TV

Not so good vibrations! All you need to know about the new The Beach Boys documentary

Feuds, drugs and tragedies – a new Disney+ doco reveals life wasn’t always sunny for The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys holding a surfboard

The Beach Boys’ new documentary will be hitting our screens 24 May 2024. And the unseen footage and interviews reveal that things weren’t always such “good vibrations” for the legendary band.

From the drugs to the betrayals, here’s everything you need to know before you watch.

Where can I watch The Beach Boys documentary in New Zealand?

Stream The Beach Boys now on Disney+ with a mth-to-mth no lock-in contract. Subscribe here.

Abuse & betrayal

The band’s early years were overshadowed by the three Wilson brothers’ abusive father and manager, Murry Wilson. His controlling nature even led the group to fire him in 1964!

Shockingly, in 1969, Murry sold the rights to their songs for just $760,000 – a fraction of their potential value, which could be worth around $110 million today.

Brian Wilson later reflected that Murry believed the band was “washed up”. The tension lingered and, in 1993, cousin Mike Love successfully sued Brian for co-writing credits on many songs.

Rivalry with The Beatles

In the ’60s, the Beach Boys and the Beatles were kings of the music scene, but beneath the surface of their shared success lay a rivalry.

Brian both admired and envied Sir Paul McCartney’s songwriting prowess, feeling compelled to match the Beatles’ groundbreaking innovations. Paul, in turn, acknowledged the Beach Boys’ influence on the Beatles’ legendary Sgt Pepper’s album. Despite occasional tensions, mutual respect simmered between the two groups.

The lost album

Brian, the creative force behind the Beach Boys, shelved the original master tapes for their ambitious Smile album in 1967, leading to decades of speculation and mystery. This “lost album” became legendary among fans, who eagerly awaited its potential release.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Brian revisited Smile, rearranging it for a series of solo concert performances. The long-awaited album arrived in 2011 as a glimpse into what might have been, reigniting fascination with one of the most enigmatic and storied albums.

Draft dodging

Amid their touring endeavours, the Beach Boys encountered turbulence when Carl Wilson faced arrest on charges of alleged draft dodging. He was arrested for the crime in April 1967 and it took several years for the matter to be resolved in court.

Tensions only escalated when the British Musician’s Union objected to the band’s plans to tour with supplementary backing musicians. Despite Carl’s issues with the law, he’s largely credited for keeping the band together and his death from cancer in 1998 led to their split.

The Charles Manson connection

Did you know that in the late 1960s, cult leader Charles Manson briefly crossed paths with the Beach Boys? Manson became friends with drummer Dennis Wilson, even staying at his house for a time.

Manson, an aspiring musician, recorded some songs with Dennis’ help, hoping to leverage the connection. Although their collaboration didn’t lead to any major music releases, it’s a strange and unsettling chapter. Dennis later described it as “fascinating and terrifying”.

Good Vibrations

The famous track Good Vibrations is often called a “pocket symphony” because of its intricate arrangement and groundbreaking production. Released in 1966, the song took more than six months to complete and cost an estimated $55,000, which was an enormous amount for that era.

Brian spearheaded the project, incorporating a variety of instruments, including the unusual theremin, to achieve the unique sound on the popular song. Despite its experimental nature, Good Vibrations became one of the Beach Boys’ most celebrated hits.

Restraining orders

In a dramatic turn of events, tensions between Beach Boys members – and cousins – Mike and Dennis escalated to the point where both felt compelled to obtain mutual restraining orders against each other.

Their tumultuous relationship, marked by conflict and discord, traces back through a long and troubled history. And Dennis wasn’t the only Wilson brother Mike clashed with – his feud with Brian also made headlines, with their creative differences thought to be at the heart of their conflict.

Brian was beset with mental health problems exacerbated by drug use, adding to rifts in the band.

Dennis (right) and Mike fell out.

Where can I watch The Beach Boys documentary in New Zealand?

Stream The Beach Boys now on Disney+ with a mth-to-mth no lock-in contract. Subscribe here.

Related stories


Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.