Mike Love, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, lead singer and founding member of the group The Beach Boys, talked to us from the airport while he was en-route to Austin to play the 55th Annual Firefest to benefit Austin Firefighters. The event is this Saturday, October 6th at The Backyard in Bee Caves and will include a 5K run, a BBQ cook-off, and culminates with The Beach Boys performance at 9 p.m.
A hard-working man, Mike has not had a summer off in 50 years in his role as the lead singer, as The Beach Boys have toured every year in that five-decade span of their successful career. Mike credits Transcendental Meditation for giving him the stamina to be able to keep up the pace. Jump to the end of this interview for some fascinating factoids about Mike Love and The Beach Boys.
Our conversation came on the heels of the Beach Boys Reunion tour held September 28th at Wembley Stadium, where all the original members of the Beach Boys performed.
AMFM: I understand you’re a prolific philanthropist.
Yes, we finished up Friday night with the reunion tour at Wembley Stadium in London, and Royal Albert hall the night before that. On Sunday, Bruce and I flew back and we played a charity called Children’s Hospital California, at a local Southern California neighborhood, and they made it into a fundraiser. They raised over a million dollars for a surgical center for kids. We had all kinds of woodies there, it was a real southern California event. That’s something that we truly enjoy doing, when we can use our celebrity to raise money for worthwhile causes, because it gives our performances another dimension. Some very generous people showed up, the tickets sales all went to the event.
John Stamos showed up too, and he’s going to be with us in Texas. We’re going to have dinner tonight in Austin together.
AMFM: You’ve been to Austin before.
Yes, it’s been a while. We’ve never played at the Backyard though. We played near a lake.
AMFM: The Backyard is beautiful, set out in nature. What projects are you working on?
We are going from Texas to Mississippi, to Beau Rivage Hotel and Resort, doing what they call “Cruisin’ the Coast” when all the classic cars get togethere and parade up and down the street.
That’s always fun for us, as you probably know we’ve done our fair share of songs we sang about great cars in our earlier years, songs like “409,” “shut Down,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “I Get Around,” even “Fun Fun Fun.”
Here’s a fun video from the television show American Bandstand in the 60′s:
AMFM: Are you a car collector yourself?
Not so much, but I do have a 1948 MG from England, I’ve had that since 1965. I really appreciate classic cars. I have had my share of Corvettes, Thunderbirds (laughs) and a Jaguar XKE, which was a beautiful car back in the 60s. The Beach boys have enjoyed a wonderful level of success for five decades now and we’ve been able to enjoy the things we sang about and desired as young guys, everybody wants those great cars. Basically we’ve lived a version of the life we sang about.
AMFM: How does that feel – To have a 50-year span of success? Is it a strange feeling?
Well, we had an event at the Grammy Museum a few weeks back, and Capitol records presented us with a triple platinum compilation collection called “The Sounds of Summer.” There are 30 songs on the one CD and virtually all hit records, it’s a fantastic feeling to know what my bandmates, really my family, and I have done. Brian Carl and Dennis Wilson are my first cousins, along with Al Jardine, and David Marks. We’re all family.
Bruce Johnston joined us in 1965, because in 1964 Brian left the band and Glen Campbell filled in for six months or so. He went on to become the famous Glen Campbell that he is.
AMFM: I was wondering about that when I read that in the press notes. This is the same Glen Campbell of note?
It certainly is. As a matter of fact, back in the early to mid-60s Glen was a session guitar player, he played on many of the hits that were coming out of Southern California for a variety of artists, not just the Beach Boys. Bands like The Mommas and the Poppas, and Sonny and Cher. He played on a lot of hit records. He’s an incredibly great guitar player and a really fun guy too. We had so much fun with him on tour. It was really sad to see Brian leave the touring group, but he had to go on to produce, write, and arrange records.
So the bad news is he left the touring group, the good news is a year later we were doing “The California Girls,” the “Pet Sounds” album, and we were doing some really amazing recordings because Brian had the time to devote to the studio, to the writing, recording and producing. So it was not pleasant to have him leave, but I think history will show some really great things came out of it.
Brian’s back has been bothering him. He’s been in pain. He has had two operations, and in spite of that still came out on tour and and we did over 70 shows. Now everybody is getting back to what they did before that. But it was thrill to play together for our fans, for so many generations.
AMFM: Do you have a funny road story? Something that happened on the road that when you are older and reminiscing, you will always go back to and laugh?
