They helped define the 60s, but were hopelessly uncool as the 70s began – and Brian Wilson was unravelling. The band discuss the masterpieces they made against the odds

In the 1960s, the Beach Boys staked their claim as the US’s most popular band, as their dazzling, harmony-drenched songs about surfing, cars and California Girls epitomised the American dream. So, at the end of the decade, when leader and principal songwriter Brian Wilson – who had recently spent several months in a psychiatric hospital – suggested that the band were on the verge of bankruptcy, everyone thought it was a joke.

“We arrived in London for a tour on the day that hit the headlines,” co-founder Al Jardine says over the phone from California. “The IRS [US tax collection agency] had closed our studio and our offices in Hollywood. The hotels wouldn’t accept our corporate credit cards. In the end, I had to use my personal American Express card to pay for our rooms.”

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