Behind the rather cheesy cut-out cover picture of The Who as they appeared on the front page of The Observer colour supplement on March 20, 1966, lies a workmanlike but fairly brief biography of the group that won’t tell you anything you won’t have been able to glean from previous books but which is literate, accurate and illustrated with an acceptable collection of properly-captioned photographs. In this respect it is far superior to the shabbily conceived and seriously flawed Official History that I slated on Just Backdated in October. This is to be expected of Mat Snow, a former NME man who, between 1995 and 2000, was the editor of Mojo, the UK’s foremost music monthly.       
Nevertheless, it begs the same question I posed when reviewing Mark Blake’s excellent Pretend You’re In A War in 2014 and the Official History, namely what’s the point of another Who book when there are already so many good ones around? In my review of the Official History I drew attention to the commercial wisdom of publishing it at a time when The Who Hits 50 Tour would have been visiting the US (now rescheduled for 2016 since Roger Daltrey has happily recovered from viral meningitis), so I suppose it’s simply a question of another publisher jumping on the same bandwagon.
That said, this is a decent piece of work. Snow understands The Who and has done his research well, and his book benefits from the author’s own interviews with Pete Townshend, not least one in which Pete justifies The Who’s 1989 reunion by stating that he would do it only if he died first. “And what’s interesting is that I think I have died first,” states this most perverse yet perceptive interviewee. “The Who can only do it now because they are well and truly dead. We’ve got no new product, and we are creatively, clinically dead, so it’s just about history.” I missed that quote first time around and enjoyed reading it here.
The book also contains the best version of how Pete woke up in a bear pit in Berne in 1980, again gleaned from the author's own interview, and, more seriously, the most exhaustive and credible explanation I’ve read anywhere for the dilemma in which Pete found himself after accessing child porn on line in 1998.
The formation of the group, now a very well known tale, is dealt with well, though the roles of Kit Lambert and, more especially, Chris Stamp seem played down. Due credit is given to The Who’s greatest strength, their prowess on stage, and Snow has got the balance right with regard to the various aspects of their career, be it records, live work and films, not to mention extra-curricular material. He’s a fan and it shows in the respect he feels towards the group, all of which is reflected in the care he has taken to tell their story.
On the negative side, although Snow seems to have gleaned information from most of the reliable sources, he doesn’t appear to have read Dear Boy, otherwise he wouldn’t have described Keith’s first band The Beachcombers as ‘devotees of California’s cultish surf sound’, a myth long perpetuated by everyone expcept Tony Fletcher. Then again, I was guilty of the same error in my first Who book way back in 1982, as was my mate Richard Barnes whose Maximum R&B book came out the same year. I guess that, like Snow, we jumped to the same erroneous conclusion on the strength of the band’s name, but the more I think about it the more I conclude that it’s doubtful there were such things as surf bands in the UK in 1963/4. The Shel Talmy debacle is skimmed over without comment on how this affected the band financially or the great benefit it assured their former producer. As with the Official History, I also take issue with his assertion that Roger called Pete to tell him that Keith had died. It was the other way round, as Jackie Curbishley, manager Bill’s then wife who was manning the phones in the Trinifold office at the time, has told me on more than one occasion.
There’s a few other minor glitches: ‘I Can’t Explain’ didn’t appear on the original Live At Leeds, Keith didn’t move to Los Angeles with Annette until considerably later than is suggested here, and, contrary to a photo caption on page 158, Pete can’t have been onstage at Madison Square Garden on November 3, 1976, because The Who’s touring that year concluded on October 21 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, famously Keith’s last show before a paying audience.
Probably because they are free to use, the designers have chosen to illustrate the book with the covers of every Who album and also the labels and/or picture sleeves of all their singles too. Most of the pictures will be familiar to Who fans who already own large format books like this but aside from the mistakes mentioned above they are captioned well. I especially liked the photograph on page seven that features Cliff Townshend blowing his saxophone with the Squadronaires, in which he looks so much like his celebrated eldest son.
The book closes, more or less, with another strong extract from a reflective interview with Pete that Snow must have conducted fairly recently, and while this regrettably stresses his book’s bias towards The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, Snow has done his best to spread the laurels evenly, emphasizing Roger’s resilience which, by and large, is responsible for there still being a Who 50 years after ‘My Generation’, thus justifying the book’s title.



