Category Archives: Beach Boys

#180 – Sloop John B

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#180 – Sloop John B by The Beach Boys

 – Here’s something I’ve mulled over in my Classic Rocker mind the past few decades. I’ve been to four Beach Boys concerts and have seen a different lineup of the core five members each time.

Let me explain that better…

The Beach Boys were the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl, their cousin Mike Love and Brian’s high school football buddy Al Jardine. And yeah, I know Wilson neighbor David Marks is considered an original member and played on their early albums, but by the time the band was releasing hit singles competing with The Beatles and other British Invasion groups on the pop charts, Marks had left. Also Bruce Johnston came on in 1965 to take Brian’s place in live performances and has been with the band longer than Ronnie Wood has been with The Rolling Stones.

But the first-mentioned five are the only Beach Boys inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So we’ll use them as the core lineup.

Now after that brief diversion, let me get back to my explanation…

On the really big “shew”!

The Beach Boys are one of the few major U.S. hit-makers outside of Motown that I remember paying attention to during The British Invasion that started with The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Because of finances as a preteen making only a few bucks every week working in the family business and mowing lawns, I had to be selective in my record purchases. Any new release by The Beatles was worth the bike ride to my local record store. Otherwise a song would need to really grab me to dig into my reserves and make a purchase.

The Beach Boys scored more than a few of those. I don’t need to list the classics since I’m assuming you’ll know them all anyway. But I’m proud to say I pretty much wore down my 45 rpm vinyl singles of I Get Around and California Girls, just to name two.

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But somewhere after the release of their classic album Pet Sounds and The Summer of Love in 1967 when Sgt. Pepper and the psychedelic music craze changed everything from pop to rock, The Beach Boys seemed to disappear. I don’t remember them making the transformation – for lack of a better term. It may have had something to do with their follow-up LP Smile not being released, but I’ll go ahead and take the blame for not paying closer attention. We were getting more into albums, so when the singles Heroes And Villains came out in 1967 and Friends the next year, I didn’t discover them until the early 1970’s.

And speaking of the ’70s…

Central Park 1971

I had a personal transformation during the summer of 1971 when I watched a television special called Good Vibrations From Central Park that featured The Beach Boys. Honestly, I didn’t even know they were still together. But the real shock was how they looked. They had somehow morphed into the Woodstock Generation by ditching the surf band striped shirts and white slacks for hippie bellbottoms, long hair and beards.

They played hits including Good Vibrations, but also a completely unexpected version of Okie From Muskogee. It was a cornball country novelty song as far as I was concerned (sorry Merle Haggard), but somehow The Beach Boys sounded and looked cool doing it. They also had a crowd of New York City hippies in Central Park singing along.

Their comeback became official later that year when they were on the cover of Rolling Stone and released the LP Surf’s Up, which I consider a classic and one of my favorites. I was back to being a fan.

So what about the core lineups? Okay…

I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio and can only guess I was home from college for Thanksgiving Break when I took my girlfriend to see the reinvented Beach Boys at Cleveland Music Hall on November 20, 1971. It was a smaller venue with great acoustics compared to the larger Public Auditorium next door and the band, with a horn section sounded great.

Of course Surf’s Up was featured, along with the hits.

In the smaller venue there was more interplay between the band and audience. I remember some guy yelled out, “Where’s Dennis?!” Carl answered back, saying Dennis had hurt his hand and not with them. And since Brian had stopped performing, that concert only included core members Carl, Mike and Al.

A memory from that show includes Al Jardine’s guitar strap breaking and his acoustic guitar dropping onto the stage. As the exasperated father yelled on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell LP:

“That’s no way to treat an expensive instrument!”

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Five months later on April 28th The Boys were back in the Cleveland area at John Carroll University. I can only guess I was on spring break from college and my girlfriend had dumped me, because I was there with two of my best friends. Dennis made it to this one and joined the core lineup with Carl, Mike and Al.

Since this was a college show it was a younger and more rambunctious crowd and there was a rush to get closer to the stage. Of course we were part of this music madness. Our pal Tim must have had some open running room in front of him and picked up enough speed that by the time he reached the stage the security guys grabbed him and kept his momentum continuing through the exit door. Locked out, he spent the end of the concert in the parking lot waiting for us.

I finished the concert close enough to be part of a small group that Mike Love allowed on stage to help sing the chorus of Barbara Ann. And yeah, it was very cool.

Brian & Carl Central Park 1977

My third concert included the entire core when Brian performed with the group in New York’s Central Park on September 1, 1977. I had only moved to the city a few months before and have an almost positive memory of going to the concert alone.

Well… okay, there were about a million other people there so it was far from a lonely experience.

