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TheStreet Open House

10 Terrible Financial Choices in Music History

Stock quotes in this article: SNE, TWX, VIA.B, ERTS

3. The Beach Boys have fun, fun, fun until daddy takes the songs away
Behind the Beach Boys' serene, laid-back West Coast surf sound was oceans of turmoil, but perhaps none of it would have been possible if not for the actions of manager Murry Wilson. The father of Beach Boys members Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, Murry decided in 1969 that the boys had peaked and decided to cash in by selling their Sea of Tunes publishing company and all the rights to their songs to A&M Records for a scant $750,000 -- or little more than $4 million adjusted for inflation.

Never mind that at the time his son Brian's mental health was deteriorating to the point that he'd spend three years in bed gorging himself on food and drugs, or that the Beach Boys' catalog at that time contained Surfin' USA, California Girls, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Good Vibrations and every other hit they'd ever written.

Wilson's relationship with his sons seemed to be built on a foundation of criticism and humiliation, based on beatings of the boys detailed in Brian Wilson's 1981 autobiography and a letter from Murry Wilson to his sons on Sea of Tunes letterhead and circulated last year in which he tells Brian "No matter how many hit songs you write or how many hundreds of thousands of dollars you may earn, you will find when you finish this short cycle of business success that you didn't do it honestly and for this reason you are going to suffer remorse."

Murry died of a heart attack in 1973, while sons Dennis drowned in 1983 and Carl died of cancer in 1998. Brian Wilson eventually recuperated and sued for the rights in 1989, getting $25 million in royalties but losing on the publishing. Beach Boy Mike Love then sued Wilson for a piece of the take in 1992, getting $13 million for his trouble. That's a lot of darkness behind those sunny songs.

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