­ta­tions! Click To Tweet

Toklas NancyTattoo 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page was taken from the movie I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. When Peter Sell­er’s rigid, up­tight char­acter gazes on the sleeping form of the beau­tiful hippie-chick played by Leigh-Taylor Young, he is not just seeing the pos­si­bility of sex: he is seeing a world of sen­su­ality and freedom that he had never con­sid­ered pos­sible be­fore. And he was seeing the pos­si­bility of there being a place for him in that world.


FOOTNOTES:

1   If you are a virgin and reading this, listen up: anyone who tells you that sex without love is mean­ing­less or some such caca is prob­ably a clos­eted virgin and you shouldn’t listen to him/her. Sex al­ters your mind and changes your world can occur at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. It’s one of Wholly Grom­mett’s Great Mys­teries Re­member, with or without love, sex can be ex­tra­or­di­nary! But love usu­ally makes it even better.

2   Anyone who tells you one ver­sion of Hound Dog is better than the other prob­ably has the emo­tional make-up of a 16-year old, and is prob­ably com­posed of the same caca as the clos­eted virgin in foot­note 1 above.

3   Asher is re­fer­ring to Good Vi­bra­tions: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (Capitol C2 0777 7). It in­cludes over fif­teen min­utes of out­takes from Good Vi­bra­tions cut in early 1966 with some of Asher’s lyrics in­tact. Also, the re­cent ver­sions of Good Vi­bra­tions that were recorded by Brian Wilson and the Won­der­mints have lyrics from both sources and credit the song to Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love.

4   Ac­tu­ally, the word is older than 1966 and means “the dis­turbed or al­tered con­di­tion re­sulting from stim­u­la­tion of an in­di­vidual, organ, tissue, or cell.” Frank Daniels pointed out, “The word ex­ci­ta­tions goes back at least to 1790 in Eng­lish. It was used mostly in med­i­cine and sci­ence prior to the Beach Boys spreading it to the broader cul­ture.”

5   Whether the girl in the song is in­ten­tion­ally beaming those good vi­bra­tions at the singer or she just nat­u­rally gives them off is not ad­dressed in the song. The former is common, the latter rare. If you find one of those who just ra­di­ates them, find a way to fall in love with her as quickly as pos­sible.

6   Reg­ular readers will note that fav­erave is also a par­tic­u­larly cher­ished bit of idiom from the teeny­bopper fan mag­a­zines of the time. And nothing will ever top groovy. No one can ever take groovy the wrong way. So live long, prosper, and be groovy.

 

LTYoung_brownies

As a gift, Nancy mixes up a batch of brownies lib­er­ally laced with mar­i­juana. The folks who par­take of these goodies are straights with no idea of what is hap­pening to them as they get stoneder and stoneder (pro­nounced “stone-dur”). This scene alone is worth the price of ad­mis­sion!

 

 

 

 

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