Discovered: rare film from the day the Beach Boys were banned from San Diego Zoo

The Beach Boys at the zoo
(Image credit: CBS 8 San Diego)

Rare footage has emerged from one of rock's most iconic shoots, when the Beach Boys went to San Diego zoo to be photographed for the cover of Pet Sounds.

The 24-second, black and white clip was unearthed by local news station CBS News 8, and shows the Beach Boys and entourage feeding the goats who eventually adorned the album cover.

The origins of the shoot remain shrouded in mystery. Beach Boy Al Jardine has claimed that Capitol Records hadn’t actually listened to Pet Sounds and assumed it was about animals, while a contemporaneous report in the San Diego Union states that the choice of location was a reference to UK band The Animals.

Either way, the shoot did not going entirely according to plan, with the Union's Frank Rhoades snootily describing the band as, "six millionaire-musicians... with long Beatle hair and all wearing funny boots."

"One of them bounced a carrot off the head of one of our tigers," wrote Rhoades. "Another tried to stick the head of a little antelope through some iron bars. Then they went around handling puppies and baby chicks, putting them down in the open and walking off.

“A few young girls who saw the Beach Boys acting like this were certainly disillusioned. The cameraman and the art director were awfully nice guys, but things just got out of hand and they couldn’t control the situation.”

Rhoades finished by claiming that the zoo's superintendent, an ex-Marine sergeant major named John Muth, had told the band they were not welcome back and never would be. 

Beach Boy Mike Love remembers things differently, telling CBS News 8, "Hey now, wait a minute, let's let bygones be bygones. I have no idea why they said that. Maybe something rude was said or done but I comported myself as a perfect gentleman."

But fellow Beach Boy Brian Johnston has been less conciliatory in the past, accusing the goats themselves of behaving badly. 

“The goats were horrible,” Johnston told Rolling Stone, several decades after the event. “They (would) jump all over you and bite. One of them ate my radio. The zoo said we were torturing the animals, but they should have seen what we had to go through. We were doing all the suffering."

None of the goats were available for comment. 

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.