Mike Love says the Beach Boys are looking forward to heading into country territory next year when the group joins the extensive lineup of Stagecoach, country music’s biggest festival. But the group won’t have to shift gears as the three-day festival, created by Coachella organizers in 2007, has never been a country-only club. The April 2024 lineup headlined by Eric Church, Miranda Lambert and Morgan Wallen also includes Wiz Khalifa, Nickelback, and Diplo.
The Beach Boys are no strangers to crossing paths with country artists. In a recent conversation, Love reminded me that Glen Campbell had briefly replaced Brian Wilson in late ’64 when he temporarily left the touring group. But when it comes to touring today, Love, who won the rights to the Beach Boys’ name in 2008 and remains the only original founding member of the touring band, is committed to authenticity and giving audiences what they want.
“We like every kind of music. But when we go out on tour, our focus is to recreate those songs in the same keys and as close as possible to the recorded songs that people actually enjoyed enough to have them go in the Top 40.”
Love says the Beach Boys’ focus on recording was brilliantly managed by his cousin Brian Wilson, known as a genius of music composition and recording. But for Love, co-writer of many of the group’s biggest hits, the group’s focus on live music has always been a favorite.
“I always liked the live music, you know, performing and seeing the reaction of people. People jumping up and down going crazy for our songs. I mean, our first live album Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, we rode Hondas, little Hondas, out on the stage. We had a song called “Little Honda,” and the girls were screaming and everything like that. They talked about Beatlemania, but the Beach Boys had their own kind of Beatlemania. It was pretty fun. Nowadays, it’s not like that for us. Maybe it is for somebody else. But we still have multiple generations who love our music, and we love seeing that—entire families coming out to shows. It’s very uplifting to me.”
Reflecting the group’s longevity and popularity, CBS’s April 9, 2023 A Grammy Salute to The Beach Boys scored 5.18 million viewers becoming the largest audience since A Grammy Salute to Prince (2020).
Cars And The Beatles
Not surprising, The Beach Boys, credited with inspiring artists from Garth Brooks to The Beatles, were also credited with creating a ’60s “hot-rod mania” thanks to “Shut Down” and “Little Deuce Coupe.”
When The Beach Boys met The Beatles, Love said the guys talked about “girls and cars.
“My cousin Carl had an Aston Martin DB5, I had an ’48 MG TC a ’39 Rolls, a Jaguar sedan and an XK-E which was a really beautiful, convertible Jaguar. So I was an Anglophile when it comes to cars. And so we talked about that. And then I remember John Lennon saying, ‘Well, my voice is out. My throat’s out.’ I said, ‘When we get to that part of the song shake your head. The girls will scream and nobody will care.'”
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the legendary group (Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Al Jardine) with the California surf-rock vibe became a household name when their 1963 release “Surfin’ U.S.A.” became a breakthrough hit. It would spend 25 weeks on the charts peaking at No. 3 putting the young artists on the road to becoming music legends.
“I was the only guy that was old enough to sign a contract with Capitol Records. The other guys had to be a court-approved they were so young,” chuckled Love as we discussed the group’s teen roots.
A Song For George Harrison
With over half a century in the music industry, Love’s got some of the best music stories. His work may have inspired the Beatles, but one of his favorite songs was inspired by Beatle George Harrison. Love says “Pisces Brothers,” released in 2014 on what would have been Harrison’s 71st birthday, is one of his favorite songs to sing. It is a tribute that comes from the heart, one that was inspired by the time spent with John, Paul, George and Ringo in India in 1968 while studying Transcendental Meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Hanging in Love’s home is a painting given to him by Harrison on his birthday. “We’re Pisces brothers,” said Love.
“We were drawn to Rishikesh not for fortune or for fame but for enlightenment we came,” he said sharing a few words from his lyrics.
“It’s a poem that I put to music,” said Love. And I love doing it every night. It just takes me back to those times, you know. There’s very few songs touch me as emotionally as that, although the “Warmth of the Sun” is one.”
Might there be a future collaboration with the group’s surviving co-founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine (Dennis Wilson died in 1983. Carl Wilson died in 1998.)?
“There is a documentary coming out on the Beach Boys. I don’t know when it’s set to air. But we’re definitely getting together for that. And that will be pretty nice because, you know, my cousin Brian and I go back to childhood and young adulthood— teenage years and everything. So, he went to high school with Alan Jardine.”
Fans, including actor John Stamos who has often sat in with the touring band, are quick to thank Love and his Beach Boys co-founders for sharing decades of remarkable music, but Love is quick to return the ‘thank you.’
“We’re the ones that are grateful and thankful. Honestly, it’s a family hobby, getting together and singing and harmonizing became a long lasting profession because of the fact my cousin Brian and I were able to craft some really nifty tunes. And, you know, it’s been a blessing.”