As a Beach Boys fan, it was a real thrill to see the reclusive Brian Wilson on stage. And according to what I just found searching the internet to confirm this date, he sang lead on Sloop John B that hot, dry afternoon. And yeah, hot is a key word in that last sentence since we were in a late summer heat wave. I still have photos somewhere showing the band as small figures on a distant stage with clouds of dust  (from the softball fields?) hanging in the air.

Then I took a break for 22 years…

By the next time I saw The Beach Boys I was doing what a lot of boomers were doing when I was rocking out to the entire core lineup in Central Park. I was more mature and settling down with a family.

Making a return to northern Ohio I was writing concert reviews for a local newspaper. I was doing a feature on The Beach Boys at The Sandusky State Theater (near Cedar Point Amusement Park for all you roller coaster enthusiasts) and decided to make it a family outing. The date was October 22, 1999 and along with my wife Debutant Deb, sons 11-year old Chaos Kevin and 4-year old Dangerous Paul, we raided my once extensive collection of Hawaiian shirts so we could all dress surf-worthy for the show.

The Beach Boys

This version only included core member Mike Love and long-time member Bruce Johnston with their backing band. They were still billed as “The Beach Boys” since Love had legally secured the name from the surviving members, Brian and Al. Dennis had been gone since 1983 and Carl since only 1998.

The two cores and replacements reproduced the hits and we had the kids up and dancing for most of the show. And I have to admit it was great for a mature Beach Boys fan, though the other core members were very missed. It wasn’t the group picture I still have in my mind.

Sloop John B joined this Dream Songs list on August 9th. Brian Wilson rightfully deserves the title genius when it comes to his contributions and innovations to the 1960’s as a composer and producer, but he didn’t write this one.

It’s an older folk song that folkie Al Jardine suggested for the group. Brian did an updated arrangement and included it on Pet Sounds.

It’s one of my favorite tracks by The Beach Boys and even though Brian and Mike took turns singing lead on the recording, it turned into one (of many) that featured Carl during their live performances. Of course I own a copy and had just heard it, so we’ll surf this one into the recent memory category.

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s the 1966 promotional film for Sloop John B. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not what you might expect…

To purchase The Very Best of The Beach Boys: Sounds Of Summer with Sloop John B visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing

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#182 – No Particular Place To Go

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#182 – No Particular Place To Go by Chuck Berry

 – Musicologists, historians and even guys like me can sit around for hours debating the origins of rock ‘n’ roll. Robert Johnson, Delta Blues, rockabilly and obscure riffs from obscure regions can all fall into the mix if you dig deep enough. But for our purposes and particularly mine in an effort to avoid debate, it all started with Chuck Berry.

I recently read an article naming the most influential rock songs by Rock Hall members (only) that listed Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode as numero uno. There had been earlier rock ‘n’ roll songs by the time he recorded it in 1958, but Berry came up with a sound that had more influence on 1960’s rockers than anything else. It was a three-chord masterpiece copied by everyone from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones and beyond.

I’ve mentioned before about getting into the roots of rock ‘n’ roll through the back door. The first Chuck Berry song I remember hearing was during the first wave of U.S. Beatlemania in 1964 when they covered Roll Over Beethoven with George Harrison singing AND playing a wicked lead guitar break that still stands as one of my favorites. But it was only the tip of a very large musical iceberg I was yet to discover.

Another clue came later that same year when Johnny Rivers had a hit with Memphis Tennessee. My older cousin pointed out to me that his favorite duo, Jan and Dean, had released the same song a year earlier on their album, Surf City and Other Swingin’ Cities. When I questioned him about the composer of these songs, listed as “Berry” under the titles, he informed me it was Jan Berry (from Jan and Dean).

Oh well, what can you expect. I was about ten and he was only a year and a half older. What we didn’t know we would make up.

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Somewhere along the way I saw the real Chuck Berry on a television show like Hullabaloo or Shindig, so I wasn’t completely clueless. But it wasn’t until the era I consider to be a Rock ‘n Roll Revival that started with Elvis’ Comeback TV special in 1968 and the sudden popularity of Sha-Na-Na (who performed at Woodstock in 1969) that I started exploring the iceberg of originators. Instead of cover versions, I wanted the real deal and the first LP I purchased with this new frame of mind was a collection of Chuck Berry’s greatest hits.

To say I became a dedicated fan is an understatement. And to make sure Chuck Berry knew it, I had the chance to tell him a few years later. Well, sort of…

No Particular Place To Go joined this Dream Song list on August 2nd. It’s interesting (to me anyway) that of all the Chuck Berry songs I love, this is one I haven’t heard covered by the next wave of rockers. The only reason I can come up with is that Berry didn’t release the song until May 1964 when we were already in the midst of The British Invasion. It appeared later that year on the album St. Louis to Liverpool, which was already paying tribute to the mop tops that were putting Chuck back on the map. But by this time the newer bands were already playing his classics or borrowing his earlier riffs and turning them in to classics of their own.

Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out!

