I haven’t really changed very much since I was seven years old. The things that gave me pleasure then, still give me pleasure now. In no particular order these things are listening to music, watching and playing sport, hanging out with friends, watching TV, reading and eating chocolate. Sadly, playing sport is no longer an option so I’m reduced to solving puzzles on my phone and I guess I didn’t drink Harvey’s when I was seven years old but, otherwise, everything remains the same. Inside, I’m the same person with the same drives, with the same pleasure receptacles and the same insecurities.
Watching sport on TV has been an important part in retaining the last vestiges of my sanity over the past year. My real loyalty has been to Kent cricket and they have been so poor this year that I simply try unsuccessfully to pretend that I don’t care. Last year they were ordinary but not embarrassing. Much more rewarding has been my fifth year of watching Brighton and Hove Albion retain Premier League status this year. Every game has been shown live on TV and it’s been hugely immersive to watch them dominate most games but underachieve. An important decision has to be made when watching them play on SKY. Fake crowd noise or the lonely shouts of the players and training staff? To begin with, I watched with fake crowd noise but, in the end, I found myself negatively judging the decisions made by the person pressing the “cheer” button or the “groan” button, so I opted for no fake noise. On BT Sport and BBC, it was more difficult to opt for the “stadium atmosphere” as “no fake noise” was misleadingly titled.
A couple of weeks ago I had four beers in The Good Companion in Brighton with Dave and three other former colleagues. Although it was a bit cold in the garden, it was very enjoyable to chat with them and it was great to drink some beer. A consequence of my slight inebriation was that, when I got home on the Friday night, I bought myself a ticket for the Brighton v Man City game a couple of days ago. When I emerged into sobriety on Saturday morning, I was pleased that I had bought the ticket but recognised that I probably wouldn’t have done so without the encouragement of a pint of Doombar, a pint of Chieftan IPA and two pints of Guinness. To say nothing of the sausage rolls and chocolate that I bought in Sainsbury’s on the way home.
On Tuesday I went to the game. The parking was difficult, the walk to the ground caused my hip to become painful, I was by myself, I had to wear a mask for over two hours, the view was poor and Manchester City scored within a minute. Despite all of this, the “match day experience” was wonderful and I enjoyed the game much much more than I thought I would. There was an overwhelming feeling of positivity within the stadium as 8000 fans made the same noise that 32000 fans normally would. It happened to be a great match: Brighton went 0-2 down but won 3-2; Cancelo got sent off; Foden scored a miraculous goal and the teams did a lap of honour at the end as no one wanted to leave the stadium.
Why was it such a joyous occasion? It’s time to trot out the clichés and use phrases like “connectivity”, “shared experience” and feeling “part of something bigger”. I think that, despite their overuse, these things are true. To have spent so long by myself, with Roo or meeting, at most, one other person, isn’t enough. Most of us have a need to join in and feel part of society, to feel that we are not alone, that we belong.
The day before the game, my sister and I travelled up to North London to visit my Dad’s sister who lives by herself and is nearly 103 years old. Her memory is poor and trying to chat to her about anything is difficult but when I mentioned that it’s only a year since I retired, we managed to have a good conversation about all the things that I mentioned in the last paragraph; she said that she missed that feeling of belonging, even though it’s over 40 years since her very successful secretarial career at Lloyd’s of London. I think that meeting my ex colleagues at the Good Companion was good but reminded me that I now don’t belong to the Maths department at BHASVIC. However, going to The Amex Stadium on Tuesday confirmed that I do still belong to the football club. Mind you, it was great to have social distancing with nobody near me to invade my space or drown my thoughts with their inanities. There’s only so much pleasure to be gained from close proximity to lots of people. My inner curmudgeon is alive and well, thank you very much.
