Mike Love shares his secrets to success.
By Alan Sculley
Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love 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, 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,” says Love, referring to his Beach Boys bandmates, brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson.
“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 for him ever since.
Love indeed remains very much a working musician, fronting the latest incarnation of The Beach Boys as the group annually plays 150-plus shows, including a gig on Sunday, September 17, at Mesa Arts Center. 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 says. “We actually do an hour opening set with a 20-minute intermission, followed by another 55 minutes to an hour.”
Love is actually coming off a landmark in Beach Boys annals. 2016 marked 50 years that the group, led by the groundbreaking musical vision of singer/keyboardist and chief songwriter and producer Brian Wilson, released its masterpiece 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 continues to deal with drug and mental health issues. He has extended his tour celebrating the Pet Sounds milestone into 2017 and has been performing the full album in concert. Love and The Beach Boys, meanwhile, added a few numbers from Pet Sounds into recent shows to honor the legendary album.
Love’s relationship with Brian Wilson 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 1960s behind songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Surfer Girl,” “I Get Around,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”
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.
The history of The Beach Boys since then has seen one last hit song – “Kokomo,” from the soundtrack to the 1988 movie Cocktail – 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 tunes) 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 has worthy moments, but by June 2012, Wilson had left the tour and the highly celebrated reunion was over.
Even with the heartache and drama that has been part of The Beach Boys’ history, Love says 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 says. “So there’s a lot more to be grateful and thankful for than to be regretful of.”