mike love’s excitations and good vibrations

Es­ti­mated reading time is 10 min­utes.

MIKE LOVE OF THE BEACH BOYS has a rep­u­ta­tion that has dogged him around for al­most fifty—and it’s gen­er­ally as one of the most un­pleasant people in the world of rock & roll music. Be­cause of this, he has been un­fairly cas­ti­gated for his role in the Beach Boys. In fact, many of his con­tri­bu­tions to the group’s artistic and fi­nan­cial suc­cess are often over­looked if not in­ten­tion­ally den­i­grated by critics and his­to­rians swayed by his rep.

I have tried to re­call any­thing nasty that I had said about Love in print and came up a blank. I can say that in the decades-long love-hate re­la­tion­ship that Mike Love shares with Brian Wilson, I have con­sis­tently come in on Wilson’s side in sev­eral ar­ti­cles in Gold­mine magazine.

Here is what I am going to say about peren­nial bad-boy Mike Love’s as a cre­ative member of Beach Boy: read the fol­lowing list. It con­sists of songs recorded by the Beach Boys to which Lobe made a con­tri­bu­tion, usu­ally as the lyricist. 

I have also noted each track’s peak po­si­tion on Billboard’s Hot 100 survey. While I am par­tial to the Cash Box Top 100, for this ar­ticle I have used the Bill­board Hot 100 as it was more gen­erous in its rank­ings to the group’s B-sides than Cash Box.



Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and David Marks in the studio, prob­ably in 1962 for their first album sessions.

I know there’s an answer

To each recording, I have as­signed a grade that re­flects my per­sonal opinion of that track’s quality. It’s a simple system where a song re­ceives one of three grade:

One star (✮) means the song is mediocre.
Two stars (✮✮) mean the song is good.

Three stars (✮✮✮) mean the song is exceptional.

Note that a rating of one star is not neg­a­tive: Brian and Mike had a lot of vinyl to cover in the ’60s—the group re­leased ten studio al­bums of mostly new ma­te­rial in their first three years (1962–1965)—and some songs were cranked out to get the job done.

Feel free to dis­agree with me; that’s what the Com­ments sec­tion at the end of this story is for.



The first Beach Boys single was Surfin (note the lack of the apos­trophe at the end in­di­cating the missing ‘g’), written by Brian and Mike. It was backed by Luau and both sides were pro­duced by Hite Morgan. Surfin / Luau was is­sued in the first week of De­cember 1961 as Candix 331. It is a rather rare record with a sug­gested NM value of $500-750.


In 1961, the Beach Boys were so new that they en­tered and left Hite Morgan’s recording studio as the Pendle­tones, the name they had chosen for them­selves. The guys didn’t know they were the Beach Boys—the name that Morgan had chosen for them—until their record came out. Brian and Mike wrote their first record and it made the charts! They must have felt like two young godlings.

Surfin’                                                                                                  #75



Within days of the re­lease of Candix 331, Surfin / Luau was rere­leased as X Records 301. De­spite being a second pressing and ap­par­ently more common on eBay than Candix 331, it is worth more with a sug­gested NM value of $1,000-1,5000. 



Surfin / Luau was is­sued a third time in Jan­uary 1962 as Candix 301. This is the most common ver­sion but the most com­pli­cated as there are three vari­a­tions on this record’s la­bels: (1) does not men­tion Era Records on the la­bels and is worth $100–150 in NM con­di­tion; (2)  has “Dist. by ERA RECORD SALES INC.” on the la­bels and is worth $75–100 in NM con­di­tion; and (3)  has “Dist. by ERA RECORD SALES INC.” and “AUDITION COPY” on the la­bels and is are worth $150–200 in NM condition.


In 1962, Brian and Mike wrote the group’s second hit record, “Surfin’ Sa­fari,” which reached #14 on Bill­board but made the Top 10 on Cash Box. Mike got his name on one other track on the first Beach Boys album, which saw the group doing other artists’ ma­te­rial as well as their own.

