Good Vibrations? The Beach Boys' Mike Love gets his turn
This interview with Mike Love ordinally appeared in Goldmine, Sept. 18, 1992. We're not sure who the author is... This interview has been edited; here are the most interesting excerpts:
I understand that you're putting out the new album ["Summer In Paradise"] yourself and bypassing major labels.
The Beach Boys have been on Capitol Records, Warners, CBS, back to Capitol, and in the case of "Kokomo," it was on Elektra. So we've been distributing our records through major labels all our lives except for our first record, "Surfin'," which was on a label called Candix, which went bankrupt [laughs]. We got a total of $900 on the royalties for that one and we signed to Capitol in 1962.
But the problem with a major is that just as recently as the Still Cruisin' album, the same week that we went to radio with a song called "Somewhere Near Japan," which was getting really good airplay, Capitol Records went to CHR radio stations with eight singles. That was just one label in the same week. They'd also just done a deal with Duran Duran. They had paid a lot of money for Duran Duran, whereas we did an album of half new and half older songs. The theme of that album was to have been songs that have been in movies. It was basically a repackage.
But then in got watered down with politics, meaning Brian's Dr. Landy forcing a song called "In My Car," which was never in a movie, and a song by Jardine, which ultimately ended up on the album, called "Island Girl," which was never in a movie either. So to me the concept was a little bit diluted there politically.
So what happened in this instance was I was not happy that the album was half repackage and half politics. What happens when you do things politically just to accommodate the fact that if you're in a group and you divide it by five members, and you got two songs each, it may be a nice thing to do but everybody has their own point of view that isn't taken into consideration objectively.
Capitol's treatment of the Beach Boys' catalog on CD has been fabulous. What was your impression of the slew of two-fer Beach Boys CDs?
I don't even know. I don't know.
Have you seen them?
No. I don't know. You find that amusing?
Yeah, it's hard to believe that being a Beach Boy you haven't seen something like that.
It is hard to believe. I find it hard to believe too.
Why is that?
Why is that? Because I'm a Pisces, is that a good answer [uproarious laughter]? That's as good as I can come up with. There is nothing that we can do to stop them from merchandising our records the way they want to merchandise them so we're at their mercy. So if they've done something that in the opinion of the caring public is well done, then I'm glad to hear it. But having no recourse or say-so ...
For instance, they were going to do a Best Of The Beach Boys Volume Three in 19 - , whatever the hell it was, and I came in there and went, "Wait a second, call in Endless Summer." And instead of being Volume Three which sound nauseating to me, like ...
The third rung of hits.
Exactly. Endless Summer has a whole other vibe to it and sold several million copies just with the switch of the title. But then I'm a title guy anyway.
The artwork was so strange on that album. I could never tell who was who.
Yeah, I know, it was awful ...
Do you meditate every day?
Yeah. I have since December 1967. I do it in the morning before you start your day's activities and in late afternoon or early evening. There's a distinctively different level of consciousness that is waking, dreaming and sleeping. And then there's a fourth level of consciousness unlike the others, metabolically. Your metabolism goes to a level of rest twice as deep as sleep. And you think about how profound that rest would be being twice as deep as sleep; it's very restful.
What do you think of Brian Wilson's book, "Wouldn't It Be Nice"?
I never read it. However, excerpts have been read to me, which have caused me to prepare a lawsuit against Brian. Because, you see, Brian has had the benefit of getting money from Al, Carl, Bruce and Mike's touring for the last nine years while he's been supposedly in therapy with Landy. In the meantime, Brian did two solo albums, a book defaming the group, me personally, other people, Brian's mom [laughs]. It's terrible stuff.
You've got to understand that Brian has been diagnosed, among other things, as a paranoid schizophrenic, so he has delusions, but these delusions are printed in his book as if they're fact. And they're not and I want him not only to apologize formally but retract everything that was not fact and set the record straight.
That, and the other thing which is not known, is that there's a little issue of me writing the lyrics for "California Girls." But what is not known is that I wrote many, many, many - we're talking a couple dozen songs that I wrote that I was not credited for.
