Written by Liz Buckley

Arts

7 Wonders: Mike Love/Hate

The least appropriately named Beach Boy has an autobiography out, and being a Trump fan turns out to be one of his more appealing traits. Still, we’ve always got the music, says Liz Buckley.

The Beach Boys on The Ed Sullivan Show performing I Get Around

The Beach Boys on The Ed Sullivan Show performing I Get Around.

A lot of modern bands can boast having a member in their lineup you’d think of as the ‘bad one’: the rebel, the black sheep, the outsider, the drunk, the one with multiple column inches in the sidebar of shame and post-watershed anecdotes for the Jonathan Ross Show.

What most bands don’t have is an actual villain, a fucker, a bloody nasty bastard.

Despite their sunshine-y lyrics, matching beachwear and upbeat melodies, the Beach Boys also sadly lay claim to the inappropriately named Mike Love, Emperor of The Death Star.

OK, not the Emperor of the Death Star, but raging egomaniac, full-time fantasist, outright bully and a real-life, non-fictional Donald Trump supporter.

To put into context the way in which Mike Love is regarded, Mojo recently ran an article entitled “Is Mike Love Evil?” I laughed to Andrew Male, their Senior Associate Editor about this headline and he explained they’d actually downgraded that from the less uncertain “Mike Love Is Evil”.

This is the Mike Love – an original, surviving member of The bloody Beach Boys for godssakes – who has a verified Twitter account with fewer followers than your Dad’s car haul company. When Mike Love autographs Beach Boys merchandise, it actually goes down in value (my thanks to Matty Power for our fun times on eBay, there).

It’s therefore with abject trepidation, a heap of preconceptions and a pair of sterilised tongs that I approached Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy, Mike Love’s recently published autobiography. Mike Love, the man who threw fragile songwriting genius Brian Wilson out of the Beach Boys touring band. The man who has repeatedly slagged off Pet Sounds, the best record of their and indeed, your career. Love (I can’t call him that actually, I call the cat “Love”)… Mike Love says with this new book, he wants to set the record straight. He wants you to know he’s been much maligned. He wants you to know he respects Brian Wilson and the legacy of their childhood band.

beach_boys_reunion_2012

The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2012.

Sadly, in the same breath, Mike Love’s ego forgets to include seminal songs he wasn’t involved in, or his two now-dead cousins Dennis and Carl who were essential to the group but mere ghosts in the book.

Instead he wants you to know how many presidents, rock stars and comedians have collapsed at his devastating wit, how many women he has bedded during his various marriages and their impressively wide-ranging nationalities, a seemingly never-ending list of all the compliments he’s ever received (or imagined), and in all earnestness, that he firmly believes the entirely overrated Brian Wilson to be a calculated royalty thief whose mental state is somehow also so entirely frazzled and useless that it’s beyond bothering to help.

As the book review on music website Pitchfork concisely concludes, “Mike Love is still a dick.”

“The biggest revelation in Mike Love’s memoirs for me was that he does, it turns out, bloody love butterflies. Which is the nicest thing I can say about him.”

Of course the absolute truth of their lives will be somewhat less black and white. Mike Love did indeed contribute to an amazing band and it must be difficult to see yourself dismissed and vilified. Moreover, Brian Wilson must have been difficult to work with and almost certainly not on top of his ongoing business affairs. They truly were real friends, as well as cousins, in their formative years and both suffered at the hands of Murray, the Wilson brothers’ abusive father and then manager.

But this makes the betrayal all the harder to take. The complete lack of understanding or self-awareness in Mike Love means it’s impossible to sympathise with his latter-day bullishness and aggressive talk of “revenge”. The biggest revelation in his memoirs for me was that he does, it turns out, bloody love butterflies. Which is the nicest thing I can say about him.

Mike Love photo by Takahiro Kyono from Tokyo, Japan, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Mike Love photo by Takahiro Kyono from Tokyo, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Next month sees the publication of Brian Wilson’s sequel autobiography I Am Brian Wilson, which we can probably expect to feature only muted references to Mike Love given the latter’s fondness for a lawsuit. But also because Brian is infinitely a softer, kinder, more reasoned (and forgivably, less certain) storyteller, while Mike is so boastful, you rarely want to help him more than he already does himself.

Mike’s gloating is also frequently uncomfortable, proudly letting us know that he gave Dennis Wilson “pointers” about sex and was “the first to pique his interest in cunnilingus”. Dennis Wilson being the man who married Mike Love’s daughter. No wonder Mike gets on with Trump.

For those who cannot wait for Brian’s new book, I fully recommend the Brian Wilson-approved biopic Love & Mercy.

Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy by Mike Love is available on Faber & Faber. I Am Brian Wilson is published next month.
The Songs Of Brian Wilson is available on Ace Records.

@liz_buckley

Here are seven Beach Boys tracks to which Mike Love undoubtedly contributed. Let’s focus on the positive:

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Written by Liz Buckley

Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.