Archives for September 2012

The Beach Boys’ Mike Love Is A Monster


We can probably start here: Everyone knows Mike Love is a huge asshole, right? 

In case you need a recap: Mike Love is the second lead singer and, even more unfortunately, sole rights licensee of The Beach Boys. He’s in the news this week because he’s reportedly firing both of the other surviving original members of the band — Al Jardine and Brian Wilson — effective after the last show of their massive 50th anniversary tour.

It seems crazy. Who would fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys? But Mike Love has a long history of doing crazy asshole things, and this is just the latest. It’s not even the first time he’s fired Brian from the Beach Boys (that would be 1982). Some of the highlights from his Crazy Asshole CV:

His constant badgering of Brian Wilson, the band’s bassist, first lead singer, primary songwriter, visionary genius, resident virtuoso, and acid casualty drove Wilson literally crazy right around 1968. Wilson had composed and performed almost every note of the band’s critically adored, times-changing 1966 album Pet Sounds in solitude while the rest of the Beach Boys played concerts on the road; Brian worked insane hours to create an even grander follow-up, a double album called Smile, and the first fruit of those sessions, “Good Vibrations,” promised another huge sonic leap forward.

But when Mike Love came in to add his nasal baritone to the new songs he made a huge deal about the weird lyrics and browbeat Wilson — who by this time had already begun to invent Eccentric Rock Stardom as a thing by turning his thousand-square-foot living room into a sandbox with his grand piano at the center — until Wilson had a nervous breakdown, shelved the entire album, and spent the next 20 years in his bedroom a shell of his former self, never coming anywhere near the twin highs of Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations.”

(Tangent: I recently acquired a 45 of “Good Vibrations” and it sounds amazing. 45s sound amazing, especially the well-recorded ones. If you see one, buy it, unless you hate music that sounds amazing.)

Love’s concern was apparently that the band — the biggest-selling American band for several years to that point — would sell fewer records if it strayed from its cars/girls/fun-in-the-sun lyrical formula. The artistic strides Brian was making, and the unanimous admiration of their peers for Pet Sounds, appear not to have persuaded Love in the least, and the world was robbed of an enormous potential legacy. Imagine if Brian Wilson had been a functional human being at the same time that Stevie Wonder took control of his own work in the ’70s? Wilson was always competitive, and saw Pet Sounds as a direct response to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. What would his response to Innervisions have been like? Songs In The Key Of Life? What if they got in a room together and stared each other down over matching ARP keyboards? It boggles the mind. We can only imagine, and for that we can blame Mike Love.

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Mitt Romney Is Bobbling His Nerf Presidency

Twelve years ago, I voted for Ralph Nader for president. I did so not because I particularly wanted him to be president, and certainly not because I thought he ever would be, but because I wanted him to reach 2% of the popular vote, which would have made the Green Party eligible for the presidential debates in 2004. So young and naive I was, hoping to get more voices into the national debate!

Anyway, I voted for Nader but I was fervently rooting for Al Gore, and since I lived in deep-blue California at the time, I didn’t have to worry about that contradiction throwing the election to Bush. But then the Florida recounts happened, Bush ended up on top, and though it wasn’t the result I wanted to see, I couldn’t help feeling like he won it fair and square.

I use “fair and square” euphemistically, of course, because the Bush campaign used every dirty, dishonest trick in the book, and came up with a few new ones, to win Florida (or, more accurately, to prevent Gore from winning it). But it was a FIGHT, and Bush and his campaign won it.

The point is: the 2000 recount was as good a simulated surprise crisis as a non-incumbent presidential candidate is ever likely to see, and it showed what kind of organizations the candidates were running. Gore’s was sloppy, disorganized, and constantly crying foul about the Bush team’s tactics. The Bush campaign mobilized immediately, sent armies of people to Florida to influence the outcome, and put its various friends in high places to work. It wasn’t pretty, but when push came to shove, Bush had the better-run organization, and he won.

A presidential campaign is long, it’s repetitive, and it’s boring, but it’s also a pretty good Nerf version of the presidency — you can take it out and throw it around without really breaking anything. The candidates are under unbelievable pressure each and every day, every word they say is scrutinized and spun one way or another, and they sit at the head of a big organization, and they’re being pulled in every direction by a million interested parties. It’s ridiculous, it’s antiquated, it’s terribly annoying if you pay more than passing attention to it, but it’s also the best indicator there is of what kind of president that candidate will turn out to be.