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those Who fans and everyone else who visits Just Backdated. Thank you for your continued support. CC



With 16,635 songs now on the new sound-enhanced iPod, the endless variety is amazing, and as the 8.54 shuffled out of Guildford this morning I was listening to Lester Flatt & Earls Scruggs, The Foggy Mountain Boys, singing ‘Is It Too Late Now?’, a plaintive love-song given the hoe-down treatment, from a Best Of CD I have called Mountain Breakdown. I have a soft spot for hillbilly mountain music and there ain’t no finer practitioners of the art than Flatt & Scruggs, the latter playing fine banjo on this one, the only other accompaniment Flatt’s acoustic guitar and a waltzing-style accordion, player unknown.   
         Derek & The Dominos, aka Eric Clapton and the crack American musicians he recorded with in the early seventies, was up next with ‘One More Chance’, which I think is what Flatt & Scruggs might have sounded like if they’d been born 30 years later: easy-going country rock, with what I think is a dobro and a nice slide acoustic, probably played by Duane Allman. This track wasn’t on the wonderful Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs album released in December 1970, and I think I came by it through buying a new version with bonus tracks from iTunes a few years ago. Far more laid back than its better known tracks, of which ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ and Eric’s Hendrix tribute ‘Little Wing’ remain long-term favourites.
         Eric was followed by Crowded House, ‘Fall At Your Feet’ from a pirate CD called Taking The Weather, recorded live somewhere in America I think. When I discovered CH back in the early nineties, for which I can think Lisa (Mrs C), I bought three live CH albums from a company in Italy where they proliferated unchecked by the industry. All sounded like sound board recordings to me, and this one is superb: lovely harmonies, all the better for being genuinely live with no subsequent tampering, nice song too.
         Next up was ‘Somewhere There’s A Girl’, smooth R&B, by The Valentinos, the group that introduced by Womack Brothers to the world, from a 23-track album called Looking For Love that I bought on the recommendation of my old Melody Maker colleague Richard Williams who extolled its virtues on his terrific Blue Moment blog. Wrote Richard: “What always struck me about the Valentinos was how, at a time when most soul hits gave the impression of having been moulded in a studio, the Womack brothers sounded like a band playing together on stage in front of an audience. There was an R&B-style rawness and immediacy about their records, a sense of rough edges left unpolished. It was probably that quality to which The Rolling Stones were responding when they heard the group’s record of ‘It’s All Over Now’, written by Bobby and Shirley Womack, and swiftly covered it, making it their first UK No 1 in July 1964, only a few weeks after the release of the original version in the US.” Thanks Richard.
         Elvis followed, a segue of a song called ‘This Time’ into the Ray Charles’ hit ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’, which sounds a like a studio jam, especially as EP starts laughing at the sound of a (very) down-tuned guitar. He stumbles over the lyrics until ‘Can’t Stop…’ explodes with magic as he finds his way, a fabulous voice singing a lovely song. From one of my many Elvis box sets.
         Next up was the Four Seasons with ‘Rag Doll’, from a ‘Best of’ CD I have, which opens with that haunting baion drum sound. Funny to think that back in 1964 Vee-Jay Records in America actually released a two-record set entitled The Beatles v The Four Seasons which had the US album Introducing The Beatles in one side of a gatefold cover and a Four Seasons comp in the other. Pictured below:

         The best part of ‘Quinn The Eskimo’, by Bob Dylan & Band recorded in 1967 and from the fairly recently released new Basement Tapes CD, is Garth Hudson’s swirling, fairground organ. Under the title ‘Mighty Quinn’, this was a hit for Manfred Mann in 1968, but I prefer Bob.
         Next up was Bruce Springsteen singing ’Reason To Believe’, a live recording from the E Street Band 1975-85 album, which I think I bought as a three-LP vinyl set on the day of release, plucking it from a great pile of them just inside the door of the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street which is now a downmarket clothes shop, a hellish place too. Bruce’s Nebraska album, from which this song is taken, is among his very best though it takes a while to love. When you do, however, you’ll remain faithful for ever.
         ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ by the Arctic Monkey is uncharacteristically laid-back by their standards but I can forgive them anything with lyrics like, ‘I wanna be your vacuum clear, breathing in your dust. I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I won’t ever rust’. Very nice.
         And then it was back to The Band, ‘Endless Highway’ from the Dylan live album Before The Flood, sung – I think – by Richard Manuel, with Robbie contributing a fine guitar solo. The opening line ‘Take a silver dollar and put it in your pocket’, reminds me of a song by Perry Como that my dad liked called ‘Catch A Falling Star’ which Perry also put in his pocket. I probably heard The Band play this in early 1974 when I caught this memorable tour at the Garden in New York. Terrific.
         And then it was back to doo wop, Ricky Nelson singing about ‘A Teenagers Romance’, a bit tame but enlivened by a sax solo. This was the B-side to ‘I’m Walking’, Nelson’s first US hit back in 1957 and my version comes from a massive retrospective I have with no fewer than 55 songs on it. Of course I bought it mainly to hear James Burton’s guitar.
         Finally this morning I was charmed by James Whild Lea, aka Jim Lea of Slade with a lovely song called ‘The Smile Of Elvis’ from his 2007 solo album Therapy. Written, produced and recorded by Lea, it was never promoted which is a crying shame as many of the tracks are gorgeous, including this one, a lovely melody enhanced by orchestral woodwind and a fine chorus. I’ve known Jim for the best part of 45 years and we still meet up from time to time, and on the last occasion he played me some of his own work on the system in his car parked up the street from my office. I believe quite strongly that Jim doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his role in Slade, but there isn’t much he can do about it as he dislikes the limelight, unlike Noddy who nowadays seems to get all the acclaim. Still, you can buy Therapy on Amazon and, if these reviews are anything to do by, I’m not alone in thinking it’s a five star album:


BOY, INTERRUPTED by Dale Hibbert

The last two music books I reviewed favourably on Just Backdated had a combined total of over 1,400 pages but it would be wrong to assume that bulk equals quality. This relatively slim memoir, a paperback cheekily (mis)titled after a book and subsequent film about a girl’s experiences in a mental institution, contains only 248 pages but still manages to pack a serious punch, simultaneously evoking the Manchester music scene of the early eighties from which The Smiths and others emerged, paint a fascinating portrait of the young but knowing Morrissey, and offer a compelling account of the characteristically rootless life of an Asperger sufferer who just happened to be a founding member of Morrissey’s group. It is also remarkably literate, for which Dale Hibbert can thank his ghost writer, the Lancashire-based journalist, author and publisher Mark Hodkinson.
          Those who suffer from Asperger syndrome have difficulty reading signals from those with whom they come into contact and, as a result, sometimes react in ways that can confuse and repel them. Often regarded as ‘odd’ by others, they find it difficult to make small talk and do many things that are considered ‘normal’. This can lead to lapses of judgement and rash risk-taking, sometimes catastrophic, sometimes advantageous. So while Hibbert’s brief association with The Smiths provides a hook on which to hang his story – and promote the book – it is by no means the whole of the story. As the back cover blurb informs, Hibbert has been married four times, has eight children, been both penniless and a millionaire, and lived in a car and a mansion. He’s also lived in Australia and the Czech Republic, ran nightclubs and eateries, is an expert on coffee, been a highly paid IT consultant and ‘died’ twice, meaning that when he recovered from two potentially fatal episodes his doctors were as amazed as I was at the life he has led.
          Hibbert’s mother died eight days after he was born, a precursor to a lonely and confused childhood exacerbated by a difficult relationship with his father but eased by closeness to his paternal grandmother. Unable to progress academically, he drifted into music, buying a bass guitar at the age of 14 and teaching himself to play alongside friends. He encountered Johnny Marr through his work as a recording engineer and association with a group called Freak Party. Invited to play bass in Marr’s next group, after a few rehearsals he wound up on stage as a Smith during their debut appearance, supporting Blue Rondo A La Turk at Manchester’s Ritz Club in 1982. He never played with them again and is at pains to correct not only misunderstandings that may have circulated amongst fans with regard to his role in the group but also that this was by no means a life-altering setback. The sincerity of the writing, especially about his own life before and after his brief tenure as a Smith, stamps clear validity on his version of events as presented here.
