Mike Love loves ball caps.
In advance of the Beach Boys’ performance with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, I spoke by phone to original member Mike Love, 68, about the benefits of transcendental meditation, being cast as a bad guy in the Beach Boys’ story and “acid alliteration.” You still practice transcendental meditation?
Yes, I do. I did it this morning. I do it, as it’s meant to be, twice a day, morning and evening. It’s been a huge help in my life in terms of combating stress, but also giving me that deeper rest. Transcendental meditation can lower your metabolism to the level of rest twice as deep as deep sleep. It’s very profoundly resting and relaxing.
I learned from Maharishi in Paris in December of 1967, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I don’t know if I’d even be alive without it and there’s definitely a lot of people alive who wouldn’t be if I hadn’t learned to meditate. [Laughs]So many of your greatest songs were about teen-age life and high school concerns. Does it get harder to sing those songs the farther removed you get from those days?
I have a young daughter. She came home from school three or four years ago and said, “Hey Dad, my fourth grade class’ favorite songs is ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice.’” Well, the ironic thing was when she told me that it was exactly 40 years after the “Pet Sounds” album came out. For children, pre-teens, teens and young adults, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is relevant to their lives at the place where they are. For me and for people who started out as fans of the Beach Boys in the ’60s, it’s going to be nostalgic. The fact that they’re appreciated by multiple generations is a blessing.
The Beach Boys have their own little slice of Americana. Singing for us was always the reality. My mom and Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson’s father were sister and brother. The family environment was completely musical. Whenever we got together for a birthday party or Thanksgiving or Christmas, it was always music. Of course, the kids would peel off and do Everly Brothers and the parents would do what they liked. We had a grand piano, an organ and a harp in my living room, and we’d have these family get-togethers with aunts and uncles and cousins. The Beach Boys becoming a career started out as a love of singing and making harmonies together. We were blessed enough and fortunate enough to have a career out of what was a hobby.
Do you feel like you’ve being cast as the bad guy in the story of the Beach Boys?
In some places. I think it’s the result of my not getting credit for a lot of the songs I wrote with Brian. I co-wrote “California Girls” and “Help Me Rhonda” and “I Get Around,” but I was never credited. Brian was under a conservatorship, an attorney, who would not allow him to right those wrongs. Yet wanted to. I know he wanted to because he told me so, but he wasn’t in charge of his business affairs because of the issues he’s had, emotionally and mentally, over the years. I wasn’t thrilled about being cheated or not credited, but as far as my relationship with Brian, I know where he was coming from and how he felt about things and that he always wanted to rectify things and subsequently things have been, for the most part, rectified. What about the idea that you hampered the creative evolution of the band?
That’s another fabrication. We all worked on the “Pet Sounds” album as diligently as we could as humans. Brian was the producer and he did the great orchestrations, but we all worked on the vocals extremely hard. Brian and I both went to Capitol Records and presented them with the record. Any talk of me not being in favor of “Pet Sounds” is garbage. So there’s misinformation like that that has its own life on websites that’s not true. If something’s true, I’ll own up to it. For instance, we wrote “Good Vibrations” together, and it went to number one. The follow-up to that was “Heroes and Villains” and that was done with another co-writer. Van Dyke Parks.
Right. And it went to number 48 or something. I asked Van Dyke, what does “over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield” mean, or “have you seen the Grand Coulee working on the railroad?” I coined the term “acid alliteration.” That’s what I called it. It’s absolutely true that I have an issue with doing lyrics that are so obscure and oblique that they can’t be relatable to by most people. I mean they can be appreciated, and I do appreciate the art form itself. But I like art that relates to people to the point where a song has a chance to go to number one. So I am guilty of liking songs that are artistic as well as popular. So all of the court battles have been resolved and you and Brian and Al are in a good place?
Yeah, there’s no outstanding legal fracases going on, which is a good thing because there’s been some dialogue between Brian and I getting together and seeing what we could come up with, and there’s a 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys coming up in a couple of years, and it would make a lot of sense to do something together.