“MidSummer Music,” they called it, and it was some event. On June 21, 1975, Elton John headlined a huge, all-day concert at Wembley Stadium for a sellout crowd of 72,000. One of the most memorable open-air events of the decade turned into a triumph for the Beach Boys.
Introduced by BBC radio DJ Johnnie Walker, the proceedings were opened as early as 11.30am on that Saturday morning by British rock outfit Stackridge. They were the first group signed to Elton’s Rocket Records label. The band’s fourth album Extravaganza had been released five months earlier.
Next up, bringing some funky soul to the proceedings, were American R&B favourites Rufus. They were touring their third album Rufusized, featuring the US hit “Once You Get Started.” Joe Walsh was still a solo artist at the time, but was soon to join the Eagles, who followed him onto the Wembley stage. The appearance set up their first UK singles chart entry soon afterwards with “One Of These Nights.” Hinting at the partnership to come, Walsh joined them for a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Carol.”
In the first half of his set, Elton played hits like “Rocket Man,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” and “Bennie and the Jets.” But he then chose to perform the whole of his new album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Released on May 19, it was spending a third week at No.2 in the UK as he played the show. It included the single “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” seen above in a 1982 performance.
Endless summer hits Wembley
But with many of his fans were unfamiliar with the songs, he was widely perceived to have been amiably upstaged by the second-on-the-bill Beach Boys. They came to London on a wave of nostalgic popularity in the US and brought it across the Atlantic.
With their double disc compilation Endless Summer having topped the American chart the previous autumn and a second retrospective, Spirit Of America, just going gold, the Beach Boys were well and truly back in style, if largely for their 1960s catalog. It didn’t even matter that they hadn’t appeared on the UK album chart for more than two years.
A hit-packed Beach Boys set started with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (seen above in their Live Aid performance ten years hence) and ended with “Fun Fun Fun” some 22 songs later. The California vibes rang out from Wembley Stadium, and the Beach Boys enjoyed one of the high points of their international career.
Listen to the studio versions of the Beach Boys’ set list from the Wembley Stadium show.