Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy by Mike Love (Faber & Faber, £20)
The Beach Boys captured the California dream in their songs about an endless summer of surfing, girls and cruising around in a convertible. But the initial burst of hit singles – Surfin’ USA, Surfin’ Safari, Surfer Girl – that established the band’s clean-cut, smiley wholesomeness became a burden. Their innumerable compilation records played on the same image long after they had moved on musically, culturally, politically and personally.
As one of the original members and cousin to the three Wilson brothers Carl, Dennis and Brian, Mike Love gives an overview of more than 50 years in the music business. He is both involved and detached, an insider/outsider whose commitment to the group and its members has been notoriously capricious.
Much of his tale is uplifting, especially stories of songwriting with Brian Wilson, combining his honed and honeyed lyrics with the troubled genius whose musical innovation saw him compared to Mozart.
Love was the most commercially minded of the group and acted as a corrective to Brian Wilson’s infinite experimentation (yet he was the first to embrace Transcendental Meditation).
But he doesn’t shy away from the less palatable aspects of a tale that includes drugs, girls, fights, divorces and endless court battles over royalty payments.
Regarded as the Beach Boy you love to hate, Love is candid about his own status: “For those who believe that Brian walks on water, I will always be the Antichrist.”
Love gives his side of stories that have been told and retold including tales of the Wilsons’ violent father Murry, who damaged Brian’s hearing with a blow to the head and whose legacy of greed and spite screwed the boys out of potential profits.
He tempers his arrogance and ill will with a genuine passion and a sense of grievance. And he sweetens the corrosive bitterness that seasons the memoir with mea culpas, the quest for spiritual enlightenment and the concern for the environment as well as his undiminished appetite for performing.
Scariest of all is their skirmish with Charles Manson, who saw them as a route to his own musical career.
It’s a proper, no-holds-barred romp through the life and times of the greatest US rock band to surf the planet.