BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
“It’s pretty cool the way we get three generations coming to our shows,” enthuses Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love. “We get children, their parents and grandparents. We just played a place outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and there was this little girl, nine years old, wearing a homemade ‘I Love The Beach Boys’ T-shirt. I actually got her up onstage with us, and there was a photo made that went up on Facebook. That’s something she’ll remember for the rest of her life.”
This summer marks the 54th that Love is out there, touring, doing the songs that made him and The Beach Boys famous; “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” just to name a few. Now 73 years old and, according to the Internet, worth more than 50 million dollars, he obviously has no financial incentive to keep doing this. However, judging by the show I saw at Jones Beach just three weeks ago, Love obviously still loves (pardon the pun) what he does, is as enthusiastic about pleasing the crowd as he ever was, and his supporting band is terrific.
As most Beach Boys fans know, the five surviving original Beach Boys, which also include Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and David Marks (Dennis Wilson passed away in 1983, Carl Wilson in1998) reunited two years ago for a very successful 50th anniversary tour.
While most fans were hoping that the band was now back together, after a year and a half, the group was split again/ Wilson, Jardine and Marks toured on their own, and Love, a principal owner of the Beach Boys name, reuinted with his band, which includes long-time Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, Jeff Foskett, a veteran of Brian Wilson’s group, and drummer John Cowsill (Yes, from the 60’s band, The Cowsills).
On Saturday night, the band will also be joined by actor John Stamos, who has been a fan and periodic band member for many years.
Examiner: OK, in the middle of the very successful 50th anniversary tour, Brian Wilson told the press that, without any prior warning, you fired him, Al and David. Would you like to clear up what actually happened?
Love: It’s not only a misconception, it’s totally ridiculous. We had an agreement signed between Brian and myself that we would have Al Jardine (and David Marks) join us to do 50 shows. After that was over, there was still more demand, so we went up to 73 (shows). The agreement said that we would go back to how we did things before we did the 50th, and we accomplished that. There were some people involved with Brian that said that I fired him. That’s totally asinine, I can’t fire Brian any more than he can fire me. What are you gonna do: Fire your own cousin? A lot of people saw the remaining Beach Boys onstage, and that was cool, but then there were some things done that weren’t so cool. I just didn’t want to continue with it.
Examiner: How did John Stamos come to be an honorary Beach Boy?
Love: Back in ’85, when he was on General Hospital, one of the guys in our band, it might have been Jeff Foskett, invited him out to a show we did in Washington, D.C., for like a-half a million people. He’s been a lifetime Beach Boys fan, and it’s a lot of fun having him onstage with us. The audience gets a big kick out of it., and it’s pretty wonderful that he finds the time to play with us.
Examiner: On your current tour, you have a wonderful song about George Harrison called “Pisces Brother.”
Love: George’s birthday was February 25h, and mine is March 15th, so that’s where the song’s title comes from. The song is an homage to George, and it’s reminiscent of the time (in 1968) when the Beatles, Donovan and I were in India studying meditation with the Maharishi. It was probably the most unique and special time that I’ve ever experienced. In our show, we show video clips of George playing the guitar, while our guitar player, Scott Totten, is playing the leads. It’s quite a sentimental song. I say in the lyrics, “This was not for fortune or for more fame, but for enlightenment we came.”
Examiner: During this time, you also helped Paul McCartney with his song “Back In The U.S.S.R.”
Love: Yes, I did. He didn’t have the middle part (completed). He came down to breakfast one morning with his acoustic guitar and said, “Hey, Mike. Listen to this,” and he played me the first verse of “Back In The U.S.S.R.” I said, “Paul, you gotta talk about all the girls around Russia, the Ukraine girls in Moscow and Georgia,” which he did. Turns out he’s pretty capable of crafting a tune, that guy (laughs).
Examiner: After all these years, Rolling Stone magazine still has “Pet Sounds” ranked as the second-greatest album of all time.
Love: We want a recount (laughs). Yeah, it’s great to be in that echelon and be that highly regarded by so many people.
Examiner: In retrospect, do you think it was a major mistake not releasing the “Smile” album in late ’66, which would have come out before the Beatles “Sergeant Pepper,” and changed the way a lot of people viewed The Beach Boys. (“Smile” was not released until 2012.)
Love: There were a lot of negative things going on at the time. With respect to “Smile,” Brian, after having a very bad L.S.D. experience, shelved it. Instead of the dynamic producer he had been up to that point, he became a recluse and developed some serious mental issues.
Examiner: The band also missed an important opportunity of playing The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Do you feel that was a mistake as well?
Love: Well, there was a transition that took place from the early ’60s type of music to what was going on then. I think the drug culture had a lot of influence on the type of music was being played at Monterey, but as far as our not playing it, there were a lot of interpersonal things going on within the group. Carl was being pursued by the draft board. He filed as a consciousness objector and, as a result of that, (the group) ended up doing a lot of prisons and hospitals and all kinds of community service to satisfy the draft board. There were a lot of internal stresses within the group. We weren’t as together as we could have been. So yeah, the Beach Boys missed a lot of opportunities over the years because of our own dysfunctionality and, actually, a lot of it had to do with drugs.
Examiner: When the Beach Boys started, back in 1961, if someone told you that you’d still be singing rock and roll with the Beach Boys 53 years later at age 73, as a typical 20-year-old, you would have probably thought that was a totally absurd concept. Yet, you, The Rolling Stones and others of your generation are still out there doing high-energy two-hour shows. It’s like 70 has become the new 50.
Love: That’s true enough. For 73, I certainly don’t feel or look like the average 73-year-old person.
Examiner: Can you see yourself doing this in your 80s?
Love: I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t or wouldn’t. That’s why I live a sane lifestyle. I meditate every day, do a little bit of yoga, and some exercise. I mean, as long as I’m physically able, have the desire, and people are still interested in seeing us, even if it’s out of curiosity (laughs), I don’t see any time limit on doing this.
Examiner: What do you feel your greatest contribution to the Beach Boys has been?
Love: Well, over 5000 shows as lead singer, but on a pure musical level, contributing a lot of concepts and hooks, which have given people a lot of fun, fun, fun in life.
Examiner: Will there be another Beach Boys reunion album?
Love: Who knows? Could be. Anything’s possible. . .