Mike Love Interview: Beach Boys Reunite and Tour Despite Years of Strife and Turmoil
Singer, songwriter Mike Love is one of the founding members of The Beach Boys, one of the world’s most legendary bands in popular music history. In addition to Love, the group was originally comprised in 1961 with his cousins, the Wilson brothers: Brian, Carl and Dennis and school friend Al Jardine.
The Beach Boys signed with Capitol Records in 1962 and released their first album, Surfin’ Safari, that same year. The album spent thirty-seven weeks on the Billboard chart, launching the young group known for its shimmering vocal harmonies and relaxed California style into international stardom.
"Well, I mean, everybody goes through periods of where there is lack of communication and outright disagreements and stuff, but there is also a lot of positivity in The Beach Boys stuff, too. You’ve got to look at the fact that our music … we are one of the most enduring musical groups in terms of radio play, soundtracks, etc."
The Wilson/Love collaboration resulted in many huge international chart hits, and under Brian Wilson’s musical leadership, the band’s initial surf-rock focus was soon broadened to include other themes, making The Beach Boys America’s preeminent band of the 1960s. For five decades, America’s first pop band to reach the fifty-year milestone has recorded and performed the music that has become the world’s favorite soundtrack to summer.
Love, Wilson, Jardine, Johnson and Marks have reunited for a global 50th anniversary celebration this year and recorded their first new material in over two decades with an album titled That’s Why God Made the Radio.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mike, how are you?
Mike Love: Good. I’m in a fairly dubious cell reception area in downtown Manhattan. Where are you located?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Birmingham, Alabama. How’s the tour going?
Mike Love: It’s going really well, and the audience reception is actually pretty phenomenal. I think a lot of people are happy to see all of us together, so it’s going extremely well.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Hate that I missed the Atlanta concert.
Mike Love: Oh, that’s a drag. Chastain is a nice venue. Many times you go there in the dead of summer, and it’s too hot for an outdoor gig, but it was early enough in the year, and the weather was perfect.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I interviewed Brian Wilson a couple of years ago when his Gershwin album was released. He was rather adamant about the fact that there wouldn’t be a Beach Boys reunion.
Mike Love: Oh, he was adamant? Had a change of mind, huh?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s what I’m wondering. What happened to bring you guys back together?
Mike Love: Well, we did a new album called That’s Why God Made the Radio for Capitol Records. That’s the single and the title of the album. We hadn’t gotten together for a new Beach Boys album for a couple of decades or so. That precipitated getting together in the studio. Then, a lot of interest was generated about getting us together for a 50th anniversary reunion type of tour.
The response to the idea was so darn good that it took on a life of its own. So, here we are with seventy shows booked, not only in the US, but also in Canada, Europe and the Orient.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, Brian and the guys wanted to reunite.
Mike Love: It makes sense because fifty years is a pretty remarkable milestone. Brian had been doing his thing for many years, so have I and so has Bruce Johnston. We carried The Beach Boys banner for many years. Al Jardine was doing his own thing. David Marks, our original lead guitarist, was doing shows now and then. But, we all decided to get together.
It has been really good musically. Like I said, audience reception has been great. I think many people wanted to see us together, you know? They’d seen us separately and individually. It has been really good. Everybody has their own way of doing things, but we’ve put the individuals together, and now it’s awesome.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There has been so much conflict over the years that the relationships are probably different now than they were fifty years ago, correct?
Mike Love: Well, I mean, everybody goes through periods of where there is lack of communication and outright disagreements and stuff, but there is also a lot of positivity in The Beach Boys stuff, too. You’ve got to look at the fact that our music … we are one of the most enduring musical groups in terms of radio play, soundtracks, etc.
Periodically, from time to time in the past, there has been dissension. But, that’s in the past. We all have such an ability to get together behind a microphone and create the same kind of sound we created in the mid 60s. In fact, our new album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, sounds like 1965 again.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, it does. I think those old harmonies have definitely returned.
Mike Love: Oh, yeah. That’s Brian Wilson’s forte … the chord progressions. He really has a knack for it. There are some very unique things going on there. If you listen to that record, it’s just amazing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): From the background sounds in your car, Mike, I’d bet you are not alone.
