Released as a single on October 10, 1966 (backed with the Pet Sounds instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile"), it was The Beach Boys' third U.S. number-one hit, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1966, as well as being their first British chart-topper. Initiated during the sessions for the Pet Sounds album, it was not taken from or issued as a lead single for an album, but as a stand-alone single, and later placed on the album Smiley Smile eleven months after its release.
Wilson's publicist Derek Taylor described "Good Vibrations" as a "pocket symphony". It featured instruments unusual for a pop song, including prominent use of the cello and an electro-theremin. It is number six on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song "Good Vibrations" is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.