Why weren't you credited for "California Girls"?
You see, Brian Wilson, they just signed the day before yesterday a settlement of his claims against the publisher. [Wilson was awarded 10 million dollars.] It's my assumption, and it's only an assumption, that his legal advisors are interested in taking the money and running. Brian is a pathetic figure and one of the more pathetic things is that he did not give me credit for many, many songs which I wrote. I have a huge list of them. It's unbelievable.
Have you heard Brian's unreleased second solo album, Sweet Insanity?
No, I haven't. Have you?
What do you think?
I like it a lot but it would be much better with the rest of the Beach Boys singing on it.
Did it come out with a record company?
No. But anyhow, I still love Brian.
Hey, there's nobody more talented at arranging and writing.
Did you like his first solo album?
You didn't like it?
What didn't you like about it?
First of all the lyrics. Second of all the arrangements weren't commercial enough. Third of all it sounded like shit compared to what he could sound like.
Back to the lawsuit. What are some of the songs you co-wrote but didn't receive credit for?
Okay, "Little Saint Nick." Brian Wilson is credited with writing 100 percent of that. Well, guess who wrote the words? Mike Love, that's who wrote the words. "Don't Back Down." It's very well known that Brian Wilson did not surf. I wrote "Catch A Wave" and "Don't Back Down." He's credited 100 percent. He didn't give me any credit.
How did that happen?
Because he didn't put my name down. Murry Wilson was the publisher of Sea of Tunes and and put in for this stuff. The same thing with "The Man With All The Toys," "Santa's Beard," "Merry Christmas Baby." There's "Good To My Baby." Brian Wilson is listed as writing it completely, guess who wrote the words? Doctor Love, that's who. "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)." I participated in that and didn't get a stitch of recognition. "Help Me Rhonda," I wrote, "Since you put me down I've been out doing in my head." That's my fucking line, thank you very much. Things like "Dance Dance Dance," I asked Carl if he wrote any lyrics for the song and he said no. He just came up with the guitar line.
It's a good guitar line.
It is a cool line. Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson split 50-50 on that. I was the one who wrote the Chuck Berry-styled alliteration lyrics. That's my scene.
Was this more Murry Wilson or Brian?
Either that or Brian didn't tell him because of his ego. It's a bloodbath. It's millions and millions of dollars' worth of damage. Other songs, he arbitrarily assigned me a percentage which was fairly nominal. Basically, when I wrote 100 percent of the words he'd give me like 30 percent of the tune, as opposed to a split.
Would you ever work again with Brian as a writer and producer?
Sure I would, But I want him to... "Be True To Your School," I wrote a lot of words to that and wasn't credited. Like I said, "Help Me Rhonda." It would have been nice if I was credited with "Catch A Wave." "South Bay Surfer." I wrote the words to "Hawaii." "Be True To Your School." The line [recites lyrics], "When some loud braggart tries to put you down and says his school is great, I tell him right away what's the matter buddy ain't you heard of my school it's number one in the state."
"I Get Around," he put in for 100 percent of it. I came up, Dr. Love, got witnesses, Al Jardine will testify in a court of law. I came up with "roud round get around," and if that's not a hook I don't know what the fuck is. That was a chickenshit move to credit himself with a hundred percent. Virtually all the songs that were chart records I had a hand in writing some if not all of the lyrics.
How about "All Summer Long"?
Yeah, I wrote, "Remember when you spilled Coke all over your blouse." I wrote that with him. To the best of my recollections I wrote 50 percent of of the words on that. In "I Get Around," Brian had "I get around from town to town, I'm a real cool head, I'm making real good bread." I wrote the verses through, and the "round round get around" part.
There's interesting things like "409" where I came up with "She's real fine my 409" and "giddy up, giddy up, 409," and was not credited, but Brian Wilson did give credit to Gary Usher for his contribution. So it was weird. It was like directly against me. He wouldn't fuck with anybody else but he screwed me over royally. I didn't know how badly I had been abused until I was deposed in Brian's pursuit of his claims against Irving Almo and Mitchell Silverburg and Nutt, which was the attorney representing the Beach Boys and Irving Almo. An inherent conflict of interest there.