Surfin’ Sa­fari                                                                                 #14

409                                                                                ✮✮                   #76

The Shift                                                                          ✮

NOTE: 409 is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, and Mike Love.



Their first single for Capitol Records was Brian and Mike’s Surfin’ Sa­fari and it in­cluded this nice pic­ture sleeve with the group as it was then: Brian, Mike, Dennis, Carl, and David. If you want a NM copy of this sleeve, ex­pect to pay $75–100 for it. 


In 1963, the Wilson-Love found their groove and wrote ten new songs that were recorded and is­sued on Beach Boys’ album, with one track being their second Top 10 hit. I think that “Catch a Wave” was a stronger song than “Be True to Your School” and would have been a bigger hit.

Farmer’s Daughter                                                      ✮

Noble Surfer                                                                  ✮

Finders Keepers                                                            ✮

Catch A Wave                                                         ✮✮✮

Hawaii                                                                         ✮✮

Surfer’s Rule                                                               ✮✮

Our Car Club                                                              ✮✮

Be True To Your School                                           ✮✮                    #6

Custom Ma­chine                                                        ✮✮

Little Saint Nick                                                         ✮✮



This pic­ture sleeve from Capitol of Italy fea­tures cool graphics that looks like someone may have been paying at­ten­tion to Rick Griffin’s Murph the Surf car­toons. Capitol in the US stuck with photos of the group for their sleeves. This is a rare sleeve with a sug­gested NM value of $100-200. 5


In 1964, Wilson and Love were sit­ting on top of the world: their new songs gave the Beach Boys a pair of Number Ones, three Top Tens, and three other chart hits! They wrote enough ma­te­rial to fill two al­bums!

Fun, Fun, Fun                                                         ✮✮✮                   #5

The Warmth Of The Sun                                      ✮✮✮

This Car Of Mine                                                       ✮✮

Keep An Eye On Summer                                        ✮✮

I Get Around                                                            ✮✮✮                   #1

All Summer Long                                                       ✮✮

Little Honda                                                              ✮✮✮                 #65

Wendy                                                                         ✮✮✮                 #44

Do You Re­member?                                                        ✮

Drive-In                                                                             ✮

Don’t Back Down                                                         ✮✮

The Man With All The Toys                                          ✮

San­ta’s Beard                                                                   ✮

Good To My Baby                                                        ✮✮

Don’t Hurt My Little Sister                                        ✮✮

When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)                            ✮✮✮                   #9

Help Me, Ronda                                                         ✮✮✮                   #1

Dance, Dance, Dance                                                ✮✮✮                   #8

Please Let Me Wonder                                              ✮✮✮                 #52

Kiss Me Baby                                                               ✮✮✮

She Knows Me Too Well                                           ✮✮✮

In The Back Of My Mind                                              ✮✮

NOTE: Keep An Eye On Summer is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Bob Nor­berg, and Mike Love. Little Honda and Wendy made Bill­board’s Hot 100 as tracks from the FOUR BY THE BEACH BOYS extended-play EP album. Had the two tracks been is­sued as a single, Honda might have reached #1 and Wendy the Top 20. Please Let Me Wonder charted so low be­cause it was a B-side.



For the summer of 1964, Capitol is­sued FOUR BY THE BEACH BOYS, their first and only EP album. Had “Little Honda” or “Wendy” been is­sued as sin­gles, they would have easily reached the Top 10. A copy of this record and sleeve has a sug­gested NM of $50-75.


In 1965, everyone slowed down: the group was on the road reg­u­larly and Brian was be­coming as fas­ci­nated with the studio. Still, he and Mike wrote one classic (Cal­i­fornia Girls) and should have ended the year with a second Top 10 hit if Capitol hadn’t sab­o­taged The Little Girl I Once Knew (but that’s an­other story).

