Mike Love’s Good Vibrations is his story of his life as one of the founders of the Beach Boys, a band best known for classics like Good Vibrations, Surfin’ USA, and Help Me Rhonda. Most people’s impression is that they are a fun-loving, goofy band. And a lot of the time, they are!
For people who dig a little deeper into the history of the band, though, they know that while the music was fun, their personal lives were a lot more complicated: Brian Wilson suffered from serious mental illness, Dennis Wilson was taken advantage of by Charles Manson, and the whole family was in an abusive family situation with the Wilsons’ father. These complications made the band’s internal situation especially complicated: Mike Love didn’t always appreciate the musical direction of the band. He wanted hit after hit, and he believed that the formula worked. Write surf songs. Get on the charts. Make money. Live the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Ignore all those other issues for the sake of a hit.
All this paints an ugly picture of the man: Love knows how many of his statements and behaviours are on the public record, including a rant at the Beach Boys’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he bad-mouthed a whole series of rock legends and stars. He sued Brian Wilson for control of the band and tried to get a larger financial stake from Wilson’s rights to the music he wrote. Mike Love claims everything he has said and done was out of Love for his family, about his deep respect for Brian and was only trying to protect him from himself.
Good Vibrations is a fascinating look at a man trying to reclaim his reputation. Mike Love doesn’t really come across as a sympathetic figure, even in his own words. As much as he knows that no one seems to respect him that much, he doesn’t seem to really understand why he comes across as the villain in the Beach Boys’ story, as a man who resisted the band’s efforts to grow and move ahead of the times.