It's usually not a good idea to take sides in another family's dispute. Exhibit A: The latest twist in the Beach Boys' long-running saga of sweetly harmonious inter-personal dysfunction. Mike Love's recent Los Angeles Times column denying reports he "fired" fellow Beach Boys co-founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, plus guitarist David Marks, only makes the whole situation all the more tangled and unpleasant.
"Let me get right to it: I did not fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys," Love writes. "I cannot fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I am not his employer. I do not have such authority. And even if I did, I would never fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I love Brian Wilson. We are partners. He's my cousin by birth and my brother in music."
The rest of his column is similarly repetitive and, in places, egregiously self-aggrandizing, but you know what? Love's charmless delivery disguises a completely legitimate point, the same one he made last month when announcing the tour would continue without Wilson, Jardine, and Marks. As he said then and in his Times column, the Beach Boys' 50th-anniversary reunion tour was never never supposed to go on forever.
And frankly, it's true: When the band announced its tour back in December 2011, they also announced a 50-date tour. Love says in his column that the Beach Boys then extended their tour to a total of 75 dates, citing support from fans, critics, and promoters. (The Beach Boys also released a new album, That's Why God Made the Radio, to fairly positive reception.)
The problem came, according to Love, when Wilson and Jardine wanted to extend the tour beyond those 75 dates. Love notes that he, as the owner of the Beach Boys name, had already scheduled October dates in smaller markets. He says it would have been impossible for Wilson and Jardine to join for these dates, and he says this was long agreed-upon.
Now, it's also true, as SPIN reported last month, that Wilson and Jardine have expressed surprise over the tour continuing without them. According to CNN, a "blindsided" Wilson said, "I'm disappointed and can't understand why he doesn't want to tour with Al, David, and me." And according to Rolling Stone, Jardine posted on his Facebook wall an online petition asking to be reinstated in the band.
And it's true, too, that Love isn't exactly helping his own cause here. What do legalistic arguments about shareholder votes have to do with any Beach Boys' fan's emotional connection to Wilson's composition and production on "God Only Knows"? And, just as in the original press release announcing the Beach Boys' reunion, Love uses his Times column to relay kind words Wilson evidently had for him. What's more, according to the Telegraph, Love previously gave crass financial reasons for ending the reunion tour; he doesn't really contradict those in his column.
Still, there are reasons to doubt Wilson and Jardine here, as well. For instance, if Wilson really was as "blindsided" as CNN reported, that's inexplicable. Way back in June, when Rolling Stone reported that Love was adding dates without his fellow co-founders, Wilson said, "That's news to me." Okay, fine, maybe he was surprised in June. But then why was he still surprised in September? And Jardine no longer has a link to the petition on his Facebook wall, further complicating this mess.
The good vibrations might be over for now, but it's too soon to pick out heroes and villains.