In 1989 The Beach Boys were riding a huge wave success, “Kokomo” had just become their first number one U.S. hit in 22 years. The success of “Kokomo” was largely due in part by producer Terry Melcher, who co-wrote and sang vocals on the track that was certified gold and sold over a million copies worldwide. The only child of singer Doris Day, Melcher is perhaps more famously known for being the target of the Manson family murders which were carried out at his former residence at 10050 Cielo Drive.
In 1991 all living original Beach Boys members (except Brian Wilson, still under the care of his abusive psychologist Gene Landy) returned to the studio with Terry Melcher to record their follow-up to “Kokomo” with the album Summer in Paradise. This marked the first and only Beach Boys studio album that Brian Wilson had no participation in whatsoever. Produced entirely on a Macintosh Quadra computer, Summer in Paradise was recorded using a Beta version of Pro Tools with a rhythm section that was almost entirely synthesized. Despite its effort to be “the quintessential soundtrack of summer” the album quickly turned into an unmitigated disaster: musically, lyrically, and commercially. Al Jardine was suspended from the band in the early stages of the recording due to a “severe attitude problem,” however he was reinstated in final weeks leading up to the completion the project.
From the albums very first track, a cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” followed by a re-recording of the Beach Boys first ever single “Surfin’,” it is immediately brought to any listeners attention that something isn’t quite right. The bands signature sound has become overwhelmingly saturated with treble and reverb, and The Wrecking Crew‘s musical instrumentation heard on previous recordings has been replaced with programmed keyboards and drum machines.
The albums third track finally gets into some new and original material with the quasi-rap number “Summer of Love”, originally intended to be a duet between Mike Love and Bart Simpson for a planned Simpsons movie. John Tobler, author of The Complete Guide to the Music of The Beach Boys called “Summer of Love” quite possibly the worst set of lyrics Mike Love has ever concocted. “We’ll be bay watchin’ everyday, just off the Malibu surfin’ U. S. A.” The track appropriately turned up in a 1995 episode of Baywatch. The Beach Boys fearlessly reference the shit out of their dozen gold albums that came before: in fact the album’s titular song Summer in Paradise references not one, not two, but three Beach Boys song titles (“Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Barbara Ann”) all in the very first verse.
Perhaps the most well-known track from Summer in Paradise is the albums closing ballad, a re-recording of “Forever” (a song off the 1970 Beach Boys album Sunflower). The 1992 version replaces Dennis Wilson’s vocals with Full House heartthrob John “Uncle Jesse” Stamos. When I was thirteen years old I won raffle tickets from my school to attend a taping of Full House live in front of a studio audience. Despite the large embarrassment I suffered when the “warm up” guy pulled my mom on stage to share her acapella rendition of the Full House theme song, I ultimately had a great time because that particular episodes storyline revolved around Jesse & the Rippers flying to Japan where they had reached #1 in the charts. The episode concludes with a live performance of “Forever” at a rock arena in Tokyo (which thanks to the magic of television, was located in the corner of the soundstage at Warner Brothers studios just a few feet away from the Tanner family living room set).
Despite the TGIF sitcom’s efforts to promote Summer in Paradise (a Summer in Paradise poster can be seen on the wall of Uncle Jesse’s radio station throughout season 6) the album sold fewer than a thousand copies upon its release in August 1992. Although the band maintains the actual sales figures were over 145,000, it was later revealed that number actually represented albums shipped to stores, not sold. When Summer in Paradise became the first Beach Boys album ever not to chart, the band scrambled to remix and partially re-record five tracks for the European release. Most fans who have actually listened to both versions have said that the “revised” album is even worse than the original, and it is widely agreed that The Beach Boys had officially hit the “critical and commercial low point” of their career. The only album left off of Capitol Records Beach Boys re-issue campaign in 2000, it has since gone out of print and is completely disregarded by even the most snobbish completists of the band’s discography. The Beach Boys would not attempt to record another studio album of new material until 20 years later, when they reunited for their 50th Anniversary tour in 2012 and released “That’s Why God Made the Radio” to coincide. In summer of 2016, Mike Love reintroduced the song Summer in Paradise back into the setlist of his touring version of the Beach Boys. Why?