“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.”
That’s exactly where Mike Love, founding member and lead singer of The Beach Boys, is today. It’s been 50 years since the mega-hit “Good Vibrations,” widely considered one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, made its debut on Oct. 10, 1966. The Beach Boys perform on the Big Island at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Hilton Grand Ballroom in Waikoloa.
West Hawaii Today had the opportunity to speak with Love about the upcoming performance and his new book being released later this year.
Arguably the most popular American rock band of all time, The Beach Boys appeal is multigenerational with more than 50 top singles and a career lasting well over five decades. With The Beach Boys being such an integral part of American culture and history, Love remains current on contemporary artists and spoke about one performer in particular that he admires.
“One of my favorite contemporary performers is Bruno Mars,” said Love. “I like the way he does classic, old-style rock ‘n’ roll. All his songs have melodies and arrangements — that’s the kind of music I can relate to. In regards to The Beach Boys’ influences, there were The Everly Brothers and their harmonies, Chuck Berry and his guitar licks, and of course the doo-wop groups. The Four Freshman had sophisticated and somewhat complicated harmonies. Not everyone can harmonize like that, but this was the kind of sound that distinguished The Beach Boys.”
“Before we were the Beach Boys we sang as family members at church youth nights and family get-togethers, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthdays. There was always harmonies. We loved to get together and each person would pick out a part and sing it. My cousin Brian had the high falsetto thing down and I would sing the bass part. My family was very musical. It’s what we had and it’s what we loved.”
Love is grateful that he lived through the musical decade of the ‘60s. When asked which musical era he would most like to be part of, he didn’t hesitate.
“The ‘60s was such a rich time in terms of songwriting,” he said. “Not only did you have the Beach Boys, but you had the Beatles and of course the Rolling Stones, but you also had Motown. And MoTown, for crying out loud what a great roster they had—Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, so many fantastic artists. That time period for me, was the most rich in terms of diversity and pure songwriting. I think the ‘60s was the best decade for music, that’s just my personal opinion.”
“That’s a good question,” said Love. “You know a lot of times we’ll play a song that doesn’t resonate with the crowd as much as another song. We found by trial and error which songs are the best, and every night we try to structure the flow of the concert so each song supports the next. In other words, we don’t do all up-tempo songs, or all ballads. We structure the selections so we may sing a slow song like ‘Surfer Girl,’ and the next song might by be ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ which has a bit of a tempo to it. Then we might do ‘Little Deuce Coupe’, ‘409’ or ‘I Get Around.’ We’ll progressively step up the tempo, then we’ll drop it back down again. There’s a sort of a flow to the concert so it’s not boring and it’s not the same sound or the same tempo. It also depends on the venue. If we’re performing somewhere more intimate we can play something more subtle or more artistic. Of course we always do our hit songs like ‘Kokomo,’ ‘California Girls’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’ and ‘Good Vibrations.’”
Love’s new book, “Good Vibrations, My Life as a Beach Boy” will hit bookstore shelves later this year. It will be the first time Love is able to tell the story in his own words.
“There’s been lots of words written about The Beach Boys — whether it be about the musical aspect, the more notorious aspects of my cousin’s life, or Charles Manson (for a time the Manson family was living in cousin Dennis Wilson’s house), but there’s never been a book by me,” said Love. “I’ve never come out with my story, which is a shame because there are misconceptions and outright fallacies that have existed. Now I’m able to address them. Not by virtue of trying to correct inaccuracies, but just telling my story — the way things unfolded and the way things happened from my point of view. I think it’s important, not for me so much because I know what I did and I know what I went through, but for my children and my grandchildren, and for fans that are interested in the story of The Beach Boys from the person who has been there from the beginning.”
When asked about what inspires him to get out of bed everyday and keep making music, Love expresses appreciation for the blessings his career has bestowed upon him.
“We are very blessed to do what we do,” he said. “What was originally a family hobby — singing and putting harmonies together for the joy of getting together and creating music, became a profession. We didn’t come from wealth, our wealth was in the music. That makes us some of the most fortunate people around. We get to travel the world, perform our music, and have it appreciated by people five decades later. That’s what really inspires me. If you’re a musician and a performer that’s what you like to do. It’s our pleasure to come out on stage and do our shows. That’s what inspires me on a daily basis. It’s pretty phenomenal.” ■