The Beach Boys’ Lost Concert: Watch the Band Perform Their Classics at Their Zenith (1964)

In ear­ly 1964, there could hard­ly have been an Amer­i­can teenag­er igno­rant of the Beach Boys. Singing in immac­u­late har­monies about surf­ing, hot rods, girls, and root beer — as well as var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions and per­mu­ta­tions there­of — they soon found them­selves rid­ing an unprece­dent­ed­ly high wave, so to speak, of post­war teen cul­ture. On the oth­er side of the pond, the Bea­t­les had been hard at work play­ing to demo­graph­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar, also-enrap­tured audi­ences. In Feb­ru­ary of 1964 the Fab Four arrived in Amer­i­ca, and their per­for­mance on The Ed Sul­li­van Show alone put them on at least an equal foot­ing there with the Beach Boys.

“The next oppor­tu­ni­ty for your aver­age Amer­i­can Beat­le­ma­ni­ac to see the Bea­t­les per­form would have been at the movie the­ater watch­ing the Bea­t­les’ Wash­ing­ton D.C. con­cert at the Col­i­se­um on a closed cir­cuit broad­cast on March 14 or 15, 1964,” says the blog Meet the Bea­t­les for Real. “This was the first time in his­to­ry that the closed-cir­cuit was used for a con­cert. Pre­vi­ous­ly, it had only been used to show box­ing match­es.”

The direct-to-the­aters broad­cast also includ­ed short­er open­ing acts Les­ley Gore and the Beach Boys, the lat­ter of whose per­for­mance was thought lost until its redis­cov­ery in 1998. In the video above, you can see its entire 22 min­utes at an audio­vi­su­al qual­i­ty well exceed­ing most con­cert films of its era.

Begin­ning with “Fun, Fun, Fun,” the Beach Boys play a vari­ety of ear­ly num­bers that would turn out to rank among their most beloved songs, also includ­ing “Lit­tle Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and “Shut Down.” (“Long Tall Tex­an” would only be prop­er­ly record­ed 32 years lat­er, with the late coun­try singer Doug Super­naw.) The set even fea­tures “In My Room,” whose melan­cholic break from the surf­ing-cars-girls spec­trum offered a sign of things to come from the group’s musi­cal mas­ter­mind Bri­an Wil­son. Unsuit­ed to the stress of star­dom, he would recuse him­self from live per­for­mance the fol­low­ing year. This show thus marks the onstage zenith of the Beach Boys’ clas­sic line­up of the Wil­son broth­ers Bri­an, Carl, and Den­nis with Al Jar­dine and Mike Love. But as mak­ers of clas­sic albums — and clas­sic albums pushed to heights of ambi­tion by com­pe­ti­tion with the Bea­t­les — they’d only just begun.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Beach Boys Cre­at­ed Their Pop Mas­ter­pieces: “Good Vibra­tions,” Pet Sounds, and More

The Mag­ic of the Beach Boys’ Har­monies: Hear Iso­lat­ed Vocals from “Sloop John B.,” “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” & Oth­er Pet Sounds Clas­sics

Watch Lost Stu­dio Footage of Bri­an Wil­son Con­duct­ing “Good Vibra­tions,” The Beach Boys’ Bril­liant “Pock­et Sym­pho­ny”

Enter Bri­an Wilson’s Cre­ative Process While Mak­ing The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds 50 Years Ago: A Fly-on-the Wall View

Paul McCart­ney vs. Bri­an Wil­son: A Rival­ry That Inspired Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pep­per, and Oth­er Clas­sic Albums

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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