At any rate, I didn't know to what degree I'd been taken advantage of until I got the deposition. I saw that and went, "Oh my goodness!" And I wasn't really even advised of my rights until recently. In the last few months I've consulted a good litigation attorney. He's done incredible research on the rights of a songwriter that I've never even heard of from anybody until he started advising me of these things. On the basis of these rights and the potential remedy that I have, I have a very, very good case against Brian Wilson. I hope we don't have to go to trial because it's going to destroy Brian. He's going to be destroyed in depositions, first of all, let alone getting him in court.
So what will you be doing with this?
Suing his ass to pieces because he's hiding behind his lawyers and all that kind of stuff.
Have you started the suit?
It's being prepared. It'll probably be pretty soon. You'll hear about it.
With the numerous Beach Boys books that have been published, have you thought about writing your own?
I don't think my ego is that strong in that kind of department. I mean, I have a strong ego in terms of competition and creativity and I'm proud of the contribution I made.
That brings up the song "Hang On To Your Ego," which was going to be on Pet Sounds.
That used to be "Hang On To Your Ego" and then it became "I Know There's An Answer." I changed the lyrics because I thought it was too acid for me. That was those guys doing acid, Van Dyke Parks, and Brian and Tony Asher.
So I guess there's no chance for a book?
Who would want to take the fucking time to go through garbage like that just to rectify garbage. What I want is Brian to admit and say that half that stuff he said in his book is outrageous bullshit. And it was because of his paranoid delusions that he came up with this stuff that's not factual, number one. Number two is, yes, Mike Love wrote this and this. And if he actually does not forget, I can have witnesses to say, or we can have a lie detector test brought to bear, then let's go.
I just want to have it be fair. That's the one thing that I'd like to have is a little bit of fairness because he's been very unfair to the rest of the group over the years. Now Brian is very ingenious. You want to like him, you want to feel sorry for him because he's destroyed his life. I mean, who wouldn't feels sorry for a guy who is very gifted and destroyed his life? But the untold story is that he's selfish, he's defrauded his cousin. He's cheated his group. He's been taking money and has not performed. The intent of his getting money to have therapy was not for him to do two solo albums and write a book defaming individuals and the group. The guy has mental problems. The thing is, he's crazy. He's a genius but he nuts so a lot of things he imagines like the two-by-four his father was supposed to be beating him with, that's delusions.
Is Brian's father Murry Wilson made out to be worse than he was?
Murry was a prick. He was awful. I'm so glad he wasn't my father. He definitely did some damage. Carl's gotten a grip on life but Dennis sure didn't. He kind of lost his grip.
So he was really kind of a tyrant?
Oh, definitely. Very abusive and gruff and terrifying and intimidating and negative. Stuff like, "You guys don't know what you're doing." Those kind of remarks. Very unsupportive. However, he was an aspiring songwriter and he knew that there was a value to songs. I didn't even know what publishing was when we started out. I wasn't from a show business background. My dad was a sheet metal worker and my mom was a housewife. All I knew was that I liked to sing and that I could make up words. I wrote my first song when I was maybe 10 years old.
Then Murry Wilson had some good qualities.
He was very good at promoting, getting radio stations to play our records. He was very smart and clever about it. He would have us go out and do hops and events where a DJ would make a couple hundred bucks and we would make a couple hundred bucks. And the DJ, since he made some money, he'd be playing our records for the next six months till we did it again. So we built a real good foundation doing that kind of thing not only in Southern California but all around the country until we got a momentum going.
Have you been in touch with Brian?
No. He's paranoid. We tried to have a board meeting and he was supposed to show up and he didn't come.
Were you disappointed when Brian would collaborate with other lyricists like Van Dyke Parks, Tony Asher and Roger Christian?
