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The Beach Boys and Hawaii - 55 Years Later

When I was little, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I was convinced my Dad was one of The Beach Boys.  

My folks had a large CD player in the hallway between the living room and kitchen, and one day I found a Beach Boys CD with a photo of the group on the cover.  To my young eyes, one of the guys looked sorta-kinda-maybe-halfway like my Dad, or what I imagined he looked like when he was younger with longer, shaggy hair.  

When you're 4 or 5, you always assume anyone older than you is really old.  To be honest, at the time, my Dad was probably the same age or younger than I am now, but back then, he was just "old," and so were The Beach Boys.  

I once saw a photo of my Dad in what was probably his mid-20s, and like many men in the 1970s did, he had longer hair than he had at the time I found that Beach Boys album.  I just assumed the man with the similar hair on the album cover was him, and for a while, I was convinced he had been one of the Beach Boys.  I don't even remember which band member I thought he was, since now viewing the band with my old eyes, I don't see anyone similar.  

I've loved the band's music ever since, and they are still one of my go-to stations on Pandora.  I don't really know their names or much about the band, but their music still makes me tap my feet, drum my fingers, and sing along.  

I got to thinking about all of this at work the other day.  Everyone I know or work with seems to be going to Hawaii, or they just came back or are planning to go soon.  Hawaii just appears to be back at the top of the "hot spot" vacation list.  I think pent-up demand following the release of COVID restrictions is at an all-time high, and people are just eager to go somewhere.  

To me, Hawaii has always had a retro vibe.  I've never been to the islands, but I feel like it was THE 80s and 90s vacation destination.  It was featured on nearly every sitcom back then, from The Brady Bunch to Saved by the Bell.  It was also spoofed and featured in cartoons such as Garfield in Paradise

The Beach Boys 25 Years Together celebration "live" from Waikiki Beach on ABC was also a pretty big television event in the 80s.  Before the internet, a million cable channels, or streaming services diluting the viewership, things like this on network television were considered cultural moments that nearly everyone participated in.  

I have vague memories of the Beach Boys Waikiki celebration growing up.  I'm pretty sure this is something my parents would have made sure they watched or recorded on the VCR.  I can't recall when I initially saw this tribute concert if my folks were watching it recorded on a VHS or if it was something they watched on television while I played with my toys in the evening.  It must have been recorded because I always had to go to bed early, and 8 PM would have definitely been past my bedtime in 1987.

Then again, the memories in my head may be getting confused with that time the cast of Full House sang with the Beach Boys.  On the Season Two episode that aired November 18, 1988, titled "Beach Boy Bingo," the Beach Boys made a guest appearance on the hit sitcom.  The band makes several appearances and sings several songs, much to the excited studio audience's pleasure.  In the end, the Tanner family gets on stage and sings Barbara Ann with the band live at a concert.  

The concert on the show was set in San Francisco, but it was actually filmed following a USC Trojans football game against the University of California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.   

This year, on August 25, 2022, 55 years will have passed since The Beach Boys debuted in Hawaii with a pair of concerts at the Honolulu International Center Arena.

It's also my tenth wedding anniversary to my beautiful wife, Lauren!  Happy Anniversary, honey! 

My interest was piqued by all of this Beach Boys and Hawaii talk.  So, let's take a look back at The Beach BBoys'time in Hawaii, starting with their debut in Honolulu in 1967 and their 25th Anniversary Celebration from Waikiki in 1987!

On August 25th and 26th, 1967, the band held two concerts from the Honolulu International Center Arena.  The two concerts also featured a rare appearance from band member Brian Wilson, marking his only shows with the touring group between 1965 and 1970.  It was also the band's first public appearance following their controversial withdrawal from the Monterey Pop Festival that summer. 

The Beach Boys were at their peak in the mid-1960s.  The album Pet Sounds was released in early 1966 and launched the band into superstardom, breaking the group free of the simple California beach bum stereotype.  It was one of rock's first concept albums, matching orchestral arrangements with meaningful lyrics.  Fans at the time weren't sure what to think of it, but critics were awed by Brian Wilson's masterwork.  Pet Sounds was immediately followed by the Good Vibrations single in December 1966.  

Despite the legendary pieces of music, the band members began having issues that were made public.  A European tour in early 1967 went south due to infighting, a loss of musicians who weren't allowed to be on stage due to union issues, and an overall lack of interest from a European audience.  

They returned to the United States and, at the last minute, pulled out of Monterey Pop Festival on June 17, 1967.  The true story about why they pulled out of the Festival will likely never be known.  Still, the prevailing theory among fans and music historians was that the band didn't think they belonged with the other musical acts and simply didn't want to be there.  With acts like The Who, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, or Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys just didn't seem to fit in.  

