How the ‘Pet Sounds’ Cover Shoot Earned the Beach Boys a Lifetime Ban From San Diego Zoo
The history of the Beach Boys contains more than its share of pain and darkness, but they've never exactly been the edgiest group. So while it might come as something of a surprise to discover they've ever actually been banned from returning somewhere, it makes a certain sort of perfect sense that the place in question was as cuddly as the children's petting area at the San Diego Zoo.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, it all went down on Feb. 13, 1966 — and while the photos taken during the band's visit to the Zoo would eventually end up on the cover of their Pet Sounds LP, the whole thing was apparently initially viewed as an attempt by the Beach Boys to jump on a trend.
"Zoo officials were not keen about having their beloved beasts connected with the title of the album," reads the paper's original report, filed in the aftermath of the band's visit. "But gave in when the Beach Boys explained that animals are an 'in' thing with teenagers. And that the Beach Boys were rushing to beat the rock 'n' roll group called 'The Animals.'"
Unfortunately, the band members reportedly neglected to treat the occasion with the seriousness it deserved. Without naming names, Zoo superintendent John Muth accused one Beach Boy of bouncing a carrot off of a tiger's head; another, according to Muth, "tried to stick the head of a little antelope through some iron bars." Multiple band members were also accused of being careless with puppies and baby chicks, setting them down in places they didn't belong and leaving them there.
Muth, described in the Union-Tribune's report as a former Marine, was unsurprisingly less than amused. Describing the animals as "about to crack up" after the chaos of the band's visit, he told the paper that "The Beach Boys are not welcome back and never will be."
For their part, at least two of the band members seemed less than impressed with the experience. Bruce Johnston is quoted as saying the goats involved in the photo shoot were "horrible," while Brian Wilson claims he's never been back to the zoo. The children's area where they shot the photos, meanwhile, is due to be replaced with a new exhibit in 2021.