The Beach Boys “Japan Jam ’79” (Zion-028)
Introduction / California Girls / Sloop John B / Darlin’ / Shortenin’ Bread / Do It Again / Roller Skating Child / Little Deuce Coupe / In My Room / Good Timin’ – Be True To Your School / It’s OK / Catch A Wave – Hawaii / Surfer Girl / Sumahama / Lady Lynda / Help me, Rhonda / Wouldn’t It Be Nice / Rock And Roll Music / I Get Around / Surfin’ USA / Good Vibrations / Barbara Ann / Fun Fun Fun (72:04)
By 1979 the Beach Boys were suffering from a few internal ructions. Brian was undeniably far from the musician he once was, taking part in recording sessions part time while the rest of the band were picking up the pieces of the bands legacy while one by one spreading out their wings and recording their solo albums.
Between all of this the band, as a unit, were still touring and as relentlessly as ever in support of their recently released and tanking “L.A. (Light Album)” that was getting a rounded and almost unanimous hoofing from the press notwithstanding the inclusion of the 10 minute disco version of “Here Comes The Night”, a frankenstein version of the ‘Wild Honey’ track.
It would be one of the last times the ‘original’ band would play in front of an audience – Minus Dennis who was kicked off of the tour earlier in the year after an moment of madness onstage, although he would re-appear in 1980, his time in the Beach Boys was coming coming to an end – and with Brian who wasn’t actually playing at full function, and is ornamental almost, still gathering himself up and combatting his stage fright.
The band played twice on consecutive nights at the Japan Jam festival on the 4th and 5th of August 1979.
The previous nights show has been booted (although in severely truncated form) on Dynamite Studio’s short CD “On The Beach” but tonight’s concert is the first time the full concert has been pressed to silver disk. It’s an audience recording, straight in the middle of the crowd, a little distant maybe but, due to the inclusion of a brace of american air-force personnel who were stationed near the festival and in attendance here along with a giddy bunch of regional festival goers, it can get a little noisy at times especially when, as the songs permit, the audience have to join in on hand claps. There are fluctuations in clarity to the tape. These happen a couple of times through out the duration as the sound brightens up a little then muffles again. It’s not disconcerting to hear though and doesn’t change much – once can only suppose it happened as the taper was afraid of getting busted for his work.
The set list reflects the changes of the newly released album along with the ‘best of .. ‘ hits that the band obviously rely on – beginning with “California Girls” and “Sloop John B”, it’s a near non-stop buzz of activity from the band as they slip effortlessly through out their career.
New to inclusion on the set list is “Shortenin’ Bread” – a rawer, piano boogie version of the traditional song. Carl’s roared vocals against the period styled backing and funky instrumentation (predominantly Bruce’s thunderous bass lines and Bobby Figueroa’s walloping drumming) help raise the temperature of the audience.
“Do It Again” is played wonderfully with a new incarnation – the extended intro is there but it’s pitched down just a little than previous years. It’s screaming, short guitar solo is joyous and cements the technical brilliance of the band even when outside of the studio.
Two tracks on the subject of wheels follow, one newer, one older in the form of “Roller Skating Child” from the ‘Love You’ album and “Little Deuce Coupe” from their third album of 1963. Both have the crowd as excited as the other like they were both standards.
The new track “Good Timin'” preceded “Be True To Your School”, not medley’d as the cover art might suggest, but it’s the latter that takes precedence in the set and has the crowd clapping again.
The true medley is “Catch A Wave” & “Hawaii” as suggested on the sleeve. Both as popular as each other – some of the crowd start to sing the harmonies before the band do.
Mike’s “Sumahama” could only really be played out live in the East and make sense to it’s audience. It has either enlightened or enraged someone in the audience by the sound of the noises made as it starts – for everyone else its a good chance to run to the bar. “Lady Lynda” that follows it is introduced and dedicated to Al’s wife who had joined the band on tour that day. It isn’t as deflating as “Sumahama” was but it still draws it’s fair share of approval from the audience.
The rest of the set continues in the ‘greatest hits’ vein – rocketing through some of the best of the upbeat tracks that the Beach Boys recorded while extending the intros and outros to pump the excitement – a trick that leads the set out lovingly.
It might not be one of the great soundboards that were dug up by Sea of Tunes from the Capitol archives nor is it a hollow mess that could have come from a festival set. For the inclusion of “Shortenin’ Bread” alone it’s a prime curiosity for Beach Boys fans and certainly better than some of the early 1980’s shows that showed the band in a less than flattering light.
A special mention should be made of the cover that fuses a live picture of the band at that era along with their official logo, the logo of the ‘Japan Jam ’79’ festival and throws in a backdrop of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” (Very location appropriate .. ) to finish it all off.
Not a must have for everyone maybe but prime fodder for the Beach Boys collector.