The main sources of inspiration for this newer wave of rockers included the three mentioned earlier (Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven and Memphis Tennessee). Along with School Days, these are usually The Berry Fab Four found most often on my digital playlists. And on what I consider to be the best live album ever recorded, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out by The Rolling Stones, the band kicked up the originator’s influence a notch by ripping through versions of Carol and Little Queenie that I’m positive have contributed to any hearing loss I might have thanks to cranking up the volume at the sound of the first notes.

And just for the fun of it, here’s a related question for dedicated Classic Rockers. Where would Keith Richards be without Chuck Berry? No answer needed – even he knows.

Of course I own a copy of No Particular Place To Go. And thanks to mixing up my digital playlists every week or two, I had just heard it. So this one has a place to go, which is into the recent memory category of Dream Songs.

The opportunity for me to tell Mr. Berry I was a dedicated fan happened in the spring of 1972. My musical tastes at the time were spread pretty wide, but three chord rock ‘n’ roll masterpieces still touched my soul more than anything else. I was full into the originators, along with The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who and others that were exploding off the turntable of my portable stereo during my freshman year in college. Hanging on my dorm walls were larger than life posters of John Lennon and Elvis and my inner conscious wondered why I was studying for classes I could care less about (and still don’t) instead of playing three chord masterpieces on an electric guitar in a band is beyond my looking back comprehension.

Chuck Berry Wallpaper Photo

I walked into the local record store to check out new releases and saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising Chuck Berry’s upcoming concert at a university within hitchhiking distance from us. I flipped out. I told a guy working at the store what a huge fan I was and he handed me the entire stack. He asked me to tape them up around our school. I said sure and immediately went back to my dorm room and turned the stack into Chuck Berry wallpaper surrounding my posters of Elvis and Lennon.

One of my best friends went to the neighboring school and I convinced him in to buy tickets for myself and the six or seven other guys in my dorm that I had converted into Berry fans. Since we were all college freshmen with no cars, on the morning of the concert we hitchhiked in shifts of two or three with plans to meet up at the arena.

We all arrived around noon, making us the first in line for general (festival) seating. Eventually there was a long line behind us and when the doors opened around 6 pm we raced ahead of everyone and claimed the floor space directly front and center of the stage.

A local group came out and played a set – I remember a high-energy cover version of Sympathy For The Devil – then became the backing band for Chuck Berry. In case you’re not up on Berry’s way of touring, he traveled alone in his Cadillac (or whatever he was driving). He’d tell the concert booker in advance to find backup musicians and have them learn the songs on his Greatest Hits album. He’d show up, they’d play on stage together for the first (and only) time, then Chuck would collect his money and drive off to the next gig.

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All of us in the packed arena were on our feet when Chuck walked on stage and started playing one classic after another. Near the end of his set he looked at the front row where we were standing and motioned for some of us to come up on stage to dance. I turned to a girl I had never seen before or since and said, “Let’s go!

My college pals did the same and while Chuck and his back-up band played we jumped, danced and sang along only a few feet away from him. When he finished, I seem to remember the girls going back into the audience. The guys? We had a chance to be close to Chuck Berry and we took it.

Before introducing the next song he said something to us, though I can’t remember what. It might have been about having a good time, so I took it as a cue. I put my arm over his shoulder and told him he was the greatest.

Travelin’ Chuck

Seriously. I’m not making that up.

He appeared to be in a good mood, which according to his reputation could be an unpredictable state, and I’m positive he thanked me. He launched into another song – we jumped around on stage – and that was it. He shouted goodnight, waved and left. We continued cheering from the stage as the crowd roared its approval.

As the audience was leaving I looked down from the stage and saw a guy I had gone to high school with making his way to the front. He shouted hello, reached up and we shook hands. He told me how cool it was that I had been on stage with Chuck Berry. He might even have told me we did a good show (together with Chuck?) but on second thought, I might just be making that part of the story up. Similar to being a ten-year-old kid, long ago memories have a way of doing that.

On a final note, No Particular Place To Go has another special meaning for me.

During the late 1980’s while living in New York City, I had a cat named Kokomo. We were pals and I still miss her. Later with my wife and two sons we had two cats and a dog, but Kokomo was my only pet before becoming a family man.

Almost everyone that visited my apartment and met Kokomo assumed I had named her after the 1988 Beach Boys hit that was in the soundtrack for the 1988 movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise. Nope… sorry to disappoint, but as a Classic Rocker I go much deeper than that. All the way back to lyrics by Chuck Berry:

No particular place to go, so we parked way out by the Kokomo.

Both the originator and my feline pal are gone, but not forgotten. Keep rockin’!!

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

To watch Chuck Berry perform No Particular Place To Go – live – with Keith Richards as part of his back up band, check out this video…

To purchase The Best of Chuck Berry with No Particular Place To Go visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing