Mike Love, Not War
Get Ready for Good Vibrations
by Virginia McEvilley
It’s Endless Summer for Beach Boy Mike Love (third from right), as the band wraps up its summer 2009 tour in Fairfield, Iowa, and makes plans for its 50th anniversary celebration in two years.
It may come as a surprise that America’s best-selling band of all time has chosen Fairfield, Iowa, for the grand finale of its 48th annual summer tour. But for long-time lead singer Mike Love, playing Fairfield is nothing short of “special.” And though it has been many years since 1961 when the Beach Boys’ first hit single “Surfin’ ” was released and since Mike Love, together with his cousins Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, hit the charts with the group’s first nationwide hit, “Surfin Safari,” the feelings of happiness generated for millions of people by the Beach Boys’ music is still as lively today as it was almost 50 years ago.
Since then, the Beach Boys have performed their original hit songs recounting the Southern California life experience thousands of times, recapturing the innocence of an era that propelled them to the top of their profession. Mike says he is proud to have been the lead singer for so many of the Beach Boys’ hits, and in spite of the loss of his cousins, Dennis and Carl Wilson, Mike’s experience has remained fundamentally positive.
“I still treasure all the great times we had together,” Mike says. “The loss of Carl Wilson 11 years ago was profound, but I still feel like he’s looking down on us whenever we do ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Kokomo.’ At first I thought no one could ever sing our songs like Carl, but as it turns out my son Christian has a beautiful voice and not only can sing Carl’s parts but actually sounds a lot like him. This is great because we like to keep the re-creation of these songs consistent to the best of our ability.” Whether it is to preserve the Beach Boys’ legacy or for the sake of all their loyal fans, this may be one reason why the momentum of the Beach Boys’ greatest hits has lasted until today.
The Beach Boys are, in fact, among the top three groups who recorded from the late ’50s to the early ’70s, along with the Beatles and the Supremes. The Pet Sounds album was voted the number one album of that era and “Good Vibrations” the number one single. The time that passed between “Good Vibrations” in 1966 and “Kokomo” in 1988 was the longest period of time between number one records of any group in history.
“The amazing thing about music,” says Mike, “is that as long as you have the right piece of music and your abilities intact, you can experience great success irrespective of how many years you’ve been at it.” This basic theme of optimism and positivity has pervaded most of the Beach Boys’ musical history.
And just as “Good Vibrations” differed from the earlier surfin’ songs in subject matter, Mike’s lifestyle began to differ from others in the group, and many of those in the recording business in general. While others chose drugs and alcohol as a method of relaxation, Mike chose Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Several group members learned the technique from Maharishi in Paris in December of 1967, but Mike was the only one to go to the widely publicized course in Rishikesh, India, two months later, which was also attended by the Beatles, Donovan, and Mia Farrow.
Mike remembers Paul McCartney coming to breakfast one morning strumming his acoustic guitar and playing “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” an experience Paul himself writes about in his autobiography. Mike often recounts other moments in India and has written a song entitled “Pisces Brother” about his 1968 birthday party at Maharishi’s ashram with the late Beatle George Harrison.
Recently, Mike has written a number of other songs that draw from his experience in India, music he says was inspired by Maharishi and the ancient Vedic scriptures. Some of these tunes include “Ram Raj,” “The World is My Family,” and “Make Love Not War.”
After his visit to India in the spring of 1968, Mike attended many meditation courses, becoming a teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Mallorca, Spain, in 1972. “Too many people in my family and my profession paid a heavy price with their health and well-being by not using the knowledge Maharishi made available to us,” Mike says. “This knowledge has relieved me of stresses that certainly would have otherwise accumulated to my detriment, and has also improved my life dramatically.” Mike also schedules regular Ayurvedic treatments for rejuvenation, often at the Raj Resort in Maharishi Vedic City just north of Fairfield.
When asked about retirement, Mike says, “I don’t think of retirement as it is viewed by most people in our society. People work for 20 to 30 years, then get a pension and move to Florida, play bingo, clip coupons, and go on group excursions. . . . For me, my goals would be to become more creative, more productive, and produce more positive, uplifting actions for humanity, while becoming more saturated in knowledge and spiritual life. The retirement of retiring to the self appeals to me—the kind of thing you read about in the spiritual literature of the East. Still, in the future, we may become more selective about how we present our music . . . .”
Mike says there are a lot of other things he envisions for the future. Currently, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian is interested in filming a biography about the Beach Boys for the PBS American Masters series. “So there’s really no need to talk in terms of retirement—there’s no retirement in sight for the Beach Boys at this time,” Mike says. “In fact, we’re really looking forward to our 50th anniversary celebration in two years. We’re getting offers to do concerts in Australia, Japan, Mexico, and the Caribbean.” Even though it can be tiring moving from place to place Mike admits he still enjoys touring. “What’s not to like!” he says.
This relentless positivity and optimism combined with a focus on health and spirituality are the foundations of Mike’s life. This has been his contribution to the Beach Boys since the beginning and is now the engine that drives the band. Together with “I Write the Songs” Bruce Johnston, who has been a Beach Boy on and off for decades, and several other musicians, including Mike’s son, Christian, and John Cowsill of the ’60s group The Cowsills, the good vibrations continue.
Now, for the first time ever, though he has been a frequent visitor to Fairfield over many years, Mike Love and the Beach Boys will be performing all the great songs here that have made them famous the world over as “America’s number one band.”
“Every year we play all the major cities—New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta,” Mike says, “but those people have so many choices because a myriad of performers come through there. It’s almost like they become a little jaded. That’s why it’s special to go places we’ve never been before. It’s exciting and fun, and we’re inspired by the feeling of appreciation we get.
Don’t miss this special performance sponsored in part by the David Lynch Foundation, whose successful fundraising concert at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall this spring featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Donovan, Moby, Sheryl Crowe, and others, including Mike Love, who says, “I have great admiration for the David Lynch Foundation. The Love Foundation currently has a project for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to learn TM, but we’ve never been as organized and dynamic as the DLF. Their work is inspirational and makes me want to do even more.”
The Beach Boys perform the finale of their Endless Summer Tour in Fairfield on Labor Day Monday, September 7, 2:00 p.m. at the Fairfield Middle School Outdoor Field, 404 W. Fillmore. Tickets range from $12.00 to 37.50, available at http://www.fairfieldacc.com or (641) 472-2787.
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Watch Fairfield’s Beach Boys End of Summer Concert promo on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1rOugfBi1k
Related: Here’s an Interview With Mike Love of the Beach Boys posted May 29, 2012 on Stories of Success. At about the 9:55 mark Mike answers the question of what kept him from getting caught up in drugs and alcohol, with the responsibility of acting as a role model, by talking about his TM practice, dharma, and persevering to fulfill your chosen career path. http://vimeo.com/43009744