I’ve seen Brian Wilson live. Fantastic show. I kind of want to see Mike Love’s Beach Boys just to compare, and I would have had I returned from my recent Seattle trip a day earlier (they just played Portland.) If I had my druthers, though, I’d travel back to 1973 to see them.
When the Beach Boys toured in support of their strong 1973 album “Holland,” they had quite a different look compared to just two years before. Brian, of course, hadn’t been on the road in years and participated minimally in the studio. Dennis Wilson wasn’t drumming thanks to a hand injury. Bruce Johnston had left the band in the midst of the preceding album “Carl and the Passions: So Tough.”
All of the above circumstances resulted in one of the more intriguing Beach Boys lineups in the history of the group, thanks to recruits Blondie Chaplin on guitar and vocals, and Ricky Fataar on drums and vocals. Chaplin, of course, was lead vocalist on one of the Boys’ most beloved tracks of the decade, “Sail On, Sailor.” Fataar co-wrote the fine album track “Leaving this Town” (and became a Rutle later in the decade).
“The Beach Boys In Concert” is one of my all-time favorite live albums. The band is tight, the harmonies are spot-on (but not TOO perfect), and the setlist is really strong, with plenty of focus on more recent works to balance out the “oldies but moldies.” In fact, five of the twenty songs are “Holland”-era tracks; four from the released album, and one track that was ultimately left off the LP.
If you’ve never heard “We Got Love,” well, don’t worry, it’s not a really bad Mike Love joke, even if he has a co-writing credit. This was just another fine moment from Chaplin and Fataar, featuring the latter on lead vocals. The song was originally recorded during the “Holland” sessions, but didn’t make the cut. They bring it to the stage on “In Concert” anyway, and the song is performed by the band with the same conviction and verve as long-standing classics like “Darlin’” and “Sloop John B.” This performance is emblematic of where the band was at the time: not resting on their laurels, still naturally evolving into the new decade, a group with a formidable past that still had something fresh to say. “We Got Love” really gives me a feel-good jolt because of what it represents.
Both “Holland” and “Beach Boys In Concert” enjoyed stronger sales than earlier Seventies releases, but this musical direction would soon come to a halt. Chaplin and later Fataar would leave the band, the 1974 cars/girls/surf-era “Endless Summer” compilation sold millions, and the classic Brian-Carl-Dennis-Al-Mike lineup would reunite and bring us the deliberately retro “15 Big Ones.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun album, but it’s decidedly an exercise in nostalgia, albeit with Brian’s hoarse voice popping up frequently.
The classic lineup had to get back together at some point, that much was inevitable. Still, I sometimes imagine what would have happened if Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar had hung around a few more years. We can only wonder…