          Of more interest than this simple twist of fate, however, are Dale’s observations of Morrissey and Marr. This, from his first meeting with them: “Within an hour or so I realised that they each had a very different relationship with silence. Johnny appeared afraid of it, even slight pauses, and was impelled to fill any gaps in the conversation. Steven was comfortable with it, more so than anyone I had known until that point in my life. It was almost as if he had been instructed in how to use it, the empowerment it might offer. If this wasn’t so, and he had an innate understanding of its possible use and effect, he had been shrewd enough to embrace it because I sensed he used it cleverly to alter the space and mood in the room.”
          And again, later: “It was as if he [Morrissey] could see into the future and was able to shape it to fit himself. He knew absolutely what he wanted and the lifestyle to go with it. He had unerring confidence in himself. There was no doubt in his mind that he would become the person he became.”
          Paragraphs like this indicate that although Hibbert’s Asperger handicapped him in many ways, it enabled him to read the mind of this most perverse of rock stars, and reach conclusions other may have failed to grasp. It’s said those who suffer in certain ways develop extraordinary talents in others, that the blind can hear better than most, that dyslexia is a gift not a burden. Aside from the fascinating insights into the origins of the best UK band of the eighties, Boy, Interrupted describes movingly how Hibbert overcame hardship and, somehow, invented a topsy-turvy life for himself that many would envy. Today Dale Hibbert runs a vegan cafĂ© in Todmorden and if I’m ever in the neighbourhood I’ll call in for a veg samosa. I won’t expect small talk, though. 



In the past 24 hours Just Backdated had its 300,00th hit, another milestone for my one-man micro music magazine.
In keeping with my custom of putting down a few facts and figures that are available only to the bloggers themselves whenever these landmarks are reached, here are some more statistics. The Top Ten blogs (out of a total of 548) are still all posts about The Who, the leader still that one about Keith Moon being in the last ever photograph taken (by Pete ‘Dougal’ Butler) of John and Paul Beatle, which has a virtually unassailable tally of 13,840 hits now, well ahead of number two, my scoop about The Who Hits 50 tour, on 5,168, with third place still occupied by my post about the launch of Dear Boy, Tony Fletcher’s wonderful biography of Moonie, which now has 4,152 hits. None of these have changed very much, though oddly the Moonie/Beatle chart topper seems to have had five fewer hits than it did when I celebrated my 250,000th hit back in August. How can that be? I probably got my figures mixed up.
With a total of 548 posts, and the figure creeping up to around 300 hits a day, that’s actually an average of just less than 548 hits per post, which is a bit of a weird coincidence. This figure, of course, is skewed by all my Who posts getting well over 1,000 hits, many of them over 2,000, and they all seem to creep up gradually and, like my tribute to John Entwistle, one of the earliest posts (now on 2,280), getting a boost when an anniversary comes around. Similarly, there’s a gradual exponential rise overall as more fans around the world discover JB, with the result that it has taken far less time to go from 250,000 to 300,000 than it did to go from 200,000 to 250,000 – let alone from zero to 50,000.
Non-Who posts that have topped 1,000 are almost always the result of having been shared on a fans’ Facebook pages or websites, and this also explains why the Who posts have as many hits as they do. It gives me enormous pleasure to report that they include my recent tribute to Slade’s much-loved tour manager Swinn (Graham Swinnerton), which as of this morning had reached 1,432 – extremely heart-warming considering the subject isn’t a rock performer per se. This is far more than any other Slade-related post, a result that really makes the effort worthwhile. In descending order, the only other non-Who posts that have topped the 1,000 mark are the one about Rory Gallagher and his battered old Strat (2,848), Wilko Johnson’s appearance at Louder Than Words last year (2,210), my interview with Little Feat’s Lowell George (1,517), the review of Abba’s Live At Wembley album (1,659), the photos of The Beatles from the Looking Through You book (1,254), the extract from Tony Fletcher’s memoir Boy About Town, which is actually Who-related as it deals with Keith’s death (1,157) and, finally, just edging into four figures fairly recently, my report on Jimmy Page’s live interview in Knightsbridge from October 2014 (1,031).
