‘The Beach Boys’ Are Still Banned From the San Diego Zoo: They’re ‘Not Welcome Back and Never Will Be’

The Beach Boys may seem like the type of background music you hear on the radio on a warm summer day, but the truth is they were much more of a revolutionary band than often given credit for. The Beach Boys put out some absolute smash hits in their day, and no album of theirs contained more major singles than Pet Sounds.

While Pet Sounds went down in music history as one of the most influential records, something many may not realize is that there was one controversy surrounding the band when they promoted it. Let’s take a closer look at what happened and why the Beach Boys are still banned from ever returning to the San Diego Zoo because of it. 

Beach Boys yellow car
Mike Love, David Marks, Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys posing for a 1962 photo shoot | Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Who were the Beach Boys? 

The Beach Boys created one of the most distinctive sounding bands of the 1960s and perhaps all time. According to Biography.com, the Beach Boys are best known for their songs focusing on surfing, summer fun, sun, and, of course, the beach.

While the band produced some of the happiest sounding music you could imagine, they often clashed in the studio. Brian Wilson was known for being behind the inventive songwriting for some of the band’s greatest hits, while fellow band member Mike Love urged the band to stick to their proven formula without being as experimental.

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Regardless of their conflicts, they’ve become one of the most recognizable and successful bands of all time. They were so successful, in fact, they actually inspired another rock and roll legend. 

How the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds changed music forever

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Beach Boys fans can debate about their greatest song, but it’s hard to argue about their best album. That honor belongs to Pet Sounds.

The album was so good from both a musical and lyrical perspective that the Beatles’ Paul McCartney cites it as one of his greatest musical inspirations while developing the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. According to McCartney, the record persuaded him to pursue a “clean, American sound” for many of that album’s songs like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. 

McCartney also said that he played it so much for his writing partner and bandmate, John Lennon, while they worked on their album, there’s no doubt Pet Sounds helped inspire their product. Sgt. Pepper is also regarded as one of the great albums in modern music history. 

Pet Sounds on its own is an extremely popular record. But to think that one of the great musicians of all time, McCartney, cites it as an influence, is an entirely different story. The band’s seminal work wasn’t just a hit with audiences, it also led to one of the other great albums of all time. 

Why are the Beach Boys still banned from the San Diego Zoo? 

The iconic Pet Sounds cover was shot at the San Diego Zoo with the band interacting with plenty of animals for a photoshoot. But while the shoot produced some great photography, it didn’t go so well from the Zoo’s perspective. Following the event, the Zoo banned the Beach Boys and indicated they’d never be welcomed back, according to the San Diego Tribune

So what did they do that was so bad? A Tribune article from 1966 reported the following alleged acts the band members committed: 

  • Bouncing a carrot off a tiger’s head. 
  • Attempting to put an antelope’s head through metallic bars. 
  • Carrying baby chickens and puppies around, putting them down, and walking away without returning them.

John Muth operated the Zoo as its superintendent. His statement on the matter was rather final: 

“The Beach Boys are not welcome back and never will be.”

The Beach Boys may be welcome in most parts of California due to their popularity, but apparently, the San Diego Zoo isn’t one of those places.