The Girl From New York City                                    ✮✮

Amuse­ment Parks U.S.A.                                            ✮✮

Salt Lake City                                                                 ✮✮

Cal­i­fornia Girls                                                            ✮✮✮              #3

Let Him Run Wild                                                       ✮✮✮

You’re So Good To Me                                                   ✮✮

And Your Dreams Come True                                     ✮✮

The Little Girl I Once Knew                                         ✮✮             #20



For the summer of 1965, Capitol pulled two tracks by Brian and Mike from the SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS) album and pressed them up as a single. Copies of Capitol PRO-2936, Salt Lake City / Amuse­ment Parks U.S.A., were given away to cus­tomers of par­tic­i­pating stores of all kinds in Salt Lake City. Sug­gested NM value of $100–200.


In 1966, Brian re­al­ized that he wanted to work with other lyri­cists and found Tony Asher to create PET SOUNDS. Still Mike found his way on to the album, co-writing the hit Wouldn’t It Be Nice and a second set of lyrics to a song that should have been a hit single, I’m Waiting For The Day. One song was set aside from the ses­sions and got Brian and Mike’s full at­ten­tion af­ter­ward, and Love crafted what were ar­guably his cleverest lyrics and pop­u­lar­ized one of my fa­vorite non-dictionary words: ex­ci­ta­tions.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice                                                  ✮✮✮                 #9
I’m Waiting For The Day                                        ✮✮✮
I Know There’s An An­swer                                     ✮✮✮
Good Vi­bra­tions                                                        ✮✮✮                 #1

NOTE: Wouldn’t It Be Nice is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, and Mike Love. I Know There’s An An­swer is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Terry Sachen, and Mike Love.



As ex­pected, Good Vi­bra­tions was a hit all over the planet and Capitol is­sued pic­ture sleeves in many coun­tries. Un­like pre­vious Capitol sleeves, which tended to simply offer up a posed shot of the boys, sev­eral coun­tries de­signed sleeves a bit more playful. While this de­sign from Italy is hardly daring, it’s al­ways been my fave for this title. Sug­gested NM value of $30–50.


In 1967, Brian re­treated into his new home studio and cre­ated a pair of al­bums that were vir­tual demos com­pared to what he had been doing at Gold Star and Sunset Sound a few months ear­lier. Mike was brought back and the two wrote and recorded an al­bum’s worth of ma­te­rial, in­cluding one gem, Darlin’. 6

She’s Goin’ Bald                                                           ✮✮
Gettin’ Hungry                                                             ✮✮
Wild Honey                                                                   ✮✮               #31
Aren’t You Glad                                                            ✮✮
Country Air                                                                   ✮✮
A Thing Or Two                                                               ✮
Darlin’                                                                          ✮✮✮             #19
I’d Love Just Once To See You                                      ✮
Here Comes The Night                                                ✮✮
Let The Wind Blow                                                       ✮✮
Mama Says                                                                        ✮

NOTE: She’s Goin’ Bald is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and Mike Love.



The Beach Boys’ first single of 1967 after the bring­down of He­roes And Vil­lains was Wild Honey. In Ger­many, it was is­sued with this sleeve, that sorta looked sorta psychedelic—it was any­thing but psy­che­delic. After the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of the then un­com­pleted (and there­fore ob­vi­ously un­re­leased) SMILE ses­sions, Brian took the group back to ba­sics with a simple, rhythm & blues-based sound and feel. Wild Honey was com­pletely off the wall for most of us when we heard it in ’67 and it did not fare well with radio pro­gram­mers or record buyers. Sug­gested NM value of $40–60.


In 1968, the Beach Boys as a recording group ap­peared to have ground to a halt. Brian came through with enough songs and en­ergy for one album that goes be­yond laid-back and ap­proaches som­nam­bu­lance (Friends). Mike had little input, de­spite the fact that he would be­come the Beach Boy most at­tracted to Eastern ways. He did turn in a set of boffo lyrics for “Do It Again,” one of his last touches of great­ness teamed with Brian Wilson.

Meant For You                                                              ✮✮
Be Here In The Morning                                             ✮✮
Anna Lee The Healer                                                   ✮✮
Tran­scen­dental Med­i­ta­tion                                           ✮
Do It Again                                                                  ✮✮✮               #20

NOTE: Be Here In The Morning is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jar­dine. Tran­scen­dental Med­i­ta­tion is cred­ited to Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine.