Band publicist Derek Taylor recalled, "They were certainly very heavily criticized at the time for their cancellation [at Monterey].  It seemed, in a way, rather like an admission of defeat."

In an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser, Wilson said, "I think the rock n' roll – the pop scene – is happening.  It's great.  But I think basically the Beach Boys are squares.  We're not happening – but we've been so lucky in the past, it doesn't hurt now.  We get enjoyment from our recordings. ... I'd say we have between three and five years more of Beach Boy-ing to go."  

In a 1968 interview, Dennis Wilson commented his band had become "very paranoid about the possibility of losing our public.  We were getting loaded, taking acid, and we made a whole album which we scrapped.  Instead, we went to Hawaii and rested up."  He also suggested the pair of concerts in Hawaii was the band's attempt to "make-good" for the band's failure to appear at the Monterey Pop Festival.  

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin first reported that the Beach Boys were rumored to soon play in Hawaii on July 29, 1967.  The official announcement followed on August 3.  The promoter booked the Honolulu International Center Arena for two days, August 25th and 26th, and planned to film the concerts for a live album expected to be titled Lei'd in Hawaii.  

The Beach Boys traveled to Hawaii on August 24, 1967.  The pair of concerts were advertised as "The Beach Boys' Summer Spectacular," featuring the first appearance of Brian Wilson with the band since their October 1965 set on The Andy Williams Show and Jack Benny Hour.  For both days, the supporting acts were Paul Revere & the Raiders, Bobbie Gentry, the Val Richards Five, Dino, Desi & Billy, and comedians the Pickle Brothers.

Bruce Johnston, who had substituted for Brian Wilson since 1965, declined to attend the Hawaii shows.  Johnston claimed the band's situation had "got too weird."  With Johnston out, Brian Wilson agreed to participate but only if they allowed him to bring his Baldwin organ.  Wilson's insistence on using his beloved Baldwin organ further complicated matters by forcing Carl Wilson and Alan Jardine to handle the bass duties, despite neither of them regularly playing the instrument live. 

Local reports began touting the performances as a "live recording session" and marked the concerts as the first ever recorded in Hawaii.  Attendees were advised to "wear flower leis and bring along a ukelele."  

When asked why the band chose Hawaii as a venue, Brian Wilson responded, "Well, it's a good place.  We wanted to do another live album where the mood's good.  And it's great here.  We're calling it Lei'd in Hawaii."  Wilson has also frequently suggested that a concert film was also planned.  Biographer Steven Gaines states, "the Beach Boys and their wives went to Hawaii for three weeks to shoot a promotional film to be released in conjunction with the upcoming Smiley Smile album."  In his description, the footage shows the group "romping around the idyllic island in paisley, aloha shirts, and sportswear with their wives and girlfriends."  

The Beach Boys reconfigured their live set to be in a stripped-down style similar to the songs on Smiley Smile.  Virtually everything the band performed, including their backstage rehearsals, was captured on eight-track recording machines shipped to the islands by Capitol Records specifically for the occasion.  Their set-list included several past hits, as well as "Hawaii" from the 1963 album Surfer Girl, their newest singles "Heroes and Villains" and "Gettin' Hungry," along with a rendition of the Box Tops' recent hit "The Letter."

Footage of them performing "God Only Knows" was later included in the 1984 documentary The Beach Boys: An American Band.  

Biographer Jon Stebbins writes that Brian Wilson had convinced some of his bandmates to drop LSD before they took the stage, with less than desirable results.  The band was under the influence and underrehearsed.  

Unfortunately, the concert tapes were deemed unsuitable for release when they returned to Los Angeles due to poor sound quality and the band's substandard performance.  Wayne Harada, a critic for The Honolulu Advertiser, wrote that the band "will probably have to do a lot of studio editing.  While they still put together a pretty good package of rock, I suspect The Beach Boys will soon follow The Beatles in concentrating on recordings and eliminating live concerts altogether."

After deciding to not release the concert tapes, the group attempted to rerecord the entire performance as a "live-in-the-studio" album.  Lei'd in Hawaii was ultimately abandoned, and the group moved on to recording the songs that would form their next album, Wild Honey.   

Portions of the Lei'd in Hawaii recordings were eventually released through various compilations in the 1990s.  The August 25th show was available on the unauthorized bootleg compilation "Aloha from Hawaii."  Further selections were released for the first time on the 2017 compilation album 1967 - Sunshine Tomorrow.  

Brian Wilson would not play another concert with the group until March 1970, when he was a temporary fill-in for Mike Love.  

