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Beach Boys Triumph At Elton John’s Wembley Extravaganza

One of the most memorable open-air events of the decade turned into a triumph for the visiting Californian heroes.

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Photo: Capitol Records Archives

“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. One of the most memorable open-air events of the decade turned into a triumph for the Beach Boys.

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 were the first group signed to Elton’s Rocket Records label. The band’s fourth album Extravaganza had been released five months earlier, in January.

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 19 May, it was spending a third week at No. 2 in the UK as he played the show.

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 catalogue. 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’ 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.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Steve Huxley

    August 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    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!

    • John Cooper

      January 20, 2016 at 7:42 pm

      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

    February 27, 2016 at 12:13 am

    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.

    • Peter

      October 21, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Stackridge were the opening act. The whole day was a great time. I was with a group of friends (6) .
      One of the best songs which seems to have fallen off the set list was Daniel. Whilst he was starting the song a plane did fly high over the stadium and I can still see the sun glinting off it’s wings.
      The Eagles & The Beach Boys were fabulous. The weather also played its part. It was a lovely day.

      I have also just watched some You Tube videos of Mark Knopfler ( with EC playing along on Money For Nothing) and the guy at the back on percussion was Ray Cooper. He was in Elton’s band at Wembley and guess what: he looks exactly the same!
      Happy times, & great to remember them!

  3. Regan lewis

    March 31, 2016 at 3:21 am

    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

    June 16, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    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

    June 22, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    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

    August 4, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    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

    August 21, 2016 at 12:40 am

    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

    September 4, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    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

    December 14, 2016 at 4:43 am

    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

    January 11, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    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

    May 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    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

    June 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

    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

    July 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    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.

  14. paul smith

    January 28, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    I remember that beautiful sunny day in that huge old stadium. Beach boys sang the songs of summer and from there sixties heyday. The Eagles were good but not fantastic and Elton was okay with stuff we were familiar with until he laboured through most tracks from his new LP Captain Fantastic. The mood completely changed.Why would he do that. However, he became a megastar and the eagles, too. Have been to see the Eagles and Elton John many times since and although they became absolute superstars not one concert has captured the atmosphere of that day prior Captain Fantastic….

  15. Francis.

    February 8, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    I was there aged 13 with my freind Mick who was 15. We stayed in Peckham with his gran for the weekend. I had just started Cheadle grammar school and was a moody Elton fan due to his early songs. Mick and i got to the front and went around the side of the stage and saw my hero Bernie Taupin chatting with musicians. It was a long blazing hot day with no shade on the centre of the pitch. I was 13 remember and there were girls everywhere around me with their tops off smoking funny baccy. I enjoyed the Eagles and have been a fan ever since. I can’t remember the other acts as we waited for Elton. Then came the Beach Boys, who ? i was 13 yep never heard of ’em but WOW bloody hell were they bloody awesome. I recognised some songs but couldn’t keep still, they were great, this was music WOW. Then finally Elto my hero the man i went to see, imhad hiscearly albums and couldn’t wait. What, brown dirt what ! jeez what a bloody anti climax. If you read this Elton inwant my £3.50 back that i paid for the ticket out of my pocket money. Rock on Beach Boys and Eagles.

  16. CliffoftheDirtyStrangers

    February 8, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    I was there, still have the t-shirt somewhere. Great day out, I was 16 or 17 beer n gear was the order of the day. I thought Rufus were great, Chaka Kahn was playing drums for a while and was then introduced to sing lead vocals for Rufus if I remember correctly. I’d gone to see Joe Walsh who didn’t disappoint, far from it!

  17. Howard Pitfield

    July 12, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    19 year old at the time….. Fab gig just before I went to work overseas in Brussels.

    • Jan lake

      September 4, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Yes I was 19 too. Seems like yesterday. Wish we were still there.

  18. Carol Coyne

    January 17, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Great comments. I was 18 and thought the whole day awesome. Still have my programme and ticket too and cant believe it was only £3.50! Went to see Elton and The Eagles mostly but The Beach Boys were amazing. Remember the queues for the ladies and often went in the gents where no one was waiting haha. Good times.

  19. lawrence staley

    April 8, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Astounding concert.A friend and I left the Northeast at 5am going past RabyCastle where Elton performed brilliantly some 25 years later.Who could have dreamt that on that cloudless summer morn? Darlington to Wembley at 1130 am.We were amazed how compact the stadium seemed.It remains,I think,the finest stadium gig ever due to the lineup and the weather.The Beach Boys were amazingly good and the sound so powerful you had to shout into an ear to be heard.Three days later I bought all the BBoys albums and my ears were still ringing.Elton was far better than some have said.I remember thinking this is out of this world,only to turn around to see I was stood next to Roy Wood.Happy times and cost less than a cup of coffee now

  20. Charlie

    June 19, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    What a day! Not my first big concert, but my fave big stadium gig. Packed on the matting already mentioned, we all roasted in the sun drinking whatever we’d brought – not everybody had and in those days the concessions were small affairs.

    I remember seeing Evil Knevil when I was picking up my tickets for this concert. He was practicing for his show outside the stadium zooming up and down Wembley Way for his May 26 show. A great warm up for a young lad a month before the concert – we heard Evil failed his multi-bus jump and smashed himself up.

    Anyway, we were there for them all. Stackridge wasn’t new to us and it was so exciting to be in at the start of Joe Walsh joining the Eagles. Rocky Mountain Way was roarin’!

    Yes, like so many, we were really there for the Beach Boys – on a little cassette deck their greatest hits double album was the sound track to a drive round Scotland with a mate the previous summer aged 17 in his dad’s Moggie Minor.

    But Elton was the best. What a showman! We’d invested in his LP released a week or two earlier in May and learnt it off by heart! So, for us, the new stuff performed by Elton in his outlandish Cowboy kit blew us away – we stayed to the end.

    But loads went early: my last memory of the day is waiting for the tube to get back home and being amazed at how quiet it was.

    It hadn’t been quiet at Wembley!

  21. Jan lake

    September 4, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    What an amazing day. I remember it like yesterday. The beach boys were amazing and elton john had a job following them. So good to hear comments from other people who were there. Would be great to have a reunion. Wonderful.

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