7.12.15

THE BEACH BOYS: Convention Center, Anaheim, California, December 1973


Forty-two years ago, resident in Los Angeles as Melody Maker’s US correspondent, I drove down to the Convention Center in Anaheim in a red Ford Pinto with an English girl called Caroline in the passenger seat, there to see and review The Beach Boys. I refer to this night in a post here (http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/california-girl.html) and my review appeared in the issue of Melody Maker dated December 8, today. Carried away by seeing the group in their own backyard, it's a bit on the cheesy side but here it is…


Hi gang. Round up Cindi and Patti, Kathy and Debbie, grab a Coke and a taco ‘cos we’re off to see the Beach Boys at Anaheim, California. Pack your surf boards away in daddy’s T-Bird, slip on those whites and let’s get ourselves a headful of good vibrations.
          These Beach Boys get around. They’ve changed a lot since the Wilson Brothers, Alan Jardine and Mike Love wore candy striped shirts and played gala concerts singing about the surf, sea, sand, cars and new girls in school.
          They’re older, probably wiser, and the group’s a whole lot bigger. But the songs remain the same and the only difference in the audience is that their hair is longer, and sweet-smelling roll-your-owns seem to have the edge on popcorn for peripheral enjoyment
          Tonight these Beach Boys – lots of ‘em – are entertaining in Southern California, their home base.
          They don’t go out on the road very often these days, but when they do they’re assured of a warm welcome, especially here, which in turn makes this evening especially interesting to yours truly, an Englishman weaned on The Beach Boys, fascinated by the “surf” music period and expecting a truly genuine Californian evening’s rock and roll.
It was a bit like a fantasy come true.
          Anaheim lies south of Los Angeles, about an hour’s drive down the Santa Anna Freeway, through the industrial belt of LA and towards Disneyland, which is actually only a stone’s throw away from the Convention Centre where the concerts are held in this locality.
          It’s just inside Orange County, an almost all white area which has a reputation for favouring the John Birch life-style. I didn’t see one black face at the concert – just 10,000 kids, mostly with blond hair, tans and tee-shirts. It could almost have been Sweden.
          The Convention Centre is one of those futurisitic buildings, large enough to accommodate an aeroplane, which was primarily designed for basketball.
          It’s full to the brim of eager Beach Boys fans, a 50/50 sex breakdown, most of whom appear very young. There’s youths with slight blond down on their upper lips, hoping their facial growth will impress the scores of nubile girls who have braces on their teeth, very long blonde hair and flat chests.
          Two seats down from me, one guy was asking a girl what grade she was in. That’s tantamount to inquiring one’s age in this country, and age is an important factor in a teenage boy/girl relationship.
          If you do IT under 18, the boy could end up behind bars on a rape charge. With all the bare midriffs floating around, it’s surprising the jails aren’t overcrowded after a Beach Boys show.
          These kids of 14, 15, 16 and 17 are sitting around exchanging their roll-your-owns as casually as I pull on a Marlborough. Even if The Beach Boys did start making records before these kids were old enough to work a turntable, they’re out to enjoy themselves tonight. Local patriotism, I suppose. Incredible though it seems, it’s raining outside – a peculiarly sour note for me as I always associated The Beach Boys with the sun. I tend to play my Pet Sounds and innumerable “greatest hits” or “best of” albums during July and August in England.
          This rain is holding up the concert. It’s a rare thing and, just as snow and ice holds up the world in England, a few drops of rain delay things here in California.
Drivers aren’t used to wet roads and they drive slower, bringing the freeways to a crawling pace. The Beach Boys, so the announcer tells us, are stuck in such a jam, so there’s a long delay between Three Man Army, the British rock trio who opened, and the arrival of the surfing kings.
          The same traffic jam delayed me, so I only caught a snatch of Three Man Army’s closing number. They appeared a competent, if not spectacular bunch of rockers, who were warmly appreciated – especially when they thanked The Beach Boys (who weren’t actually there, of course) for the opportunity to play.
          Any mention of The Beach Boys, and this audience yells and yells.
          But the delay gives me an opportunity to size up the crowd, and the roadies time to plant bunches of flowers around the stage. With the fancy lighting at the back (hundreds of tiny lights stretching from the stage to a bar about 20 feet high, in parallel lines), the stage begins to resemble a tropical garden.
