interviewsofrecordingartists.com To some Beach Boys fans, Mike Love is, "The" Beach Boy. While initially
their claim might seem frivolous and inaccurate, due to his cousin, former
Beach Boy, Brian Wilson's stature within Beach Boys history, Love has never
stopped working to keep the spirit of the vocal group's music alive. Now at
sixty years of age, Love, finally deserves his due as the definitive member
of the USA's greatest pop group. And, throughout the past forty years, Mike
Love has remained at the forefront.
Love has sung lead vocals on virtually every Beach Boys classic hit. Love
has kept the group alive, recording and touring internationally, even when
the vocal group's principal composer and arranger Brian Wilson was involved
only from quite a distance.
In the following interview, Mike Love talks frankly about The Beach Boys
earliest days, his passion for "surfin' music", which has become The Beach
Boys most well known contribution to the pop music genre.
(Q)-Your name, age and birthday please?
Mike Love- Mike Love and I am sixty years old and my birthday is March 15th. My birthplace is Los Angeles.
(Q)- You currently reside in Los Angeles?
Mike Love- Yes.
(Q)- The Beach Boys was formed originally in 1961 by your cousins, the
brothers, Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, a friend Al Jardine and yourself.
Mike Love- Yes.
(Q)- What was the Beach boys first hit single?
Mike Love- Our first record was "Surfin" in October 1961.
(Q)- An ironic part of your success with the Beach Boys is, you personally
have toured almost nonstop for forty years. Thus in a sense, Mike Love has
never stopped being a "Beach Boy".
Mike Love- That's right. I'll take time off, maybe a couple of weeks, but
actually since 1962, we have toured. "Surfin' Safari" was released in 1962
and we must have done seventy to eighty shows, working, performing and
promoting the "new album" and the "new single" and stuff like that. Then in
1963 with, "Surfin' USA", which was a bigger hit followed by, "Surfin'
Safari", "Help Me Rhonda". With all of those hit singles, it was
constantly working and touring from there on.
(Q)- You were constantly honing the craft of singing and performing in front of an audience as well as the art of recording music and vocals in the
Mike Love- Yes. You got to keep in mind that singing was something that we
did as a hobby, before we were known (As the Beach Boys). Before we had a
hit record, we used to get together for the sheer love of creating those
harmonies. We would take an Everly Brothers song and instead of singing that song in two parts like they did, we'd sing that song in three and four part
harmonies. We'd take a Doo Wop hit song of the day and make our own arrangements of those great R&B Doo Wop songs. We'd take a Four Freshmen song and we'd do what is called a jazz four-part, which are very close harmonies. We'd dig the Four Freshmen, because they were very artful and my cousin Brian
(Wilson) was obsessed with them. We'd do those songs because those songs are
challenging and fun to do and it was wonderful dealing in creating that sound together. So what I'm doing now is a profession, instead of a hobby. I was lucky enough in life to do as a profession what a lot of people do for their
church groups, or if they really like singing, they'll join a choir, they'll
have a (vocal) club of people who get together and sing. Not because they get paid for it, because they just like singing. So I've been very fortunate that I've been able to make a career out of something that I love to do. I think the love of creating those really beautiful harmonies, was one of the ingredients which contributed towards our longevity. It is one of those intangible, yet definite components to the Beach Boys music that is something is pleasing to the ear of the listener.
(Q)- Why do the Beach Boys still continue to remain popular worldwide?
Mike Love- One of the reasons is that the Beach Boys, transcend generations. In other words, no matter what country you live in, grandparents traveling in an automobile with the family on holiday, can hang out with the family and the Beach Boys music playing on the radio. Whereas they couldn't dig it with the rap you know? Nor could the parents. They're going to be pretty much turned off by N' Sync and the Backstreet Boys, because their music is pretty romantic, but at a thirteen year old level. The Beach Boys sing about
cars and lifestyle and surfing and being true to your school and it is a lot
of different subject matter that is not only to do with romance and love. I
mean we've definitely never been against love. While, "Surfer Girl", is kind
of a love song, but it's also about meeting a girl down at the beach. So the
are a lot of aspects to the Beach Boys music that make it easy to listen to.
