The legendary Beach Boys singer on Pet Sounds, Paul McCartney, clean living, Brian Wilson, modern music and more.
Mike Love, not war
The Beach Boys will bring some welcome Californian sunshine to Castlebar this June. Edwin McGreal spoke to founding band member, music legend Mike Love last week.
Mike Love is not your typical rock’n’roll star. No sordid tales of debauchery, very little evidence of skeletons in his closet and, nearly 50 years after The Beach Boys were formed, he’s still going strong, playing around 150 shows a year.
Love, now aged 69, is a very relaxed and positive person, which is not surprising when you listen to such upbeat songs as ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘I Get Around’, summer anthems that have put a pep in the step of millions for over 40 years.
And he and The Beach Boys will bring their sounds of summer to the TF Royal Theatre on June 26 (albeit minus Brian Wilson and Al Jardine).
So, still going strong all these years later, where does he get his energy?
“We don’t burn the candle at both ends like we might have done in the early 60s,” Love explained, speaking from his southern California base last week. “The Beach Boys are primarily a vocal group, we always emphasise our harmonies, and you can’t sing those kind of harmonies if you’re going to destroy yourself. I personally learned transcendental meditation [from renowned Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who taught many celebrities, including the Beatles]. I keep doing that every day and it is profoundly relaxing and repairs a lot of wear and tear mentally, emotionally and physically. It gives you a really nice outlet for stress rather than taking to the bottle or smoking a lot of pot or other drugs.
“People in my own family like my cousin Dennis [Wilson, founding member] became addicted to alcohol and various types of drugs and he ended up drowning in 1983, long before he should have passed away. Then my cousin Carl [Wilson, founding member] passed away of lung cancer 12 years ago. But then he started smoking when he was 13 so these lifestyle choices we make can have a tremendous impact on your health and well-being.”
Musically, the ’60s was a roller-coaster journey for The Beach Boys. There was the outstanding success of their totemic album ‘Pet Sounds’ in 1966, but the release of ‘Good Vibrations’ the same year is one Love looks back on with particular fondness.
“I think, artistically, ‘Good Vibrations’ has to be right up there. It stands on its own. It is so unique. Also I wrote the words and I came up with the chorus – ‘I’m pickin up good vibrations/she’s giving me excitations’. It stands the test of time and is still an amazing song today, that is the song I was happiest to be involved with.”
Subsequent decades didn’t prove as successful, with the exception of ‘Kokomo’ reaching Number 1 in 1988. Love admits that Brian Wilson’s well-publicised problems did play a part, but it wasn’t all bad for the band to be minus their front man.
“Brian pretty much became a recluse for several years and he didn’t take as dynamic a part in the production of our recordings. My cousin Carl played a bigger part, Bruce Johnston played a bigger part. Instead of Brian being ‘the Stalin of the studio’ as I used to call him, it became a bit more democratic. I don’t think it was reasonable that the [early success] would keep up forever, but the ’60s did provide the foundation of our continued success to this day.”
Moving to modern day musicians, Love has no particular favourites, but he’s exposed to the full gamut by his children. Some good, some not so good.
“I unfortunately get exposed to some rap music from my 14-year-old daughter but I also get exposed to Leona Lewis, Beyonce and Alicia Keys, those are pleasant exposures. I don’t think I’m obsessed with any new artist but I’m not against them either. I’m just as likely if I’m driving around to throw on the oldies channel just out of morbid curiosity to see if they’re going to play a Beach Boys song,” admitted Love, laughing at the thought.
Love hints that talks have taken place of a touring reunion with Brian Wilson and Al Jardine to mark the 50th anniversary of the band. For now, it is Love, together with long-time member Bruce Johnston and others who tour under the Beach Boys name – but the dynamic is the same, according to Love.
“What we like to do every night is prove we can recreate those songs like they’re meant to be sung. We have got nothing but compliments recently on how fantastic the show sounds …The special part [of touring] is recreating those songs and doing the absolute best job we can and seeing the audience join in and have a great time with us.”
Still sending those good vibrations.