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45 Years Ago: The Beach Boys Battle Capitol Records

Central Press-Hulton Archive, Getty Images

As the ’60s were drawing to a close, the good vibrations between the Beach Boys and Capitol Records were quickly turning sour. Though the label had been their home since the beginning, as times changed and the band’s popularity began to drop, they were no longer a priority for the label. This would, in part, lead the band to question their standing with and their treatment by Capitol. In April of 1969, the Beach Boys filed a lawsuit against Capitol Records for slightly more than $2 million.

The seeds of this go back to March of 1967, when the band issued a lawsuit against Capitol Records asking for termination of their contract, as well as $225,000 in outstanding royalties. In July, as Capitol announced that a settlement had been reached between label and band, it was also announced that the group would now have their own label. Brother Records was established, and would be distributed by Capitol, with the first releases being the ‘Heroes And Villains’ single and the ‘Smiley Smile’ LP. Though used on this one single and album in 1967, the Brother label imprint would lay dormant until their departure from Capitol.

On April 12, 1969 the Beach Boys issued their lawsuit against the label. According to the Keith Badman book, ‘The Beach Boys,’ the suit claimed more than $600,000 in unpaid royalties, and nearly $1.5 million in unpaid production fees due leader Brian Wilson. The 1967 suit would come back into play on the 1969 proceedings. The suit was ultimately settled, and their contract with Capitol Records, which expired on June 30, 1969, was not renewed.

The severing of ties with Capitol marked the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another, concentrating on the road ahead which included a stronger focus on Brother Records. After leaving Capitol, they found a new home for Brother at Reprise Records. They announced plans for the label at a press conference, saying they “hope to created the furthest reaching music company ever established,” adding that “Brother Records will have a different policy in dealing with artists than most record companies have.” Another part of the new venture included building their own state-of-the-art recording studio.

The band went on to release such classic albums as ‘Sunflower’ (1970), ‘Surf’s Up’ (1971) and ‘Holland’ (1973), all on the Brother label. The label would essentially fold in 1979 when the Beach Boys signed to Caribou Records. Ultimately, the entire catalog has ended up with Capitol.

In November 1969, the Wilsons’ father, Murry, who still maintained control over their publishing company, Sea Of Tunes, sold the songs to to Irving Almo Music without consent from any band members. The amount of the sale was $700,000, and within a few years, the catalog had an estimated value of over $30 million, due in part to a resurgence in the band’s popularity with the release of the wildly successful ‘Endless Summer’ compilation in 1974.

Next: Top 10 Beach Boys Songs

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