The Beach Boys’ show at the famous Olympia in Paris from 1969 is an absolute gem and, with the idea of live music feeling like a distant memory right now, there are worse ways to spend your time than travelling back to the swinging sixties as Brian Wilson and the band made a voyage for an unforgettable European tour.
It’s fair to say that 1969 wasn’t the high point of the pioneering group’s career. As their popularity began to dwindle in the States throughout the late sixties, despite them still putting on live performances of the highest calibre, across the UK and Europe their stock still remained high.
Their reputation had gone through the mill after a short-lived association was formed with Charles Manson, the cult leader believing for a period of time that he had landed his big break in the music industry when two of his ‘family’ members, Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey, were hitchhiking before being picked up by Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. He then stayed the night with the women at his home in Pacific Palisades who, in turn, told Manson all about their experience when they returned to him which began a friendship, of sorts.
The pair then grew closer as the months passed and, on occasion, they worked together in the studio. Thanks to this friendship, Manson’s name started to get more notorious in the Los Angeles music scene. The Beach Boys then made the decision to buy a song from Manson titled ‘Cease to Exist’. The track was later renamed as ‘Never Learn To Love’, a song which was released as the B-Side to ‘Bluebirds over the Mountain’ in December 1968.
The whole incident is one that Wilson would rather have forgotten about and, arguably, it was his darkest moment. “As long as I live, I’ll never talk about that,” Wilson told Rolling Stone in 1976 of his relationship with the Manson family.
The Beach Boys were also at the centre of a tough legal dispute with Capitol Records which was another unnecessary distraction away from music. Later the band revisited its 1967 lawsuit against Capitol after it alleged an audit revealed the band was owed over $2 million for unpaid royalties and production duties.
Just a month before the show in Paris, Brian Wilson told the music press that the group’s funds were depleted to the point that it was considering filing for bankruptcy at the end of the year and this tour was a way of trying to recoup some finances but it wouldn’t be enough. They would sell their entire catalogue to Irving Almo Music for $700,000, a collection which has since gone on to generate over $100,000,000 sales since.
Despite all the drama going on behind the scenes, The Beach Boys were still a thrilling live-act who could leave all that nonsense off away from the stage and playing live provided the group with a great sense of escapism from the circus going on constantly around them.
Their set featured hit after hit with the Beach Boys running through the likes of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, ‘California Girls’, ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Surfer Girl’ and ‘I Get Around’. The show is an absolute delight as they deliver all the classics in one of the most historic venues on the planet, check it out below.