Good vibrations

Mike Love still loving

Photo: The Beach Boys currently (l-r) John Cowsill, Brian Eichenberger, Scott Totten, Mike Love, Jeffrey Foskett, Tim Bonhomme, Bruce Johnson. Photo: Udo Spreitzenbarth

By Alan Sculley

Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love has released an autobiography that covers the long and, at times, tumultuous history of the group, not to mention more than a few parts of his personal life.

But when asked what he hopes readers will take away from the book, which is titled “Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy,” Love points to something that might surprise some—his lifestyle.

“I’m hoping they get the fact that the reason I’m still doing what I’m doing at the level we’re doing it, meaning a volume of work and stuff like that, is probably because I chose a path that wasn’t a path of all the nefarious drugs that my cousins did, I mean, serious, serious stuff, and I chose not to,” Love said, referring to his Beach Boys bandmates, brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, during a recent phone interview. “I will say that during the ‘60s, I did my share of weed. But once I learned to meditate, I gave up hard liquor and anything to do with drugs. So that meditation has given me the ability to relax and yet gain more energy and clarity and be able to, what would you call it, withstand the negatives that are thrown at you, that life does.”

Love learned meditation in 1967 from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—the same man who introduced meditation to the Beatles—and it has been a twice-daily practice of the singer ever since.

“I think if people go away from it (the autobiography) saying ‘Oh, here’s a guy who didn’t do all the hard drugs, here’s a guy who chose to do meditation, here’s a guy who’s still doing it at 75 years old and feeling good and really focused on replicating those songs to the best degree possible,’ I think those are some good takeaways,” Love said. “Make the right choices and do what you love and do it as well as you can.”

Love indeed remains very much a working musician, fronting the latest incarnation of the Beach Boys as the group plays 150-plus shows this year—a touring schedule that Love and the group have maintained for years. And a Beach Boys show is usually quite generous compared to the sets most bands play as headliners.

“Ordinarily, the majority of our shows are an evening with the Beach Boys,” Love said. “We’re blessed to have so many hit songs that we actually do like an hour opening set with a 20-minute intermission, followed by another 55 minutes to an hour, depending on the crowd. If the crowd is really into it and rocking, we might throw in something like ‘Summertime Blues’ or else ‘Wild Honey’ from our ‘Wild Honey’
album.”

Love certainly doesn’t have to work that hard, but he continues to bring the Beach Boys’ gospel of the virtues of sun, surf, the beach, and girls to audiences for a simple reason—

“We like performing,” he said. “It’s not like somebody’s putting a gun to our heads.”

Love is actually coming off of a landmark in Beach Boys annals. In 2016, it was 50 years ago that the group, led by the groundbreaking musical vision of singer/keyboardist and chief songwriter and producer, Brian Wilson, released their masterpiece, the “Pet Sounds” album and the wondrous single “Good Vibrations.”

Wilson famously suffered a breakdown while trying to complete “Smile,” the aborted album that was to follow “Pet Sounds,” and has dealt with drug and mental health issues ever since. He has extended his tour celebrating the “Pet Sounds” milestone through 2017 and has been performing the full album in concert. Love and the Beach Boys, meanwhile, added a few numbers from the 1966 album into recent shows to honor the legendary album.

“It’s (been) a big year for Brian because he was the producer of ‘Pet Sounds,’” Love said. “I wrote a few things on it and I sang on everything, but he did the lion’s share of the work on that. But it is a Beach Boys project, and we all did work very hard on that.”

Love’s relationship with Brian Wilson, in itself, could probably merit a book. The cousins were best friends growing up and formed the early lineup of the Beach Boys with Dennis and Carl Wilson and Al Jardine in 1961 in Hawthorne, California.

Drawing on the California surfing lifestyle as an overriding theme, the Beach Boys became one of the biggest hit-making groups of the ‘60s behind songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Surfer Girl,” “I Get Around,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “Help Me, Ronda.”

But “Pet Sounds” proved to be the high point of the group’s career. With that album, Brian Wilson broke away from some of the surfing, fun, and sun themes of earlier albums in favor of more personal themes, and created an album that, along with the Beatles 1967

jaw dropper, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” raised pop music to a true art form.

Then came “Smile” and Brian Wilson’s breakdown.  While Brian Wilson rallied enough to co-write several songs on the Beach Boys’ underrated early 1970s albums, he was essentially no longer involved with the group after being put under the care of Eugene Landy in 1975.

The history of the Beach Boys since then saw one last hit song— “Kokomo” from the soundtrack to the 1988 movie “Cocktail” became the group’s first No. 1 hit since 1966’s “Good Vibrations.” Plenty of internal tensions, and tragedies in the form of the drowning death in 1983 of Dennis Wilson and the loss of Carl Wilson to cancer in 1998.  There was also the high-profile lawsuit brought by Love against Brian Wilson in 1992, in which Love successfully reclaimed a sizeable sum in royalties and gained songwriting credits to 35 songs (Love wrote lyrics for many of the early Beach Boys songs) that had been omitted on the group’s 1960s recordings.

Through it all, though, Love kept the Beach Boys going as a successful touring act, and in 2012, the surviving members of the classic Beach Boys lineup—including Brian Wilson, Jardine, and Bruce Johnston—reunited with Love for a 50th anniversary tour and a new Beach Boys album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” The album had some worthy moments, but by June 2012, Wilson had left the tour and the highly celebrated reunion was over.

Despite appearances, Love said his relationship with Wilson would be fine if not for outside interference.

“Brian’s life is controlled completely. It has been since Gene Landy, and it still is. And he’s medicated,” Love said. “If he says something about Mike Love unsolicited, he’ll say things like

‘He’s my favorite lyricist.’ If and when we do see each other, we revert back to childhood, which is great. So, if it were just he and I, I don’t think there would be any problems. We would work through them. I know that for a fact. But that is not the way it is. So, let’s just leave it at that.”

So Love has returned to touring with his current Beach Boys lineup. He’s also been recording music, which will surface on Nov. 17 with the release of a new double album, “Unleash The Love.” The set features one disc devoted to songs Love has written over the years, while the second disc features a dozen Beach Boys tracks re-recorded by the current group.

Even with the heartache and drama that has been part of the Beach Boys history, Love said he is nothing but grateful for the group and the life it’s enabled him to lead.

“I’ve been part of a group that’s one of the more well known groups in modern music. And the music will live on after us,” he said. “So there’s a lot more to be grateful and thankful for than to be regretful of.”

The Beach Boys play October 28 at Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St. in Cincinnati. The show is $38-65. For more information, please call 513.721.3344 or visit beachboys.com.

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Alan Sculley
Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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