Mike Love wants to bring back “fun fun fun”

“Beach Boys” doc shows sunny side of surf story

Beach Boy legend Mike Love has a giant smile and wears a trademark ball cap as he appears on our Zoom call, and after I “time stamp” the interview, stating my name and magazine, he giggles and declares pointedly, “Hello. I’m Michael Love from the Beach Boys.”

Love is like that older uncle that won’t say fucked up things at the Thanksgiving dinner and who you’re eager to see at family gatherings, always good for making people smile.

Love has been painted by some as the “bad guy” in Beach Boy lore, having sued Brian Wilson to get songwriting credit and back pay, but a new doc and, speaking with the singer, suggest he had a legitimate beef, a grievance carried out by his uncle, Brian’s dad Murry — and the courts agreed.

But speaking with Love and watching the largely upbeat film, it seems the singer and the band would like people to remember that they made upbeat music and enjoyed making it with each other.

Asked if the filmmakers and Love himself are trying to remind us all of the positivity of the band, he screws up a mischievous smile and says, “If you don’t mind, I would say there was some Fun Fun Fun involved.”

Good Vibrations and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, these were all songs of joy and happiness. And the surfing songs and the car songs, they’re all fun. And that’s true,” he says noting that “in today’s world,” there’s room for more fun.

Love and almost-original member Bruce Johnston tour with a group of musicians as the Beach Boys, with Wilson’s blessing, and says, “Thousands of people sing along and a lot of them are very young people, the teenage years, and having a great time to all of this fun music.

“The music has a life of its own; it’s perhaps immortal in a way.”

The film ends with a “fun” shot of surviving Beach Boys Love, Jardine and Wilson revisiting a beachside site of an iconic, early Beach Boys image. The visual explicitly connects them with their “lighthearted” past, an event Love is clearly delighted by in the film.

Despite all the upbeat efforts, Love does acknowledge that the film helps correct the idea that he somehow wasn’t a key creative contributor.

“There were 75 songs that I co-wrote with Brian or contributed to, some more, some less. There were 35 songs that were part of the negotiation.”

Murry Wilson sold off all songwriting rights to the Beach Boys’ early work for US$700,000 in 1969, a catalogue that has generated hundreds of millions since. And it was all done without consulting his son or the band.

“See, when Brian and Dr. Landy [Eugene Landy, Wilson’s discredited caregiver] filed a suit [in 1989] to get the publishing back from the people who bought it from my uncle Murry, they were supposed to compensate me because it was very clear that I had been disenfranchised. I hadn’t been given the credit for writing what I did. But they reneged. When they got $10 million, they didn’t give me anything and they didn’t repair the damage of what my uncle did.

“Brian was having his problems, I didn’t want to beat up my cousin who was going through problems, but I did have to go to court to establish the truth, the reality of who wrote what, and we wrote them together.

“So that got rectified somewhat, maybe not all, but still. I mean, when you write every word to California Girls and you don’t see your name on the label, that’s a tough one. You don’t anticipate your uncle doing that to you.

“Brian was very depressed when it happened, ‘You mean you sold my songs,’ that kind of thing.”

But, getting back on track, like a surfer catching a wave, Love shakes off the bad memories and notes, “That is in the distant past, and in the present, we’re having a fantastic time appreciating the effect of this music that still uplifts people. And I think, in light of what’s going on in the world today, I think in direct proportion to that, having music that uplifts and makes you happy is a fantastic thing. For us, it’s been a lifelong blessing, but it’s even more poignant. It’s more inspiring now than ever.”

Mike Love brings his Beach Boys show to Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls in November.