Saturday, October 06, 2012

Why are people so sure Mike Love is the bad guy in The Beach Boys?

Mike Love issues a long statement to the Los Angeles Times about how he didn't "fire" Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys and why he had to curtail their large venue tour in order to fulfil his obligation to tour smaller venues with "his" Beach Boys.

If you can read past the jarring self-justification and gushing over-statement it seems he's got a case, which is not what so-called "true" Beach Boys fans, many of whom have rushed to social media to libel the singer, want to hear.

Love has always had what Paul Weller called a kind face. The kind of face you wanted to punch. He's the person that rock history has decided is the snake in the Garden of Eden the Wilson family would otherwise be. But how do we know? All bands are families, particularly ones that start out as families, and if we know one thing about families it is that they're immensely complicated and there's   plenty of blame to go round.

With long-lasting rock bands we pick out the member we have decided is the baddie and stick with it for long periods. It was Paul McCartney in the Beatles, Robbie Robertson in The Band, Steve Stills in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Roger Waters in Pink Floyd. The reasoning may change but once a person is cast as the villain any action they take will be interpreted in that light. Once the villain is chosen the rest of the cast can relax because anything they do will be seen as an understandable reaction to the tyrant in their midst.

The classic case of this is Mick Jagger. Those close to the Stones don't share the orthodox view that Keith is the soul of the group while Jagger is merely its accounts department. Keith never feels an encounter with the press is finished unless he has loosed off one shot at his old friend. He knows we'll all share in the joke because we all know Mick, right?  He also knows Jagger won't respond. I bet Mick could issue quite a few Mike Love-style statements if he chose to. But he doesn't.


  1. Reminds me of Christopher Hitchens' comment that, all too often, we get someone's reputation and judgement of their actions the wrong way round. Ideally we should look at their actions and then gradually form their reputation in our minds; what tends to happen instead is that someone quickly acquires a reputation, and then this colours all the judgements made about their actions thereafter.

    His most famous example of this was Mother Teresa, which makes for interesting (if controversial) reading.

  2. To be honest, I doubt that many people give a second thought to who the bad guy in the Beach Boys is.

  3. It's a good point - people don't often admit to what extent their views are coloured by outside sources. But believe me, ever since the mid-sixties I've been convinced that Jimmy Savile was a nasty sod. Mike Love is definitely hewn from the same guano.

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  6. I must admit when I first heard this story I assumed the same thing " Mike Love up to his usual tricks" but we always assume Brian Wilson is above any shenanigans. If you read Wilson's reply to the Love letter though it seems that Brian was the first one to get his attorney involved.. "At that point my attorney merely suggested to Mike's attorney that a possible press release in those markets might be appropriate" Funny how artists refer to countries as markets.