A few hours before performing in conjunction with a Chicago area riverboat casino, Beach Boys frontman Mike Love sets the record straight on rock ‘n’ roll history:
“The Beach Boys,” he says, “the Beatles and the Stones created rock groups.”
Love lets the statement hang in the air like a beach ball.
“Now,” he continues, offering proof, “we have a dozen or so hits that are always played on oldies radio that’s kept the Beach Boys in the public ear for 30 years.
“But we didn’t premeditate this success. When we started out, there were no rock groups per se. There were rock stars like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and the Everly Brothers. No groups played rock. We didn’t look at the Four Lads and think, `We want to be like them.’ ”
So what happens when that same groundbreaking group is still performing three decades after its heyday – anchored to the past as tightly as paint on the wall?
Well, the Beach Boys play their hits in concert, of course; ride a financial and popular wave; and try to have fun, fun, fun.
It’s not easy.
“There’s a certain element of redundancy,” Love admits, “in the type of touring we do.”
But stop? Absolutely not, says Love, 55. The Beach Boys may continue another 10, 15 or 20 years.
“We could do it if everybody maintains their health,” he says. “I feel I’ll be in better shape 10 years from now than I am now. I’ve been a little lazy about the waistline, but I’m getting more into aerobics and spiritual exercises.”
Love pauses, thinking of a good example of aging gracefully on stage.
“Tony Bennett,” he says, perking up, “has done so well and he’s 70. There’s no reason if you’re a musician that you can’t keep doing it. I’m not going to be sitting by some fireside or whatever.”
New projects include the release this month of an album, “Stars and Stripes,” featuring duets of Beach Boys hits by country artists – Willie Nelson to Lorrie Morgan – and the hitmakers themselves.
Next year, Love plans to open restaurants called Club Kokomo, a more family-oriented place than Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe, based on the Beach Boys hit “Kokomo.”
In addition, the Beach Boys might perform shows with symphonies or do “unplugged” concerts.
But not tonight in Madison. Original Beach Boys Love, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine as well as veteran member Bruce Johnston will perform a playlist similar to one in 1966.
Behind the scenes, of course, all has never been harmonious among the Beach Boys.
In the mid-’80s, Love sued Brian Wilson and was awarded $5 million in a case that gave Love writing credit for 35 songs, including “California Girls” and “I Get Around.”
“Brian always wanted to change the writing credits and start paying me. But he’s always been controlled by others in his life: his father then his wife then,” Love’s voice turns bitter, “Dr. Landy (Wilson’s round-the-clock therapist), then a conservator appointed to take care of his financial affairs.”
Now, Love and Wilson are back to being good friends.
“Brian is due all the credit you can give him for the musical brilliance and creativity in the Beach Boys’ production,” Love says. “He’s a musical genius. All our success is due to his uniquely brilliant ability.”
Love is no stranger to controversy. When the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Love delivered a rambling speech, ripping fellow inductee Paul McCartney for not showing up and the Rolling Stones for, at the time, not touring.
Does he regret the comments now?
“Not really,” Love says. “I don’t think the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame means anything.
“It doesn’t have any philanthropic and philosophical purpose. It’s sort of a self-gratification thing. It’s run by record company presidents and attorneys and that’s what I’ve liked least about the music business. These are the same people who don’t mind if a person is screwed up on alcohol and heroin as long as they’re recording or touring.”