By Jeremiah Tucker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Over a 50-year career, Mike Love of the Beach Boys has built a strong case for being rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest jerk. He appeared to cement that reputation recently when the news broke that he was effectively kicking the founding members, including Brian Wilson, out of the band.
Love, of course, denied this, saying the popular reunion tour that began earlier this year simply can’t continue because it would conflict with previously scheduled dates for his version of the Beach Boys that has toured county fairs and casinos in the nation’s finer tertiary markets for years.
This is the latest in a staggeringly long list of Love’s offenses. Here are some of Love’s worst.
Firing Brian Wilson. For the record, let’s establish that Mike Love firing Brian Wilson is like Flavor Flav asking Chuck D to leave Public Enemy or Luc Longley kicking Michael Jordan off the 1995 Chicago Bulls or Jar Jar Binks replacing Han Solo as the captain of the Millennium Falcon. It’s ridiculous.
Hall of fame speech. During a drunken Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 1988 Mike Love put the Supremes, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen on blast. The tirade was more embarrassing for the band and another example of the perpetual chip on Love’s shoulder. My favorite part is when he said Mick Jagger was too “chickens--- to get on stage with the Beach Boys,” whatever that means.
Utter lack of class. Consider this description of Love from a June Rolling Stone article about the Beach Boys’ reunion: “Love is wearing a loud patterned shirt, a Caesars Palace cap and three massive jeweled gold rings on his right hand. More gold dangles inside his shirt.” It’s like he hired a fashion consultant and told her to make him look “punchable.”
Another example of Love’s crassness is the time he attended a famous seminar at the Maharishi’s personal compound in India with the Beatles, Donovan and Mia Farrow in 1968 and made sure to pack extra toothpaste to sell to the famous people.
From the biography “Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson” by Peter Ames Carlin: “The Beatles recollections of Mike were just as vivid, even if most of them seemed to revolve around the way he had come equipped with crates of batteries, film and other Western staples he was willing to sell to other campers at a premium. ‘He reminded me of a dealer,’ McCartney told his biographer Barry Miles.”
You know, I like to think if John Lennon asked me to borrow some AAA batteries I wouldn’t say, “Yeah? How much are they worth to you?”
Transcendental meditation. What was a passing fad for other stars in the late ’60s became a lifelong obsession for Love. Not only did this obsession result in some truly atrocious Beach Boys’ lyrics, but there’s something tragic about a man who claims to spend so much time in quiet contemplation, yet remains such an unrepentant butt head.
The Beach Boys’ country album. At the request of financial backers, Brian Wilson co-produced the Beach Boys’ 1996 “Stars and Stripes Vol. 1” where a bunch of country stars performed the band’s biggest hits, though it’s not clear what Wilson actually contributed. However, no one will ever convince me this project wasn’t 100 percent Mike Love’s idea.
His politics. It doesn’t really surprise me that Mike Love is a right-wing Republican or that he was the only musician to donate money to Tipper Gore’s Parent’s Music Resource Center to stop all the swearing in rap music. But it’s a bummer I live in a world where John McCain sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann” at a Republican fundraiser with a band Love can legally call the Beach Boys.
The endless lawsuits. Love has practically made a second career of suing his bandmates. My favorite is the lawsuit that got him a songwriting credit for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” despite Love having had nothing to do with writing the song. Love claimed he helped write the lyrics because he improvised the line “Good night my baby, sleep tight my baby” at the end of the song.
John Stamos. A whole generation had the Beach Boys ruined for them by the band’s multiple guest appearances on the corny family sitcom “Full House,” including one episode where Love and Bruce Johnston stop by to “jam” with Stamos’ Uncle Jesse. Stamos has since regularly toured with Love and the Beach Boys, and he even executive produced a revisionist TV miniseries that presented Love as the hero of the group.
“Kokomo.” Co-written by Love in 1988, “Kokomo” is the only Beach Boys No. 1 single not to have been written or produced by Brian Wilson, and it’s one of the worst songs in the band’s catalog. It also finally achieved Love’s broader goal of forever cementing the Beach Boys as waxy avatars of all-inclusive beach resorts for the baby boomer crowd.
Hating the Beach Boys’ best music. Mike Love’s vision for the band has always been a narrow focus on cars, girls and the beach, and his influence is largely why in latter years the band’s identity is dorky, out-of-touch grandpas who won’t shut up about their vacation.
Love famously called “Pet Sounds” “s---,” and his hostility toward Wilson’s masterpiece “Smile” was one of the reasons it was abandoned in 1967. Even all these years later, Love still resents Wilson’s more experimental music.
In the Rolling Stone article from earlier this year, the reporter describes the band listening to the mini-suite of songs Wilson recorded to close out the band’s latest album, which were by far the best new music the Beach Boys had been associated with in decades and the only songs on the album that weren’t nostalgic hokum.
Everyone praised the suite except Love. From the article: “Love, sitting next to me on a leather couch, has another reaction, which he demonstrates by putting his fingers into the shape of a gun, placing it under his chin and shooting himself in the head.”