Beach Boys lead singer, band mates finding common ground
Several songs from Love’s recent albums popping up on Beach Boys tour, which stops in Aspen this week
Special to The Aspen Times
Who: Beach Boys
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3
How much: Show is sold out
When Sirius-XM launched its Beach Boys channel, the group’s lead singer Mike Love got together with former band members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks (as well as current Beach Boy Bruce Johnston) for a Q&A on that satellite channel to promote Sirius-XM.
On the surface, it seemed like a get-together that could have been quite awkward. Instead, Love said there were nothing but good vibrations that day.
“It was very positive, that whole get-together. Nothing about that Sirius thing was negative, as far as I can see,” Love said in a phone interview.
“At the end of it, Brian and I sat together (and he said), ‘I love you, Mike, and ‘I love you, Brian.’ It was really sweet,” he added.
A key reason one might have expected a chilly atmosphere that day goes back to a 50th anniversary tour in 2012 that ended on a sour note for Wilson, Jardine and Marks. The tour marked a rare reunion of all of the key musicians still living with ties to the Beach Boys, including Wilson, who is widely viewed as the main songwriter and musical genius behind the influential group.
Love, who owns the rights to the Beach Boys name, ended the tour in what seemed to be an abrupt manner, and Wilson, Jardine and Marks released a statement expressing their disappointment over the demise of the tour, noting that attractive offers for more concerts were still coming in from promoters.
The move was widely viewed as a firing of Wilson, Jardine and Marks, and Love was villainized for ending the reunion. Of course, that was nothing new for Love, who has been branded, mainly by fans of Brian Wilson, as one of the biggest jerks in music, largely for his treatment of Wilson (more on that in a bit).
To his credit, Love was plenty amiable in this interview, spending a generous amount of time talking about, among other things, his recent solo albums and the Beach Boys, the group he co-founded in 1961 with three cousins, brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson and friend Jardine. He responded directly to queries about the reunion tour and other issues that, as he put it in his 2017 autobiography, “Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy,” have made him the “anti-Christ” to Brian Wilson fans.
Love maintains he didn’t fire anyone from the Beach Boys and that the obligations for the reunion tour had more than been fulfilled when it ended and he returned to fronting the current edition of the Beach Boys that includes only himself and Johnston as members who were part of the group during its 1960s hit-making era.
“There was a contractual commitment to do 50 shows for 50 years. And it actually grew to more like 70,” Love said. “So there was actually more shows done than we originally contemplated. So there were several more shows done. Then it reverted back to the way we had done things before it and since.”
Another issue that has earned Love the ire of Wilson fans is the former’s early ’90s lawsuit against Wilson, in which Love successfully gained songwriting credits to 35 songs. (Love wrote at least some of the lyrics for many early Beach Boys songs, including hits like “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Help Me Rhonda.”) It’s one of multiple lawsuits that has been filed over the years by Love against Wilson.
Love blames Wilson’s father, Murry, who managed the Beach Boys in the early years, for excluding him in the songwriting credits. Love said because Murry had passed away, his only recourse to get songwriting credits was to sue Brian Wilson. In the end, Love won his case and he and his cousin settled on a reported payment of $5 million for Love’s share of the royalties.
The singer said he addressed this most famous of the lawsuits in his autobiography because he felt he needed to present his side of the story.
“There was always the perception that my cousin Brian did all the writing as well as the producing and stuff like that. That was not true,” Love said. “I was the co-author of so many of the big hits. It’s just an unfortunate thing that happens, a terrible thing, because you have your uncle and your cousin, I don’t think of cheating people, and yet there are plenty that do, and my uncle was one of them.”
That explanation doesn’t figure to change the minds of Love’s critics, and Love simply goes on about his business, leading the current edition of the Beach Boys as the group returns to its usual extensive schedule of live shows now that touring is resuming.
In addition to touring, Love has stepped up his recording activity lately. In 2017, he released a studio album, “Unleash The Love,” which featured unreleased songs he had written and recorded going back as long as a decade plus, as well a disc of Beach Boys hits rerecorded by the current group.
The next year, he released a holiday album, “Reason for the Season.” The multi-faceted album featured three original tunes, a few light-hearted holiday favorites and five traditional songs recorded with four of Love’s children (Ambha, Brian, Christian and Hayleigh), a facet that made the album special for Love.
Then in 2019 came a third album in as many years, “12 Sides of Summer,” an eclectic collection which features mostly Love’s versions of songs by other artists, coupled with new versions of three Beach Boys songs, “Surfin’ Surfin’ Safari’” and “It’s OK.” The album’s theme is familiar enough for a Beach Boy — the beach and summer.
“It was such a fun album to do,” Love said. “I just think a lot of people are going to like it because it’s not ‘listen to my latest, you know, 10 or 12 songs that I wrote myself.’ Uh-uh, it’s an album designed to be fun to play for those summer parties and those barbecues at the lake or the beach or in your car cruising around, whatever. It’s just one of those kinds of vibes — hopefully a good vibration.”
If “12 Sides of Summer” revisits familiar thematic turf, it features some creative arrangements (note the reggae-ish treatment of the Dave Clark Five’s “Over and Over” or the bossa nova feel of the George Harrison classic, “Here Comes the Sun”), as well as some surprising song choices, including “Girl from Ipanema,” Abba’s “On And On And On” and perhaps most notably, the Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach.”
It turns out, Love has been a long-time fan of the Ramones and “Rockaway Beach” (a song that very much showed a Beach Boys influence despite its amped up tempo and charging guitars).
“I was pretty aware (of the Ramones) because they covered ‘Surfin’ Safari,’” Love said. “They even did a version of ‘Surfin’ Bird,’ which was crazy.”
Several songs from the three recent albums have been popping up in Beach Boys shows.
“‘It’s OK’ has been in there quite a bit. ‘Rockaway Beach’ is definitely in,” Love said. “And ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is just gorgeous. We do that after ‘Pisces Brothers,’ the song that I wrote about myself and George (Harrison, for the “Unleash The Love” album). … There are moments in the show where it’s really mystical and reflective and introspective as well as fun, euphoric.”
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