When their voices were young: The Beach Boys Sail On Sailor 1972

At some point after lunch on Thursday, November 2, 1972, we piled into the 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle. My Greensboro College classmate, Butch Sherrill, had somehow talked his younger brother, Robert, into loaning him the car for a road trip.

That Chevelle, painted Petty Blue, was our ride to Boone, North Carolina. In honor of Butch’s birthday, we were going to the Beach Boys concert that evening at Appalachian State University(ASU).

The we in the car were Butch, Steve Hodge, maybe his girlfriend, Gwen, who attended Guilford College, our classmate, Rita Jones, and me. Butch’s girlfriend, Marian, was a student at ASU. She would join us for the concert.

Even though we would be driving into the Blue Ridge Mountains, fall was not in the air. The temperature in Greensboro would top out at 76 degrees that day after an overnight low of 51.

We made it to Boone with no problems. We headed toward Varsity Gym where the concert would take place. My friend from Burlington, Jeff Aaron, was part of the student committee that booked concerts for ASU.

I tracked down Jeff, and he was able to sneak me backstage where the Beach Boys were rehearsing. We worked out a strategy for holding seats in the front rows, and then we waited.

Earlier in the year, with another college friend, Dan Callow, I had seen the Beach Boys in concert on March 28 at Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland.

That night at Cole Field House, I sensed the Beach Boys were figuring out how to make the addition of two new bandmates work.

Seven months later at ASU, the Beach Boys had figured that out. These shows were preparation for November 23, the last concert of this tour would mark their return to Carnegie Hall for a live recording.

In 1972, the Beach Boys had been busy. Late in the spring, the band released a new album: Carl and the Passions—“So Tough.” That album featured two new members in the group, Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Blondie and Ricky were from South Africa, a part of The Flame, a band that had recorded and released an album on the Beach Boys’ Brother Records label.

Also at some point in 1972, Bruce Johnston, who ably filled in for Brian Wilson, when Brian gave up touring had decided to leave the Beach Boys. Apparently, Bruce and Beach Boys’ manager, Jack Rieley, were unable to resolve their perspectives.

From 1970-1973, Jack Rieley helped to transform the Beach Boys. That transformation impacted their creativity in the recording studio and made the group a hot concert ticket.

By the summer of 1972, Mr. Rieley had convinced the Beach Boys to temporarily pull up their California roots, including their recording studio and families, and move to Holland.

They made this massive logistical move, and once the studio was reassembled in a barn like building in the rural farmlands near Baambrugge, the band began recording their next album to be titled—Holland.

When the Holland album was completed, the Beach Boys returned to America, and on November 1 began a tour performing at many college campuses in the South, Midwest, and Northeast.

Fast forward to December 2, 2022, Capitol Records released the box set: The Beach Boys Sail On Sailor 1972.

Box set cover, lower left Mike Love, above him Carl Wilson, middle top Brian Wilson, upper right Blondie Chaplin, center looking down Dennis Wilson, beside Dennis, Ricky Fataar, and bottom right with his eyes closed Al Jardine.

Box set is a misleading term, as fans were really treated to a 48 page hardbound book complete with photos and interviews about these recordings that include six CDs full of music. This package features the albums Carl and the Passions—“So Tough” and Holland with many unreleased outtakes from these sessions.

But for me, the center piece of this release is the Carnegie Hall concert from Thanksgiving night 1972. That evening, the band performed two back to back shows at 8:00 and 11:30. At this point, you should probably sit down. Tickets for that concert were $5.00, $5.50, $6.50, and $7.00.

Advertisement for the concert, from my attic archives (Photo by Bill Pike)

For fifty years, the Carnegie Hall tapes sat silently in climate controlled vaults. I sense those tapes were quietly hoping that someday they would be released. As a long time follower of the Beach Boys, I was rooting for the tapes to be converted into an album for release too.

Long after I’m gone, future music historians will revisit the legacy of the Beach Boys. No one will deny the blitz of hot hits from 1961-1966. They will discover the doldrums from 1967-1969, and when these musical sleuths uncover the recordings from 1970-1973, I think they will be stunned.

For me, that is my favorite era of the Beach Boys. I love their energy. Every band member contributes to the songwriting. The production values are high, and the recordings are deftly captured by recording engineer, Stephen Desper. Their still vibrant harmonies are beautifully present. And when the group performs live, there is an undeniable boldness in these concerts. The Beach Boys 1972-Live At Carnegie Hall captures the boldness of the songs selected to be performed that night.

Album cover

In 1972, the Beach Boys performed 101 concerts. Seventy-one of those were in America and thirty overseas.(setlist.fm) I sense when this fall tour started, the group knew, and must have been thinking internally— ok, we’ve got to use these shows prior to Carnegie Hall to make sure we are rehearsed and ready.

