“Now from Hawthorne, California, with a gala concert and a recording session the fabulous Beach Boys.” Those words launched the Beach Boys into there first live concert recording which would result in a Number One album.
I have always thought it a bit odd that Beach Boys Concert would not only be the Beach Boys first Number One album but would be their only Number One album issued in the 1960s. Not one of their critically acclaimed and marvelously constructed studio album releases would attain that level.
Brian Wilson, would of course, tinker with the album. He would speed a song up here and add or subtract some crowd noise there and re-work some vocals in the studio but when all was said and done Beach Boys Concert would present a fairly good representation of a Beach Boys live performance in the mid 1960s.
Listening to the Beach Boys Concert album today I find that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. I found myself criticizing many of the individual songs but when I listened to the album from beginning to end it was still enjoyable.
This concert recording contains a lot of cover songs. Later notes concerning this concert show that not all the songs from that evening were included. Some of the hits were left out so as not to have an album of all repeat songs.
“Fun Fun Fun” is always a good way to start a Beach Boys concert. Carl Wilson’s opening guitar solo is infectious and the upbeat tempo gets the crown rocking and involved. The hits “I Get Around” and “Little Deuce Coupe” are competent but not outstanding. They show an ongoing problem for the Beach Boys live as there are only five voices available which is different from the studio versions of layer upon layer of overdubbed harmonies. “In My Room” features an excellent lead vocal by Brian with effective harmonies in support. I have always found it amusing that when the Beach Boys hit the first few notes of this song you can here several audience members yell “Surfer Girl” which has a similar beginning.
The best of the cover song is “Graduation Day.” This song has always been recorded with harmonies and the Beach Boys do a superior job of uniting their five voices into one. Dennis Wilson does a credible job singing lead on the Dion song, “The Wanderer.” Every time Dennis Wilson would say anything or probably breathe the girls in the audience would squeal. The Rivingtons “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” is carried off more for of the energy that Mike Love brings to the performance than anything else.
The real misses begin with “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.” Brian Wilson co-authored this song and it became a top five hit for Jan & Dean. Jan Berry may not have been a Brian Wilson in the studio but he was proficient at taking his and Dean Torrance’s voices and creating his own wall of sound. The Beach Boys version pales next to the Jan & Dean single as the sound is not full and they veer from the original song structure in a way that is uncomfortable. The comedy songs, “Long Tall Texan” and “Monster Mash” are just a little too cute and two of them are at least one to many for a 13-song concert. “Johnny B. Goode” is the final song on the album and is just about drowned out by the crowd noise as it seems that the group just wanted to get off the stage.
Beach Boys Concert ultimately remains an excellent look at the Beach Boys in concert circa 1964. It holds up surprisingly well as a recording that is approaching its 45th birthday. So sit back, put on your ear phones and be transported back to a simpler and enjoyable time.