Five Decades of Beach Boys Album Art

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It’s no secret that Brian Wilson is a bit of a mad musical genius. On June 20th, the psychedelic musician, pop-star, song writer and producer turned 75. There’s something about impressive music that begs for impressive album art. So to celebrate Wilson’s life, The Beach Boys and the start of summer, we’ve compiled some of our favorite Beach Boys album covers from the ’60s to 2012.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find credits for all of the cover designs, so if we’re missing anything, let us know of twitter @printmag. And don’t forget to pick up the summer issue of Print magazine.

[related: A Wonderland of Rock Poster Lettering and TypographyThe Psychedelic Music Posters of Günther Kieser]

14 Beach Boys Album Covers to Keep You Cool This Summer

1. Little Deuce Coupe (1963)

The photograph for this album features a 1932 Ford Coupe—known as “the lil’ deuce coupe”—and its owner Clarence ‘Chili’ Catallo (with his head cropped out). The image was provided by Hot Rod magazine.

album art beach boys

2. Shut Down Volume 2 (1964)

The photograph of the Boys featured on “Shut Down” was taken by Capitol records staff photographer George Jerman. 

album art beach boys

3. Pet Sounds (1966)

Another photo of the band taken by George Jerman. This one was taken on February 10, 1966, when the group visited the San Diego Zoo.

album art beach boys

4. Wild Honey (1967)

This album art was a photograph taken of “an elaborate stained-glass window” from Brian Wilson’s home in Bel Air. 

album art beach boys

5. Smiley Smile (1967)

I couldn’t find much information about the album art for Smiley Smile. But some say the green of the plants on the cover are a callback to the green banner at the top of Pet Sounds.

album art beach boys

6. Friends (1967)

David McMacken painted this image for The Beach Boys’ Friends album. McMacken is also known for designing album art for greats like Cat Stevens, The Temptations, Frank Zappa and more. 

album art beach boys

7. Sunflower (1970)

Edward Lee Thrasher Jr. (known as Ed Thrasher) was the art director behind Sunflower‘s cover and inner photography. Thrasher worked for other artists like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin during his time as an Art Director and photographer. His design for the Mason Proffit cover Come & Gone won a Grammy in 1974. Ricci Martin photographed the cover image.

album art beach boys

8. Surf’s Up (1970)

An original from Ed Thrasher. 

album art beach boys

9. Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” (1972)

Ed Thrasher art direction with original cover art by Dave Willardson. Jon Stebbins, the author of The Beach Boys in Concert: The Complete History of America’s Band, as well as Dennis Wilson and David Marks’ respective biographies, says: “I’ve always though So Tough is just a riff on a typical 1950s doo-wop or R&B group name and title. It’s a pre-cursor to the ’50s nostalgia wave that was already brewing and would be mainstream in a couple of years—especially in tandem with the cover art which is very retro.”

album art beach boys

10. The Beach Boys Love You (1977)

Many fans view Love You as one of the more “real” and “goofy” albums from The Beach Boys. The cross-stitch-esque cover design and photography came from Dean Torrence and Guy Webster, respectively. 

album art beach boys

11. M.I.U. (1978)

Dean Torrence and Guy Webster both helped with the album design and graphics for M.I.U. as well. Webster’s photography is featured on the back cover, with Warren Bolster of Surfer Magazine‘s photo on the front cover. 

album art beach boys

12. Keepin’ the Summer Alive (1980)

Keepin’ the Summer Alive is a lesser-known album by The Beach Boys, but the cover design is definitely memorable. Illustrator and poster designer John Alvin is responsible for the somewhat campy/Mystery Science Theater 3,000-esque illustration, with art direction by Tony Lane and photography by Gary Nichamin.

album art beach boys

13. Summer in Paradise (1992)

Robert Lyn Nelson is a well-known painter who’s still creating art today. His piece “Elements of the Universe” graces the front of Summer in Paradise, and inside the casing shows “Ring of Life,” “Embraced By the Sea,” and “Amethyst Dawn at Kipahulu,” also by Nelson. 

album art beach boys

14. That’s Why God Made The Radio

The 29th studio album by The Beach Boys was recorded in celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary. It was the first album to feature new material since Summer in Paradise, but not everything was brand new. In fact, the photographer for this album was none other than Guy Webster, with graphic design by Lawrence Azerrad.

album art beach boys


We’re excited to announce this year’s Print Magazine Typography Issue! With cover by John Keatley and Louise Fili, we dive into the turning tides of typography. Join the discussion, question the standards, give things a fresh look. Grab your copy of the Print Summer 2017 Special Typography Issue today.  

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