Mike Love, a co-founder of the Beach Boys, has detailed his life in a new book that shares the title of the band’s 1966 No. 1 song “Good Vibrations.” Monday night, about 200 devotees crowded Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville to have Love sign a copy of his new autobiography.
“The easiest part of writing this book was just commenting on my actual experiences as a Beach Boy, because there have been many inaccuracies that have been said about me over the years,” Love said Monday evening. “What was difficult was the talking about the tragedy of my cousin Dennis’ relationship with Charlie (Manson) and the deaths of my cousin Carl and my sister Stephanie.
“For the audio book, I had to stop several times while reading about my parents or grandparents because all these things are very emotional. You can write it out, but when you have to speak it, you get close to re-living it.”
“Good Vibrations” tells the tale of Love co-founding the Beach Boys with his three cousins, Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, in the early 1960s. It shares the problems the band encountered with record contracts and publishing rights as well as the success it found, even before the emergence of the Beatles.
Love wrote that the Beatles changed the music scene but he did not see them as threatening. Rather, he predicted that the Beatles’ popularity would bode well for the Beach Boys.
The memoire was co-written by James S. Hirsch, a journalist and best-selling author who also has written biographies of baseball great Willie Mays and prize fighter Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
“It turned out that Jim Hirsch has read every book and article that’s ever been written about the Beach Boys,” Love said. “It really gave context to telling about all the things that happened in my career. When I was born, (Franklin Roosevelt) was president. The band later played at two Reagan inaugurations and also for two separate Bushes.”
Love said the Beach Boys song “The Warmth of Summer” was composed in the wee hours of the morning after President John F. Kennedy had been shot in 1963.
“So there’s a lot of context to our songs through the history we all lived through,” he said. “Although we accentuated the positive, not everything was positive. Like with Charlie Manson, for instance, who I only met one time.”
In 1968, Dennis Wilson picked up two hitchhiking girls who happened to be part of the Charles Manson family. According to Love, Wilson permitted Manson and his followers to live in his home for a time.
Love’s book also talks about technology now enabling sampled sounds like French horn and string sections to be accurately recreated. The advances permit multi-layered studio albums like “Pet Sounds” and the unreleased “Smile” to be performed live.
“I like the Beach Boys because they’re kind of like the Beatles,” said Brian Hart, of New Lenox, age 15, who was among the crowd seeking Love’s signature on their book. “They have their own sound, a California sound, with good harmonies.”
“In 1965, I went to their first concert in Chicago at the old Arie Crown Theatre, before it burned down,” said Don Twardowski, of Bolingbrook, 69. “It was quite a show.”
“Back in 1976, we were in the front row for their concert at the old Chicago Stadium,” said Jim Szarek, of Naperville. “We danced on our seats. Back when I was in seventh and eighth grade, I went to boy-girl parties that had Beach Boys music as the theme.”
At age 75, and now a grandfather, Love estimates he has performed more than 5,600 concerts in 26 countries
“I hope all the fans enjoy the book,” he said. “It makes an excellent Christmas present for anyone who grew up listening to the Beach Boys.”
Love toed the line when asked about whether he likes the Chicago Cubs or the San Francisco Giants.
“I’m in a tough position because I’m from California and my wife is from Chicago, so I’m going to stay impartial,” he said, laughing. “She tells me not to talk about politics, sports or religion.”
Gary Gibula is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.