Where to start....The Beach Boys, little did I know how much a part of my life they had been. It's hard to know where to start, maybe the beginning is best.
As a 15 year old 'surfer girl' living in Cornwall, working in a hotel with a private beach I was introduced to The Beach Boys, sure I knew their stuff, their uplifting pop, surfs up sound, I hadnt heard Pet Sounds....I had the pleasure of being introduced to that by a Brian Wilson fan. This was the moment, tape cassette playing, I heard the profound talent of Mr Wilson, guided through the album, on a loop, I heard Pet Sounds for what is was, a genius piece of musical sound. Some may disagree and that's ok, but for me it opened a door.
Fast forward 32 years to last night, the Albert Hall, The Beach Boys 50th celebration. I could taste the excitement, trepidation, fear. The Albert Hall, Ive never been before, we walked around it earlier in the day, a beautiful building with a set purpose, to celebrate the arts, my kind of place.
I had no expectations, which for a fan may sound strange, but just to be there was enough. We queued, patiently, I held back my better half from attacking the inevitable touts and looked at the waiting crowd. There were a few cheesey Hawaiian shirts a few radio 3 type beards someone had even gone to the bother of suit tails and his Mrs had a ballgown on, bit much to be fair, but not for me to judge.
Doors open, we stream in, very orderly, an orderly kind of crowd to be honest, straight to the loo and then the bar. The atmosphere was muted, other half reckoned the crowd would be a sitting down, appreciative kind of crowd, inside I thought they wouldn't be able to resist....and then we went to our seats. Oh my god...remember I have never been to the Albert Hall before, we were up with the musical gods, on walking through the double doors my breath was taken away, a musical collesium, and fucking high up!! Ok, so I am fearful of heights and once the feeling of wanting to chuck myself over the balcony had gone I soaked it all up! Wow. The chap next me sensed my overwhelmed little soul and engaged in chat, nice chat, not forced or fake. I liked him, he was here for the same reason as us, to share a space with Brian Wilson.
Running late, I started to fear the Brian wasn't go to be there. A bit of action on the stage, tuning a small sound check and then the 'boys' were introduced....Brian Wilson trundled on, he appeared weary, laden, fragile, but he was there, oh god it was Brian Wilson, there, sat at the grand piano, Brian fucking Wilson. I really must apologise now for my seemingly uncalled for swearing but the emotions I felt are proving more difficult to put into words than I imagined, it really was a wave of complete respect, love, an amazement, there was Brian Wilson, awesome!! I wanted to cry, bit early for tears, they hadn't even started playing yet, I was simply overwhelmed.
And so it begins.....no real chat just a 1,2,3,4.....Do It Again.....Little Honda...Catch a Wave. Putting all the internal politics, like dislikes aside there they were. Love sounded good, Jardine, small almost insignificant was big in sound and presence and Brian, arms moving slightly erratically, was in the groove. His fragility palapable, to be honest the first few songs were a bit of a blur for me, for there before me was Brian Wilson, I stared at him, hoping he was ok, hoping he would make it through the concert, Brian Wilson and me and my man, sharing the same space. I could now list the songs in the first half, I won't, there were 34, yes 34 in the first half! Stand out tracks were Surfin Safari, Isn't It Time, Don't worry baby and I Get Around, but in fairness the first half was great, the band, session musicians, were tight and Brian, although had a shaky start warmed up and sang and conducted from his grand piano, a position of greatness, for a great man.
Interval, swift smoke, few words spoken between me and the better half, just a shared smile in acknowledgement of confirmation of what we saw in the first half was actually amazing, a shared feeling of an inner joy at what we had seen, heard and experienced. I felt huge to me, Im unable to put into words what I felt.
And now back inside a flurry of anticipation hit me, butterflies in my tummy, can it really get any better? An instrumental, Pet Sounds introduces the second half, and a very moving version of Add Some Music to Your Day, sat around the piano with Brian king of all he's written. Song number 39 Heroes and Villains an orally difficult song to deal with, harmonies, codas, layers, but a favourite and then, the moment I wanted and dreaded at the same time, Brian Wilson singing I wasn't Made for These Times, a quick look at the better half, for reassurance, Brian sang, beautifully, one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. He was made for these times, these times are moving forward always, as was he, as was his genius, and there he was, singing one of my favourite ever songs, captivating, enthralling, difficult, emotional. I cried, my new pal sat next me removed his glasses to wipe away a tear or two, tissues out. It was always going to happen. As if that wasn't enough then came this, non stop..California Dreamin, California Saga, In my Room ( which was electric, magnificent, touching, emotional) All This is That, That's Why God Made The Radio (Stand out song, layered, powerful, beautifully sung/played) Forever, God Only Knows, Sloop John B (Awesome) Wouldn't it be Nice, Good Vibrations......I'll stop, it went on and on and on, non stop people, non stop. Help me Rhonda rocked and Surfin USA, while not a fave of mine was simply fantastic. 57 songs delivered, Brian Wilson made it, exhausted with emotion we sat down, a chance to catch our breath and then head home, happy. Hang on, they're coming back on.....an encore, Kokomo, Barbara Ann and Fun Fun Fun....Brian Wilson is handed a bass guitar, he leaves the safety of his grand piano and stands before us, uncomfortable in the raptrous applause and adulation he receives....they left the stage, a simple look to the other half was enough...WOW! It's wasn't over though, Brian is led back on, the others follow, he sits at his piano and sings Summers Gone, poignant, meaningful, soulful and incredibly emotionally charged...we stood still, just me and my man, lost in the haze of pure magic, a stolen moment, just us and Brian Wilson, we hugged, I cried, I wish I could explain what that moment represented, what it meant, how it felt, I cant and I suspect if I could you wouldn't be able to get a sense of how incredible that moment was.
The journey home was filled with talk of how superb the evening was, the nearer we got to home the more reflective I became. The thing is I didn't realise how much a part The Beach Boys had played in my life, in my musical timeline, from the surfer girl to the, mum, woman I am today. Not a week has gone by where I don't listen to at least one track, for 30 plus years. My musical timeline is filled with all manner of sounds, from hard rock to classical, but the one mainstay, the thing that has turned me on, is the sound of Brian Wilson's genius. The layers, the harmonies, the risks.....
Yesterday, live at the Albert Hall I saw The Beach Boys, a shared experience with the man I love. We were affected, it was joyous and sad. There arent many moments in time that can be treasured, stored in the heart, in the soul, yesterday, the 28th September 2012 was one of those moments. An honour to share it with Alan, and honour to share it with the rest of the audience and an honour to share a space with Mr Brian Wilson....
Thank you baby x