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 recording studio?
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 music.
(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.

Copyright 2012.
CLICK HERE FOR interviewsofrecordingartists.com