I was not happy about it but in the case of Roger Christian I wasn't as into the terminology of cars as he was. I wrote "I Get Around," which is, I guess, a cruising song, but it's more generic. It's not "competition clutch with four on the floor." I wasn't into hot rods to the extent that Roger Christian was so he provided some lyrical content to support Brian's musical abilities, so that was good. But when I did come up with a hook or some lyrics it's funny 'cause it was almost like it was not recognized. It was definitely not legally recognized.
How about the case of Tony Asher writing Pet Sounds?
Now, that was a different story. When it got to that period of Brian's life that's when he started doing a lot of drugs. We were touring a lot and we'd come back in and do an album like Pet Sounds, for instance, and some of the words were so totally offensive to me that I wouldn't even sing 'em because I though it was too nauseating.
Was that "Hang On To Your Ego"?
Yeah. That was too much of a doper song to me. I just didn't want to have anything to do with it, therefore I didn't go down that road of acid and the things that destroyed Brian's brain. I didn't want to go that route. I'd still come to the sessions and I still wrote the words for "Good Vibrations" but I didn't participate in a lot of the stuff that was going on there, because I just didn't think the psychedelic route was the way to go.
You could hear Brian's writing starting to progress with the Beach Boys Today record on such songs as "Please Let Me Wonder" and "She Knows Me Too Well." What was your initial reaction to the Pet Sounds material?
Well, Pet Sounds was fine because he was still intact, but from there... I mean "Good Vibrations" was great. That and "Heroes And Villains" was his high point and then from there into the toilet because mentally he was incapacitated and emotionally he was destroyed by the acid. That's my opinion.
There's quite a few versions of "Good Vibrations." Did you write a few sets of lyrics for the song?
No. I just wrote one set on the way to the session in Hollywood at Columbia studios. I dictated it to my then wife Suzanne on the Hollywood Freeway on the way from Burbank to the studio. It was like a 15-minute drive. Just dictated the words.
Did you have any input into the front cover of Pet Sounds, which was shot at the San Diego Zoo?
That was simply us going on location to shoot the cover. Pet Sounds, a petting zoo. I suggested the title Pet Sounds.
One of the best Wilson-Love songs is "The Warmth Of The Sun."
We wrote it at one or two in the morning before the JFK assassination. We were asleep and Brian had moved out of house, a parental home in Hawthorne, to a rented home, and I spent the night there. I wrote the words and he did the music.
What inspired your lyrics for "California Girls"?
By that time we'd traveled a bit. We'd had some hit records. We'd been to Hawaii, we'd been to Australia. We'd been all around the United States and I just thought the neat thing about the United States was that all these girls from all over the world were living here. And that was the premise of the song. Some people confuse it with thinking that we were extolling the virtues of simply California girls but if you listen to the lyrics it's about girls form all over the place. "I couldn't wait to get back to the States, back to the cutest girls in the world."
So I just wrote it from that standpoint of having traveled, seen a bit of the world but really digging the fact that they're all here in the United States and that we wished they could all be California girls.
From the Beach Boys Today album you co-wrote a beautiful song with Brian called "Please Let Me Wonder."
I remember wondering about the title. Not relating to the title so great but writing the verses.
Were you someone who could come up with a lyric quickly?
Yeah. Well, like "Wild Honey." Brian was doing this track with a theremin and we were doing the song. I went into the kitchen and we were in this health food thing and wild honey was all natural. So there's this can of wild honey and we're making some tea. So I said, I'll write the lyrics about this girl who was a little honey. And I wrote it from the perspective that that album was Brian's R&B-influenced album, in his mind. It may not sound like it to a Motown executive but that was where he was coming from on that record. In that particular instance I wrote it from the perspective of Stevie Wonder singing it.
One that same record you covered "I Was Made To Love Her" by Stevie Wonder.
Yeah, "I Was Made To Love Her" is great.
Carl Wilson once described the Smiley Smile album as being a bunt instead of a grand slam, meaning it was a cheap substitute for the Smile album. How do you look back on that record?
Too much acid. Brian got so wacked out by that time. He was so sensitive, so fragile from whatever he was doing and ingesting those non-prescribed medicinals. Anyway, he completely changed form being dynamic and competitive to being non-combative and non-dynamic, the opposite. And so Smile was in the same direction as "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes And Villains" and then all of the sudden a grinding screeching halt, a hundred and eighty degree turn, and it became Smiley Smile for whatever reason.
