THE BEACH BOYS: CONCERT (1964)
1) Fun, Fun, Fun; 2) The Little Old Lady From Pasadena; 3) Little Deuce Coupe; 4) Long Tall Texan; 5) In My Room; 6) Monster Mash; 7) Let's Go Trippin'; 8) Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow; 9) The Wanderer; 10) Hawaii; 11) Graduation Day; 12) I Get Around; 13) Johnny B. Goode; 14*) Don't Worry Baby.
Even though Capitol's exploitation policies may be detestable per se, one should admit that the marketing guys inadvertently pioneered quite a few creative ideas in the process. First came the mock-concept of Little Deuce Coupe, and now comes what must have been the first live album — not first live ever, of course, but the first one to capture a new-look Sixties band at the start of the era of sexual liberation, replete with screaming girls all over the place. EMI never had the heart to do this with the Beatles: the recording technology was still too feeble to capture the live sound properly in that kind of sonic environment, let alone the fact that no band could withstand the screaming and retain the proper sound tightness. Capitol had no scruples about «tarnishing» their Californian darlings' reputation that way — and came out with a first.
One thing Concert is definitely not is a hundred percent authentic document of the times. Many of the vocals had been overdubbed later, and even some of the instrumental tracks are substitutes — for instance, 'Fun, Fun, Fun' is just a sped-up version of the original. On the positive side, this is not simply a live-in-the-studio experience with shamelessly overdubbed audience sounds (this approach would also be pioneered by Capitol soon enough, with the release of Party!). Hardcore Beach Boys fans will undoubtedly be able to disentangle the truth from the lies.
But the album can still be seen as the next best thing — a trustworthy facsimile of the way it used to be, way back when Brian was still performing live with the band; when the band itself came across as a real bizarro act, half silly teen-pop, half gorgeous adolescent-art (no two songs in a row on an album from 1964 present a starker contrast than 'In My Room' and 'Monster Mash'); and, of course, when the audience was so happy just to see these shining young lads with guitars they'd be bursting out screaming at the first notes of anything — had Brian Wilson suddenly come up with 'Vegetables' back then, little girls would probably go orgasming at the sound of any given Beach Boy chomping on a carrot.
The setlist is historically precious in that it does give us a good slice of the popular teen standards of the day. Not many people today remember anything much about Jan & Dean, or Dion, or even the Four Freshmen, let alone Bobby «Boris» Pickett, and, although these rough live renditions do not really do full justice to either the originals or the Beach Boys' ability to interpret them, they are still fun. At the very least, it is curious to hear Dennis sing Dion's 'Wanderer' from behind the drumkit, to the best of his abilities, or to witness Mike «Boris» Love engage in a little comedy horror fun ('Graduation Day', though, most of us could probably live without — way too corny even for the innocent early Sixties).
Best of the bunch is the Rivingtons' 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow', a novelty tune that does not scale the same walls of absurdity as its much more famous derivative ('Surfin' Bird'), but is still one of the few non-embarrassing pure gigglefests that its age produced. No idea how much of the harmonies was overdubbed, of course, but does it really matter? It is still one of the few songs on here that makes the whole album a must for even the non-hardcore fan.
Another good thing is that, at this point, Mike Love was not the undisputed conductor on stage — it took him growing a whole beard to earn that privilege — and, for the most part, the listener is deprived of the torture of having to assess the man's dubious sense of humor. It only hurts during the pathetic intro to 'Graduation Day' (in which Mr. Love feels it is his duty to remember and list all types of schools whose graduates could be the potential addressees of the song), but you might as well skip the whole thing altogether and go straight to 'I Get Around' — a song so good that no introduction by Mr. Love could ever spoil it (a thing he obviously understands, so he offers none).
All it takes is try and overlook the abysmal sound quality (Al Jardine's guitar, for instance, seems to have magically vanished from the mix — particularly noticeable on 'Little Deuce Coupe', where Mike introduces the players with their instruments one by one), and Concert may sound like harmless fun even today. But it goes without saying that, being released three months past All Summer Long, its picture of the Beach Boys was slightly anachronistic even for that time. 'In My Room' and 'I Get Around' are, in fact, the only indicators here that what we are listening to is really a major happening on the American scene rather than well-crafted, but seriously fluffy teen entertainment.
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