Last summer, Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love got together with former Beach Boys members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks (as well as current Beach Boy Bruce Johnston) for a question and answer session on Sirius-XM radio to promote the service’s Beach Boys channel.
On the surface, it seemed like a reunion that could have been quite awkward. Instead, Love said there were nothing but good vibrations that day.
“It was very positive, that whole get-together. Nothing about that Sirius thing was negative, as far as I can see,” says Love. “At the end of it, Brian and I sat together (and he said) ‘I love you, Mike’ (and I said) ‘I love you, Brian.’ It was really sweet.”
A key reason one might have expected a chilly atmosphere that day on Sirius goes back to a 50th anniversary tour in 2012 that ended on a bit of a sour note. After the reunion tour wrapped up, Love began booking future dates as The Beach Boys, but without Wilson, Marks or Jardine. The move was widely viewed as an indirect firing of the other three, and Love was villainized for causing the reunited Beach Boys to fall apart.
To his credit, Love was plenty amiable in this interview, spending a generous amount of time talking about, among other things, his recent solo albums and the Beach Boys, the group he co-founded in 1961 with three cousins —the Wilson brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis — and friend Jardine. He responded directly to queries about the reunion tour and other issues that, as he put it in his 2017 autobiography, “Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy,” have made him the “anti-Christ” to Brian Wilson fans.
He maintains he didn’t fire anyone from the Beach Boys and that the 70 shows the group played exceeded the 50 that were required in the contract.
Another issue that has earned Love the ire of Wilson fans is the former’s early 1990s lawsuit against Wilson, in which Love successfully gained songwriting credits to 35 songs. (Love wrote at least some of the lyrics for many early Beach Boys songs, including hits like “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”) It’s one of multiple lawsuits that have been filed over the years by Love against Wilson.
Love blames Wilson’s father, Murry, who managed the Beach Boys in the early years, for excluding him in the original songwriting credits. Love said because Murry had passed away, his only recourse to get songwriting credits was to sue Brian Wilson. In the end, Love won his case and he and his cousin settled on a reported payment of $5 million for Love’s share of the royalties.
The singer said he addressed this most famous of the lawsuits in his autobiography because he felt he needed to present his side of the story.
“There was always the perception that my cousin Brian did all the writing as well as the producing and stuff like that. That was not true,” Love says. “I was the co-author of so many of the big hits. It’s just an unfortunate thing that happens, a terrible thing, because you have your uncle and your cousin, I don’t think of as cheating people, and yet there are plenty that do, and my uncle was one of them.”
That explanation doesn’t figure to change the minds of Love’s critics, and Love simply goes on about his business, leading the current edition of the Beach Boys through an extensive touring schedule, which makes a stop at Hard Rock Atlantic City 8 p.m. Saturday, July 27.
In addition to touring, Love has also stepped up his recording activity lately. In 2017, he released a studio album, “Unleash The Love,” which featured unreleased songs he had written and recorded going back as long as a decade plus, as well a disc of Beach Boys hits re-recorded by the current group. Then last fall, he released a holiday album, “Reason for the Season.”
Now he has just released a third solo album, “12 Sides of Summer,” an eclectic collection which features mostly Love’s versions of songs by other artists (including such surprising choices as “Girl from Ipanema” and the Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach”), coupled with new versions of three Beach Boys songs, “Surfin’” “Surfin’ Safari’” and “It’s OK.”
“It was such a fun album to do,” Love says. “It’s an album designed to be fun to play for those summer parties and those barbecues at the lake or the beach or in your car cruising around, whatever.
“It’s just one of those kinds of vibes — hopefully a good vibration,” he adds, intentionally.
Even though “12 Sides of Summer” has just been released, several songs from the album are already appearing in Beach Boys shows.
“‘It’s OK’ has been in there quite a bit,” he says. “‘Rockaway Beach’ is definitely in, pretty much in the encore for this stage and this time being. And ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is just gorgeous. We do that after ‘Pisces Brothers,’ the song that I wrote about myself and George (Harrison, for the “Unleash The Love” album). So it’s all, there are moments in the show where it’s really mystical and reflective and introspective as well as fun, euphoric.”