When we very first started out, we had a local hit called “Surfin,” it was a hit in a few towns. It was on an independent label who went into bankruptcy so they didn’t have to pay us. It freed us to go with Capitol records in 1962. In early ‘62, we were at a Fraternity Party at the University of Arizona in Tucson, at the EBT house. We went for one night, but ended up staying for three days. I remember David Marks, he must have been 14 years old at the time, got into my saxophone case, where I had stashed a bottle of vodka. He helped himself, and was pretty well smashed after four hours of music. His father was our road manager, and he was keeping an eye on us – he was not too happy.
AMFM: A fourteen-year old smashed on vodka? That’s a sight to see.
David was really funny when his Dad asked him if he’d been drinking. David responded with a Bronx Cheer. That was a fun time for us all. Driving all the way to Tucson with a station wagon and U-haul and ending up staying because we had such a great time.
We’ve had a lot of good times, we were young guys touring throughout the mid-west, idolized by young people, meeting girls. We talked about cars, girls and school in our songs, songs like “Help Me Rhonda,” and “I Get Around.” So many great memories associated with that.
AMFM: Well sure, you’re the guys who brought the party, everyone was happy to see you. On that note, do you have any advice for young musicians just starting out today?
I would advise them seriously to be very careful and not to get involved in alcohol and drugs. I personally practice meditation, I learned transcendental meditation in 1967 from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I went to India and that was a fascinating time. It was a pretty amazing experience. it allowed me to learn to relax with clarity and energy, without submitting to the perils of alcohol and drug abuse. Many many artists are looking for pleasure and escape, but there are much healthier ways to find them. I would recommend transcendental meditation, because I know it very well, and I’ve been practicing since 67.
Drugs might relax you temporarily, I’d caution them to be very very very careful about getting involved in anything hallucinogenic. It might relax you temporarily, but it can be life-destructive rather than life-supporting.
Some people look at artists who have gone off the deep end and think, “maybe I’d be more creative if I got into drugs and alcohol too,” but I think human beings are creative in spite of rather than because of those excesses
AMFM: I agree. So can you tell me if Transcendental Meditation helped you with your creative process in writing?
Yes. It leaves you more rested, and clearer-minded. They’ve done research that says that if you practice regularly, your IQ will grow. Even if you’re an older person. When you learn the practice, you’re able to develop more use of your conscious mind. More mental and physical energy has a positive effect on your creative energy.
AMFM: But not everybody can go to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I know they have teachers in Austin. Rather than resorting to pills and tranquilizers, everyone can reap the benefits TM provides.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Mike wrote the lyrics to The Beach Boys’ first song, “Surfin’,” released in 1961. He then co-authored eleven Top 10 singles in five years with cousin Brian Wilson, a string of hits including “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “California Girls” and “Good Vibrations.” (Rolling Stone voted “Good Vibrations” the “Number One Song of the Century).
The Beach Boys annual tours have reached all of the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia and popular demand has not allowed Mike a summer off in fifty years in his role as lead singer. Mike credits his stamina to the practice of Transcendental Meditation, which he learned from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. The Beatles, and Mia Farrow were all part of that piece of history, as they followed Mike Love to India in 1967 when he traveled to further pursue his love of transcendental meditation.
In June 2012, The Beach Boys’ That’s Why God Made the Radio made its debut at number 3 on the U.S. charts giving the group highest charting album in 37 years—since 1974′s compilation Endless Summer and highest charting studio album since 1965′s Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). The album also made U.S. chart history by breaking a record by expanding the group’s span of Billboard 200 top 10s to 49 years and one week passing The Beatles with 47 years of top 10 albums.
Mike Love has been a longtime supporter of environmental causes and was among speakers at the Earth Summit in Rio De Janiero in 1992 and Earth Day 2000 on the Mall in Washington, D.C.. He created the Love Foundation, which supports national environmental and educational initiatives. He personally donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village, Nevada, and has been responsible for raising over $1 million to benefit the school as well as numerous other schools. In 2007, Mike Love spoke on environmental concerns at The National Press Club Luncheon in Washington, DC and was named as a member of Wolf Trap’s National Advisory council on the Arts and Environment. Love proudly carried the Olympic torch for the 2002 Salt Lake City, UT Olympic games, just as he has proudly carried the torch for The Beach Boys for over 50 years.
The Sunday after the Wembley Stadium performance, he traveled to California to perform for the California Children’s Hospital, and succeeded in raising $1 Million for a new children’s surgical center.