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The Beach Boys bootleg recordings

The Beach Boys' bootleg recordings are recordings of performances by the Beach Boys that attained some level of public circulation without being available as a legal release. Many albums by the band were fully assembled or near completion before being shelved, rejected, or revised as an entirely new project. In recent years, new rarities compilations and reissues of studio albums have been released with studio outtakes included as bonus tracks.

Bootleg recordings arise from a multitude of sources, including broadcast performances, recordings of live shows, test discs, privately distributed copies of demos, and covertly copied studio session tapes. Some recordings have never seen wide public circulation. Others are only rumored to exist, were misapprehended to tangentially related projects, or have yet to surface in the hands of archivists or record collectors.

Some of the largest sources of Beach Boys bootleg material has derived from the Pet Sounds and Smile sessions; their underground circulation eventually resulted in the officially-issued compilations The Pet Sounds Sessions (1997) and The Smile Sessions (2011). In 2013, the latter won the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. In 2011, Uncut voted Smile the number one "greatest bootleg recording of all time".[1] In 2003, Stylus Magazine named the Beach Boys' Smile, Landlocked, Adult Child, and Dennis Wilson's Bambu "A Lost Album Category Unto Themselves".[2]

Historical overview

Existence of tapes

The current existence of most of the Beach Boys' tape masters was made possible by the fact that the band were in control of their own material. Typically, record labels at the time would possess the multi-tracks, then wipe them once a final master was mixed down.[3] However, a myriad of original multi-track masters have been lost due to various circumstances.[3] Some reported currently missing are:

In the last few decades, reels of tape that were thought to be lost have been intermittently rediscovered.

  • 1990 – CBS Columbia Square delivered a reel of 1965-era tapes sourced from the album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) which were thought to be lost.[3] When the studio closed, a major amount of tapes were left behind. Ten years later, they were all destroyed without checking for inventory.[3]
  • 2009 – Beach Boys biographer Jon Stebbins was contacted by a man living in central California who possessed a box of multi-track tapes deriving from the Shut Down Volume 2 album that had been lost for decades.[3]
  • 2010 – Twenty-eight tapes that were stolen from the Beach Boys and Capitol archives in 1980 were retrieved; this included the original multi-track masters to "Do It Again", "We're Together Again", Adult Child, and a version of California Feeling.[3]
  • 2010s – A piano demo of "Surf's Up" was found hidden within a reel of the Wild Honey track "Country Air". It was soon included on The Smile Sessions (2011).[6]
  • 2013 – Acetates were unearthed that showed "I'm in Great Shape" as part of the projected "Heroes and Villains" single.[7][8] Before the release of Made in California (2013), a reel of tapes sourced from November 1964 live performances broadcast on BBC were retrieved.[3]
  • 2014 – Writer Brian Chidester reported that additional Brian Wilson recordings dated from the late 1960s and early 1970s were recently found.[5]


In the 1990s, the bootleg label Vigotone issued Heroes and Vibrations, a forty-minute disc culling working tapes from "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains".[9]

Sea of Tunes

Beginning in 1997, the Luxembourg-based[9] bootleg label Sea of Tunes (named after the Beach Boys' original publishing company) began releasing a series of CDs featuring high quality outtakes, session tracks and alternate recordings that ranged across the group's entire career. Among these was a three-CD set featuring over three hours of sessions for "Good Vibrations", and several multi-CD sets containing a significant number of the tracking, overdubbing and mixing sessions for Smile.[10] Those involved with releasing these bootlegs were later apprehended by authorities, and it was reported that nearly 10,000 discs were seized.[11]


Provided by the Allmusic database[12] and Bret Wheadon.[10]

  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 1 (1962) The Alternate Surfin' Safari Album (1997)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 2 (1963) The Alternate Surfin' USA Album (1997)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 3 (1963) The Alternate Surfer Girl Album (1997)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 4 (1963) Miscellaneous Trax (1997)
  • The Beach Boys Live In Sacramento, 1964 (1997)
  • The Beach Boys Live In Sacramento, 1964 Second Show! (1997)
  • The Beach Boys Christmas Sessions (1997)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 5 (1964) Miscellaneous Trax Vol. 2 (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 6 (1964) The Alternate "All Summer Long" Album (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 7 (1964) The Alternate "Today" Album, Vol. 1 (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 8 (1965) The Alternate "Today" Album, Vol. 2 (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 9 (1965) The Alternate "Summer Days (and Summer Nights!)" Album (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 10 (1965) The Alternate "Beach Boys Party!" Album (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 11 (1965) Miscellaneous Trax Vol. 3 (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 12 (1965) "Sloop John B" Sessions and Radio Spots (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 13 (1965-66) The Alternate "Pet Sound" Album, Vol. 1 (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 14 (1966) The Alternate "Pet Sound" Album, Vol. 2 (1998)
  • The Live Box (1965-1968) The Complete Michigan Concert Tapes and More... (1998)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 15 (1966) Good Vibrations (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 16 (1966-1967) Smile (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 17 (1966-1967) Smile Sessions (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 18 (1967) The Alternate "Smiley Smile" Album (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 19 (1967) The Alternate "Wild Honey" Album (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 20 (1968-69) "Friends, 20/20 and Odds & Ends" (1999)
  • Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 21 "Today/Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)" [STEREO] (1999)
  • In The Beginning/The Garage Tapes (2007)
  • All This Is That (2007)

Official archival releases

The following compilations contain previously unreleased archival material by the Beach Boys.

2012 copyright extension

In 2012, a new European Union copyright law was passed which extended the copyright of songs by 70 years, but only for recordings that were published within 50 years after they were made.[13] In order to prevent recordings made by 1960s artists from legally entering the public domain, many new rarities compilations were issued by record labels.[13] For the Beach Boys, this has so far included the digitally-exclusive releases The Big Beat 1963 (2013), Keep an Eye On Summer – The Beach Boys Sessions 1964 (2014), and Live in Sacramento 1964 (2014).[14]

Unreleased albums

Smile (1966–67)

After a year of recording, what would have been the Beach Boys' twelfth studio album Smile was scrapped. Because many of its tracks were left incomplete, an album can never be fully assembled. In 2011, an approximate reconstruction of the album was eventually released in the form of the compilation The Smile Sessions.[15]

Lei'd in Hawaii (1967)

Main article: Lei'd in Hawaii

A live album recorded in August–September 1967 that ran into numerous difficulties.[15]

Untitled Charles Manson project (1969)

According to Charles Manson, the musician later convicted in a murder conspiracy, "[I] was at Dennis' brother's home studio, which was larger than most commercial studios. ... we did a pretty fair session, putting down about ten songs."[16] While the group has strenuously denied that tapes of these sessions exist – with co-productions by Carl and Brian (not Dennis as had often been stated) – engineer Stephen Desper concurred that they do, believing at the time that Manson's material was "pretty good... he had musical talent."[15] The recordings were not demos as is often believed, but complete studio productions of songs which may have later appeared as rerecordings on his album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult (1970).[15] Music historian Andrew Doe has written that the chance of these recordings seeing an official release have "not a hope in hell."[15]

In December 1968, the Beach Boys released the Manson-composed "Never Learn Not to Love" as a single. Manson's involvement was omitted while Dennis was officially credited as the song's sole author.[17]

Early Sunflower revisions (1969–70)

The Sunflower albums underwent several markedly different assemblies prior to its final running order. Throughout its recording, the project was entitled (in chronological order) Reverberation or The Fading Rock Group Revival, Sunflower, and then Add Some Music before finally reverting back to the name Sunflower.[15]


Between the release of 20/20 (1969) and the final master of Sunflower, the following outtakes were written and recorded:[18]

Friends remake (1970s)

By the early 1970s, Wilson's reputation suffered as a result of his eccentricities of lore, and he quickly became known as a commercial has-been which record labels feared.[19] When friend Stanley Shapiro persuaded Wilson to rewrite and rerecord a number of Beach Boys songs in order to reclaim his legacy, he contacted fellow songwriter Tandyn Almer for support. The trio then spent a month reworking cuts from the Beach Boys' Friends album.[20] As Shapiro handed demo tapes to A&M Records executives, they found the product favorable before they learned of Wilson and Almer's involvement, and proceeded to veto the idea.[21]

1974 Beach Boys/Chicago tour live album

Adult Child (1977)

Main article: Adult/Child

Adult Child was recorded mostly by Brian and intended to follow up The Beach Boys Love You (1977).[15] It was rejected by the record label.[2]

California Feeling (1977)

California Feeling
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Recorded 1976–1977
Producer Al Jardine, Ron Altbach

