Sunday, July 18, 2021

The First Class: Beach Baby

There was a meme on Twitter a while back about the five albums in your collection that meant most to you when you were 17.

I doubt that I owned five albums at that age - blame poverty and the lack of anyone to guide me. And I am certain that when I was 14 I relied on Radio One and (under the bedclothes) Radio Luxembourg for my music.

Thanks to them, I have fond memories of this single from 1974. It may be an obvious Beach Boys pastiche, but it reached 13 in the UK singles chart. And in the US, where you think they'd have a good nose for such things, it got as high as number 4.

The song was written by John Cater and his wife Jill Shakespeare. Carter had already written Funny How Love Can Be for The Ivy League and Let's Go to San Francisco for The Flowerpot Men.

He had also sung the lead on Winchester Cathedral (in reality recorded by a group of session musicians but credited to The New Vaudeville Band) and backing vocals on The Who's I Can't Explain.

The First Class did not exist any more than The New Vaudeville Band or a number of other groups credited with Carter's hits had, so when Beach Baby made the charts a group had to be assembled to appear on Top of the Pops, (The Bonzos, incidentally, turned down the chance to tour as The New Vaudeville Band.)

I can see what attracted me to Beach Baby when I was 14: the production is stylish and it uses plenty of fun elements from The Beach Boys' back catalogue. But it's interesting that in 1974 we were already looking back to a golden age of pop and youth culture:

Just like before
We could walk by the shore
In the moonlight

Our legal correspondent writes: If the theme that enters just after the three-minute mark sounds familiar then consider yourself cultured, It was lifted from Sibelius's Fifth Symphony and the estate of the Finnish composer accepted a settlement out of court. Perhaps fortunately for the song's writers, most radio plays had faded out by then.

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