Beach Boys' Mike Love on Transcendental Meditation and the Brian Wilson Rift

For a band that’s always espoused the simple joys of growing up in idyllic innocence, replete with surf, sand, girls, hot rods, and whatever else it’s taken to share in the fun, fun, fun, the Beach Boys are no strangers to controversy.

Brian Wilson, the band’s mentor and resident genius, suffered a nervous breakdown in 1965 and retreated from the road to devote himself wholly to studio endeavors.

During the Reagan administration, the band was banned from playing a 4th of July concert on the National Mall in Washington D.C. by then-Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, until the order was rescinded by First Lady Nancy Reagan herself.

Drummer Dennis Wilson found himself at odds with the group’s wholesome image after befriending mass murderer Charles Manson and falling prey to substance abuse, while Carl Wilson, the band’s rock and most soulful sibling, died of cancer.

After a 50th anniversary reunion tour earned rave reviews and renewed headlines, singer Mike Love promptly ousted Wilson, longtime stalwart Al Jardine, and founding guitarist David Marks, only to reclaim the Beach Boys mantle for himself. That lingering fissure never fully healed, earning Love a less than stellar reputation for essentially reinventing a band that finds him as its only original member.

Consequently, one approaches a conversation with Mr. Love with some degree of trepidation. We’re warned not to incite his ire by making mention of the rift with Wilson. Yet he comes across as surprisingly amiable, and justifiably proud of the Beach Boys' legacy, with or without the others’ participation. He calls into our meeting early, in fact, fearful that since he’s on a train traveling down the California coast, our connection might be lost. “I didn’t know exactly that I’d be on this train when calling in, so here I am,” he beams across coasts.

For all the barbs that have been hurled his way, nobody can accuse Love of being a slacker. “We did 175 performances last year,” he relays, and despite the hectic schedule, Love insists he’s not tired yet.

“Fifty years is a long time," he admits, though he says it's "a pretty cool deal that people still want to come out and hear your efforts some five decades after you’ve started." 
Playing the role of eternal teenager at an age when most people have long since retired (Love turns 75 this March 15) doesn’t seem to have an impact on the frontman's psyche. “Our role model is Tony Bennett,” he says. “He’s out there at age 89. He’s still a wonderful artist and a great performer. That’s a benchmark he’s laid out. There are some people because of their lifestyle — they’re smoking or drinking or have personal habits that prevent them from doing it like Tony Bennett can. I personally practice transcendental meditation, which I learned in 1967. I still do that every day. It helps me maintain my energy level. You just have to be sensible in your lifestyle choices.”

But it’s the work itself that seems to energize Love most. “I do not get jaded. My dad and my grandfather were in the sheet metal business, and I got my work ethic from them. They worked very hard to provide a good living for their families. That influence never left me. It’s just a pleasure to do what we do.”

What isn’t such a pleasure apparently is the ongoing tension with his cousin, Brian, and the fact that he’s often labelled the villain when it comes to that roiled relationship. Love claims a special screening of the Wilson biopic Love and Mercy was set up for him only to be canceled at the last minute, for reasons that remain a mystery. “I had nothing to do with the movie, other than to be named in it,” he says.

“I was cheated out of writing credits by my cousin and by my uncle, Murray Wilson," Love continues as we broach the subject. "I wrote every single syllable of ‘California Girls’ and nearly all of ‘I Get Around.' I came up with the hook. I wrote nearly all of ‘Surfin’ USA’ and still have not been credited on that song... I contributed the chorus to ‘Good Vibrations.’ That was a true collaboration. People say I had a problem with the [once-lost masterpiece] Smile album. I didn’t. I only had a problem with the lyrics, because I thought they were weak."

The reason that history has gotten it wrong, claims Mike Love, was because he wasn't credited properly. "That will be gone over plenty when I write my book.”

Beach Boys
8 p.m. Saturday, February 27, at Hard Rock Live, One Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $49 to $69 plus fees. Visit
KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lee Zimmerman