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Live At Knebworth
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Good Timin: Live at Knebworth, England 1980 __________________________________________________


The Beach Boys in concert at Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire on 21st June 1980 (it’s been listed erroneously elsewhere as June 20th) was a memorable occasion in more ways than one.  Most important of all, it was the last time all six Beach Boys – Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Alan Jardine and Bruce Johnston – would appear together, singing and playing, on a UK stage.

The tour itself was to promote the band’s then-current album ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’, released three months before their UK visit.  The previous weekend had seen the Beach Boys play two nights at Wembley Arena, which may have had something to do with slow ticket sales prior to Knebworth.  London-based Capital Radio, who sponsored the event, nevertheless did their utmost to promote the outdoor concert.

The full line-up, in order of appearance, was the Blues Band, Lindisfarne, Santana, Elkie Brooks, Mike Oldfield and the Beach Boys.  Both Santana and Oldfield had both played Wembley a matter of weeks before, which also didn’t help overall sales.  Eventual attendance was around 43,000 – well below the hoped-for 100,000 capacity, but still a fair-sized crowd.  Everyone who attended seemed to have a good time despite the cold and drizzle.

During the build-up to the event, Capital, instigated by the late and much-missed DJ Roger Scott, invited listeners to vote for their top three Beach Boys songs.  The result was an all-time Top 12, which makes interesting reading: 12. Fun, Fun, Fun  11. Here Comes The Night (1979 version)  10. Help Me Rhonda  9. Sloop John B  8. Lady Lynda  7. I Get Around  6. Barbara Ann  5. Wouldn’t It Be Nice  4. Surfin’ USA  3. God Only Knows  2. California Girls  1. Good Vibrations.

No fewer than 11 of that ‘dream dozen’ were performed live at Knebworth.  To emphasise the groundbreaking magnificence of the Number 1, twice as many votes were cast for ‘Good Vibrations’ as ‘California Girls’.  The radio broadcast of the Top 12 featured interviews with all six members of the group talking about the songs.  This made fascinating listening and some of these comments appear later in this note.  Roger Scott even got the guys to sing two impromptu versions of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Brian Wilson, who celebrated his 38th the day before the gig.  They reprised this greeting at the concert before performing ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’.

The build-up to Knebworth was also very special to me.  I had recently taken over as editor of Beach Boys Stomp magazine for its 20th issue (we are now up to issue 125) and my task was to get a bunch of albums signed for the second annual Beach Boys Convention.  (2001 is our 23rd.)  The band’s record company at the time, CBS, were very co-operative and supplied some special interview discs that featured Roger Scott talking to Bruce Johnston, Mike Love and Brian Wilson about the making of the ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ album.  This 12-inch vinyl promo disc had been repackaged with a picture disc of the previous ‘LA (Light Album)’ and the current release, and is a very collectible item today.

I did get to meet all six Beach Boys over that week and weekend, with varying degrees of success.  First was Mike Love who, after a call to his hotel room, took a break from meditating to sign a few sleeves.  Carl Wilson took great interest in a ‘Sunflower’ sleeve to point out who all the children on the cover were, including his sons Justin and Jonah.  He told me he was planning a solo album and, being a fan of the Beatles and Bad Company, wanted to make music with a harder edge.  This he duly did with the ‘Carl Wilson’ album, released a year later in 1981.

It was the first and only time I got to meet Dennis Wilson, who had hardly been involved in the making of ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’.  He was very humble about my acknowledgement of his superb solo album ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’: the sleeve was duly signed and is now a much-treasured item in my collection.  I was not to know that there would never again be an opportunity to meet him as he never came back to the UK after this visit (Dennis drowned in 1983).

Meeting Brian Wilson for the first time was a nerve-racking experience.  How do you deal with meeting someone who has meant so much to you through his music over the 17 years since I first heard ‘Surfin’ USA’ in 1963?  With my colleague Roy Gudge, who has done sterling work for the cause ever since, I was invited to meet Brian in his hotel room.  We told him how much we had enjoyed the Wembley shows and were looking forward to the Knebworth concert.  Brian thanked us and told us he had been shopping in Harrods and had bought a shirt (I wonder if he still has it?).  We departed armed with more signatures.

It was thanks to journalist John Tobler that I got to meet Bruce Johnston, who had recently returned to the fold as producer and band member.  John was interviewing Bruce and let me tag along.  Among his many stories regarding his return to the band, Bruce revealed he had started his own label, Johnston Records, and had recently finished a new project with former Herman’s Hermit Peter Noone in a new band called the Tremblers: both label and band are now just distant memories.

Bruce treated me to strawberries and cream that day and the ‘disco’ remake of ‘Wild Honey’s’ ‘Here Comes The Night’ was much discussed.  Its lack of success was a big disappointment to Bruce and his co-producer, the late and very talented Curt Becher.  In retrospect, ‘Here Comes The Night’s’ dance beat may have dated it but it was and still is a veritable vocal tour de force.

