Category Archives: Beach Boys

Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

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Bonus Tracks: Top 3 Back To School Songs

 – It doesn’t matter what generation you fit into on the pop culture chart, even if you’ve reached the status of “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The end of summer means one thing:

Back to school.

Okay, I’m not using that as an incentive to quit your job, pack up your vinyl album collection and move into a dorm. I’m only giving reason to the memories swirling through your mind after you’ve realized it’s too quiet around the house. Another younger generation of kids or grandkids is heading off to the halls of higher learning, which was once our domain. Our former turf where togas were considered formal wear and empty beer kegs served as coffee tables.

For many of us college was our first real taste of freedom. Also, for many of us, it goes down in the mental bank as the final four years of freedom until these same kids and eventually grandkids punched our admittance tickets into the real world.

Yeah, we all have something to remember about school when we hit this time of year. Grade school, junior high, high school or college – we’ve been there and done that. Some of these memories are great while others recall pure embarrassment. You might be dreaming of your old dorm room and wishing you could do it again knowing what you know now, or simply glad it’s all over.

Either way, like any memory, it should have a soundtrack. And since I’m not writing these ramblings for the incoming freshmen who will be glorifying Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Justin Bieber behind their memories decades from now… Wait. I take that back. Will anyone even remember Nicki, Kanye or Justin decades from now?

Sorry, guess I was stirring up the feeling of “been there, done that” while staring at my vinyl album collection. And since most of them date back to my college daze, it gives me an idea.

Using these historical grooved references tucked in designer cardboard sleeves as inspiration and to pay respect to Hollywood’s favorite college freshman, Rodney Dangerfield, here are my selections for the top three Back To School Classic Rock Songs. But keep in mind these are more than just songs about the topic. That’s not the main point. I’m going for the feelingattitude and just flat-out fun that were important memory-makers prior to our admittance into the real world.

It was – and still is – called college.

You may not agree with these choices because they may not even mention the word school or be associated with the end of summer. But if it’s been a few decades since you called your roommate a jerk, slept through a test because the Student Union had dollar drafts the night before, or know more about Leave It To Beaver than you do about Justin Bieber, you’ll find a reason to relate.

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No. 3 – Student Demonstration Time by The Beach Boys.

What’s a list about songs connected with summer that doesn’t have at least one connected to The Beach Boys? Except this choice has nothing to do with daddy’s T-Bird, surfin’ girls, California girls, or even staying true to your school. It’s all about the attitude of America’s college students in the early 1970’s from a group of college dropouts later revered as America’s Band.

College students in the 60’s and 70’s didn’t Tweet or Instagram their complaints about not trusting anyone over the age of thirty. They took over administration buildings, protested, and basically did whatever they could to make it clear they weren’t happy with what was handed down to them.

In this case, we’re not talking about tacky furniture and smelly closets left by graduating seniors for incoming frosh. Student Demonstration Time is about protesting an older generation’s policies in Southeast Asia that made college campuses more popular than a government job for males over the age of eighteen, thanks to student military draft deferments.

Too heavy for you? Okay, let’s skip the bullets and free speech references in the song and soften the blow for our list…

College students will protest just about anything because that’s what they’re good at. It’s like the old Burger King “have it your way” commercials. When we were enjoying our first taste of freedom, we wanted it our way – or no way.

  • Bad food in the cafeteria? Food fight.
  • Conduct codes? Co-ed dorms.
  • Dress codes? Streaking.

When this song closed side one of the classic Surf’s Up album in 1971, The Beach Boys were developing a social conscious despite resident genius Brian Wilson being zonked out in his bed for three years. His heir apparent and brother Carl Wilson fuzzed up his guitar and followed cousin Mike Love’s lyrical makeover of the classic Leiber and Stoller jailhouse rocker, Riot In Cell Block Nine, to put a hard edge on student protest songs. You can put this one on the next time the government screws you over or when the mashed potatoes are too soggy.

Warning: Repeated listening might awaken your inner Howard Beale (Peter Finch) attitude made famous in the 1976 film Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Just do us all a favor if it involves streaking and keep your shorts on.

Sorry, no video for this one. But here’s an audio LINK for Student Demonstration Time on YouTube.

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No. 2 – Hot For Teacher by Van Halen

Oh man… This one is just wrong. At least that’s what the Parents Music Resource Center said when they tried to have the song and (especially) the video pulled from the airwaves in 1984. But when it comes to combining feelings of your nerve-wracking first day of school with a crush on your teacher, this one brings back both.

The song is powered by testosterone and a rapid-fire guitar and drum onslaught from the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, along with the trademark backing vocal from bassist Michael Anthony. But as always in the band’s pre-Van Hagar days (a quick nod to Sammy), Diamond David Lee Roth is the sleazy guy hanging around the schoolhouse that your parents warned you to stay away from, but will have the best stories to tell at future class reunions.

Whether you were a Waldo, the kid in the video being fast-tracked to a nervous breakdown on the first day of school, one of the mini-me Van Halen clones encouraging a show-and-tell with their playmate-worthy teacher, or somewhere in the middle, Hot For Teacher is like many of the stories we reminisce about with our old school buddies. An exaggerated fantasy.

If you haven’t seen this video in awhile, you’d better check it out. Just don’t tell the kids…

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No. 1 – Shout by Otis Day & The Knights

Hey, cut me a break. Don’t you think I know the original Shout was by The Isley Brothers in 1959? And there was also a shortened version by The Beatles from their 1964 television special, Around The Beatles, and included on Anthology Vol. 1. But when it comes to pure back to school fun, National Lampoon’s Animal House put Otis Day & The Knights on The Campus Wall of Fame.

The film is set in 1962 which means the Isley’s original was one of the newer party songs played by every cover band that set foot in a beer soaked frat house. The entire setting was an extreme lampoon (okay, maybe not for everyone) of college life, but after the film’s release in 1978 it would’ve been hard to find anyone on academic probation that hadn’t wrapped a sheet around themselves at one time or another and shouted, “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!

Otis Day & The Knights were originally cast as actors with DeWayne Jessie as Otis and a young Robert Cray as the bass player. But after the soundtrack’s huge success (including Shama Lama Ding Dong), the group became a real band and toured the country.

Shout is a time proven rocker that gives every former college student the opportunity to embarrass themselves by demonstrating dance moves they’ve had no reason to update since graduation. With a gospel flavor that could’ve been James Brown’s follow-up sermon in The Blues Brothers had Jake and Elwood had gone back the next Sunday, it’s an arm waving, gator-inducing mind eraser that makes memories of going back to school a lot more fun than thoughts of returning to real life. It’s no wonder Bluto (John Belushi) spent seven years in the Delta House gaining valuable partying experience for his future career as Senator Blutarsky.

You wanna SHOUT with the Delta Tau’s? Here’s the clip from Animal House...

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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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#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

#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