Mike Love with James S. Hirsch
Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy
Published by Blue Rider Press
Nov 03, 2016 Web Exclusive
Mike Love is, fairly or not, one of the most maligned characters in the mythology of The Beach Boys. Public perception of Love has generally been less than favorable, largely due to the narrative over the years that has cast him in opposition to Brian Wilson in terms of the band's artistic and commercial sensibilities. With Good Vibrations, Love attempts to dispel that myth while presenting his own thorough history of the band he cofounded more than 50 years ago.
With text that runs 424 pages, Good Vibrations is a relative monster. Love starts at the beginning and weaves his way through the prime years of The Beach Boys' emergence and initial wave of popularity, through Pet Sounds and the ill-fated Smile, to later band incarnations and even the infamous "Kokomo." Love spends a good deal of time discussing how he was cheated credit on early songs, which led to the lawsuit to reclaim his rightful place in the band's writing hierarchy. In talking about Brian Wilson, he seems to spend equal time praising Wilson's artistic abilities and lamenting what he feels was the press's anointing of Wilson as The Beach Boys' artistic "genius," something that Love feels ultimately cast himself as the bad guy.
If there's disappointment to be had with Love's lengthy tome, it is that it for all intents and purposes gives short shrift to the post-Pet Sounds albums that have risen to cult status among Beach Boy fanatics, albums like Friends, 20/20, Holland, Sunflower, and Surf's Up. Love mentions each but devotes little time to the motivations or songwriting therein. Rather, ironically aligning to the Love myth, he pays more attention to the commercially successful aspects of The Beach Boys' career. Which is often to say leaving out some of the most interesting, if not very well regarded at the time, music of the band's career.
The last quarter of the book seems to be devoted to the band's resurgence, along with detailed description of the aforementioned lawsuit. Love and his former partner Wilson seem to grow apart, wanting different things toward the end. Or perhaps there was simply too much water under the bridge or a roadblock due to the Wilson's mental illness. The 2012 reunion tour is discussed but things did not end well there either; it seems from Love's point of view like more of a hardship than a celebration.
Love ends his tale on top, grounded by use of Transcendental Meditation® techniques and riding high on the renewed success of a band that made history and then continued playing the hits to new generations of fans, some who grew up seeing the band on Full House (and yes, John Stamos makes an appearance in Good Vibrations). Contrasted to Wilson's recent autobiography, Good Vibrations is linear and cohesive. But often it feels like Love finally being able to give voice to his own side of the story and rebut that all too common Mike Love mythology.
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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