Now the million dollar question: Will Smile ever be released?
There was brilliant pieces of music but it's disjointed and fragmented and unfinished so I don't see any real venue for doing it. I don't see any real reason for it to come out other than certain collectors would like to hear some of those unfinished tapes. They probably have them anyway (uproarious laughter).
I'm not saying anything.
You lousy bastard, that'll be 20 dollars (laughs).
"Do It Again."
I went surfing with my old high school buddy Bill Jackson in a place called Tressles in Southern California. It was a beautiful day, the waves were perfect. I just wrote that as sort of a diary of the day's events. It took no more than ten minutes to write.
Can you tell when a song is going to be a winner right away?
I have an instict for what's commercial and when I don't listen to it or fight for it, it's often not successful.
What's the deal with the Charles Manson song you recorded for the 20/20 album ["Never Learn Not To Love"]?
I knew of Dennis' relationship with him but I didn't know the specifics of who wrote what on which songs.
Did you like the song?
Many people site Sunflower as the best collective Beach Boys album.
I liked it. Is that the one with "Add Some Music To Your Day"? I like that song a lot. And what else is on there?
"This Whole World."
Yeah, I thought that was a great song by Brian, mainly. It's a philosophical kind of thing. It's a very nice song. See, Brian at that point in time was capable of a song or two but he wasn't capable of coherent thought for 10 songs. Then it became more of Carl taking over the reins, Bruce took over the reins, an outside producer took over the reins (laughs), but I always took a laissez faire attitude toward it.
First of all, I do not like recording. It's boring. Tedious. I like writing a song and singing it. I don't like the tedious process of recording. I don't like it. I'd rather be outdoors, reading a good book, going to a movie. It's not my favorite thing to do, going into a room in Hollywood and living there for six months while you're making an album.
It's not my cup of tea, I'm not technically oriented. I don't care what kind of technology we're using to record. I care what it sounds like. I care what the lyrics say. I care that it's commercial and you're not wasting your time doing a subjective egotistical exercise. So I don't disdain it. I just don't like it as much as other aspects. Therefore, I was never raring to get in there and be the producer on an album. Forget it. I'd rather write and let somebody else produce it and be done with it.
Surf's Up exemplifies what you were talking about with Brian not having the ability to carry an album completely. He did write a few songs for the album, including "Till I Die" and "Surf's Up." "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" had Jack Rieley on vocals.
Jack Rieley, his voice on there is kind of like Landy's writing, you know? "Don't Go Near The Water" from that record is a good song. Al and I were mostly into doing that song.
In an Al Jardine interview he mentioned the group's 1971 appearance at Carnegie Hall as the live performance of your career. What are your memories or that pivotal show?
I think that was a really neat thing to do. I remember the feeling of that performance. I remember meditating before we went on and feeling the consciousness of the people in that auditorium buoying us. It was tangible.
There's been talk of the Beach Boys doing the entire Pet Sounds LP with an orchestra.
That's been one of Bruce's biggest desires, I would say. It would be good.
Is it possible?
That and a symphonic album by the Beach Boys would really be a good thing to do. Several of the songs would lend themselves to it. The opening of "California Girls" is an overture kind of thing (imitates the opening). "Sloop John B." "Wouldn't It Be Nice," a lot of things.
What's your selection for a lesser known Beach Boys gem that a lot of people may not be aware of?
Some songs are great songs that you like a lot and we as musicians like a lot but are a bit esoteric for the public. "I Can Hear Music" is good. That's actually fairly popular. "Sail On Sailor."
I like "It's About Time."
Yeah, but for me that's a little bit too guitary and rowdy. It's almost like us trying to be something we aren't. That ranks with "Student Demonstration Time" in that department. It's almost like us trying to be an AOR band when we're an AC band.
That probably had the toughest-sounding guitar of any Beach Boys recording. That and "Bluebirds Over The Mountain."
