In 1963, the Beach Boys recorded “Little Saint Nick,” one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll holiday songs of all time. And this year, the band’s Mike Love revisited the classic for his new Christmas album, Reason for the Season. “The fact that I could even contemplate rerecording it 55 years later is a minor miracle, don’t you think?” he jokes. But Love tells Yahoo Entertainment that he’s wishing for another Christmas miracle: “I would love nothing more than to get together with Brian and do some music,” he reveals.
Love is of course referring to his occasionally estranged cousin/bandmate, Brian Wilson. Love and Wilson both embarked on separate holiday concert tours this season, and they haven’t played together since 2012’s aborted Beach Boys 50th anniversary reunion tour. But a seemingly sentimental Love says Reason for the Season was inspired by his holiday memories with the Wilsons — widely known as one of rock’s most dysfunctional families — from a simpler childhood era.
“I wrote [“Little Saint Nick”] with my cousin Brian, lo these many years ago,” Love recalls. “That’s where the Beach Boys started, is Christmas parties. Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, my cousins, my first cousins, were family. My mother and her brother Murry, my Uncle Murry. That was the inception of the Beach Boys. … That’s what I remember the most.”
There’s one particular tune on Reason for the Season, the title track, that it seems Love especially hopes Brian will get to hear. “It’s a boogie-woogie song, and our Uncle Charlie taught Brian boogie-woogie,” Love explains. “So, it’s like I know it’s a message to Brian that transcends all the superfluous stuff. I think it’s going back to our roots, literally when we would sing together Christmas carols, only with the Wilsons and Love.
“My cousin Brian, I can remember him singing ‘Danny Boy’ sitting on my Grandmother Wilson’s lap. … I remember a lot of things like that,” Love continues. “Also singing Everly Brothers songs in three-part harmony with my sister and Brian and myself, coming back from Wednesday youth night at Angeles Mesa Presbyterian Church in the Baldwin Hills area of California. A lot of memories, and one of the sweetest memories is Christmas caroling around the neighborhood.” On his new holiday LP, Love says he carries on this tradition by harmonizing with his four children, one of whom is named Brian.
Of course, there’s an ongoing mythology surrounding Love and Wilson’s contentious relationship (Love was once famously quoted as saying, “For those who believe that Brian Wilson walks on water, I will always be the Antichrist”), with some factions of Beach Boys fans being on Team Brian and others siding with Team Mike. Love is well aware of this, but he insists to Yahoo, “Yeah, but see, Brian and Mike are on Team Each Other.”
One key moment in the supposed Brian/Mike feud was when the Beach Boys staged a massive comeback 30 years ago, with the Cocktail movie soundtrack hit “Kokomo.” Wilson wasn’t on the recording. “Oh no, we invited Brian to participate, but he was under the influence of the nefarious Dr. [Eugene] Landy at the time,” claims Love, referring to the psychologist whose unconventional treatment of Wilson in the 1970s and ’80s was later deemed unethical by Californian courts. (Landy was played by Paul Giamatti in the 2014 biopic Love & Mercy, which Love says he has never seen.) “And so, although we tried to get Brian, he wasn’t allowed. He wasn’t permitted to come and sing with us. Which is sad.”
Then, there was Love’s string of lawsuits against Wilson in the 1990s, including a 1991 defamation case over claims made in Wilson’s memoir, Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story, and a 1993 suit over Beach Boys writing credits. Love prevailed in both cases, and 1998, he was given an exclusive license to tour under the Beach Boys’ band name. However, Brian diehards mainly resent Love over the longstanding rumor that he was unhappy with the more psychedelic, orchestral direction of the Beach Boys’ much-loved Pet Sounds/Smile era.
“That is garbage! I don’t know where that came from, honestly,” Wilson says of that controversy. “First of all, I named the album Pet Sounds. … Then, not only that, we went with Brian to play the album for our A&R director at Capitol Records. … And [the A&R man] said, ‘Guys, this is great, but couldn’t you do something more like…?’ You know, they’re used to ‘California Girls,’ or ‘I Get Around,’ or ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.’ So, it was Capitol Records and their marketing department who didn’t know what to do with Pet Sounds. But I never said anything like ‘Who’s going to listen to this crap?’ or whatever it is. Never said that. I worked very hard on that album with everybody else.”
So, if there’s supposedly no bad blood between the cousins, where does that ongoing misconception come from? Love once again blames Landy’s bad influence, as well as Wilson’s drug abuse. “I think there was a venomous kind of thing that arose through drugs. I didn’t get into all the heavy drugs and stuff like that, and some others did. And so there was a schism, or a division, and it was based on lifestyle choices,” he says.
This past August, however, the surviving members of the classic Beach Boys lineup — Love, Wilson, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston — reunited for the first time since 2012 for a SiriusXM Town Hall interview moderated by Rob Reiner, and Love says there was nothing but love at the end. So maybe, just maybe, we can hope for new music from Love and Wilson one day, in the new year or beyond.
“At the end of that [SiriusXM Town Hall], I sat next to Brian, and he said, ‘I love you, Mike,’” Love recalls with a grin. “And I said, ‘I love you too, Brian.’ And he said, ‘I love you, rock ‘n’ roll.’ And he mentioned ‘Little Honda,” that song that we did. So, it was very sweet, very sweet. We both go back to childhood. Really, between he and I, there really wouldn’t be any problems.”
This holiday season, Love is urging fans to sign up for BeTheMatch.org, a nonprofit organization operated by the National Marrow Donor that finds marrow donors for patients diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. “There’s a little girl that we know very well, and I’ve known her all her life. She’s very young, and she’s in St. Louis. Layla. And she has this disease, or condition, that is very rare, and she needs a match, a bone-marrow match. It just takes a cheek swab, and you may be able to help her in her battle. You might even save her life, and not only her, but many people and children affected in this way. So, that would be a really good reason for the season, out of love, to want to help somebody. That would be a phenomenal thing for people to do.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- Mike Love remembers ‘beautiful, spiritual’ beginnings of the Beatles’ ‘White Album’ in India
- Flashback interview: Brian Wilson’s impeccable re-return
- New documentary dives deep into life of Brian Wilson