My introduction to the Beach Boys was through a cassette tape compilation of their music called ENDLESS SUMMER which was released the year of my birth, 1974. In actuality their debut studio album was 1962’s SURFIN’ SAFARI. In 2001 Capitol Records released two of the group’s live albums on one cd. That is what I will be reviewing here.
BEACH BOYS CONCERT was produced by Brian Wilson, recorded at the Civic Auditorium in Sacramento, California, and originally put out in 1964. On this recording the group is introduced by DJ Fred Vail. He hired the Beach Boys for $750 to play at a fundraiser at his old high school, El Camino. About 3000 attended the show. The group is introduced as being from Hawthorne, California.
The concert begins with ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. It is, well, a fun song about a carefree girl¨”Well the girls can’t stand her/Cause she walks, looks, and drives like an ace now/She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now/A lotta guys try to catch her/But she leads them on a wild goose chase now/And she’ll have fun, fun, fun/Til her daddy takes the T-bird away.” ‘The Little Old Lady from Pasadena’ was originally released by Jan and Dean, but penned by Don Altfeld and Roger Christian. It is a humorous story song: “It’s the little old lady from Pasadena/The little old lady from Pasadena/Go granny, go granny, go granny go/Has a pretty little flower bed of white gardenias/Go granny, go granny, go granny go/But parked in her rickety old garage/Is a brand new, shiny red Super Stock Dodge/And everybody’s saying that there’s nobody meaner/Than the little old lady from Pasadena/She drives real fast and she drives real hard/She’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard.”
Next, Mike Love introduces the members of the group. ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ is again about cars: “She’s got a competition clutch with the four on the floor/And she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar/And if that ain’t enough to make you flip your lid/There’s one more thing, I got the pink slip daddy/And comin’ off the line when the light turns green/Well, she blows ‘em outta the water like you never seen/I get pushed out of shape and it’s hard to steer/When I get rubber in all four gears.” ‘Long Tall Texan’ is a silly song penned by Henry Strzelecki. It was a minor hit for Murry Kellum in 1963. It is a mix of country and rock and roll, and is about a sheriff: “Well, I’m a long tall Texan/I enforce justice for the law/Well, I’m a long tall Texan/I enforce justice for the law/Well, people look at me and say/’Hurrah, hurrah, are you the law?’”
‘In my Room’ is a sleepy ballad by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher. Many a teenager will still relate to these lyrics: “There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to/In my room, in my room/In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears/In my room, in my room/Do my dreaming and my scheming/Lie awake and pray.” ‘Monster Mash’ was a 1962 novelty song that Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers made known. It’s good for Hallowe’en: “I was working in the lab late one night/When my eyes beheld an eerie sight/When my monster from his slab began to rise/And suddenly to my surprise/He did the mash/He did the monster mash/The monster mash/It was a graveyard smash.”
‘Let’s Go Trippin’’ is credited as being the first surf rock instrumental by many. Dick Dale and the Del-Tones recorded it in 1961. The Beach Boys version has the audience screaming. ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ is a 1962 novelty song by The Rivingtons. The song finds the Beach Boys singing the song title over and over, interspersed with lyrics such as: “The funniest sound I ever heard/But I can’t understand a single word/I can’t believe this sound makes me slap and shout.”
‘The Wanderer’ was a Number Two hit for Dion in 1962. The Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson takes the lead on this one, whereas Mike and/or Brian take the lead on all the others. The song is essentially about a player: “Well, I’m the type of guy who will never settle down/Where pretty girls are, well, you know that I’m around/I kiss ‘em and I love ‘em ‘cause to me they’re all the same/I hug ‘em and I squeeze ‘em and they don’t even know my name/They call me the wanderer, yeah the wanderer/I roam around, around, around.” ‘Hawaii’ finds the guys fantasizing about surfing: “Now, I don’t care what town you’re from/But don’t tell me that they got bigger waves/’Cause everyone that goes/Comes back with nothing but raves/That’s in Hawaii, Hawaii.”
‘Graduation Day’ was originally by a group that highly influenced Brian Wilson, the Four Freshmen. It is a sentimental ballad: “There’s a time for joy/A time for tears/A time we’ll treasure through the years/We’ll remember always/Graduation day/At the senior prom/We danced ‘til three/And there you gave your heart to me/We’ll remember always/Graduation day.” The Beach Boys sold over a million copies at the time, of ‘I Get Around’, a Brian Wilson-Mike Love composition. It hit Number One in the U.S. The song is about cruising: “I’m getting bugged driving up and down the same old strip/I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip/My buddies and me are getting real well known/Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone.../We always take my car cause it’s never been beat/And we’ve never missed yet with the girls we meet.”
This concert recording ends with ‘Johnny B. Goode’ which dates back to 1958, being written by Chuck Berry. It is an energetic story song: “He came from Louisiana, close to New Orleans/Way back up in the woods up near the evergreens/There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood/Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode/He never learned to read or write so well/But he could play the guitar just like a ringing bell/Go, go/Go Johnny go, go/Go Johnny go, go.” BEACH BOYS CONCERT was their first Number One album and spent over a year on the charts. I have to admit the crowd screaming on it can be distracting though.