Yeah, exactly. "Bluebirds Over The Mountain" too.
How did you come to select that song to cover?
I just liked the melody. I thought the guitar stuff was pretty neat too.
Do you look back fondly on the Holland record?
The experience of being in Holland was really neat. I thought it was cool to go outside the country and do something unusual.
You shipped all your recording equipment over.
Yeah, unfortunately we did. It cost us an arm and a leg. The "California Saga" I thought was kind of neat. That was pretty cool.
How about your assessment of the MIU record?
Well, a lot of those albums that we did there's some neat gems there but there wasn't a coherence to some of those. It was too democratic, which is what I'm getting at. Everybody almost coming into it with their song, which is okay. It's like if you have an album and have a hit song on it and it's very commercially viable doesn't it make sense to have another song that would also be commercially viable? And a third and a fourth.
Now, I'm talking about not from a person who just likes the esoteric and the art of it all, I'm talking about trying to gain some sort of commercial recognition which gives you more power over your lives, to do things that you would want to be able to say and do. In other words, if you're not a success commercially then all you are in the Beach Boys' case is a lovable anachronism. But if you can be commercially viable you can have the money and the listenership and the attention of the industry to where people will take you seriously.
When you do an album that is fragmented, meaning you have a great idea, Al, or a great idea, Carl, or a great idea. Bruce, or a great idea Brian, and Mike, but they may not be compatible in a marketing sense. They may not even be commercial. There's a difference between doing an album that is not merely a democratic accommodation of egos but is using the collective best strengths from the standpoint of what are they capable of performing. Who is the strongest writer? Who are their strongest vocalists and which ranges and what kind of tempos?
So there's a whole lot of input that goes into something that has the potential of being a lasting hit product. I know Carl Wilson's strengths and I know Al Jardine's strengths. And I know there weaknesses too. I know if I left them to their own pursuits what they would do on their own and where the weaknesses would be lyrically or singing-wise. I know that Al has a voice that he hasn't used yet on record.
What a great voice.
He does have a good voice for what he's known for. He has an even better voice commercially. See, I have different voices, as you know. I have the "Surfin' Safari" voice and I also have the "Kokomo" voice. And I have my bass singing voice live, which is the bass in "Surfer Girl" and "In My Room," "Don't Worry Baby" and that kind of stuff, which I love doing. That's one of the things that I enjoy the most. My "Kokomo" voice happens to be with Carl's voice, which is pitched in the range of "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations"; Carl singing in that range and me singing in my range is very commercial. It's a good counterpoint.
There's a line in "Kokomo": "We'll put out to see and we'll perfect our chemistry. By and by we'll defy a little bit of gravity." What nobody knows is that when I was writing that there's endorphins that flow in the body when you're in love, chemistry. There's a thing that happens to your heart. There's actually a thrill of emotions that goes through. There's actually, physically, chemistry, that's why there's the line, "We'll perfect our chemistry."
Why did I say defy gravity? Because in the practice of the TM city programs there's sutras, where you develop the ability to levitate.
Have you ever levitated?
Yeah, I practiced doing this as part of my TM city programs.
And it's worked?
Yeah, well, I mean we're fledging hoppers. But the idea is with perfection of the mind and the body you can actually defy gravity. So it actually showed up in the song "Kokomo." A hundred years from now people will be defying gravity as a normal course.
See, there's a thing called survival of the fittest where evolution marches forward and people who are ignorant and violate the laws of nature, then their societies pass out of existence. People who are more in tune and in harmony with nature are gonna be those who survive. I want people who survive one hundred years from now to realize we were relevant now. It's just like we did in '72, "Don't Go Near The Water," in '92 you have the earth's summit so there's a relevance to our music form 1972 and 1992 and there's Donna be relevance beyond that. So that's my mental process, to go to work on doing a song. I don't always calculate like that. Sometimes it'll be moon and June, boy and girl and be done with it.
Do you believe that you were destined to be doing what you're doing with music?
