The Beach Boys / Roy Orbison / The Surfaris / Paul & Paula

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" ... my mind drifted back some 38 years to the last time I saw Brian and the Beach Boys in Melbourne. My memory has given up on me in some aspects of this, (nothing to do with Alzheimer’s, just the passage of time), yet there are some visions of the event, which remain lucid. The look, sound and smell of Festival Hall for starters! I became an avid live performance fan quite early and I think I attended most touring shows at the old West Melbourne Stadium as it was originally known, throughout the ‘60s.

In ’63 and ’64, surfing, the Stomp, bleached hair, board shorts, the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean were very IN. So it was obvious that when the Harry M. Miller, “Surfside ‘64” show rolled into town for two nights in mid-summer of that year, I was going to be there. Package deals were the way to go in those days – you often got three or four stars on the one big show; the minimum criteria apparently being that they needed to have at least a solitary number one hit and that they were, “all the rage” at that time. (How many people remember Crash Craddock?).

This particular show starred Roy Orbison, Paul and Paula, The Surfaris, the token Aussie act – The Joy Boys - and of course the Beach Boys on the last leg of their Japan/Australia tour. As a pimply 16 year old, I sat with my mates in the second row to the far right of the Festival Hall stage – as close as we could possibly get to the front. I can’t nominate with any certainty whether I attended on 21 or 22 January, but I clearly remember the power of Orbison’s voice and his vocal range – I expected the roof to begin vibrating when he hit the big notes on “Crying”. But most of all, I remember being there for the Beach Boys. I had my copy of Surfin’ USA with the boys names written in pen on the back cover of the album so that I could tell who each one was. (A bit of confusion though, because Al Jardine had joined the band in place of David Marks).

I have some recollection of the stage being covered in sand and the Beach Boys playing barefooted, but this is probably my mind playing tricks, so forget that I even mentioned this. I am certain however that they must have called into Geelong Football Club and borrowed some blue/white-hooped guernseys. When they hit the stage, we had a REAL LIVE BEACH BOY standing only metres, (or feet then!) in front of us. Playing bass, this was Brian although at the time, we were a little unsure which BB it was. But the greatest surprise was yet to come.

To my disappointment, they were ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE, God-AWFUL in fact! Their backing was thin, timing was out, they looked uncomfortable and they sounded nothing like their records. I became an instant non-Beach Boys fan. Time has given me an appreciation of the reasons for this – the band was constructed by Brian as basically a vocal harmony unit and each member (probably apart from Al), had to learn an instrument to go on the road – Carl learnt rhythm guitar, Dennis had to take on the drums and Brian got stuck with bass guitar when the piano was his natural instrument. (Studio musicians were responsible totally for the instrumental backing on their records). Plus, the strain was beginning to show within the structure of the band as Brian’s mental health began to deteriorate and their father/manager’s tyrannical rantings were causing enormous friction."



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