One of the first things that a person learns when getting into The Beach Boys is the general consensus concerning its life-long lead singer, Mike Love. And what is that? That he’s an absolute asshole – a money-driven schmuck with absolute no artistic integrity, Brian Wilson‘s worst enemy, the main reason behind ‘Smile’ not being released, the person who single-handedly dragged The Beach Boys’ reputation through thick mud in the 80’s and the 90’s until the band became a parody of itself, and so on. These accusations not only could go on for a few more paragraphs, but most are also partially true. I say partially because many of them are gruesomely exaggerated, the Smile story in particular.
But all in all, hating Mike Love is a very popular and comfortable attitude that many fans seem to adopt. And I should know, since I was of them. But at one point in my fandom, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it any more. I remember listening to his absolutely hallucinating, smooth, warm lead vocal on ‘Kiss Me, Baby’ – which to this day, is one of my favourite Beach Boys songs – and thinking to myself “Is this an artist that really deserves to be hated?”.
After that, I started re-evaluating everything the man has done, from his early energetic and distinctive vocals, to his amazing, surreal imagery transposed into the lyrics of ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Big Sur’, to the touching prayer-like ‘Let The Wind Blow’ and even to his stage presence. Simply put, Mike Love, at his peak (60’s and early 70’s), is an integral part of The Beach Boys and the band would have never been the same without him. He’s a great, distinctive singer, a competent, sometimes brilliant lyricist and a stage frontman in a band whose only other charismatic member was hiding behind the drum kit. Yeah, later he may have done some horrible artistic decisions. But then again, so did The Who, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and many other 60’s dinosaurs. Judging Mike based on ‘Kokomo’ and ‘Summer In Paradise’ is the equivalent of saying that David Bowie sucks because of that cringe-worthy duet with Mick Jagger. And finally, he may be an asshole in real life. But the day we judge rock stars based on their personalities is the day rock music will die, period.
All in all, Mr. Love is an easy target to focus one’s hate towards and sometimes deservedly so, but at the same time he is a member of my all-time favourite band whose contributions I just cannot dismiss. From an artistic point of view, a thumbs up all the way. As for his personality? Go bother somebody else, this is a music blog.
Categories: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?