The second concert on this cd is LIVE IN LONDON. It is taken from recordings done at Finsbury Park and London’s Palladium in 1968. Brian Wilson was no longer on the road with the group by this time, due to health issues and stress. The album came out in England in 1970, Japan in 1971, and Germany in 1972. It wasn’t until 1976 that the album came out in America under the expanded title BEACH BOYS ’69-THE BEACH BOYS LIVE IN LONDON. The lead vocals on this album are mainly by Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, and Mike Love. Bruce Johnston had joined the group in 1965.
This concert opens with the Brian Wilson-Mike Love tune ‘Darlin’’. It is a happy sounding pop song: “Don’t know if words can say/But darlin’ I’ll find a way/To let you know what you mean to me/Guess it was meant to be/I hold you in my heart/As life’s most precious part/Oh darlin’ I dream about you often my pretty darlin’/I love the way you soften me with your love.” ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ is the opening song from 1966’s PET SOUNDS. It finds a young man wanting to get married to his love interest: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up/In the morning when the day is new/And after having spent the day together/Hold each other close the whole night through?/Happy times together we’ve been spending/I wish that every kiss was never ending/Wouldn’t it be nice?”
According to Wikipedia.org ‘Sloop John B.’ “was originally a traditional West Indies folk song, ‘The John B. Sails’ taken from Carl Sandburg’s 1927 collection of folk songs, THE GREAT AMERICAN SANDBAG.” Johnny Cash recorded it in 1959 as ‘I Want to Go Home.’ At any rate, it is one of my favorite Beach Boys covers. It is a story song about life on the sea and the loneliness and hardships it can bring: “The poor cook he caught the fits/And threw away all my grits/And then he took and he ate up all of my corn/Let me go home/Why don’t they let me go home?/This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.” ‘California Girls’ is another of my Beach Boys favorites: “I been all around this great big world/And I seen all kinds of girls/Yeah, but I couldn’t wait to get back in the States/Back to the cutest girls in the world/I wish they all could be California (2X)/I wish they all could be California girls.” ‘Do It Again’ (B. Wilson/M. Love) is a bouncy pop song that finds them reminiscing and looking forward to the future with eagerness: “Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine/The California girls and a beautiful coastline/Warmed up weather/Let’s get together and do it again.”
‘Wake the World’ penned by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, is a highly optimistic song: “Wake the world with a brand new morning/Say hello to another fine morning/Got my face in the running water/Making my life so much brighter.” ‘Aren’t You Glad’ is the song of one totally smitten with another person:¨”You know that I’ll be a long time loving you/I hope that you’ll be a long time loving me/And don’t you know that there’s so much more to come?/I got a heart that just won’t stop beating for you/I got a love I just can’t stop feeling for you.”
Next up is ‘Bluebirds Over the Mountain’ which was written by Ersel Hickey. The Echoes and Richie Valens also covered it. This song of longing uses horns and good electric guitar work: “Bluebirds over the mountain/Seagulls over the sea/Bluebirds over the mountain/Bring my baby to me/Oh bring my baby back/I don’t know why she’s been so long/But all I know is that she’s gone/Oh, bring my baby back to me/Well, I’m in pain/Can’t you see?”
The Beach Boys perform Bobby Troup’s ‘Their Hearts Were Full of Spring’ acapella. It is about a couple in love who grow old and die and are buried side by side: “On a hill where robins sing/And they say violets/Grow there the whole year round/For their hearts were full of spring.” ‘Good Vibrations’ is groovy and quirky. It is about infatuation, or lust, depending on how you look at it: “I, I love the colorful clothes she wears/And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair/I hear the sound of a gentle world/On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air/I’m pickin’ up good vibrations/She’s giving me excitations.”
There is something spiritual and special about 1966’s ‘God Only Knows’ penned by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. It opens with the French horn and finds Carl Wilson on lead vocals. Those going through a separation or divorce will relate to it: “If you should ever leave me/Though life would still go on believe me/The world could show nothing to me/So what good would living do me?/God only knows what I’d be without you.” ‘Barbara Ann’ is a fun song by Fred Fassert that had been performed by The Regents in 1961. Here are some of the lyrics: “Went to a dance, lookin’ for romance/Saw Barbara Ann, so I thought I’d take a chance/With Barbara Ann¸Barbara Ann/Take my hand/You got me rockin’ and a rollin’/Rockin’ and a reelin’/Barbara Ann, ba ba ba/Barbara Ann.”
Two bonus cuts are included on this cd. ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ is an outtake from the 1964 show. The lyrics may make some blush, but by today’s standards, are tame: “Oh, what she does to me/When she makes love to me/And she says ‘Don’t worry baby/Don’t worry baby (2X)/Everything will turn out alright.’” ‘Heroes and Villains’ is taken from a 1967 performance at the Honolulu International Centre. It is a story song by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks: “Fell in love years ago/With an innocent girl/From the Spanish and Indian home/Home of the heroes and villains/Once a night Catillian squared the fight/And she was right in the rain of the bullets that eventually brought her down/But she’s still dancing in the night/Unafraid of what a dude’ll do in a town full of heroes and villains.”
The Beach Boys CONCERT/LIVE IN LONDON cd runs 73 minutes long. The group has harmonies to die for and makes a connection with their audiences like no other. They are an American treasure and have no lack of talent. This 2001 cd re-issue has extensive liner notes and several wonderful photographs of the group. I’m rating this one 84%, with the second concert likely being the one I enjoyed the most. For more info visit www.thebeachboys.com and www.capitalrecords.com.