Photos by Ebet Roberts
The Beach Boys’ lyricist Mike Love has been a busy dude these days: he’s written an autobiography, Good Vibrations (Blue Rider Press) and put out a double CD, Unleash the Love (BMG). On the serene side, he meditates daily, and on the active side he’s touring regularly with the Beach Boys—including a date at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC (kind of a big gig)—and a Hallmark Christmas special airing December 4.
The double CD, Unleash the Love, features Now, a CD of new songs from Love, and another CD, Then, of re-recorded older songs from the Beach Boys’ days when Love collaborated with Brian Wilson.
We caught up with Love at a private affair in New York City’s historic Woolworth Building (the original skyscraper), where the Beach Boys band, actor John Stamos, Love’s designer wife Jacqueline Piesen, musical director Chris Stanton and BMG presdent Zach Katz showed up to join the show. Love treated the crowd to nearly a dozen numbers, selecting from both CDs in the Unleash the Love project. One thing became clear immediately: Love hasn’t lost his edge, he’s honed a couple of sharp new ones, too.
The show kicked off with Now‘s “Cool Head, Warm Heart,” which combined classic Beach Boy harmonies with topics based on Love’s philosophy of sanity and spirituality rather than the Beach Boys’ classic sand-and-surf mantra. The band, soon joined by Stamos on guitar and vocals, ripped through half a dozen of the Now tracks, including the title cut.
In a quiet moment after the show, Love talked about that song with Elmore: ” I’d like people to listen to the lyrics of ‘Unleash the Love’ and see if it resonates with it them. Like in the second verse, I wrote ‘Mother Nature, she has a place for every creature, the beauty of God’s creation is diversity.’ Listen to the lyrics and see if it makes sense to you.” Maybe Love hasn’t changed so much as expanded his view. Celebrating diversity in God’s creation—in approach, a world away from “California Girls,” (the first track on the Then album) but hardly contradictory.
The Woolworth show was a blast, and included some standout moments, like saxophone solo by Randy Leago on “Help Me Rhonda,” the synched guitars Stamos and Love wielded on “Fun Fun Fun,” egging each other on like a chariot race, and the great piano work by Tim Bonhomme on “Unleash the Love.” The band, which I eyeballed as ranging in age from 20 to mid-70s, seemed to be having a truly great time the whole night.
In Elmore’s subsequent interview with Mike Love, he talks about the Beach Boys’ influences, especially from the Four Freshmen and the Everly Brothers. Those complex Beach Boys musical harmonies still take up a lot of Mike Love’s bandwidth in the 21st Century, but the word is now spelled with a capital H and, “Harmony” means much, much more.
Stay tuned for the Hallmark special on December 4, and more from our upcoming interview with Mike Love.