“For those who believe Brian walks on water, I will always be the antichrist.”
Those words by Mike Love of the Beach Boys have not rung more true to many fans of the band. In his book “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy,” Love, along with James S. Hirsch, tells his side of the turbulent history of one of America’s greatest Rock and Roll Bands. Lawsuits, fighting, and tragedies have been the backbone of the band, and this 422 page book covers it all through the lead singer’s perspective.
Love starts the book with his early years of growing up, and the closeness of him and Brian Wilson, although their fathers were at odds. Love claims that Murry Wilson was always jealous over the fact that the Loves had more money than the Wilsons, which caused conflicts throughout the families (Mike and Brian are cousins). The book walks through the start of the Beach Boys and how Murry became the manager of the band that started a dictatorship running the band, even charging the members a fine for cussing, showing late, or drinking. Love also discusses their early bad record deal with Capitol Records, where an album cost $3 at the time, and the artists received $.3 for each sale. Capitol got $1.80 for each album sold, plus deducted session time until it was paid off.
Even during the early years, the band had rotating members, although most people know the band as Love, Al Jardine, and the Wilson brothers (Carl, Brian, and Dennis). Al Jardine was never liked by Murry, according to Love (along with David Marks) because they were not family.
Love tells a story that when Brian played “Surfin U.S.A” to fellow artists Jan and Dean, Jan recognized the melody as Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and wanted the song to record, saying that they were friends with Berry and could get permission to use the song. Wilson refused and gave Jan and Dean “Surf City,” which went to #1. Years later, Berry sued and won a lawsuit and got songwriting credits against Wilson.
Love states that he helped co-write several of the bands big hits and was never credited for the songs. Every time he asked Brian why he wasn’t credited, Brian claims that Murry “messed up” and would get it changed. Years went by, and it was never changed until Love sued (and won) Brian in court.
The book details the recording of the Beach Boys albums, including Brian’s strange methods, especially when he started doing drugs, along with some of the traveling stories throughout the years. Love talks about the rivalry with The Beatles, saying “The Beatles knew how to merchandise, not just with T-Shirts, stickers, and posters but with lampshades and lunch boxes and pinball machines. The Beach Boys? Uncle Murry made buttons that read ‘I know Brian’s Dad’” and “we lacked management.”
Love takes the reader through his various marriages, along with those from other band members, the media starting lies about his relationship with Brian, making him out to be the villain of the band. Love walks through the suing of Brian with the copyright issues, along with the slander lawsuit in Wilson’s autobiography, and the relationship of the band with Eugene Landy, who was brought in two times to help Brian Wilson’s health. He also talks about how his discovery of Transcendental Meditation influenced his life. He also walks the reader through the deaths of Dennis and Carl, and the relationship of the band and John Stamos.
Love details how the contracts worked in the record company and how he ended up being able to own the name The Beach Boys, while there are different members in two different touring bands.
The book is an interesting read, especially for a fan of the band for years. Regardless of what personally people think of Mike Love (and whose side people are on between him and Brian Wilson), the reader has to give the author the benefit of the doubt, and Love’s book is honest. He states his opinions of what occurred through his eyes.
The topics dealing with the record companies and the contracts is a great section of the book, which any musician should read about how the business works. The parts about the most recent Beach Boys reunion tour for the 50th anniversary is also a great read, talking about how the tour ended up being a loss in the U.S. overall. He also talks about how getting together for the last Beach Boys album “That’s Why God Made The Radio” was not what Love thought he was getting into. I would’ve have like a little more insight on one of my favorite Beach Boys Albums , the 1985 “The Beach Boys,” but maybe there is not much to tell. It seemed to be just passed over, especially since it was the first album since the death of Dennis.
The book overall is worth the read, especially since it is 400 pages long, which is rare for most books. Love has had a long career, which is why the book is so long. The book is not an “I wrote all these songs, and here’s why I hate Brian Wilson,” but talks about the one time closeness of Love and Brian, even during the lawsuits (At one point in the book he says, next to Brian, Carl Wilson was the most musical of the band). Do not let whatever personal views of Love distract getting a chance to read the book. This book has quite a bit of business errors and cautions that artists may need to read.
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Love Mike and James S. Hirsch. “Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy.”
Blue Rider Press. 2016