Twenty years after the 1967 pair of concerts in Hawaii, the Beach Boys returned to the islands for a television special filmed "live" on the beach in Waikiki.  In a picturesque scene almost perfectly made for television, a stage was erected on the beach with a beautiful backdrop of mountains and sea. 

A raucous live crowd, decked out in bathing suits and beach attire, happily sang along and added to the fun, lively atmosphere.  

Filmed almost a year earlier, The Beach Boys appeared with several other guest celebrities to sing their hits from the past 25 years.  

Airing on ABC on March 13, 1987, at 8:30 PM Eastern, the special began as the band took the stage and almost immediately rolled into performing Help Me, Rhonda.  Following a few lines from Rhonda, the band went into the chorus of Fun, Fun, Fun before an announcer went over the list of guests:  Glen Campbell, Belinda Carlisle, Ray Charles, John Stamos, Patrick Duffy, The Everly Brothers, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Gloria Loring, Jeffrey Osbourne, Joe Piscopo, Paul Shaffer, and Three Dog Night.

The Beach Boys went into a fun rendition of California Girls as girls from the audience climbed on stage to hug and kiss the band members as they performed.  They seamlessly transitioned into the Mamas and the Papas hit California Dreaming, much to the crowd's delight.  A pre-recorded video of Patrick Duffy, complete with Hawaiian lei, airs as he covers the band's early history.  He bemoans being unable to be there but is happy to participate in some way.  Nearly mid-sentence, the video cuts to John Stamos, floating on a catamaran, who finishes the short history lesson.  Patrick Duffy cuts back in to send the show back to the band.

Comedian Joe Piscopo, with a sweet mullet haircut, is in the audience with a surfboard as he attempts a comedy bit involving a trash can, aerosol hair spray, and more.  

Ray Charles appears on stage to sing with the group to perform Sail On, Sailor.  Afterward, a full rendition of Sloop John B, and an abbreviated version of Do It Again, leads to another Patrick Duffy video as he covers the "Surf City" era of the band.  

The band returns with a shortened version of Barbara Ann before being joined by Gloria Loring, who sang Friends and Lovers.  Glen Campbell joined the boys to sing Little Deuce Coupe, The Little Old Lady from Pasadena, and I Get Around.  The Fabulous Thunderbirds interrupt the second run-through of Barbara Ann to sing Rock and Roll Music.  

Be True To Your School brought out a local high school's championship cheerleading team for a fun performance.  After some pretty cheesy, clearly rehearsed "banter," The Everly Brothers join The Beach Boys on stage to sing Don't Worry Baby and Wake Up, Little Susie.  

The Beach Boys then make the audiences swoon to Surfer Girl before picking up the pace with Come Go With Me.  A brief video featuring the band members retelling memories of how the band came together leads to the introduction of Grammy winner Jeffrey Osbourne to sing a soulful God Only Knows.  

For some reason, Joe Piscopo reappears on stage dressed as Bruce Springsteen to parody Springsteen's Born in the USA with "Surf in the USA."  

Paul Shaffer joins the band for another rendition of Surfer Girl, Surf City, and Surfin' USA.  Belinda Carlisle arrives to perform a pleasant little version of Wouldn't It Be Nice.  

Rock band Three Dog Night arrives as the show grows closer to its end and performs Darlin'.  With just ten minutes left, all of the guest stars slowly filter out onto the stage during the opening chords of Good Vibrations, and they all perform the entire song together.  The band closes the show with a tribute to their late brother, Dennis, and performs Spirit of Rock and Roll as the credits begin to roll.  

The show ran for one hour and twenty-seven minutes and met mixed reception by critics but was generally well received by fans.  Sponsors and commercials for the event were Avon Cosmetics, Benyline Cough Syrup, Budweiser, Comtrex Cold Medicine, Eagle Snacks Nuts, Hefty Trash Bags, L'Oreal Cosmetics, McDonald's, Michelob, Volkswagen, "Top Gun" home video release, "Cannonball Run 2," and the sitcom "Mr. Belvedere."  

The entire concert may be seen below and on the Video Drive-In page!  


  1. FYI-Beach Boys "debut" in Hawaii was in June 1963. They returned in July 1964 and again in August 1965 and January 1966. The summer 67 appearances were not their debuts!!

  2. Looks like you're correct. I spent hours researching their trips to Hawaii and every old newspaper or magazine article and several websites I read called 1967 something similar to their "big debut." A search on Google that includes the term "1964" uncovers a concert archive of an event in Honolulu, just as you said. Just searching under "first Hawaii concert" turns up several suggesting it was 1967, apparently incorrectly. Thanks.