They arrived at Carnegie Hall ready to play and sing their hearts out. Of course, I’m biased, but my old ears believe they did play and sing their hearts out.

However, there is also a collision coming, a collision that served to foreshadow how the boldness of their concerts in the early 70s would gradually erode the Beach Boys into into an oldies band in the latter stages of their legacy. That collision is noted in the Carnegie Hall concert.

When manager Jack Rieley introduces the band, he respectfully asks the audience to hold their song requests until the end of the second set.

At some point, in the concert, singer, Mike Love, becomes annoyed with an impatient fan. Mr. Love almost uses the “f-word” in trying to keep this fan quiet. The great irony here is that Mr. Love is an ardent practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.

To confirm his convictions, during a pause between songs, Mr. Love quickly gives a personal endorsement for Transcendental Meditation encouraging the audience to check out classes in New York City.

Clearly in Mr. Love’s meltdown moment, any calmness or composure from his meditative spiritualness was tossed overboard.

For this concert, 24 songs are performed. From that 24, four songs were from the Surf’s Up and So Tough albums, and three were new songs from the Holland album that was released in January 1973. With the remaining 17 songs, 13 were hit records. Chances are the restless fan probably heard a song that he wanted to hear.

Thankfully that disruptive tension was short-lived as the beauty and power of the music seems to subdue the agitation for the remainder of the show.

Darryl Dragon, who the Beach Boys nicknamed Captain Keyboards, is on the piano, organ, and Moog synthesizer. Also, his future wife, Toni Tennille, is contributing background vocals. Mr. Dragon’s keyboard playing sparkles through the recording, but especially on “Help Me Rhonda.”

I’m not sure there is a prettier Beach Boys love song than “Only With You.” Fresh from the Holland recording sessions, here, the song is performed to heartfelt perfection.

I love the concussion of the percussion that is pounded out after the a cappella section on “Heroes and Villains.” I had never forgotten that thunder from the ASU show.

Blondie Chaplain and Ricky Faatar sound like they have been in the band for a long time rather than a few months. Blondie’s soulful vocals and guitar work add to the energy, and Ricky’s drumming is quick, steady, and creative.

Unlike the Beatles, the Beach Boys never gave up touring, and as they pushed into the early 70s, that hard work on the road made them a tight performing unit.

Even the most difficult of their songs performed live reveal their musicianship and tender care for their trademark harmonies. Lots of that concert success can be attributed to the youngest of the Wilson brothers, Carl.

During the encore with spunky confidence, Carl leads the band through “California Girls,” “Surfin’USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Then he turns the Carnegie Hall audience on its collective ears as the Beach Boys blister through “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Yes, the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

I’ve never forgotten the concert at Appalachian State University. Too bad that the Carnegie Hall tapes had to wait 50 years for release.

Was the wait worth it?

Speaking solely for myself, my answer is yes.

During the listening, a handful of times, my old eyes have moistened when the timeless blending of the voices and instruments strummed my soul.

In 1972 Mike Love was 31, Al Jardine 30, Dennis Wilson 27, and Carl Wilson 26. My goodness, they were young. Yet, even in 1972, it felt like they had been around forever. Sadly, Dennis drowned in 1983, and Carl lost his battle with cancer in 1998.

Personally, I hope Capitol Records doesn’t plan anymore box set releases for the Beach Boys.

After 1975, I feel the Beach Boys suffered a “reverse storm surge.” It seemed as though all of their creative energy had been drained from the group. Never did they recapture, the beauty and brilliance of the music they created from 1970-1973. I wonder if the living members of the Beach Boys feel the same as I do about those remarkable years?

Back on November 2, 1972, I wish we could have driven that Petty Blue 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle to the back of Varsity Gym where all of the band’s equipment had been loaded in for the show.

I imagine if the car loving Dennis Wilson had been out on that loading dock and seen that beauty, he would have flagged Butch down for a ride or a drive.

I’m certain Butch would have obliged Dennis’ request. If that storybook drive had taken place, then Butch had a memory of a lifetime to share with his brother, Robert.

Perhaps, that is the beauty of a wishful daydream.

Then again, a daydream can also be a chance to recall a priceless memory, a concert that has never left me, shared with good friends, and our pals, the Beach Boys when their voices were still young, and we were too.

From my attic archives, black and white photo by John Craft, concert review by Dave Wright. (Photo by Bill Pike)

Author’s note: A belated thanks to Robert Sherrill for loaning Butch the car. Thanks to my attic archives, and a heartfelt thanks to our three children Lauren, Andrew, and Elizabeth who surprised their ancient father with this boxed set gift at Christmas 2022.

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