From my point of view, meeting Al Jardine was easily the most successful of my meetings.  Though a latecomer as a lead vocalist in the band (‘Christmas Day’ was his initial lead, but his first rock ‘n’ roll lead was ‘Help Me Rhonda’ in 1965), he had been the lead singer on ‘Then I Kissed Her’ plus the last two Top 10 hits in the UK, ‘Cottonfields’ in 1970 and the 1979 biggie ‘Lady Lynda’, released a year before Knebworth.

A discussion about the new album led to Roy and myself telling Al how much we liked ‘Santa Ana Winds’, a track on the new album he had written with Brian.  Its folky flavor was not that surprising, really, Al being a big Kingston Trio fan, but mention of the song surprised him as it had only really been considered an album filler.  Much to our delight, this led to the band rehearsing it in the tour bus on the way to the concert!

‘Santa Ana Winds’ duly made its live debut at Knebworth and was also played two weeks later in front of 500,000 people in Washington DC; I don’t think the song has been performed since.  Time has been kind to ‘Santa Ana Winds’ and it is one of the more enduring songs on ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’.  Al also told me about a California/Big Sur-inspired concept album with songs like ‘Looking Down The Coast/Monterey’ and ‘Earthquake Time’ he was hoping to record in the future.  Twenty-one years on, it looks like that album may still happen with his sons Matt and Adam joining him on the project.

Al also talked about his concern that the Beach Boys were turning into a traveling jukebox – and, as it turned out, he was correct to worry.  That said, there is always an audience that just wants to have a good time and hear some great old songs, and that criterion has always been met.  Such fans are the ones that make up the bulk of the Beach Boys concert attendees these days.

Another fond memory was a gathering in the hotel lounge around a piano with Bruce, Alan, Dennis and his then-partner Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac (who was also touring the UK at the same time as the Beach Boys, still promoting the band’s 1979 ‘Tusk’ album).  All joined in the singing of Beach Boys songs including ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Please Let Me Wonder’ and ‘Lady Lynda’, before Christine moved on to some old English pub songs.  I witnessed a fun side to the band that evening, so, looking back, it turned out to be a really memorable week for me in June 1980.

The Knebworth concert took place almost exactly six years after the triumphant Wembley Stadium show on midsummer’s day in 1975 where the Beach Boys, a very hot live band at that time after touring the US with Chicago on the famous ‘Beachago’ tour, proceeded to blow away all opposition.  This included headlining attraction Elton John, who bravely opted to follow the positive, uplifting, exuberant Beach Boys set with the live debut of the then completely unknown ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy’.  It was a good album, of course, but not the wisest move to make that day – though, in retrospect, it didn’t harm Elton’s career to any degree.

I have a fond memory of two young girls sitting next to me saying, “I wish we didn’t have to sit through the Beach Boys and could just get on with seeing Elton John.”  They got their wish of not having to sit because within minutes of the opening ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ they were on their feet singing and waving like everybody else!  An hour and a half later, the comment was “I didn’t realize the Beach Boys were that good.”  Everyone was smiling, me especially.  It certainly was a day to remember.

Anyone remember the Eagles’ set that day?  Very fine indeed, with old pal Jackson Browne guesting.  The Eagles certainly went on to achieve bigger and better things and were back touring in 2001 as well.

The years 1976-80 were the Beach Boys’ most prolific in musical terms since their heyday in the 1960s.  In 1976, ‘15 Big Ones’ had returned them to the US Top 10 for the first time (with an album of new recordings) since ‘Pet Sounds’ 10 years earlier.  It was also the year the UK TV-advertised ‘20 Golden Greats’ spent 10 weeks at Number 1on the British charts and started a trend in TV-advertised albums.  ‘The Beach Boys Love You’ followed in 1977, the ‘MIU Album’ in 1978 and ‘LA (Light Album)’ in 1979, the last-named including ‘Lady Lynda’, their first UK Top 10 single since ‘Cottonfields’ in 1970.

‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ saw this period of stability come to an end.  Carl Wilson left in 1981, fed-up with the band’s lack of interest in rehearsing properly and their reluctance to perform new material.  The Beach Boys without Carl, who was undoubtedly their on-stage leader, lost that vocal quality and discipline expected by their fans.  They tried to bring Brian more upfront, with disastrous results.  Thankfully, Carl returned when his solo album promotion had run its course and live performances rapidly improved again.

Dennis’ death changed things.  The one true Beach Boy that had lived the lifestyle all their fans dreamed of was no longer on stage, and with him went the soul of the band.  No new album would be recorded until the Steve Levine-produced ‘The Beach Boys’ in 1985, with Carl Wilson stealing the show.