I believe that the Beach Boys create what they call in Sanskrit "sattwa," which is positivity. It's tangible. When you walk out on stage on July 4th in Washington, D.C., in front of the monument and you get a standing ovation before you do anything, that's pretty good. Not many people even at the end of the concert get the kind of ovation we get at the beginning without even doing anything. People anticipate that they're gonna have a good time. We hit some chords, we make some sounds, we do some music and it creates euphoria and positively with most people unless they're on a total bummer.
For the uninitiated what are the benefits of Transcendental Meditation?
If you learn TM and you're over 40 and you practice TM regularly, you have 90 percent less health care utilization when it comes to heart disease. The quality of thoughts and the quality of our mind influences our physical well-being so dramatically that the little bit of investment of a few minutes in the morning and the evening to meditate can clear the stress out. Stress weakens the organism which leads to disease, deterioration and ultimately death. You can reverse the aging process and all kind of negative things by regular practice of TM...
What is your impression of the album The Beach Boys Love You?
"Airplane" is pretty. I like that song. I think there's cute things on it but that was one of the last albums on Warners and they were in no mood to promote it. We were at the end of our contract. We had already signed with CBS and they were just like forget it. They pressed up maybe 50,000 copies.
So that's why the record never took off?
How about your view of 1980's Keepin' The Summer Alive album?
I like the artwork. I thought that was a pretty cool album cover. But the title song could have been more commercial. "Goin' On" is great. That's Brian Wilson. See, Brian, I've said a lot of bad things about him because he stole from me. And that's history and it's a fact and it will remain to be seen how it will be resolved and even Brian in his worst moments is still Brian. He has a certain inherent nature. He was a brilliant ability with music. I wouldn't say he's brilliant with words and that's why he's always had co-writers with respect to lyrics, unfortunately, in some cases. Not the best circumstances or people. Maybe they were kind of taking advantage of him. Maybe they were drug buddies.
Did you like Van Dyke Parks' lyrics on "Heroes And Villains"?
I like Van Dyke Parks as a person. At the time I though his lyrics were alliterate prose, which is great if you appreciated his prose and his alliteration. He's brilliant. But as far as translating to mid-American commercial appeal, I don't think so.
"Columnated ruins domino."
"Columnated ruins domino," yeah. Or, "Over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield."
What's that mean?
Exactly. It's a self-indulgent sort of drug-induced... I guess that's how Van Dyke's brain functioned with those things in his system. Van Dyke Parks is on the new record. He's playing accordion and all that kind of stuff. He's great. He's one of the nicest persons in the world. And I tell him, "Hey, I though your lyrics, Van Dyke, were brilliant, except who the fuck knows what you're talking about!" That's exactly how I talk to him (laughs). And he and I joke about it 'cause he has the greatest sense of humor and he can laugh at himself. He's a very gifted musician...
Mike talks about Al Jardine:
... And I told Al... we had a rough time the last couple of years communicating. He's definitely been on a bummer for many years based on some things that have happened to him historically. Different than what happened to me with Brian with respect to the writing but a similar effect on him emotionally. And me, I ignore it and go straight ahead and I think more of the future. Al has this thing where he'll obsess on something that happened 20 years ago. It's hard for him to let go.
So we've actually been having group meetings between Carl, myself and Al with the psychiatrist Howard Bloomfield, who's a good friend of mine and a board member of the Love Foundation, and we've done a lot of healing kind of things, airing grievances and working things out. It's been very therapeutic for all of us individually and collectively. I think we've gotten to understand each other and see the other's point of view and experience and it's made the group better and stronger.
That confirms a report i heard a little while back that Al Jardine had left the Beach Boys.
We got to the point where we didn't want to be in the same room or on stage with him because he was so negative about things. He was negative about certain things and once we were able to get into a forum, an area where he was able to unload some of that, we could empathize with some of it, not all of it, and air our points of view and it resolved all that stuff.
Are you getting along better now?
A lot better. But the point is he wasn't even on the album until a couple of months ago when we finally resolved all the stuff. Then he came in and I told Al he made a good song great. It's not that we couldn't do an album and do it well without Al Jardine around. Or the same goes for anybody. You're talking the Beach Boys, you're going to get someone to listen anyway. But on several songs it went from good to great. And Carl, God, he's a monster on the album. I think he sounds phenomenal, the most commercial he's ever sounded.