The sources of all these hits remains pretty much the same with the US (135,224) well ahead on the UK (70,154), and Canada third on (10,325). Thereafter it’s Germany, France, Japan and Australia, followed by Russia and the Ukraine, both of which crept into the top ten fairly recently. In tenth place it’s the Netherlands.
Anyway, thanks again to everyone for visiting Just Backdated. I’ll keep on posting just as long as you folk keep on hitting.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND – Live at the Agora, Cleveland, August 9, 1978.

Bruce was leading a leaner, meaner E Street Band in 1978, road trained to the nth degree from playing night after night throughout ’76 and ’77 to keep the wolf from the door while lawyers sorted out the messy business with Mike Appel that prevented him from recording with new manager/producer Jon Landau.
It shows, too. I’ve been listening to this recently released three-disc set, recorded live at the 1,800-seater Agora, for the past few days, driving around with it in the car and on the train on the iPod. Much bootlegged, though not one I ever owned or heard until now, it’s taken from a radio broadcast on WMMS. It was an era when Bruce talked a lot during his shows, stories from his past that might have had little more than a grain of truth in them but no one cared. All the tall tales led into songs and while he spoke, often passionately, the E Street men ticked over behind, every so often hitting the beat to emphasise a punch line, ever ready to pounce at the right moment and leap into songs like ‘Factory’, ‘Growin’ Up’ or covers like ‘Pretty Flamingo’ and Rave On
In those days the E Street Band displayed their credentials by playing plenty of immaculate covers, as I noted myself when I saw Bruce a few times in ’74 and ’75 and wrote about this feisty upstart for MM. Although the Darkness songs wouldn’t have been performed at the shows I saw, the chats, the generous acknowledgement of stellar contributions from band members, the covers and – most importantly – the actual sound of the band, unusual for having both organ and piano, reminds me of those shows, three or four in New York, one on a revolving stage out on Long Island and a couple down the East Coast in Norfolk, Va., where ‘Flamingo followed a rap about the hottest girl on the block.
The night’s fun at the Agora begins with a rip snorting ‘Summertime Blues’, more Cochran than Who, Clarence taking the vote-hungry congressmen role, which segues via the archetypal ‘1-2-3-4’ into ‘Badlands’, followed by a brief respite and ‘Spirit In The Night’. Despite a 10-minute ‘Prove It All Night’, prefaced by a long, sulky guitar-piano intro, my favourite moment on Disc 1 is ‘Racing In The Street’, as ever a showcase for Roy’s piano which hits just the right note as it echoes Motown in Bruce’s exquisite metaphor for making the most out of life. The riches upon which Bruce could already draw is reflected in the choice of ‘Thunder Road’, introduced by a story about a road trip, and ‘Jungleland’ to close out the first half of the show, a pair of songs most bands would happily use to close out the night.
After Clarence’s showcase ‘Paradise By The C’ and a moody ‘Fire’, the second disc takes off with ‘Sherry Darling’, unrecorded then but clearly intended as the kind of singalong that ‘Hungry Heart’ would become. Bo Diddley is reimagined during ‘Not Fade Away’, a verse or three sung by Steven in what sounds a bit like a London accent, then ‘Gloria’ which segues into ‘She’s The One’. The central section of a 13-minute plus ‘Backstreets’ is given over to the slower, bluesy ‘Drive All Night’, soon to appear on The River, and ‘Rosalita’, almost as long and as lively as ever, includes a snippet of The Village People’s ‘Macho Man’.
         Disc 3 opens with a gorgeous ‘Fourth Of July (Sandy)’, Danny on that swaying accordion, then it’s into a lengthy home straight: ‘Born To Run’, taken at one hell of a lick, followed by three encores, the recently written ‘Because The Night’, prefaced with some spacey high-end guitar descents over Roy’s ominous piano, Eddie Floyd’s fun-filled Stax belter ‘Raise Your Hand’ then, finally, ‘Twist And Shout’, opening in ‘La Bamba’ mode before morphing into something like The Beatles’ version via a mid-section drop away and slow build before finishing with one of those shuddering extended climaxes that’s as easy as 1-2-3 for this crew.
         Bruce and E Street Band detractors have suggested that, at heart, they’re nothing more than a bar band and this live set won’t alter that view. I don’t care. Some of the best rock’n’roll I’ve heard in my life has been in bars and the E Street Band and their leader, brimful of energy and joi de vivre, are and always have been, quite simply, the best bar band in the world.



