Beach Boys: A California Saga, Part II

Page 3 of 6

"We knew we were right. Before the Beach Boys went to Capitol, Capitol was number eight on singles hits. But the year they joined, Capitol went from number eight to number two, you understand?

"As far as I'm concerned about Nick Venet, naturally he probably feels a little bitter because he could have had world fame as their producer. So all the stuff he said about me I discount. I was tough as a manager. I fought Capitol for four and a half months, straight. Finally, Capitol recapitulated and let us record where we wanted to, without the impedence of the, ha ha, Artists' Representative. That'll give Nick a little joggle in his memory.

"The boys were so eager to prove how good they could be as artists – record makers, not artists, they weren't artists till the phonies started telling them they were. At Western Recorders I remember they stood and sang 13 hours straight, 13 hours straight, to get an album out -- Surfin' U.S.A. Sometimes they were so exhausted, I had to make them mad at me to get the best out of them. So I'd insult their musical integrity, I'd say, 'That's lousy, you guys can do better than that.' I'd make them so damn mad they'd be hitting me over the head practically, but they'd give that extra burst of energy and do it beautifully. The old man outsmarted them without their knowledge, see what I mean? There's more than one way to give love to kids, you know, for their own good.

"I held them down for nine months – you might write this in – I held them down from the big time for nine months. Even after they had two major double-sided hits in the nation, they were too green to go 'way into the big time and New York and huge concerts. I held them down and took jobs at dances, first, and then we went to different department stores, you know. One of their first dates was a dance in Inglewood, California, and they played at Long Beach. Their first major concert was one I produced at the Sacramento Civic. We have a dear feeling for Sacramento.

"You see, a manager and a father can be pretty rough. It's like some teachers. The kids hate the teacher's trying to give them knowledge, you know? And till they're grown up and married, they don't realize how nice the teacher was to bang at them, you know, to bang their ears.

"I drove the Beach Boys through the wall. When they were exhausted, I drove them harder, because they asked for it. They said, 'Help us, make us famous, help us record, we need you, Dad.' I wish you'd print this – I was told by a young man, a 22-year-old man at William Morris, that the Beach Boys would never make more money than Ruby and the Romantics, who were grossing $3500 for seven days a week. This was after my sons' first double-sided hit on Capitol. I got so mad. It was December 17th. I called from my home to key places, and we worked between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. We grossed $26,684 – write it down – $26,684 for five nights, five concerts. That was in 1962."

* * *

"Ever since I was born – or maybe, when I was two years old, somebody punched me in the ear."

– Brian Wilson, explaining why
he is deaf in one ear.

* * *

Earl Leaf of Hollywood, the elderly teen columnist once hired by the Beach Boys to start a fan sheet, recalled with no little relish certain eccentricities of Mike Love during the group's first European tour.

"Well, maybe you can't say he's eccentric, but he's wild," said Earl, leafing through a pile of glossies he'd shot of the trip. "He was awfully wild and still is, I suppose. I don't mean violence . . . girlwise, he'd fuck any . . . he was worse . . . Dennis was the worst. Dennis was an animal.

"Mike was always getting into some kind of jam. He was stupid. We were in Paris, for instance. We got in a night club . . . a clip joint actually. I didn't want to go in; I lived in Paris, you know, for a couple of years, I know a clip joint. So we went in, and he got this girl, and she said, 'Yeah, I'll go home with you. I can't go home now. Just hang around. I have to wait till we close at 4 AM.'

Meanwhile, this guy is pumping him with champagne, about 4000 francs a bottle. He took one glass out of a bottle and threw the rest away, bring another bottle. Four AM, well, he couldn't find her, she's nowhere around, she'd split.

"He was just a horse's ass. Same thing happened in Munich. He went and found a girl and started feelin' her up and her pimp came and got a gun and held him until the police came. He spent the night in jail. Same thing happened in London. He gave this girl a whole lot of money to fuck her. She said, 'Ok, I'll meet you in 15 minutes. You go down to such and such a street and turn right two blocks and wait for me on the corner.' So he rushes down there and of course she never showed up. He was old enough to know better. Over and over and over again he was taken.

"We were goin' down in a cab from the Hilton to Soho. I said, 'Listen, you guys, don't be a horse's ass. This place is so full of whores and places that are just clip joints. You never get anything out of it.' I can't remember if it was Mike or Dennis said, 'Well, we can afford it. I don't care if we get clipped, we can afford it.'"

Nick Venet had something to add: "If I had listened to the father back then, the Beach Boys would have fired Mike Love on their first tour. The father came roaring into my office one day and asked me to check out the legality and prepare papers. I just said, "That's terrific. How shall we do this? That's just terrific sir. Do you want me to call him on the phone, or send him a telegram? Or do you want me to push him out a window? Which way do you want me to do this?' He got very serious, he got bugged with me and he said, 'The boy used profanity backstage.'

"Well, shit, my curiosity . . . you know, what kind of profanity could he have used? It was 'fuck' he had said twice, once before the show, once after the show, both times backstage. Biggest act in the country and he wants to break them up 'cause he used the word fuck!"

Later, Murry indicated he never actually planned to break up the group over Mike. "Nick said that? I probably threatened to do it. I was tough on obscenity. Mike swore under the mike one time at a dance. It slipped. I said, 'Don't you ever pull that again, Mike.' He said, 'Well, it slipped,' and I said, 'Well, don't let it slip again.'

"There was nothing vulgar. I even had their attire – I don't want to go into detail – but even their wearing apparel was purchased so it wouldn't be vulgar. There wasn't any vulgarity on stage. They wore those striped shirts, and they wore pants. But they didn't wear those, you know, those continental-type tight things that a lot of the New York boys were coming out with at that time. Elvis, you know? Don't use Elvis; say 'other artists.'

"I worried about things like that. I traveled around with my kids, worrying about them, getting rid of girls with shady characters, on occasion getting rid of girls who were too eager, shall we say, to become acquainted. They had a clean-cut American image. Mike was 21, you know, so he was allowed to drink beer. If I caught anyone else drinking beer – once in a while in my home a glass was all right – but on tours, I said, 'No Drinking. If I catch any of you guys, you're going to be fined five hundred dollars.' I was tough on them. Once, I assessed a $300 fine to one of them – I can't say which one – for drinking a cocktail. I never got a dime of it.

"In other words – if you print anything – I love my sons, you understand? And although they were big stars, I never gave up on them. Even to this day, when a son comes off and starts giving me a Hollywood approach, I say, 'What are you doing--coming off phony, Hollywood, baby?' Right down their throat. I kept at them, beating their eardrums, because I knew that fame and fortune might distort them."

* * *

Brian's not the only Beach Boy who likes to explore the borders of inner space. His cousin Mike Love once fasted for three weeks, taking only water, fruit juice, and a little yogurt. It was an approximation of the Essene regimen, developed by a strict sect of religious Jews. Everything got very amplified during the fast, he became quite sensitive to all positive and negative forces around him. He began to look at things rather metaphorically. The birds in the sky seemed to have a purpose in flying southwesterly, and if he could try a little harder perhaps he could talk to the birds . . .

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »