In 1992 The Beach Boys released Summer In Paradise. It was so bad it took them 20 years to put out another album

The Beach Boys in 1992
(Image credit: Jim Steinfeldt / Getty Images)

No band rides the creative see-saw with as much vigour as The Beach Boys

There's the (admittedly short) period when Brian Wilson was at his creative peak, and the band tossed out sun-dappled teenage symphonies that didn't so much take music in new directions as much as reinvent it entirely. And then, as Brian retreats into the shadows, cousin Mike Love has frequently seemed intent on undoing all that good work.

Nowhere is his propensity for musical catastrophe more apparent than on 1992's Summer In Paradise, an album so dismal it's not available on streaming services, has never been reissued, and was only released on vinyl as a DJ promo in South Korea. It stank in a way that very few albums have ever stunk, and it continues to stink to this very day.

Summer In Paradise was produced by Terry Melcher, who'd worked on the (dreadful) chart-topping Kokomo for The Beach Boys six years earlier. Melcher was a former associate – and potential victim – of Charles Manson (Melcher had been interested in making a movie about the cult leader, but got cold feet, angering Manson), who'd carved out a career working with acts like The Byrds, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and The Mamas & The Papas.   

"The summer of ’91 found Terry and I literally walking in the sand on Martha’s Vineyard," explains Love, in the album's sleeve notes, "discussing ideas that would ultimately result in creating this album, seeing all the people on the beach taking full advantage of the sun, sand and surf. We couldn’t help but observe that this was truly Summer In Paradise. We then set out to design an album that would be the quintessential soundtrack of summer."

Alongside a well-meaning paragraph on the dangers of climate change ("Most of our favourite beaches may disappear," Love writes, before adding a silver lining. "But maybe there’s an up-side to apathy after all, there will be a whole new coastline with new surfin’ spots opening up all across the nation and around the world"), the album included a free poster, and a promise that the first Beach Boys hit, Surfin', had been re-recorded "totally for the young."

Another song with an eye on the youth market was the one single plucked from Summer In Paradise, the truly abominable Summer Of Love (which appears to be as much about Love himself as it is the season), with its limp, tinny production and "rapped" lyrics. Perhaps smitten by the success of Do The Bartman, Love had originally offered the song to the producers of The Simpsons, but they failed to share his enthusiasm, and the video – which attempted to capitalise on the success of Baywatch by including lingering shots of shapely, swim-suited lifeguards – is clear evidence that they were wise to back away from any potential partnership.    

Naturally enough, the critics had a field day. 

"Brian-less and brainless: The Boys’ final new album to date, their only one with no contribution from Brian, is a train wreck. Misbegotten attempts to sound “modern” (such as Mike Love’s attempt at rap on Summer of Love) appear next to leaden lounge-act covers. Lowlight: the horrifying remake of Surfin’." (Blender)

"Summer in Paradise is nothing short of an exercise in futility. The band merely doesn't entertain full-blown mediocrity here, instead opting for the most shameless cash-in on past glories one can witness." (Sputnik Music)

"The whole thing is as pointless as it sounds." (Rolling Stone)

Summer In Paradise became the first Beach Boys album to fail to chart, and, according to Melcher, sold just 1000 copies. It's failure to shift reportedly contributed to the bankruptcy of distributors Navarre, and many unsold copies only found homes when bundled with a Beach Boys box set put together by shopping channel QVC. 

Perhaps scarred by the experience, The Beach Boys wouldn't release another album of original material until That's Why God Made The Radio in 1992, by which time Brian Wilson had clambered back on board. The reviewers loved Wilson's material (Paste described his Radio as "a gorgeous, windows-down gem that blends the optimistic summertime spirit of their early hits with the maestro’s trademark compositional genius") and were dismissive of Love's (the same magazine described his contributions as "quite frankly, an embarrassment"). Plus ça change, etc.

On the plus side, any Mike Love fans lucky enough to own a copy of that South Korean vinyl edition of Summer Of Paradise will be delighted to learn that it's quite the collectors item, and is currently advertised on Discogs for the kind of sums usually reserved for actual summers in paradise. Just leave the soundtrack at home. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.