THE BEACH BOYS: Convention Center, Anaheim, California, December 1973

Forty-two years ago, resident in Los Angeles as Melody Maker’s US correspondent, I drove down to the Convention Center in Anaheim in a red Ford Pinto with an English girl called Caroline in the passenger seat, there to see and review The Beach Boys. I refer to this night in a post here (http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/california-girl.html) and my review appeared in the issue of Melody Maker dated December 8, today. Carried away by seeing the group in their own backyard, it's a bit on the cheesy side but here it is…

Hi gang. Round up Cindi and Patti, Kathy and Debbie, grab a Coke and a taco ‘cos we’re off to see the Beach Boys at Anaheim, California. Pack your surf boards away in daddy’s T-Bird, slip on those whites and let’s get ourselves a headful of good vibrations.
          These Beach Boys get around. They’ve changed a lot since the Wilson Brothers, Alan Jardine and Mike Love wore candy striped shirts and played gala concerts singing about the surf, sea, sand, cars and new girls in school.
          They’re older, probably wiser, and the group’s a whole lot bigger. But the songs remain the same and the only difference in the audience is that their hair is longer, and sweet-smelling roll-your-owns seem to have the edge on popcorn for peripheral enjoyment
          Tonight these Beach Boys – lots of ‘em – are entertaining in Southern California, their home base.
          They don’t go out on the road very often these days, but when they do they’re assured of a warm welcome, especially here, which in turn makes this evening especially interesting to yours truly, an Englishman weaned on The Beach Boys, fascinated by the “surf” music period and expecting a truly genuine Californian evening’s rock and roll.
It was a bit like a fantasy come true.
          Anaheim lies south of Los Angeles, about an hour’s drive down the Santa Anna Freeway, through the industrial belt of LA and towards Disneyland, which is actually only a stone’s throw away from the Convention Centre where the concerts are held in this locality.
          It’s just inside Orange County, an almost all white area which has a reputation for favouring the John Birch life-style. I didn’t see one black face at the concert – just 10,000 kids, mostly with blond hair, tans and tee-shirts. It could almost have been Sweden.
          The Convention Centre is one of those futurisitic buildings, large enough to accommodate an aeroplane, which was primarily designed for basketball.
          It’s full to the brim of eager Beach Boys fans, a 50/50 sex breakdown, most of whom appear very young. There’s youths with slight blond down on their upper lips, hoping their facial growth will impress the scores of nubile girls who have braces on their teeth, very long blonde hair and flat chests.
          Two seats down from me, one guy was asking a girl what grade she was in. That’s tantamount to inquiring one’s age in this country, and age is an important factor in a teenage boy/girl relationship.
          If you do IT under 18, the boy could end up behind bars on a rape charge. With all the bare midriffs floating around, it’s surprising the jails aren’t overcrowded after a Beach Boys show.
          These kids of 14, 15, 16 and 17 are sitting around exchanging their roll-your-owns as casually as I pull on a Marlborough. Even if The Beach Boys did start making records before these kids were old enough to work a turntable, they’re out to enjoy themselves tonight. Local patriotism, I suppose. Incredible though it seems, it’s raining outside – a peculiarly sour note for me as I always associated The Beach Boys with the sun. I tend to play my Pet Sounds and innumerable “greatest hits” or “best of” albums during July and August in England.
          This rain is holding up the concert. It’s a rare thing and, just as snow and ice holds up the world in England, a few drops of rain delay things here in California.
Drivers aren’t used to wet roads and they drive slower, bringing the freeways to a crawling pace. The Beach Boys, so the announcer tells us, are stuck in such a jam, so there’s a long delay between Three Man Army, the British rock trio who opened, and the arrival of the surfing kings.
          The same traffic jam delayed me, so I only caught a snatch of Three Man Army’s closing number. They appeared a competent, if not spectacular bunch of rockers, who were warmly appreciated – especially when they thanked The Beach Boys (who weren’t actually there, of course) for the opportunity to play.
          Any mention of The Beach Boys, and this audience yells and yells.
          But the delay gives me an opportunity to size up the crowd, and the roadies time to plant bunches of flowers around the stage. With the fancy lighting at the back (hundreds of tiny lights stretching from the stage to a bar about 20 feet high, in parallel lines), the stage begins to resemble a tropical garden.
          The lights eventually dim and everybody, but everybody, stands up, cheering, yelling and generally greeting the group’s arrival as if they’d descended from heaven. There’s four girls in front of me who decide a better view is available if they stand on their seats, which they do, thus blocking the view of several hundred people behind, including myself.
          But the initial euphoria dies down as the group open the set with a slow song, ‘Sail On Sailor’ from the Holland album. And it’s obvious from the outset that Mike Love is the front man these days.
          Dressed in a pink creation with matching pants and top, a huge yellow sunflower design over his chest and a straw hat that’s mildly comical in appearance, he takes the role of cheer leader, moving in a Jagger like fashion to most of the numbers and taking care of the introductions.
          The two Wilson brothers, Carl and Dennis, pick guitars in the centre of the stage, while the fourth original, Alan Jardine, adopts his usual pose with one hand over his ear, taking care of the falsetto, apparently contributing the least to the overall sound, but vital to the vocal harmonies that make the Beach Boys what they are.
          There’s a host of others on the stage too.
          The two South Africans, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin are now really part of the act, singing their songs from the Holland set, almost as well loved as the originals.
Ricky is another drummer, while Blondie is to the fore, guitar at the ready. There’s a brass section, too, an extra bass player and an extra keyboard player. Indeed, there must be about a dozen musicians up there on the stage, some hidden behind the foliage, but all pumping out a very tight background to the songs, which soon come thick and fast.
          ‘Sloop John B’ follows ‘Sailor’ and at the first note of this first “oldie”, the audience are up again, dancing, jumping, yelling and singing along as if these songs were some kind of local national anthem, which they probably are.
          There’s new songs and old, but it’s the old ones that go down the best.
          There’s ‘California Girls’, dedicated to someone’s mother, and while they’re up there chanting about these fine specimens of female flesh from the golden state, the girls themselves are all around me loving every moment of it.
          Well, I gotta admit, most of them are kinda neat.
          “Here’s one of the first songs we ever wrote,” cried Carl in one break. “Our brother Brian wrote it and the words were written in a field in Hawthorne, California.”
          The song was ‘Surfer Girl’, the first time I’d heard this beautiful Wilson composition aired live. Fortunately the audience was respectfully silent as the harmonies filled the auditorium.
          Then there was ‘Darling’, and ‘Surfin’ USA’, which had everyone dancing in the aisles, then ‘Heroes And Villains’, a short version, and ‘Help Me Rhonda’, during which the whole audience sang along.
          They did ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, which Mike Love said was his favourite number of them all, and paused before the opening chords to ‘Good Vibrations’ as if this was to be the climax to the evening’s entertainment.
          The simple syllable “I”, sung to open the song, was the cue for total chaos. Each and every throat opened and sang along, building to a huge climax during the “Gotta keep those loving good, vibrations...” bit. It was the final number, but three encores followed.
          “This is about a girl who was always kinda special to us,” said Love as the group re-appeared. “Ba-ba-ba, Ba-ba-bra Ann.” More chaos. “Here’s one you might know... Round, round, get around.....”
          A great sea of blonde heads was swaying crazily around me by this time. The audience had rushed the front, grabbed the flowers from the stage and hurled them back at the group. You could almost have surfed over the top of them.
          Off again, but back for more....”She took her Daddy’s car, and drove through the hamburger stand now.”
          This was fun, fun, fun in the real meaning of the word. Off again, more yelling, house lights, boos, house lights down, cheers. The group stumbled on. Mike Love removed his shirt and, with the house lights up again, they closed on ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ with Love wiggling in his best Jagger fashion. That was it, they told us afterwards.
Mike Love stammered something about a party on New Year’s Eve to which the whole audience would be invited, and expressed a desire to go on tour and take this whole bunch of Beach Boy maniacs along with them.
          “There’s no place like home,” said one of the Wilsons. Then they were gone.
          And outside it was still raining. It hadn’t mattered a bit.

(The photograph, taken off the internet, is actually The Beach Boys at New York's Madison Square Garden on December 19, so the line up would have been the same.)