          The lights eventually dim and everybody, but everybody, stands up, cheering, yelling and generally greeting the group’s arrival as if they’d descended from heaven. There’s four girls in front of me who decide a better view is available if they stand on their seats, which they do, thus blocking the view of several hundred people behind, including myself.
          But the initial euphoria dies down as the group open the set with a slow song, ‘Sail On Sailor’ from the Holland album. And it’s obvious from the outset that Mike Love is the front man these days.
          Dressed in a pink creation with matching pants and top, a huge yellow sunflower design over his chest and a straw hat that’s mildly comical in appearance, he takes the role of cheer leader, moving in a Jagger like fashion to most of the numbers and taking care of the introductions.
          The two Wilson brothers, Carl and Dennis, pick guitars in the centre of the stage, while the fourth original, Alan Jardine, adopts his usual pose with one hand over his ear, taking care of the falsetto, apparently contributing the least to the overall sound, but vital to the vocal harmonies that make the Beach Boys what they are.
          There’s a host of others on the stage too.
          The two South Africans, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin are now really part of the act, singing their songs from the Holland set, almost as well loved as the originals.
Ricky is another drummer, while Blondie is to the fore, guitar at the ready. There’s a brass section, too, an extra bass player and an extra keyboard player. Indeed, there must be about a dozen musicians up there on the stage, some hidden behind the foliage, but all pumping out a very tight background to the songs, which soon come thick and fast.
          ‘Sloop John B’ follows ‘Sailor’ and at the first note of this first “oldie”, the audience are up again, dancing, jumping, yelling and singing along as if these songs were some kind of local national anthem, which they probably are.
          There’s new songs and old, but it’s the old ones that go down the best.
          There’s ‘California Girls’, dedicated to someone’s mother, and while they’re up there chanting about these fine specimens of female flesh from the golden state, the girls themselves are all around me loving every moment of it.
          Well, I gotta admit, most of them are kinda neat.
          “Here’s one of the first songs we ever wrote,” cried Carl in one break. “Our brother Brian wrote it and the words were written in a field in Hawthorne, California.”
          The song was ‘Surfer Girl’, the first time I’d heard this beautiful Wilson composition aired live. Fortunately the audience was respectfully silent as the harmonies filled the auditorium.
          Then there was ‘Darling’, and ‘Surfin’ USA’, which had everyone dancing in the aisles, then ‘Heroes And Villains’, a short version, and ‘Help Me Rhonda’, during which the whole audience sang along.
          They did ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, which Mike Love said was his favourite number of them all, and paused before the opening chords to ‘Good Vibrations’ as if this was to be the climax to the evening’s entertainment.
          The simple syllable “I”, sung to open the song, was the cue for total chaos. Each and every throat opened and sang along, building to a huge climax during the “Gotta keep those loving good, vibrations...” bit. It was the final number, but three encores followed.
          “This is about a girl who was always kinda special to us,” said Love as the group re-appeared. “Ba-ba-ba, Ba-ba-bra Ann.” More chaos. “Here’s one you might know... Round, round, get around.....”
          A great sea of blonde heads was swaying crazily around me by this time. The audience had rushed the front, grabbed the flowers from the stage and hurled them back at the group. You could almost have surfed over the top of them.
          Off again, but back for more....”She took her Daddy’s car, and drove through the hamburger stand now.”
          This was fun, fun, fun in the real meaning of the word. Off again, more yelling, house lights, boos, house lights down, cheers. The group stumbled on. Mike Love removed his shirt and, with the house lights up again, they closed on ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ with Love wiggling in his best Jagger fashion. That was it, they told us afterwards.
Mike Love stammered something about a party on New Year’s Eve to which the whole audience would be invited, and expressed a desire to go on tour and take this whole bunch of Beach Boy maniacs along with them.
          “There’s no place like home,” said one of the Wilsons. Then they were gone.
          And outside it was still raining. It hadn’t mattered a bit.

(The photograph, taken off the internet, is actually The Beach Boys at New York's Madison Square Garden on December 19, so the line up would have been the same.)

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