Kingsley Abbott

Written By: Stomp

Californians had it easy! They were there amongst it all. They had places with wonderfully evocative names, at least to our ears, and they had the actual surf spots with all the associated culture. Oh yes, and

Finchleyone other thing…they had sunshine pretty well guaranteed. The British alternative, unless you chanced upon Sennan Cove in distant Cornwall, was vastly different. Growing up within the triangle of Hendon, Golders Green and East Finchley in North London certainly had its advantages compared to other parts of the city or country, but as a venue for beach culture it fell remarkably short.

One thing we did have however was the radio, and despite the dearth in the early sixties of any national pop musical outlet, we did have the evening treasure of Radio Luxembourg with all its frustrating fading in and out. And within a couple of years came the joy of the pirate stations, for which entrepreneurship we all owe a deep debt. Radio led me to a strong early interest in music. I’m not ashamed to reveal the key first stepping stones of my musical journey – The Parade Of The Tin Soldiers, The Dambusters March, Coronation Scot (aka The Paul Temple Theme) and finally Hoots Mon.teh marshals It was this final one from Lord Rockingham’s XI that took me to a new level of gutsy excitement even though I barely knew what a sax was. It sounded to my untutored ears that there were dozens of them blasting out that tune – earthy, tub-thumping and rockin’. Then came The Marcel’s with Blue Moon and I was hooked with one record into vocal groups!

My parents picked up on this interest, and bought me my treasured Dansette player. Even before its purchase, I had come upon a white goods repair shop nearby that for some unfathomable reason had a table full of boxes of old 45s all half price. I assumed they were old, though I’m guessing now that they were probably all from the 1958-1962 years. I spent a couple of hours ploughing through the lot, looking for labels I recognised, or group names that I though could be Marcels-inclined. I bought six, including four on the old dark Pye International label by Shep & The Limelites, the Sensations and a precious two more by The Marcel’s. Frustratingly I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could play them, but in the intervening time I handled them lovingly, read all the small print and enjoyed their smell and feel. The rot had indeed set in early, and without realising it I had started a lifelong journey.

The growing interest was fuelled soon after when I discovered the weekly pop mags and pocket money was immediately re-directed to feed the desire. Through the mags I learnt of record issues and artists beyond my ken, and soon realised that the US charts seemed to interest me much more than the UK ones, leading to special attention to issues on London American, Capitol, Colpix and of course the aforementioned Pye International. A visit to the Schoolboys Exhibition at Olympia included yet another bunch of old records being sold, where I delighted in finding a copy of The Edsels’ Rama Lama Ding Dong. The EdselsBy this time I was totally and irrevocably hooked into vocal group harmony. The term Doo Wop had not been coined, but I was into it 100%, so when The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys arrived I was primed and very very ready. I can clearly remember the ‘What Is that?’ moments for both of them: the sonic shriek of the Seasons’ Sherry being played on Juke Box Jury, and Surfin’ Safari coming at me mid-evening mid-week on Luxembourg. Both groups hooked me immediately, and led me quickly to searching out the music in tangible form.

We all had cash flow problems then. Very few in what was still essentially a still struggling post-war economy had much spare, and I was no exception. My solution was simple to get a shop assistant job for Saturdays, half terms and holidays that would directly feed the new obsession, and so it was that I began to slowly build what was to become a collection. My first Beach Boys decisions were to go for the EPs – it was simple arithmetic, as you got four songs for the price of one and a half singles, so I saved for the first two BB EPs which pretty well scooped up the early singles aside from Ten Little Indians which I have no memory of ever hearing at the time, going a long way to explaining its high price tag today. So the first BB single I bought was actually I Get Around, along with quite a lot of others. Even with this UK hit under their belts, it was still not particularly hip at the time to like The Beach Boys. The Beatles, Stones et al were sweeping all before them, and their records dominated parties, the mags and youth culture school conversations. I met my best and longest standing friend at a party where we both arrived with Shut Down Vol 2 under our arms. It was an immediate bond, as we enthused about key tracks, and even the rubbish throwaway ones! We formed our early friendship over The Beach Boys and Surf Music in general, and somehow managed to convince ourselves that Ronny & the Daytona’s’ GTO contained an immortal line threatening that they would “shag you down”. Forgive us, we were young and horny.

Together we marveled at the Beach Boys’ swift growth from simplistic teen combo to a sophisticated and beautiful harmonic unit. We loved the growth of song quality, even though we yearned for more of the surf and drag songs at the time. The lyrical content grew deeper in perfect time with our own growth from probably obnoxious mid-teens to slightly more adult people. Beach Boys albums came at a satisfyingly swift pace, even though we had to seek out import copies of some of the early ones like Surfer Girl at the time, Shut Down Vol IIand we discovered that the albums often included many gems that were just as worthy and exciting as the singles. You’re So Good To Me was a case in point; a fabulous party hit around London at least, which would have been a certain top ten hit if it had been released as a UK single. Yep, by that stage it was OK to be seen with BB albums…

The rest is all history as they say – California Girls, Summer Days (and especially the summer nights), the amazing lovely Today and then Pet Sounds. Within a few short months the band cut some of the very best pop music of the century, and an ever growing number of Brit’s were realising it and were prepared to truly value the group as an on-going recording unit rather than to merely judge them on their last single. Britain took them to our collective heart, and like a valued child that particular generation has never lost their love for them. All of them, especially Brian, realise this, so as we hit the 50th Anniversary there is a great reason for celebration of the love affair that began so hesitatingly but matured to the rich and valued relationship it is today. Thank you Beach Boys, and thank you to all the fans that have added to the bond.

For completists, I guess I should mention that the actual first records I bought that day were The Sensations’ Let Me In, Shep & The Limelites Ready For You Love, The Marcels’ Heartaches and You Are My Sunshine (all Pye Int), and for ages now I’ve been trying to recall the other two without success. My first full price purchase was Walk Like A Man by The Four Seasons.