Beach Boys Triumph At Elton John’s Wembley Extravaganza

June 21, 2017

“MidSummer Music,” they called it, and as you can see from the poster, it was some event. On 21 June 1975, Elton John headlined a huge, all-day concert at Wembley Stadium for a sellout crowd of 72,000 — and one of the most memorable open-air events of the decade turned into a triumph for the Beach Boys.

In a wonderful TV commercial that ran ahead of the day, here’s Elton explaining all about it — and apparently playing football with Joe Walsh and Chaka Khan…

Introduced by then-BBC Radio 1 DJ Johnnie Walker, the proceedings were opened as early as 11.30am on that Saturday morning by British rock outfit Stackridge. They had recently become the first group signed to Elton’s new Rocket label, for whom their fourth album Extravaganza had been released five months earlier, in January.

MidsummerMusic75Stub

Next up, bringing some funky soul to the proceedings, were American R&B favourites Rufus, fronted by the aforementioned Chaka, who were touring their third album Rufusized, featuring the US hit ‘Once You Get Started.’ 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,’ and 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 then chose to perform the whole of his new album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, which had been released on 19 May and was spending a third week at No. 2 in the UK as he played the show.

But many of his fans were unfamiliar with the songs, and he was widely perceived to have been upstaged, in the nicest possible way, by the second-on-the-bill Beach Boys, who came to London on a wave of nostalgic popularity in the US and seized the chance to bring it with them across the Atlantic.

Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys

Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys during their Wembley Stadium appearance on 21 June 1975

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 catalogue. It didn’t even matter that they hadn’t appeared on the UK album chart for more than two years.

In a hit-packed set that started with ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ 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 Beach Boys' set list from that amazing Wembley Stadium show.

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14 comments

  1. Steve Huxley
    Reply

    Wow, great detail enabling me to relive my first ever all day concert (aged 17).
    Elton did play the whole of his Captain Fantastic album, which was an unusual thing to do. I particularly enjoyed The Bitch is Back which was the final track on the album. The extrovert Ray Cooper was on percussion. Great memories!

    1. John Cooper
      Reply

      Elton did play The Bitch is Back but it was not part of the Captain Fantastic album set. That song is on his 1974 album Caribou.

      The concert set-list was:

      Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
      Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
      Candle in the Wind
      The Bitch Is Back
      Dixie Lily
      Philadelphia Freedom
      Chameleon
      Bennie and the Jets
      Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
      I Saw Her Standing There

      Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy
      Tower of Babel
      Bitter Fingers
      Tell Me When the Whistle Blows
      Someone Saved My Life Tonight
      (Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket
      Better Off Dead
      Writing
      We All Fall in Love Sometimes
      Curtains

      Pinball Wizard
      Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

  2. Bob Sherunkle
    Reply

    Great to see more details. A wonderful day, went with my very good friend Paul (RIP, gone much too soon). I’m afraid it wasn’t just Elton being “upstaged” by the Beach Boys (not to mention the Eagles), for the oldies among us (i.e. the 20 somethings) he was an anti-climax, and I was part of the droves that departed early, leaving Elton to the teenagers.
    I’m not sure about the choice of support acts. We weren’t overly impressed with Rufus, and I can’t remember Stackridge at all (we got there late, so they may have been the openers). The fun really started with Joe Walsh.
    Life’s been good … so far.

  3. Regan lewis
    Reply

    I remember being very dissapointed with Elton John, after the Beachboys got everyone going, singing along, enjoying the day, then Elton John came on and after a few of his more popular numbers he proceeded to play everything from his latest album. I too was one of those that left before he had finished. Just as many others did.

  4. Clint Young
    Reply

    That day was the start of a life long obsession with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. They upstaged everyone on the bill with shear talent, vocal ability and musicianship. They have never been perceived as a cool band, but on that day they were as cool as it gets and that’s without even mentioning Dennis Wilson.

  5. Duncan Bell
    Reply

    Aged just 17 and attending my first ‘serious’ concert!! What a fantastic day and such a resounding and thrilling endorsement of my growing appreciation of the Eagles. I agree that the Beach Boys stole the show, but I was there for the Eagles and was not disappointed. Imagine the joy of seeing them play together again post ’94 after “Hell Froze Over”. Since Glenn’s sad departure just my Eagles collection and memories to tide me over….will look out for appearances from them maybe as individuals, but it won’t be quite the same. What does an Eagles Fan do ‘After The Thrill Is Gone’?

  6. David Brew
    Reply

    The trouble with all-day shows during the summer is that being hot, I tended to drink beer to cool down. After the Eagles had played I wandered off to visit the Gents and returned to my friends to watch the Beach Boys…. but Elton John came on!!??!! Too much beer meant I took a snooze and missed the entire BB set – which was the main reason for going.
    If I rememeber correctly, the coconut matting laid on the grass was not enough protection and there were a lot of complaints later about holding shows there..

  7. Eric Fauser
    Reply

    A day I’ll never forget. I was big fan of Joe Walsh, The Eagle and Elton John but it was the day that I became enamored with the Beach Boys. I was at the opposite end of the stadium from the stage, the perfect vantage point to see 72,000 people singing and dancing to every Beach Boys song. It was the perfect day.

  8. Steven Leadon
    Reply

    Yes, I agree with a lot of the comments. Stackridge performed first in a half empty stadium. The Eagles and the Beach Boys definately upstaged Elton John who I thought was poor. Like many others, I left half way through his set.

  9. kimmi
    Reply

    Remember it well a great day out Beach boys and the Eagles were great.Elton was good but lost the audience slightly being a bit self indulgent doing all of Captain Fantastic,but Ray Coopers extravagant performance, and the best ever of some one saved my life tonight stayed with me forever so all was not lost with Elton.See all the sets Stackridge were ok,Joe Walsh brilliant as ever,just before he joined the Eagles I believe, and Rufus were ok .The Beach Boys just killed with hit after hit and had the audience rocking and a great sunny day to go with it.Great memories.,

  10. Derek Bates
    Reply

    My first all day concert got of to a great start when I scored a lump of Leb Gold that would choke a donkey off two cross-dressers sat behind us (Obviously there for Elton) in exchange for a spare pack of Rizlas I had. One had bought the blow, the other the baccy but neither thought to get papers, with non to be had anywhere in the stadium, I waited for a lull in the argument and just held my spare pack up and waited. My brother & I got severely stoned to great music on a glorious sunny Saturday. All in all a great day out that was just a little soured by Elton’s blatant plugging of his latest album.

  11. Ralph
    Reply

    I was at this concert.. great line up..and a red hot day.. remember jeff skunk baxter playing guitar in eltons band.. joe walsh coming on in a packing case as guest of the eagles

  12. Chris
    Reply

    I also recall Jackson Browne joining the Eagles (on Takin’ It Easy???) Anyway, a great day. Joe Walsh had on a “Have A Shitty Day” t-shirt.

  13. Martin P
    Reply

    The first major rock/pop concert I ever went to (in the middle of my ‘O’ levels) and still the greatest. I’d expected The Eagles would be the highlight, and they were excellent, as was Joe Walsh, but The Beach Boys stood above all the rest – Elton John sadly proved a bit anti-climactic, it was like trying to top The Alamo with a George Formby film. Have loved The Beach Boys ever since. Their harmonies, and what I can only describe as the purity of their singing, were astounding. Surf’s Up makes the few hairs left stand up on my neck even now.

    One quirky memory: a guy clearly out of his head on something walked to the front, beneath the stage, and climbed into a giant speaker – a bass bin I think – in mid-concert. His head will still be ringing.

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