Mike talks about the Beach Boys' influence on the world:
... The only constraints I felt as an individual is that I don't think the Beach Boys' celebrity and influence is felt profoundly enough in the area of socially uplifting efforts. Our basic premise is that if there's so much intelligence and creativity in the world then why is there ignorance and starvation and violations of the natural law? So it doesn't matter how many colleges you have or how many Ph.Ds you have if you're gonna allow such terrible problems to exist on the planet.
Same thing I have to say about rich people having wealth. There's nobody truly wealthy in the world because if there were there wouldn't be any poverty. They'd pay for it out of petty cash. They'd clear it up because they wouldn't like the site of it. There's certainly not enough caring and compassionate people so I include myself in that and all the Beach Boys and everybody within listening distance. Your life should not just be self-satisfaction, you've got enough money and that's it. We're all interdependent and connected whether you like it or not and the environment has proven that to us...
It's been almost 10 years since your cousin and fellow bandmate Dennis Wilson passed away. What is your fondest recollection of Dennis?
My fondest recollection of Dennis would be at the Sacramento Civic Auditorium playing the drums and beating the hell out of them (laughs), and having screams that were at least as loud if not louder than the Beatles ever got, because he was so charismatic and so appealing to those young girls. He was like the sex symbol of the Beach Boys, very dynamic, very healthy, very powerful drummer, not finesse but raw power. And as far as a person he was very generous to everybody and had a lot of spirit and energy.
Unfortunately, he got into drugs and alcohol and became addicted and it ruined his life. Took his life ultimately and in the process he was not enjoyable to be with in his last few years because of that. And we had problems that arose from the alcoholism and the influence that it had on his drumming which had an obvious impact on the group in terms of performance.
So we were forced to do things with him because he was committed to his addictions and would not get up off them enough, though we tried to force him to. But as far as his essential nature it was just a lot of raw power and energy and charisma and he had a big heart.
Way back in the early days we used to go fishing together and that's when we first talked about doing a surfing song. We were on Redondo Beach breakwater fishing. We'd go out like five, six in the morning and go fishing and we'd talk about girls and we ought to do a surfing record and then we went back to Brian and went, "Hey!" Then I wrote 90 percent of "Surfin'" and "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfin' USA," which I wasn't credited on either.
Next to Brian, many felt Dennis was the best songwriter in the band.
Dennis' style of writing was kind of subjective. I am more objective in the direction of how do we relate to the masses? How do we take a concept such as "Good Vibrations," which was ethereal and avant in 1966, and make it so that it's not like it's just gonna sell 10,000 singles and 50,000 albums. How can we get the concept across but in terminology where it relates to enough people where it will be commercially viable and acceptable and performed on the radio. That's where I came up with "I'm picking up good vibrations. She's giving me excitations." A boy-girl connection, yes, vibrations, but it wasn't just scary and weird stuff, it was yeah, okay, boy-girl.
Most people can relate to that and what happened was it was a big huge multi-million seller. Dennis doesn't think like that and he also would go along a certain track and then change it up. I think he heard Brian change up things and then he tried to emulate Brian's style. Brian did some changes that were very interesting and creative changes. I thought Dennis' changes were more self-indulgent or subjective rather than purely creative like Brian's. I think he was trying to emulate his brother's style.
And then that's everybody' value judgment on whether a song is good or whatever, but he definitely did come up with some good melodies and great moments. He had stuff in him. But he was not verbally facile. He was kind of in between Brian and myself. He wasn't quite comfortable with words, he's more into feelings. The feelings was his strong suite, I think.
Isn't Carl Wilson involved in a new project?
He's been writing with Gerry Beckley [of America] and Bobby Lamm [of Chicago] and they're doing a project together. I think they're gonna start recording this fall or winter.
Lastly, what's your favorite Brian Wilson song you didn't have a hand in co-writing?
"Surfer Girl," probably.