Once Manchester City were leading, their goalkeeper, Ederson (who has a revolting neck tattoo) started wasting time. (He suddenly hurried up when Brighton took the lead). He very carefully placed the ball down for goal kicks, studied the positions of his team mates, slowly walked back, looked up again and after pausing just long enough not to get booked, belted the ball upfield. He seemed to enjoy the cacophony of booing that greeted every move he took. This was one crowd noise that had been missing from the fake sounds coming out of the TV for the last year. Booing the opposition or chanting “you don’t know what you’re doing” at the referee are noises that are impossible to simulate. Adding fake sounds to sport doesn’t really work.
Having just listened to all 31 minutes of “Beach Boys Party!”, I’m not sure whether or not adding fake sounds to music works or not. I’m inclined to say that it doesn’t because, knowing that this album wasn’t really a live album recorded in Brian Wilson’s front room whilst his mates came round for some beers and a good singalong, reinforces the contrived sound of the songs. On the other hand, it’s cheered me up to listen to the ramshackle nature of the music as they race through 12 songs in half an hour.
I love the idea that by listening to this album, I can be transported to a parallel universe in which I am at a party in which The Beach Boys are singing their favourite songs. The front cover claims that the album was “recorded live at a Beach Boys party”, whereas the truth is that the laughter and background chatter was mixed in after the songs had been recorded. Quite why anyone thought that it would be a good idea to have someone introduce “Devoted To You” by exclaiming “If you don’t know it then shut up and go home” is beyond me. Especially when the harmonies on the song are exquisite. The song was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers and was later included on Carly Simon’s “Boys In The Trees”.
“Beach Boys Party!” was the third album that The Beach Boys released in 1965. Capitol Records requested an album for Christmas and, seeing as they had released a live album and a Christmas album in 1964 (“Beach Boys Concert” and “The Beach Boys Christmas Album”) they decided to release a party album in November 1965 (having released “The Beach Boys Today!” in March 1965 and “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) in July 1965). Capitol Records promoted the album by distributing a million bags of crisps with the cover art on the packaging. These were intended to be given away with the album, presumably to be eaten at the simulated party.
There’s an extraordinary version of “The Times They Are A’Changing” in which a straightforward version is accentuated by partygoers chanting “RIGHT” or “WOW” after Carl Wilson has sung a line. The sounds of glasses clinking, background chatter and a slightly out of tune piano either add to the charm of the song or make it unlistenable, according to taste. I love it.
There are three covers of Beatles songs on this album: “I Should Have Known Better”, “Tell Me Why” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” are all on Side One. On the latter, everybody joins in to shout “HEY!” before singing the title. There are also so called live versions of two of their own songs in a medley: “I Get Around/Little Deuce Coup” along with changed lyrics by Mike Love, as if he can’t remember the words.
“Then I Kissed Her” by The Beach Boys was released in 1967 because Capitol Records were impatiently waiting for Brian Wilson to complete “Heroes And Villains”. It reached Number 4 in the U.K. Charts. It had been originally released on “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) two years previously. It was a reworking of The Crystals’ hit “Then He Kissed Me” from 1963, reaching Number 2 in the U.K. Charts. The B side to the single was “Mountain Of Love” from “Beach Boys Party!” and this was written by Harold Dorman, reaching Number 21 in the USA in 1960, but failing to chart in the U.K. Kenny Lynch took the song to Number 33 in the U.K. in 1969. The Beach Boys version is, in my opinion, the best song on “Beach Boys Party!” (and much better than Bruce Springsteen’s version, which was released on “Songs Under Cover Volume 2”).
The most well known song on “Beach Boys Party!” is “Barbara Ann” which was written by Fred Fassert, a member of The Regents who had a hit with the song in 1961. The Beach Boys single was a two minute edit of the album version, removing the chatter at the start of the song in which someone sings a bit of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Also missing is the breakdown at the end of the song followed by a raucous tuneless rendition of the chorus. The song got to Number Two in both the USA and the U.K. The lead vocals are shared between Brian Wilson and Dean Torrence (of Jan And Dean) who just happened to pop in to the party. I wonder if he brought a bottle or maybe he just helped himself to crisps.