Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love
Discord between the cousins had set in by the mid-Sixties when Wilson, the acting maestro behind the Beach Boys, sought to move the band beyond their fun-in-the-sun persona. Love found the new musical daring pretentious, and feared alienating the fans originally won over by their carefree surfing image.
The stress was palpable during the 1966 sessions for Pet Sounds, Wilson's most experimental work to date. Skeptical of augmenting their sound with a fleet of session musicians wielding exotic instruments, Love resented that Wilson took the majority of the lead vocals himself. It's just as well, as he took issue with much of the album's lyrical content. "Some of the words were so totally offensive to me that I wouldn't even sing 'em because I thought it was too nauseating," Love admitted to Goldmine in 1992. Exhibit A: a new tune Wilson presented with the LSD-drenched title "Hang Onto Your Ego." Hardly a psychedelic warrior, Love put his foot down and refused to participate. The title was promptly changed to "I Know There's an Answer."
The clashes continued when Wilson plunged into his next project, the ambitious "teenage Symphony to God" dubbed SMiLE. It was during this period that Love supposedly delivered his famous warning: "Don't fuck with the formula!" The oft-quoted remark made its first appearance in a 1971 Rolling Stone profile, though Love dismissed it in his memoir as "the most famous thing I've ever said, even though I never said it." Even so, Wilson later claimed that Love was "disgusted" by the project.
Wilson's mental health struggles drove a wedge between the cousins, and their relationship was further strained by a series of courtroom battles. In the early Nineties Love filed a lawsuit claiming he wasn't credited on many songs he had written with Wilson. A jury ruled in his favor, awarding Love a co-writer credit on 35 of the titles, including some of the band's biggest hits. Several years later, the death of band mate Carl Wilson splintered the remaining group into several opposing camps, all of whom competed in legal arenas for the right to use the Beach Boys name. Love eventually won, and began leasing the name from the band's label, Brother Records.
As part of the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary in 2012, the surviving members buried the hatchet long enough to record a new album and embark on a triumphant tour. It seemed like a long-awaited happy ending until it was revealed that Love would continue touring as the Beach Boys without the help of Wilson later that year. "The Beach Boys might get together again – but not with me," Wilson told Rolling Stone's Jason Fine mid-2017.