In many ways, the Beach Boys have been primed to play a drive-in concert since the 1964 release of “Drive-In,” a euphemistic celebration of “a groovy place to talk and maybe watch a show.”
Mike Love, who memorably instructs his date to “make sure you see enough so you’re prepared to tell,” was all about the endless possibilities of drive-in culture as a teen in Hawthorne, California.
“It was such a big deal when we were dating in high school,” Love says. “Going to the drive-in theater was standard procedure, you know?”
And yet, it wasn’t until 2020 that the Beach Boys booked their first appearance at a drive-in in response to social distancing restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This weekend they’ll hit three outdoor venues: Ventura, California, on Friday; San Diego on Saturday; and Phoenix on Sunday.
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Love’s touring version of the group does not include the other two surviving members of the classic Beach Boys lineup, Brian Wilson and guitarist Al Jardine, and there’s a history of tense relationships among the three, including several lawsuits.
As Love was gearing up to hit the drive-in circuit, Wilson and Jardine spoke out against his decision to have his touring version of the Beach Boys play a fundraiser for President Donald Trump Sunday in Newport Beach.
This interview was done before the news hit that Love planned to play the event.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for the Beach Boys
It’s been a tough year for the Beach Boys family.
“Our band and crew have been very disappointed,” Love says. “We did the payroll protection thing, but that ran out a while ago. So it’s just been a challenging time for us.”
Rather than just sit there and be sad about it, Love wrote and recorded a song inspired by the harsh realities of 2020 called “This Too Shall Pass.”
“It’s meant to recognize the effect on all the people,” Love explains, “and give some accolades to first responders and doctors and nurses that are on the front lines of this whole thing but also give a little bit of hope.”
That little bit of hope was important to Love.
“The Beach Boys have been around for long enough to see society go through lots of things,” he says. “So I wanted to give a little light at the end of the tunnel.”
Love believes that things are on the verge of getting better.
“Things will improve and get back to more normal, where people can go out to concerts and games and Broadway shows and stuff like that and maybe go to church without getting arrested.”
How Love’s new recording came together
Love and his bandmates recorded the song in nine locations with actor John Stamos, a former Beach Boy, playing drums and producing a video.
Love says he’s been isolating in Lake Tahoe for the most part, which is really not that hard to do.
“I live in a beautiful place with a beautiful view of magnificent Lake Tahoe,” he says. “So I am blessed and fortunate.”
It also helps that he’s been meditating, having gotten into transcendental meditation when he studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in December 1967, which led to him being invited to India.
“When I got there, the Beatles were there,” he says. “So transcendental meditation has been a big part of my life. I sit and meditate every morning and every evening. And I feel really good. I haven’t been sick at all this whole time. I’m just very fortunate.”
Love’s thoughts on the Beach Boys place in rock history
Trying to find a new place in the sun as the tides of pop culture are changing is a challenge.
“We’ve had our periods of intense popularity,” Love says.
“And then maybe not as much. But we’ve always had a core of fans who really love the Beach Boys and still come to see us to this day.”
Asked to name his favorite Beach Boys era, Love immediately reaches for the hits.
“All the eras of the Beach Boys music have some real gems,” he begins.
“‘Good Vibrations’ was the biggest-selling single of the ’60s. And we had some pretty big ones, too. ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ and ‘California Girls’ and ‘Help Me, Rhonda.’ ‘Do It Again’ in 1968 went to No. 1 in England and was a huge hit there. That was a couple years after ‘Good Vibrations’ went to No. 1 and we were voted the No. 1 group in Great Britain, No. 2 being the Beatles.”
It’s hard to imagine a more successful time than that, he says.
But then he thinks of “Kokomo.”
“They say that ‘Kokomo’ in 1988 was our biggest-selling single,” he says. “And that was a great song. It’s a huge singalong in our concerts. Multiple generations like that song. So there you go. Even in a period of time when maybe the Beach Boys aren’t as popular as they had once been, here we go with our biggest-selling single.”
Love talks about tense relationship with Brian Wilson
It’s been eight years since the Beach Boys staged their latest truly unexpected comeback, reuniting with Love’s cousin, Brian Wilson, for their highest-charting album since the ’60s, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
That’s one commercial triumph Love has trouble warming up to.
“I was told that I would be able to get together with Brian and write and that never was allowed,” he says. “So that was disappointing. It’s not my favorite life experience, being told you’re going to be able to write with Brian, and then it was not true. And I don’t think it was because of Brian so much as the people around him.”
Asked if he could see himself working with Wilson again, Love doesn’t hesitate to make it clear that he is always open to that prospect before quickly adding something guaranteed to make it hard to actually facilitate that next reunion.
“I could work with Brian anytime,” he says. “That’s not a problem. It’s a question of whether he’s permitted to come out and play.”
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