For a band that centers around the bright themes of a sunny day on the coast, the Beach Boys‘ legacy has been shrouded in darkness. From their very beginnings in Hawthorne, CA, brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson were worked day-and-night by their overbearing father, Murry Wilson. Alongside cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, however, the Beach Boys went on to take the country by storm throughout the 1960s as one of the most influential bands of the decade, but that darkness was never far from shore.
After achieving unmitigated success with 1966’s Pet Sounds, principal songwriter Brian Wilson collapsed under the weight of his own musical genius, drug addiction, and untreated mental illness. A crash course in Beach Boys history is lined with footnotes of death, infighting both private and public, and decades of lawsuits. The surviving members of the original group–Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine as well as late Carl Wilson’s sons Jonah and Justyn—hope to rectify that murky relationship with their latest business decision to sell off the Beach Boys’ catalog.
While recent months have seen a growing trend of artists and record industry executives selling off their catalogs—from Neil Young to Bob Dylan to Jimmy Iovine—the deal that the surviving Beach Boys recently inked with Irving Azoff‘s Iconic Artists Group goes a step further. Not only does the deal—agreed upon for an undisclosed amount—give Iconic Artists Group the rights to the band’s catalog and master recordings, but it also includes a share of their publishing rights, memorabilia, and even the entire Beach Boys brand, including the image and likeness of its members.
The members of the band are not shut out entirely from the Beach Boys brand and still retain an interest in the assets. Only now all major business decisions made under the Beach Boys banner will be done by Iconic Artists. By giving up control of their image and assets, the remaining Beach Boys hope to finally bury their long-standing animosity after all these years.
“They can make the final decision on business decisions, which is what we really need — what we have needed, I should say,” Jardine told Rolling Stone.
Prior to the pandemic, Mike Love had toured under the Beach Boys monicker alongside latter-era band member Bruce Johnston, a name Love won in a hard-fought legal battle. As a result, Brian Wilson—who wrote most of the band’s well-known hits from the 1960s—was forced to tour under his own name alongside Jardine. Now, with the Beach Boys name the property of Iconic rather than Love, it no longer belongs to just one member.
The value of the Beach Boys name goes far beyond a touring band, however. With the legacy of legal infighting supposedly behind them, the band members, alongside Iconic Artists, have set their sights on larger business ventures. Over the years, a plethora of enterprises and ideas had been explored and sometimes even attempted, albeit rather poorly.
“In a lot of ways, they were what Jimmy Buffett did with Margaritaville before Margaritaville. It just never got done,” Iconic’s CEO Olivier Chastan told Rolling Stone. “The Beach Boys, in a sense, are not just a band. They’re a lifestyle. They’re a consumer brand. And they’ve never really exploited that.”
From clothing lines to restaurants, the Beach Boys brand lends itself effortlessly to the kind of leisure activity and attitude that the musicians have sung of for nearly 60 years.
“You get to a point where it gets really serious, the business of having a legacy,” Jardine said. “Maybe we’ll have a little theme park somewhere, or, I don’t know, restaurants. I always wanted to have a Beach Boys restaurant somewhere.”
This business move came on the precipice of a major anniversary for the band as they approach 60 years since their debut single, “Surfin'”, was released in November 1961. Ten years ago, for the band’s 50th anniversary, the surviving members reunited for the first time in decades and mounted a highly-profitable, as well as musically satisfying, reunion tour. The honeymoon was short-lived, however, as Love and Wilson split up to form their own camps, splintering the band once again.
As recently as last month, conflicting reports had emerged from within the band. As Jardine expressed his support for the tour and Love delivered lukewarm sentiments, Wilson stated that nobody had even talked to him about a possible reunion. Fast forward barely four weeks and a new harmonious spirit appears to have taken over the remaining members as the business decisions are finally out of their hands.
“It’d be a great trip, a big thrill,” Wilson, who just received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and has been exercising his body and voice daily, said of a possible reunion tour. “When we went on tour for the 50th anniversary we had so much fun. It’d be such a joy to be singing with the boys again.”
Love agreed, saying he feels “pretty darn good” for his age and “wouldn’t rule anything out.”
[H/T Rolling Stone]