Back in 1999, yours truly was working at a job doing live closed captioning. One of my colleagues, a friend named Marla, was going to caption live in person at a Chatauqua event, once which usually winds up with live entertainment. The year before it had been Bill Cosby, and boy did he play with the CC going on once he realized he was being transcribed live (sorry, Maria)!
With live closed captioning, any prep you can do beforehand is extremely helpful, as writing live is a terribly difficult task. Lyrics are easy to prep, though, if you know what song(s) would be played. Marla asked me for help in preparing, as the entertainment that year was going to be The Beach Boys. She knew I was a fan.
As I started to think on it, the task became incredibly challenging. Brian wasn’t with them, so it was mostly the Mike-Bruce-Al show. But having (at the time!) over 30 years of material to draw from, what would a setlist look like? I’d never seen them play, and still haven’t to this very day. How could we find out? At that time, the internet still wasn’t a viable source of setlists and show reports. The idea of trying to prep a ton of songs was staggering to contemplate.
I called Capitol Records, got steered to the Beach Boys’ management, explaining who I was, what we were attempting to do (caption a concert), and that — to prep — all we wanted was a current setlist. Eventually they gave me the cell number of the tour manager, and I left a message for him and forgot about it.
Several days later, reporting for work, my colleague Heather asked me, "Did you… call… THE BEACH BOYS? There’s a fax for you!” The tour manager had called the office and told Heather it was coming, and if there’s anything else we needed, just let him know. That’s the setlist you see above, which was sent on August 23, 1999. We did prep all these songs, and it saved Marla from having to write live a significant portion of their set.
I post this today, because as I said earlier, “to this day, I still have not seen them.” Which is true… until about 8pm tonight when I will be on the lawn at Merriweather Post Pavilion to experience what will likely be the last Beach Boys tour ever. It’s not without trepidation; the performances so far have been a bit hit and miss, and the album is not all I’d hoped for, although it does have some peaks.
Promised myself I’d not go see the Beach Boys unless Brian was back. It seemed unlikely to ever occur, and I hadn’t felt I was missing much. But since that event has come to pass, I’m going. For a boy whose first 45 was “Barbara Ann,” and as a man who’s had the privilege of hearing both Pet Sounds and SMiLE performed live, this is likely going to be an emotional experience. I’m looking forward to it.