Mike Love Speaks To Uncut Magazine
Looking back, do you feel you've had an unfairly bad rap as the guy who told Brian not to "*** with the formula"?
Well, it's an outright lie. I mean, I wrote the words to 'Good Vibrations' for a start. And with Pet Sounds, I named the album and I went with Brian to play it for Karl Engemann at Capitol, and he turned to us after listening and said, "Gee, guys, can't you do something more like 'California Girls' or 'I Get Around'?" It was Capitol that was resisting the change, not me. We all worked very hard on Pet Sounds. That album was saying, "Okay, it's one thing to talk about a girl or a surfboard, but now you're talking about emotions and feelings and something a bit more subtle". I think that "Mike Love's the bad guy" stuff comes from writers who weren't there. And there's another component to it, which is that during that time Brian and Dennis and Carl began to experiment with drugs whereas Alan and Bruce and myself did not. So there was a bit of a Them and Us situation, and some of the people who were around Brian would be sort of negative about us. So I think that's where a lot of it stems from.
Were you as hostile towards Van Dyke Parks as he has always claimed?
Well, I asked Van Dyke what a particular set of lyrics meant and he said, "I haven't a clue, Mike". I termed some of his lyrical contributions "acid alliteration". Some of the stuff was brilliant and great and phenomenal, but I looked at things from an objective commercial point of view. Whether it's a strength or a weakness, I said, "Is it going to relate to the public to the degree that they can identify with the message and the lyrics?" From a purely artistic point of view I can appreciate some of the lyrics. For instance on 'Heroes and Villains', the line "What a dude'll do"... was very clever. Van Dyke was brilliant at taking something and, in an alliterative way, putting that into the song to go with Brian's musical contribution. But see, 'Good Vibrations' was No. 1, but 'Heroes and Villains' went to No. 50 or something. [Actually, it went to No. 12 in the US and No. 8 here in the UK.] My point of view was often misunderstood as being negative about the art of it all, whereas I liked to see artistry and commerciality merge.
What might have been different if SMiLE had come out in the way it was intended to?
I don't know the answer to that, because it was shelved by Brian. And there again was a case of Mike Love being blamed for that album not coming out at that time, which was absolutely erroneous. Brian had a breakdown and we did Smiley Smile instead, which was his own drug-rehab album. It's a trippy little record, from the dynamics of 'Heroes and Villains' to something like 'Wind Chimes'. We'll never know what the influence of SMiLE might have been, though it would obviously have been good to come out with something so unique and different. As for the SMiLE album Brian did [in 2004], I'd have preferred him to come to me and say, "Hey, let's finish the SMiLE album and pull out the original tapes", but he didn't choose that path.