Mike Love: That’s right. We’re in an SUV going to the Jimmy Fallon show tonight.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll be sure to watch. Brian also told me he still suffers from stage fright. Is that affecting him on tour?
Mike Love: You know, sometimes he’s really engaged and really sings well. Other times, he looks kind of disengaged or distracted or something. But, sometimes when he’s singing the lead, he’s right on. He has done pretty well in the past few concerts.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’m losing you. Are you going through a tunnel?
Mike Love: No, just downtown Manhattan.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Actually, you, Brian and Al made your first public appearance together since 1996 at the Grammy Awards this past February. What was the atmosphere like during the first day of rehearsing with Maroon 5 and Foster The People?
Mike Love: It was pretty amazing because we were with Maroon 5, and they did “Surfer Girl.” Foster The People did “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” They were really great to honor The Beach Boys with their efforts. I mean, they weren’t on the Grammys doing their stuff. They were doing our stuff. It was really cute during rehearsals because Adam (Levine) said that he had been singing “Surfer Girl” since he was five years old (laughs).
Mark Foster told us a story about his mom taking him to our concert when he was about nine years old. He has been a lifelong Beach Boys fan. They did “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and I thought they did a really good job. I said to them, “I’m a little worried. You’re doing the song too well.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Has John Stamos showed up on the tour?
Mike Love: John introduced us at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It was really nice. He played with us on “Be True To Your School” and “Surfin’ USA.” He played the conga drums on “Kokomo,” just like he did on the video. John has been a longtime fan of The Beach Boys.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was the writing on the album a collaborative effort?
Mike Love: Most of them were done by Brian, but they asked me to do lyrics on several of the songs.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there a tribute to Carl and Dennis Wilson during the show?
Mike Love: We have a video of the song, “Forever,” that Dennis wrote, and Carl doing “God Only Knows.” He, of course, did it beautifully and was a great singer. So, that’s kind of neat. We include everybody. It’s a really inclusive show.
Brian is on keyboards, of course, except he plays bass on “Barbara Ann.” It’s really cool. We back up Carl and Dennis on those songs. It means a lot to those of the age to remember the group and its origins. Those are pretty emotional moments.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Give me some memories of Dennis and Carl.
Mike Love: Dennis was a wild man. He was so energetic on the drums. But, he was the most generous person. He gave everything he could in the shows. He was really energetic. The girls loved him. Later on, he got involved with alcohol and some drugs, and that led to his demise ultimately in 1983.
Carl was a wonderful singer. He was a bandleader actually. He always took everything so seriously with making the band the best he possibly could make it. It’s just déjà vu to hear him sing “God Only Knows” in the video. It’s so emotional.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Fact or fiction: Dennis once beat up Charles Manson.
Mike Love: I don’t know. I do not know. But, Charles and the Family were his roommates at one time, so … pretty weird.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mike, did you ever enter the drug or alcohol scene?
Mike Love: No. Neither I nor Bruce nor Alan was into that. The Wilson brothers got into that. I got into Transcendental Meditation taught by Maharishi. It helped give me more energy over the years and clarity, all the benefits that are highly valuable for an active life of touring and all that kind of stuff. That keeps you from resorting to things like excessive drinking of liquor or drugs or anything that people usually use for escape, usually looking to relax or escape.
Transcendental Meditation has been a way to transcend beyond all of the stuff that life throws at you and gives you a broader perspective and more energy and clarity with which to deal with whatever you’ve got to deal with. I do it every day, a couple of times a day. It’s really good.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is your son, Christian, touring with you now?
Mike Love: Right now, he’s playing beach volleyball and surfing. Ordinarily he does, but because of this reunion thing, it’s a slightly different situation. So, Christian is not with us at the moment. We do some occasional private stuff and still get together and perform. He has a beautiful voice and is a great singer.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are any of your other children interested in music?
Mike Love: Yes, actually. My youngest daughter, Ambha, who is sixteen years old is a soul singer. She’s a beautiful girl, a very soulful singer like Amy Winehouse or Beyonce, any of those ladies who are soulful singers. She’s really good. Hey, we’re walking into the Fallon show here, getting on an elevator, if I lose you.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Quickly, what does the future hold for The Beach Boys?
Mike Love: I think a lot of stuff, as long as we still have health and talent …
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