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The Trashiest, Most Satisfying Show of the Summer

I just watched the most satisfying television season finale I’ve seen in a long time. It paid off long story arcs, it had surprises, it had romance, it had betrayal, it had reversals, and like the all best dramas, every revelation was at once completely surprising, and totally made organic sense. I refer, of course, to Bachelor Pad 3.

I have made a few embarrassing admissions in this space. I confessed to having quit drinking because of multiple bedwetting incidents. I revealed that I once plotted the murder of my roommate’s dog. I admitted to almost burning down a cabana at the best destination wedding ever. But I am really genuinely embarrassed to reveal this, because I could feel my own standards lowering with each commercial break, but at the same time I feel a need to scream what a great piece of entertainment I just witnessed, the same as I felt when I was the only person I knew watching Homeland last season.

First: What is Bachelor Pad 3? (Other than the greatest reality show ever?) It is the third season of the trashy, (more) exploitative stepcousin of The Bachelor franchise, filmed at the same opulent Los Angeles mansion used for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. (You can’t let a place like that sit vacant, with no trashy reality shows filming in it, for more than a few weeks — that’s just dollars and sense.) Like The Bachelor/ette, it is a competition, but unlike The Bachelor/ette, the grand prize is not a wedding engagement that will go south faster than cheese left in the sun — it’s $250,000, which should last at least a couple of weeks longer.

The contestants are already familiar to the audience, because it is composed entirely of past Bachelor/ette hopefuls, a gene pool characterized by a willingness to do almost anything on camera, including but not limited to:

a) proposing marriage
b) using the word “bro” more than three times in one sentence
c) declaring undying love ten minutes after meeting
d) open disdain of clothing that might obstruct the camera’s view of one’s rigorously maintained abs
e) Listing “VIP Cocktail Waitress” or “Data Destruction Manager” or (my favorite) “Luxury Brand Consultant” as your actual occupation, right under your name and face, on national network TV

The genius of Bachelor Pad is that while the object of the game is to win money — not to pretend to fall in love — the game is structured to encourage and then exploit the relationships that always blossom when you put 16 under-30 tanning enthusiasts in a big house with a pool, a hot tub, 24 cameramen, and ten cases of liquor (per person). Everyone is expected to pick an opposite-sex partner, who they are not required to (but in nearly all cases immediately do) sleep with, to compete against the other teams for the money. There is a ridiculous, Double Dare-esque challenge each week, and the winners are both immune from being eliminated in that week’s voting. Since the contestants (as opposed to the audience) vote each other off the show, alliances are formed, hollow promises are exchanged freely, and bald-faced lies are currency.

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Pay Heed, Allergy Sufferers, For I Am Your King!

As the summer comes to an end, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor, desperate souls who’ve suffered through the season in one of two miserable states.

One: sniffling, nose red, chafed, and sore, rubbing their eyes, sneezing more often than not sneezing, spitting out the mucus that never stops running down their throats when no one’s looking, constantly clearing their throats as a way to scratch the itch that said mucus creates, and walking around with one pocket full of fresh Kleenex and another pocket full of spent Kleenex (or, looking around wild-eyed for something to use as a Kleenex: napkin, paper towel, old newspaper, candy wrapper).

Or, two: shuffling around in a Sudafed/Chlor-Trimeton/Benadryl haze, feeling like your head has gained twenty pounds, ever so slightly tingling from head to toe and unable to shake the fantasy of lying down and trying to bond with your comforter at a subatomic level.

I feel this pity for the so afflicted because until a couple of years ago, I was one of you. I may well have been your king! I realize that this sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it literally and truthfully: I have never seen anyone else suffer from allergies as much as me. They handicapped me to the point of near-total paralysis. I once ruined — not tainted, not dampened, RUINED — a Thanksgiving dinner at my wife’s uncle’s house because I was so allergic to their cats my eyes swelled and turned the color of an old tomato and I couldn’t stop sneezing for even ten seconds. Again: not exaggerating. Read More