Back in 1980, Knebworth House had played host to the band, laying on a cool buffet and drinks for them prior to their performance.  When Brian, unimpressed by the spread, asked, “Do you have any cake?”, a chocolate cake was brought out which had been especially baked for the children of the house.  This was met by a gleeful grin from Brian, who sat himself down on a nearby sofa and devoured it – then fell asleep, a cushion over his face!  The others did not have an easy time waking him from his slumber.

Rehearsals for the show had gone very well with ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ sounding particularly hot.  Brian and Mike even had time to playfully jam on an old doo-wop chestnut from their youthful days – ‘Bermuda Shorts’ originally recorded by the Delroys in the 1950s – so everything looked good for showtime that evening.

Back-up band for the show was Ed Carter on lead guitar, Joe Chemay on bass, Mike Meros on keyboards and Bobby Figueroa on drums.  Carl Wilson was in particularly fine form that evening with his strong lead vocal and on-stage presence; he will always be deeply missed after his sad passing in 1998.

This CD/DVD/Video is a fabulous souvenir for all the people that were there and also those who wish they, too, could have experienced that historic Beach Boys tour with all six members in the UK for the last time.  Various clips have been shown before, for example the 20th Anniversary TV Special and Endless Harmony DVD/Video.  But now you can experience it in one sitting.

The Beach Boys live at Knebworth really was the end of an era.  The band stopped playing new material after their 20th Anniversary in December 1981, even more oldies including ‘Surfin’ Safari’ and ‘Shut Down’ being introduced into the live act: it was as if the years 1970-73 and great albums ‘Sunflower’, ‘Surf’s Up’ and ‘Holland’ had never existed.  No new material was to be performed in concert until the release of the eponymous 1985 album, and, again, those songs were quickly dropped soon after.  So ‘Live At Knebworth’ is an impressive document of the Beach Boys as a relevant and innovative live act.  And plaudits to Capital Radio for having the foresight to record this important time in the band’s history.

A friend of mine in New York said to me recently, “You know, the Beach Boys could do a concert archive series of so many of their great shows from the last 35 years.”  The Beach Boys live at Knebworth in June 1980 is as good a place as any to start.

– Mike Grant
June 2001

Special thanks to Alan Boyd, Robbie Owen and Michael Heatley for their help with research, and most of all Roger Scott for capturing all those great comments on tape.


Here are the songs performed at Knebworth that night, with contemporary comments by the band members themselves:

1. INTRO  (0:49)

(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

The by-now staple opener with its majestic introduction (has there ever been a better intro to a hit record?) started proceedings off brightly.

Mike: “It was an expression of that feeling of wishing we could bring all the girls from around the world back to California.  I never get tired of singing it.”

Bruce: “I had been in the band about two weeks and on the road, but when I came home ‘California Girls’ was thrown in my face.  Thank God!”

(Trad/Wilson) EMI United Partnership Ltd.

Al: “I sat down at the piano one day and played Brian my chords, which were interesting, but Brian developed it into something much better.  We all tried singing lead and Brian got frustrated and said, ‘I’ll do it myself.’”

Bruce: “I hated putting my voice on it because I couldn’t just hear the great track on its own anymore.”

Carl: “When Brian starts it out, that really gets to us, we just really love that.”

(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

With its great Carl Wilson lead, this was previously issued on the Endless Harmony CD/DVD/Video.

5. SCHOOL DAYS  (3:44)
(Berry) Jewel Music Pub. Co. Ltd.

Check out the acappella intro.

(Wilson/Asher) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

Carl: “I’ve always loved ‘God Only Knows’ – and I got to sing it!”

Dennis: “Brian would always make us do it again and again but you just didn’t question it, not that brilliance.”

(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

Mike: “A little song we did before we were heard of in the British Isles.”

8. DO IT AGAIN  (3:07)
(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

(Christian/Wilson) EMI Music Publishing Ltd.

(Ledbetter) Kensington Music Ltd./(Wilson/Parks) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

A medley, with the surprise inclusion of ‘Smile’ relic ‘Bicycle Rider’ incorporated into ‘Heroes And Villains’.


(Wilson/Bachman) IQ Music Ltd./Sony/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Ltd.

The new album title track works so well in concert it makes you wonder why it never became a permanent fixture in the live repertoire.

13. LADY LYNDA  (4:59)
(Jardine/Altbach) IQ Music Ltd.

Based on a Bach cantata, ‘Lady Lynda’ would become ‘Little Lady’ in the 80s after Al’s divorce; the song’s great melody still shone through, however.

Al: “Here’s something from the West Coast of California about a beautiful lady and a beautiful place called Big Sur.  It’s about the rolling canyon hills and a lovely lady named Lynda.  Ron Altbach had the musical idea to use the Bach melody and I had some lyrics.  It took us about a year to work it out.”

