The Beach Boys’ Mike Love: From ‘Good Vibrations’ to transcendental meditation

To navigate the emotional maelstrom that has been the Beach Boys’ 45 year career – musical milestones, personal tragedy, legal warfare – the band’s lead vocalist, Mike Love, relies on the good vibrations generated through transcendental meditation.

“Like any relationship, there’s going to be issues and problems,” said Love in a recent interview with Preview, “Meditating every day has helped me to be more adaptable. It’s helped me to recover from stress, and to not respond in kind, even if somebody did something negative towards me.”

Ever the affable frontman, Love continues to tour with the Beach Boys despite continued legal wrangling and despite the absence of the group’s other founding members: Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983, Carl Wilson died of lung cancer in 1998, Brian Wilson recently began touring as a solo performer after years of seclusion and Al Jardine tours with his own group, Endless Summer Band.

The Beach Boys, featuring Love (vocals), longtime member Bruce Johnston (vocals/keyboards), Mike Kowalski (drums), Randell Kirsch (guitar/vocals), Chris Farmer (bass/vocals), Tim Bonhomme (keyboards/vocals), John Cowsill (keyboards/vocals) and Scott Totten (guitar/vocals), will perform Monday at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island.

During the band’s heyday, Love sang lead on the group’s most popular songs, including, “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around” and “California Girls.” Despite his immeasurable contribution to the group’s sound, Love often is portrayed negatively as the “square” Beach Boy, particularly villainized for his conflicts with Brian Wilson, the eccentric genius behind “Pet Sounds” and other quirky masterpieces.

In conversation, however, Love seems anything but the villain, speaking fondly of his former bandmates, recalling the group’s triumphs and pitfalls and promoting his newest compositions with fervor. Here are a few highlights from Preview’s conversation with Love:

Preview: First off, Mike Love, I wanted to commend you on your name. I think you’re really on to something.

Love: Thanks. I say the same to you.

Preview: Well thanks. … I see the latest Beach Boys greatest hits album is selling pretty well. Have you been working on any new material?

Love: Actually, there’s an album we just released this month. It’s called, “Songs From Here and Back.” It has seven live tracks and three new studio tracks from Al (Jardine), Brian (Wilson) and me. It’s only available at Hallmark stores. If you buy three cards, you get the CD for like $7.95. There’s a song on there I wrote called “Cool Head, Warm Heart” that I’m really proud of.

Also, I’ve been working on an album of my own for the last few years in between tours. I’m really excited about that, too.

Preview: What’s the feel of these new songs?

Love: There’s a lot of different styles. Some romance – a song called “All the Love in Paris.” A lot of philosophical content – a song called “Daybreak Over the Ocean.” It’s sort of reminiscent of some of those Beach Boys harmonies – it has that languid feel, sort of like “Kokomo.”

Preview: Has transcendental meditation found its way into any of your recent songs?

Love: There’s a song I wrote called “Pisces Brothers.” In March of 1968, I went to India to study with the Maharishi along with George Harrison, the rest of The Beatles, Donovan and some others. Both George and I are Pisces, so it was both our birthdays when we were there. They threw us a big party with fireworks and birthday cakes and all that. “Pisces Brothers” is a song sort of reminiscing about our time there, reminiscing about that magical time before things began to get a little weird. It was a very special time for me, being there with The Beatles, just fascinating, very emotional. Hare Krishna, gonna miss ya, you know?

Preview: I know there’s been a lot of turmoil over the years, but there must have also been some great times. What is your fondest Beach Boys memory?

Love: Well, you know, having “Good Vibrations” be No. 1 in England in ’66, with The Beatles coming in second and the Rolling Stones coming in third – I’m proud of my involvement in that.

“Good Vibrations” is a song that’s really completely unique in pop music. In some poll, it was voted the greatest pop single ever. I’d be willing to say that’s not far off the mark. And I helped write it. I wasn’t the mastermind behind it – that was my cousin, Brian – but I wrote the lyrics and the chorus. That was a true collaboration, and I feel fortunate to have taken part in writing some truly great songs.

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