Now that is reinforced with he fact that The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The
Supremes are actually the top three groups at "oldies" radio. In terms of
the amount of radio airplay for the hit songs, those are the top three
"oldies" acts in the world. I mean we've been fortunate enough to have hit
singles worldwide. In Europe and the European radio stations, The Beach
Boys are still very popular. The Beach Boys have had number one hit records
in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain.
Also Australia, Philippines and South Africa and, about seven years ago, we
had a number one hit record in Spain with a compilation (album). We've had
radio airplay and hit records all over the world.
(Q)- The albums have been repackaged and are now available through various
reissues internationally. Have you continued to see interest in those record
albums from young people?
Mike Love- Yes. Especially (the album) "Pet Sounds". "Pet Sounds" has been
voted as one of the greatest albums of all time.
(Q)- The art that Brian (Wilson), yourself and the other members of the
Beach Boys have been able to express in the group's music is what has kept
the magic alive. While there has been more then a few "fun songs", in the
Beach Boys song catalog, the group, has always experimented with different
sounds. The song lyrics sum up the fragile dream that many people who live
in the USA have faith in. why did The Beach Boys embrace so many different
lyrical as well as musical influences within their music?
Mike Love- It goes back into my grandparent's time. It goes back to Kansas
(USA). During the (Great) Depression, my mother was left in Kansas while the
older kids, along with her mother and father, went to California. When my
mother first came to California, they were so poor that they actually lived
in a tent city on the beach in Seal Beach, California. Then one generation
later, we were making millions of dollars singing about the beach life and
the "American Dream", of success. But during the Depression, it wasn't like
the life that later on we (The Beach Boys) were singing about. We had the
luxury of being in a middle class setting and driving to the beach to go
surfing or to go to a barbecue on the beach and hanging out, enjoying the
beautiful environment of Southern California, which we put into the lyrics
of the songs to records.
But the aspirations of achieving that level of success does go way back and
appeals to generations of people around the world.
(Q)- What about the harmonies of the Beach Boys songs? The musical element
is certainly timeless in it's appeal.
Mike Love- The warmth of the harmonies, whatever is in our music, some of it is conceptual, but a lot of it is straight to the heart. Because the sheer
love of the harmonies. Brian Wilson loves creating harmonies. I love singing
that bass part. We loved our lifestyle that we had in California. We had a
lot to be thankful for. We loved our cars, we loved our school and our beach
life. And as we grew and experienced more in life, we added different demensions to the music. We experienced different demensions in situations involving relationships and so on but a song like, "The Warmth Of The Sun", is one of the most melancholy songs possible. But it talks about somebody who doesn't love you anymore, which is a drag, but you still have the feelings of being loved, which is good. (He laughs.) So there is a lot of life, warmth and
love and fun along with positive vibrations that resonates in the Beach Boys
(Q)- Why did The Beach Boys songs find popularity with people who never
lived close enough to a beach to travel to?
Mike Love- Well listen to all the car songs The Beach Boys had hits with.
We had huge hits with car songs, particularly "409", "Shut Down" and "Little
Deuce Coupe". Those songs were like big hits in many places, because they
didn't have surfing but, they had race cars and people love their race cars.
I mean look at auto racing, wherever the sport is popular, they love cars
and our car songs sold well. Those songs are still popular.
(Q)- So diversity within the lyrics and the music in the classic "oldies"
hit songs, provides the Beach Boys with continued popularity?
Mike Love- There always has been a couple of songs that we have recorded
that are not big hits but are still a little bit esoteric. By and large
everything from "California Girls" to "Good Vibrations" and twenty-two years
after the success of "Good Vibrations," with , "Kokomo".
(Q)- You co-wrote "Kokomo" along with the late "Papa" John Phillips. (In
1988, The Beach Boys had their largest sales hit single, titled "Kokomo."
The song, "Kokomo" was a featured in the motion picture "Cocktail" and
"Kokomo" really put The Beach Boys back into the international spotlight.
Mike Love- I did indeed. John Phillips came up with the concept for the song in the verse and then I came up with the chorus. (Mike Love begins singing
"Kokomo".) That was my contribution. I changed two words in the first verse
and I rewrote the second verse in a little less, half a verse. So it was a
true collaboration between John Phillips, myself and Terry Melcher, who
produced the song. "Kokomo" went to Number One in 1988. Now that song,
really, we're talking had a multigenerational appeal. It really helped to
rejuvenate The Beach Boys career.