Carl: “‘Lady Lynda’ just blows me away every time Alan does it.  I mean my heart swells every time he starts singing it.”

Brian: “Bach wrote some great tunes and that was a very hip melody.  ‘Lady Lynda’ is a very polished record.  The lyrics were just so personal.”

(Wilson) Bug Music Limited (GB)

The first song Brian Wilson ever wrote, inspired by Disney’s ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’.

15. HELP ME RHONDA  (4:05)
(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

Just watch Dennis jump on the piano and shout, “Eat your heart out, Elton John!”  Incidentally Carl dedicates the song to Andrew Bainborough, founder of the Beach Boys Stomp magazine in 1976.

Al: “Until ‘Help Me Rhonda’, Carl, Dennis and myself were happy to be just background singers.  I had to learn how to become lead singer and Brian literally hand-walked me through the steps of taking command of a lead, because I had never done that before in a rock ‘n’ roll genre.”

16. ROCK & ROLL MUSIC  (2:24)
(Berry) Jewel Music Pub. Co. Ltd.

17. I GET AROUND  (2:14)
(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd./Burlington Music Co. Ltd.

Mike: “‘I Get Around’ was a transitional record that took us from ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ and ‘Shut Down’, with Brian developing musically and looking for something more, into ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Good Vibrations’.”

18. SURFIN’ USA  (2:52)
(Berry/Wilson) Jewel Music Pub. Co. Ltd.

Carl: “My favourite song in a Beach Boys concert, it has such energy.  We ran into Chuck Berry in Copenhagen and he told us he loves ‘Surfin’ USA’.”

Brian: “It had a real Beach Boys spirit with an energetic Mike Love lead vocal and that rocking electric guitar.”


(Preston/Fisher) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

Dennis’ solo vocal spotlight was a moving and heartfelt version of the Billy Preston song made popular by Joe Cocker.

(Love/Wilson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd.

The band’s most famous song and voted the Number 1 single of all time in Mojo magazine in August 1997.  One cannot imagine a Beach Boys concert without it.

Brian: “I love it because we made it at a time when we needed something like that, a good record that would give us strength in the record industry.  We came up with it after six studios and six months of studio experimentation.  We thought of it as a masterpiece in the making…and eventually it became a masterpiece completed.”

21. BARBARA ANN  (2:44)
(Fassert) EMI Music Publishing (WP) Ltd.

Brian: “It was very spontaneous, an old rock song by the Regents that we all liked.”

Bruce: “Brian Wilson and Dean Torrence from Jan and Dean sang joint lead on the ‘Beach Boys Party’ version.  We did it in just a couple of takes.”

22. FUN, FUN, FUN  (4:47)
(Love/Wilson) EMI Music Publishing Ltd.

Mike: “Brian and I wrote it in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a cab on the way to the airport.”

Bruce: “It’s the Beach Boys meet Chuck Berry, a great record.  We always close the show with it.”


AL JARDINE – Guitar, Vocals
BRUCE JOHNSTON – Electric Piano, Bass, Vocals
MIKE LOVE – Vocals
BRIAN WILSON – Piano, Electric Piano, Vocals
CARL WILSON – Guitar, Vocals
DENNIS WILSON – Drums, Piano, Vocals

Supporting Musicians:

ED CARTER – Guitar
JOE CHEMAY – Bass, Vocals
BOBBY FIGUEROA – Percussion, Drums, Vocals
MIKE MEROS – Organ, Synthesizer, Piano, Electric Piano


The Beach Boys Live At Knebworth 1980

Produced by Mark Linett
A Delilah Films Production

Executive in Charge of Production: Stephanie Bennett

Associate Producer: Alan Boyd

Mixed and Mastered by Mark Linett at Your Place Or Mine Recording, Glendale, CA

Special Thanks To:
Margaret Gwynne, Skipper Paden, Pacific Title Archives

Original live recording produced by Bruce Johnston

Remote Facility: The Manor Mobile

Recording Engineer: Mike Sykes

Additional Engineering: Steve Desper

Courtesy of Brother Records

Beach Boys Management: Elliott Lott


(P) 2002 Brother Records Inc. Issued under exclusive license to Eagle Records, a division of Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd. © 2002 Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd. Manufactured and marketed by Eagle Records. All rights of the producer and of the owner of the recorded work reserved. Unauthorised copying, hiring, lending, public performance, diffusion and broadcasting of this work prohibited. WARNING: Copyright subsists in all recordings issued under this label. Unauthorised broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording thereof in any manner whatsoever will constitute an infringement of such copyright.

ER 20002-2

Also Available:

The Beach Boys Good Timin: Live At Knebworth England 1980
VHS  EV30021-3
DVD  EV 30021-9
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