Q&A, Part 2: Mike Love on Lawsuits, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Being Cast as the Beach Boys' 'Villain'

Ken SharpCategories:Featured ArticlesMusic

Rock Cellar Magazine

This is the conclusion to last month’s interview with Mike Love of the Beach Boys — get caught up with Part 1 here, and enjoy the rest below.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What’s the back story behind the song “Happy Birthday Mike Love”?
Mike Love: I was in India studying with the Maharishi and The Beatles were there as well. It was my birthday, March 15th, 1968 George Harrison had his birthday on February 25th and there were fireworks and music. It was a really fun thing. Maharishi being the ultimate host created a party for my birthday and Donovan and John (Lennon), Paul (McCartney) and George — Ringo had left to go back to England.
So John, Paul and George along with Donovan created this song called “Happy Birthday Michael Love.” It was called “The Spiritual Regeneration Movement Foundation” and it was kind of written with a Beach Boys “Fun, Fun, Fun” template. (laughs) At the end of it you can hear them say (sings) “Happy birthday Michael Love happy birthday Michael Love.” It was really great. It was an amazing honor and a wonderful thing and it just showed the atmosphere there at the time and how much love was in the air.
Keith Moon was a huge fan of surf music and The Beach Boys in particular. So much so that had the band asked him to join, he would have left the Who. Do you have any special memories/stories that involve Keith?
Mike Love: Keith Moon actually wrote us a letter saying he wanted to be the drummer for The Beach Boys. Of course, we had a drummer, Dennis Wilson, so that didn’t work out. He was another wild man but he was great and you’re right, he loved The Beach Boys. So for Keith to write us that letter was pretty amazing.
keith moon close up
Your speech at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in January 1988 was bizarre. What was the intent behind the speech and do you regret it?

Mike Love: I was bummed Paul McCartney didn’t show up because he was having issues with Yoko and that’s messed up — and Diana Ross didn’t show up for The Supremes’ induction even though Berry Gordy was getting inducted as well. Diana didn’t show up because Mary Wilson was there. I mean, c’mon! That’s not cool.
But the fundamental thing is I always thought the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame stands for chronology. You know, the time you recorded and how long you recorded.  But the combined talents of all the people in that room could actually do something fantastic for the world if people got it together instead.
But everybody that was in charge of dividing these groups, whether managers or agents or record companies and definitely attorneys, were all there.

The thing is my premise, which I was not allowed to say, is that it would be nice if the combined music industry could stand for something more than just chronology. So did I go about it the right way? Probably not. (laughs)  It was a bit of the “switchblade” that night…(laughs)

On stage you called Mick Jagger chicken shit to get onstage with The Beach Boys. You ran into Mick later that night, what did you day to each other?
Mike Love: Well, it’s funny, he threw one of my tuxedo shoes off the stage during the jam session and I threw one of his off and we were acting like idiots and juveniles. (laughs) So I told him, “the reason said some of that stuff onstage is if we ever fight by satellite it’ll be worth a lot of money” and he laughed and said, “That’s good, that’s good.” (laughs)
Can you explain why you often get cast as a villain in the Beach Boys story?
Mike Love: Well, there are a couple of reasons. For instance, I wrote all the words to “Surfin’ U.S.A” and there’s a myth that I didn’t, that the words were written someone else.

But that’s not true. I wrote all the words and I consciously crafted it to be different than Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” although it is derivative because of the structure of the song and the way it goes.

But see the thing is I wasn’t given credit by my uncle Murry nor Brian. And the sad part of it is Brian could have rectified that when Murry died. Or that omission of credits on “California Girls” or “Help Me Rhonda” or “I Get Around,” some big hits and it could have been rectified.

The only recourse I had was to go to court and that’s a drag because we’re talking about family. Growing up I didn’t think, Oh, how can I screw my cousin or my uncle? but it happens. And it happened and it was terrible so that’s not a fun thing to go over but that’s exactly what happened.

Is that part of why you think you’ve been villainized, suing your cousin and band mate, Brian Wilson?
Mike Love: Yes, that’s part of it. Here’s the thing: “Help Me Rhonda” and “I Get Around” and “Be True To Your School” and “Surfin’ U.S.A” came out and they were credited just to Brian Wilson. There are many songs that I co-authored with my cousin that I was not credited on so then you find that people form a perception of you based on the facts they know.

Well, the fact is I did write those songs but I wasn’t credited.  So that’s not an accurate presentation or portrayal of how these songs came to be. I’m not taking credit for Brian’s brilliant arrangements and production or anything like that, and I’m not saying I could have done it on my own. I’m saying that there was not an accurate picture of who did what when it came to the creation of these songs, so as far as anybody knew I didn’t play a very important role in creation of many, many hit songs.

I think out of like say 10 top 10 hit songs that The Beach Boys had, I probably sang and wrote 9 of them with my cousin Brian.  (laughs)

So by suing Brian that colored people’s perception of you as “villain”?
Mike Love: Yeah, it didn’t present the reality. It presented something different than the actuality of how those songs came to be. So that’s no fun to talk about but that’s what happened. But in this book, I just say it from my point of view, what my experience was. And the only time it got recognized was going to court to establish my authorship.
That was done in part because he was in a conservatorship. Now he called me and asked if we could get together and rectify those wrongdoings but he was unable to because he was in a conservatorship. That means all his major life decisions weren’t his to make. They were made by an attorney. Forget ethics, (laughs) that goes out the window real fast around a court room.
Instead of rectifying it they thought there was statute of limitations where if I had a claim I should have come with it in a couple of years. Well, it was my family; it was my uncle and my cousin. My cousin that I grew up with signing Everly Brothers songs and Four Freshmen songs and doo-wop. I never in a million years thought I would have to go to court to establish my authorship with somebody I had grew up with like that.

And your uncle…you don’t think that your uncle is gonna screw you but he did, and I wasn’t the only one. Brian, Dennis and Carl got the same treatment because he sold the Sea of Tunes publishing.

There was another issue there. There was an attorney involved that represented the Beach Boys and he also represented the people who bought the publishing. So those two things, Brian’s incompetence and the duplicitous nature of the relationship with the attorney involved, that gave the opening to even be heard in court. The decision by the jury was overwhelmingly in my favor.
Lastly, what were the circumstances behind your meeting Elvis Presley and later seeing him perform live?
Mike Love: We were recording in the same studio as Elvis was. We were recording in studio three at Western Recorders and he was in the bigger room. He was wearing the cape and we met him and spoke to him a little bit. He was talking about going back out on tour and asked us questions about it. He was just a really awesome gentleman, just a plain nice guy. Obviously one of the biggest stars ever in music. But we also went and saw him a couple of times at The Hilton in Las Vegas. We got to go backstage and meet with him. He was great in concert.
Was Elvis aware of The Beach Boys?
Mike Love: Oh yeah. Absolutely he was aware of the Beach Boys, because being a recording artist and being so incredibly successful, you hear the Beatles, you hear the Beach Boys and you hear the other forms of music coming out. So absolutely, we were all aware of each other, that; for sure.
I mean, right now, these days we’ve done some concerts with the Temptations. We played to 7,000 people in Aurora, Illinois. The combined artistry of Motown is unbelievable. The Beach Boys and the Beatles get a lot of ink for being the big deal in the ‘60s but what about Motown?
If you think about all the combined artistry of those group on that label it’s astounding. In fact at oldies radio, the Beatles and Beach Boys get about 20 plays a day but Motown gets over twice that because they’ve got The Supremes and Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops and The Temptations.


  • Mikey says:

    Mike & Bruce Rule!
    Check this out

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