The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 16, 2014

'Love those Beach Boys

Words, harmonies resonate with 'Good Vibrations' from group's founder

JOHNSTOWN — Despite riding the wave of success for more than 50 years, founding member Mike Love of The Beach Boys is anything but bored.

“There is always something yet to do in music,” Love said during a telephone interview from his home in southern California.

“Many things can be improved upon or be infused with a vibrant musical energy.”

The Beach Boys celebrate the California lifestyle that is girls, sun, sea, sand, surfing and cars.

It was a lifestyle documented by such hits as “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Little Deuce Coupe” and “California Girls.”

The Beach Boys and Three Dog Night will  perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena, 326 Napoleon St. in downtown Johns-town.

Few groups have infused more energy in music than The Beach Boys.

The Beach Boys first consisted of Love and his cousins, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson.

Beginning their singing careers as teenagers, Love and the Wilson brothers sang frequently at family get-togethers and holiday gatherings.

In 1961, Love’s professional music career began alongside the Wilson brothers and friend Al Jardine when The Beach Boys officially formed and were signed by Capitol Records.

Love is recognized as the lead singer and emcee of the group, in addition to being responsible for many of the concepts, lyrics and hooks on the majority of songs that are still regarded as some of the most performed and most played songs in modern music history.

But after more than 50 years of traveling the world to delight fans, Love said his voice remains strong and treats it like any other muscle in his body.

“The vocal chords are like any other muscle,” he said.

“You have to exercise them to keep them strong.”

It’s only when he has to perform two shows a day that he admitted that his voice does begin to tire near the end of the second show.

But Love is busy during the performance as the lead singer, whose voice boasts three natural vocal ranges.

Love Sang bass in “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl,” but could stretch to his top range on “Surfin USA.”

“I was not a falsetto, that was up to Brian (Wilson), but I also sang bass on The Beach Boys biggest hit ‘Kokomo.’ ”

By 1988, Brian Wilson had officially left The Beach Boys and released his first solo album, which received critical acclaim. It was during this period that the band unexpectedly claimed its first U.S. No. 1 hit single in 22 years with “Kokomo,” which was featured in the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.”

Love co-wrote “Kokomo”  with John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas, which also went to No. 1 in Japan and Australia.

Love can’t explain the group’s worldwide popularity.

“We can understand our appeal in the United States, but can’t figure out why we are successful in places like Germany, Japan, Sweden and Denmark,” he said.

“I like words especially when it comes to poetry and literature,” he said.

“Alliteration of words is important.”

He wrote the lyrics for some of the group’s biggest hits like “Surfin’ USA,”  “California Girls” and “I Get Around.”

Lyrics often flow out of Love like water in a stream.

In a 15-minute drive to the recording studio, Love dictated the lyrics for one of the group’s biggest hits to his wife at the time.

“I was riding in my yellow (Jaguar) XKE convertible and created a flowery poem for “Good Vibrations,” he said.

“Flower Power was big in California at the time and the lyrics just poured out of me,”

“Good Vibrations” went to No. 1 in 1966.

“Everybody doesn’t have an ocean and a lot of people are landlocked,” Love said.

“Back in the day, we helped create a market for the muscle cars of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Among the biggest hits were “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “409.”

While words were Love’s forte, harmonies are his passion.

A major influence on him and the rest of The Beach Boys were The Four Freshmen and The Everly Brothers.

“We used to love singing those harmonies,” Love said.

“And the a cappella version of ‘Their Hearts Were Full of Spring’ that was done by The Four Freshmen.”

Jardine also brought a folk aspect to the group.

“We also were influenced by the late Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio,” Love said.

“When I was 14, I bought an acoustic guitar thanks to the popularity of The Kingston Trio.”

As he looks over his career, which includes being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Love said the high-water mark would be the back-to-back performances on one day in 1985.

On July 4, 1985, The Beach Boys played to nearly 2 million fans at shows in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“In the afternoon, we performed on the streets of Philadelphia for an estimated 900,000 people,” he said.

“That was followed by an evening performance at the Washington Monument, where nearly another million people showed up.

“We had to be pretty careful after that when we would say we were doing a free concert,” he laughed.

In early 1968, Love, under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, became a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. He meditates at least once a day.

“It gets rid of stress, makes me more focused and healthier,” he said.

The Beach Boys will do about 100 shows in 2014.

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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