While Do It Again brought the Beach Boys back into the Top 10 in the US by reaching #8 on the Cash Box Top 100, it was a much bigger hit else­where. In Eng­land, Do It Again ac­tu­ally went to #1, their last chart-topper of the ’60s. This smart-looking sleeve was is­sued in Ger­many, where it was a Top 10 hit. Sug­gested NM value of $30–60.

(Just don’t) do it again

There are sixty-four songs above with Mike Love listed as co-writer. That’s enough to make five com­plete stan­dard Beach Boys al­bums. Those five al­bums would boast four­teen Top 40 hits that sold mil­lions of copies world­wide! So, the point of this ar­ticle is this:

    • Mike Love should be in the Song­writers Hall of Fame for his con­tri­bu­tions mu­si­cally and lyri­cally to these songs.

Fi­nally, two per­sonal things: I grew up in the ’60s hating the Beach Boys! I hated Mike’s nasal leads and I hated Brian’s falsetto leads. In fact, I used to call them the “Balls-less Wonders.”

Then some­thing hap­pened and I was trans­formed: by the end of 1970, PET SOUNDS and SUNFLOWER were my two fa­vorite al­bums. Both have been with me through a lot of heartache and stress in the in­ter­vening decades.

They al­ways pick me up.

Mike Love is an in­te­gral part of those records.

So, he has helped patch a hole or two in my soul along the way.

For that, I owe him . . .


BrianWilson MikeLove studio 1966 1200

HEADER IMAGE: Brian and Mike chat­ting in 1966 during the PET SOUNDS ses­sion. I had Ray Shack­le­ford travel back in time and tape the con­ver­sa­tion that was going on at this time.

MIKE: You wanna re­lease that great track with me singing “hang on to your ego”?!!?
BRIAN: Well, yeah, Mike, I do.
MIKE: Are you f*ckin’ kiddin’ me?!!

And his­tory shows that Mike got his way and wrote new lyrics and the Beach Boys recorded the bril­liant “I Know There’s an An­swer” in­stead of the in­sipid “Hang on to Your Ego.” Oddly, Love-haters love to point to Mike’s changing the lyrics as proof of Mike’s ego get­ting in the way.



I refer to Rick Griffin (in the cap­tion to the sleeve for “Be True to Your School” above). He is known to most of us as the in­no­v­a­tive and hugely in­flu­en­tial artist of some of the best and most fa­mous psy­che­delic ball­room posters of the San Fran­cisco scene of the ’60s. But Rick got his start with The Surfer mag­a­zine where he cre­ated Murph the Surf and in­flu­enced other artists in other fields.




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great read neal, i have many good mem­o­ries of riding along in the 1953 packard tow car that was pulling my 55 and 57 chevy to the drag strip while lis­tening to the beach boys on the radio. might i add that there was at least one beach boys “juke box” ep which i have. ---- C:UsersJerryPicturesEPDSCF0947a.jpg

Wow, that’s a whole lot of in­sight, nos­talgia, and com­men­tary about truth.

ML will con­tinue to be my least fav, but the Beach Boys re­main in my all time top 20, on any given day. Yes, to PET SOUNDS, and SMILEY SMILE with a nod to SURF’S UP. And, SMILE, un­spoken sigh...

I had two Mi­crobuses. A ’62, barndoor/small rear window; re­painted metallic BRG with read boot­stripe and a white top. I put Cor­vair seats in front, and used a spare 12-volt bat­tery to run the tape deck. 

When climbing the NE ex­ten­sion of the PA turn­pike, I was in third gear most of the time! Many sto­ries in that van.

I then got a ’72 bus, which was Trouble (no­tice cap­ital T). My least fa­vorite wife burned out 2 clutches and got cus­tody of the house, the bus, and our daughter be­fore moving away. It wasn’t a bad truck, just a pain and the carbs wouldn’t stay in tune.

If I had a lot of money, I’d have Jonathan Ward build me a De­r­ilect with a wa­ter­cooled VW mill! Look up his web­site. You will drool.

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