5 Songs You Didn’t Know Mike Love Co-Wrote for The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys were one of the most famous bands of the 1960s; they exemplified the California sound that became synonymous with surfer culture and relaxed vibes. But behind their success was plenty of contention between band members, exacerbated by manager influence, drugs, and vying for creative control.

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One of the significant struggles was between bassist, frontman, and primary songwriter Brian Wilson and his cousin, Mike Love. Love, one of the group’s lead singers, frequently collaborated with Wilson on writing the band’s songs. However, because of influence from the group’s management, he was not credited as a co-writer. The resulting contention eventually instigated a bitter lawsuit litigated in the early 1990s.

Although The Beach Boys are undoubtedly a pop group, their music was praised for its creativity and complexity, which was rare in the pop genre in the ’60s. In fact, Brian Wilson is universally thought of as a songwriting and production genius—even The Beatles admitted that perhaps their greatest album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was influenced by their wanting to create a masterpiece as good as Wilson’s and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds from 1966.

It makes sense, though, that Love contributed to Beach Boys tracks, especially with the band’s earlier surfing-themed material. Love’s songwriting contributions were largely unacknowledged until the 1990s lawsuit, which he won. He won credit for co-writing 35 songs, including some of the band’s biggest hits. Love was highly influenced by different genres and styles of the 1960s, including the Flower Power movement, doo-wop, surfer culture, R&B, and psychedelic rock.

[RELATED: Mike Love Shares Beach Boys Stories, Talks New Music]

Because of the long contention between Wilson and Love and their dispute over writing credits, it’s unknown exactly how much Love truly contributed to The Beach Boys’ sound. But his role surely helped make them a pop monolith of the 1960s. Here are a few songs Mike Love helped write.

1. “California Girls

The Beach Boys’ 1965 song “California Girls” was a significant hit for the group and is one of their most famous releases. Love and Wilson disagreed on how much Love had contributed to what the band called a “hymn to youth.” Love maintained he had written most of the lyrics.

“I just thought the neat thing about the United States was that all these girls from all over the world were living here,” Love told Goldmine in a 1992 interview. “So I just wrote it from that standpoint of having traveled…digging the fact that they’re all here in the United States and that we wished they could all be California girls.”

I been all around this great big world
And I seen all kinds of girls
Yeah, but I couldn’t wait to get back in the States
Back to the cutest girls in the world

2. “Kokomo

Like many other Beach Boys songs, the 1988 song “Kokomo”—written for the soundtrack to the Tom Cruise film Cocktail—was a source of contention between Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Though it was a commercial success, critics were relentless in their hostile reception of it. Wilson, who did not participate in the song, didn’t even realize it was by The Beach Boys when he first heard it on the radio.

Love wrote “Kokomo” with several co-writers, including John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. Despite fans’ and critics’ scorn, it nevertheless became yet another of the group’s No. 1 hits.

Off the Florida Keys
There’s a place called Kokomo
That’s where you wanna go
To get away from it all
Bodies in the sand
Tropical drink melting in your hand
We’ll be falling in love
To the rhythm of a steel drum band

3. “Good Vibrations

In some ways, the 1966 song “Good Vibrations” has become the anthem of The Beach Boys. It was a massive hit, with critics praising the complex instrumentation. In fact, it was a style that would go on to affect the development of pop music through the following decades. Wilson and Love wrote the song together, drawing on the idea of cosmic vibrations and the hippie movement.

“The psychedelic music was going on, the flower power thing was going on, and the Summer of Love was about to go on,” Love said in an interview with Phawker in 2012. “Basically, it was just a flowery poem. Kind of almost like, ‘If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair.'”

I, I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air
I’m pickin’ up good vibrations

4. “Surfin’ Safari

“Surfin’ Safari” was included on the Beach Boys’ first album, also called Surfin’ Safari. Written by all four original members, including Love, it is now considered something of an unsophisticated track compared to their later hits. Nevertheless, it pointed toward later successes and cemented the band as a fixture of the California sound of the time.

While Love would later become more of a lyricist than a composer, he contributed words and musical elements to this early track. In particular, he was responsible for the song’s distinctive hook, which he modeled on other “California sound” songs.

Let’s go surfin’ now
Everybody’s learnin’ how
Come on and safari with me

They’re anglin’ in Laguna in Cerro Azul
They’re kickin’ out in Doheny too
I tell you, surfing’s mighty wild, it’s gettin’ bigger every day
From Hawaii to the shores of Peru

5. “Help Me, Rhonda

Although Barbara Ann is tough to beat as far as famous muses in Beach Boys mythology go, Rhonda factors into band lore just as much. “Help Me, Rhonda,” a lively hit about a man whose girlfriend left him for another, was The Beach Boys’ second song to reach No. 1 on the charts. It knocked The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” out of the top slot in late May of 1965.

“Sometimes I would write a lyric because Brian didn’t have anything there,” Love told Songfacts. “That was the case in ‘Help Me, Rhonda.’ I would come up with the lyrics to help finish off and complete the song.”

Well, Rhonda, you caught my eye
And I can give you lots of reasons why
You gotta help me, Rhonda
Help me get her out of my heart

Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

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