California Feeling – projected for release in mid-1978 once Adult Child was rejected – consisted mostly of the tracks that would later appear on M.I.U. Album, released late in the year. It was named after the Brian Wilson composition "California Feelin'" written and recorded four years earlier during the Caribou Ranch sessions.[15] Kalinich considered the song white gospel and added "I think it frightened him a little to let his defenses down and give the vocal all he had."[4] Even though the album had been named for the song, Brian insisted that it be left off the album's track list. California Feeling was assembled in December 1977, revised as Winds of Change in 1978, and then renamed M.I.U. Album for release in October 1978.[15]

Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys (1978)

Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Recorded 1970–1977
Producer Al Jardine, Ron Altbach

Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys was worked on in tandem with California Feeling.[15] Many of its tracks later appeared on the 1998 compilation Ultimate Christmas.[15]

Summer's Gone (2011–12)

The original title for the group's 2012 reunion album That's Why God Made the Radio was Summer's Gone and an album-length suite was written in the theme. Only four of five tracks from the suite's closing half were included, with the fifth being named "I'd Go Anywhere", and would have fit between "Strange World" and "From There to Back Again". Both "I'd Go Anywhere" and the suite's opening half remain incomplete. Producer Joe Thomas has indicated a desire to finish the suite,[22] which had its origins in 1998 as cassette demos before Wilson began working on them again in 2008. A total of 28 songs were written and recorded for the album.[23] In 2013, it was announced that Wilson was working on finishing the thematic tracks (now dubbed "The Suite") for a new solo project.[24]

Other material

Attempted Smile reconstructions (1967–2011)

Many attempts were made to reconstruct the Smile album following Brian's disowning the project. When the Beach Boys signed with Reprise Records in 1970, a stipulation was made to deliver a form of the Smile album by January 1, 1973, which was not met. Rough compilations were subsequently assembled in 1989 (compiled by Mark Linett), 1993 (as The Smile Era), and 1997. The bulk of Linett's 1989 assembly was quickly leaked in the autumn of that year and sold as the second ever Smile CD bootleg.[15]

Landlocked (1970s)

Landlocked was a provisional title for the group's album Surf's Up.[25] Bootlegs under this name feature work that spans recording sessions from the early 1970s.[2][26][27]

"Bedroom Tapes" (1960s–70s)

"Bedroom Tapes" redirects here. For the album by Carly Simon, see The Bedroom Tapes.

Throughout the early 1970s, Brian amassed a myriad of home demo recordings which later became informally known as the "Bedroom Tapes".[4] The moniker was the invention of writer Brian Chidester, who maintains that the material which comprises the "Bedroom Tapes" is "superfluous" and roughly covers the period between 1968 and 1974.[5] Bandmate Bruce Johnston remembers: "Brian went through a period where he would write songs and play them for a few people in his living room, and that's the last you'd hear of them. He would disappear back up to his bedroom and the song with him."[4] Friend Terry Melcher similarly likened Brian to "Aesop emerging to deliver his latest fable" each time he came down from his room to present a new song.[4]

Some of the material has been described as "schizophrenia on tape," and "intensely personal songs of gentle humanism and strange experimentation, which reflected on his then-fragile emotional state."[4] Beach Boys archivist Alan Boyd observed: "A lot of the music that Brian was creating during this period was full of syncopated exercises and counterpoints piled on top of jittery eighth-note clusters and loping shuffle grooves. You get hints of it earlier in things like the tags to 'California Girls,' 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and all throughout Smile, but it takes on an almost manic edge in the '70s."[4] Brian's daughters have reflected on this period, as Wendy Wilson remembers, "Where other people might take a run to release some stress, he would go to the piano and write a 5 minute song."[28]

In a June 2015 interview to promote the film Love & Mercy, director Bill Pohlad responded after being asked about the "Bedroom Tapes", "I have heard a lot of stuff and been privy to a lot of things. It’s not a secret that there is a lot of great Brian Wilson music out there that is not generally available yet. Hopefully someday more of that will come out."[29]

Caribou Ranch sessions (1974)

Recording sessions for an album projected for release in early 1975 were conducted in late 1974 at band manager James William Guercio's Caribou Ranch studio in Colorado and later at Brother Studios in Santa Monica. Brian was said to be actively involved in these sessions before a studio fire was purported to have destroyed many of the original master tapes. This was proven untrue when many of the tapes later surfaced in public circulation. Songs worked on for this album included the originals "Good Timin'", "California Feelin'", "Don't Let Me Go", "You're Riding High On the Music", "Ding Dang", "Our Life, Our Love, Our Land", "Lucy Jones", and the traditional "Battle Hymn of the Republic".[15]

"The Cocaine Sessions" (1982)

"The Cocaine Sessions" (or "The Hamburger Sessions")[30][page needed] refer to a sporadic, collaborative recording session conducted between Brian and Dennis Wilson in November 1982 at Garby Leon's home studio. Recordings were made for songs entitled "Oh Lord", "City Blues", "Stevie" and "Heroes and Villains".[31] Musicologist Philip Lambert called it a "heartbreaking testament to their conditions in the early 1980s."[32]

Studio reunion and Paley sessions (1990s)

Solo Beach Boys and sideprojects

A World of Peace Must Come (1969)

A World of Peace Must Come
Studio album by Stephen Kalinich
Released October 6, 2008 (2008-10-06)
Recorded August–September 1969
Genre Spoken word
Producer Brian Wilson

A collaboration between Brian Wilson and poet Stephen Kalinich dating from August and September 1969.[33] It contains spoken word passages by Kalinich recorded in Brian's Los Angeles bedroom with some instrumental accompaniment tracked at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco.[5] The album was five-years-old before its recordings were assembled, though a record deal could not be found for it.[5] It was finally given an official release on October 6, 2008.[33]

Cows in the Pasture (1970s)

Poops/Hubba Hubba (1970s)

Bambu (1970s–80s)

Main article: Bambu (album)

Dennis Wilson attempted to follow up his 1977 solo album Pacific Ocean Blue with Bambu. He died before the album could be completed.[2]

"The Wilson Project" (1986–87)

Sweet Insanity (1991)

Main article: Sweet Insanity

Brian recorded a follow up to his 1988 eponymous solo album entitled Sweet Insanity. It was rejected by record labels.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "The Beach Boys' 'Smile' named as the greatest ever bootleg by Uncut". NME. October 21, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Stylus Magazine Non-Definitive Guide: The Lost Album". Stylus Magazine. September 2, 2003. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Beach Boys Producers Alan Boyd, Dennis Wolfe, Mark Linett Discuss ‘Made in California’ (Q&A)". Rock Cellar Magazine. September 4, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Chidester, Brian (January 30, 2014). "Brian Wilson's Secret Bedroom Tapes". LA Weekly. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Chidester, Brian (March 7, 2014). "Busy Doin' Somethin': Uncovering Brian Wilson's Lost Bedroom Tapes". Paste. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  6. ^ Peters, Tony (October 17, 2011). "Show #120 - Mark Linett - part 2 - Beach Boys SMiLE Sessions (10/17/11)". Iconfetch. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Beach Boys – 8 Original "Smile" Acetates from the collection of Van Dyke Parks". Record Mecca. 2013. 
  8. ^, andy on March 03, 2013, 12:56:03 AM
  9. ^ a b Heylin 2010.
  10. ^ a b Wheadon, Bret D. "RARITIES II: SEA OF TUNES I". Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ Wilonsky, Robert (December 23, 1999). "The Forever Frown". Phoenix New Times Music. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Beach Boys / Discography / Others". Allmusic. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Kozinn, Allan (11 December 2013). "European Copyright Laws Lead to Rare Music Releases". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Kozinn, Allan (December 5, 2014). "Rare Dylan Recordings Set for Release in Copyright-Extension Bid". New York: ArtsBeat. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Doe, Andrew Grayham. "Unreleased Albums". Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ Manson 1994, p. 167.
  17. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 138.
  18. ^ Doe, Andrew Grayham. "Tours & Sessions". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. pp. 19691970. 
  19. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 172.
  20. ^ Carlin 2006, pp. 172–173.
  21. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 173.
  22. ^ Wyckoff, Mark (May 24, 2012). "The Beach Boys are making 'Radio' waves". VCStar. 
  23. ^ Fine, Jason (June 21, 2012). "The Beach Boys' Last Wave". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Rolling Stone: Brian Wilson Rocks With Jeff Beck, Plans New LPs". June 20, 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  25. ^ Badman 2004, p. 291.
  26. ^ Griffth, JT. "Landlocked". AllMusic. 
  27. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Landlocked: The Unreleased 1970 Album and More". AllMusic. 
  28. ^ Was, Don (Director) (1995). Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times (Documentary film). 
  29. ^ Ruskin, Zack (June 2, 2015). "Inside Brian Wilson: An Interview with Bill Pohlad". Consequence of Sound. 
  30. ^ Stebbins 2011.
  31. ^ Doe, Andrew Grayham. "GIGS82". Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  32. ^ Lambert 2007, p. 318.
  33. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "A World of Peace Must Come". AllMusic. 


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