Why are the Beach Boys Being Sued?

Where did the fun, fun, fun go? Disputes, money and legal squabbling have recently made things emphatically unfriendly at the beach. FormerBeach Boy Mike Love is suing his former band-mate and cousin, Brian Wilson, over Wilson's 2004 album SMiLE.

Mike Love's side of the story

Love purports that Wilson's promotion of the album misused his likeness, music and the Beach Boys name. To quote from directly from his filing, Love says Wilson "shamelessly misappropriated Mike Love's songs, likeness and the Beach Boys trademark, as well as the SMiLE album itself."

One of the issues at the heart of the squabble appears to be the 1966 hit single, "Good Vibrations," on which Love appeared as lead vocalist. Love (who shares songwriting credit with Wilson on Good Vibrations) contributed to the lyrics to the song, which became the Beach Boys' biggest selling single. However, early recordings exist of a version with lyrics by Wilson's Pet Sounds writing partner, Tony Asher, and when Wilson re-tooled Good Vibrations for the 2004 version of SMiLE, he used Asher's original lyrics.

The History of the SMiLE album

The checkered history behind SMiLE is near-legendary. Wilson conceived the music for the album during 1966. SMiLE was to be his most ambitious work ever. He intended to take the direction of Pet Sounds (widely regarded as his masterpiece) to a new level of creative sophistication, using advanced production techniques to link new songs, sounds and themes as he first explored in Good Vibrations, which cost an unprecedented $50,000 to produce---unheard of in its time.

Arguably the first major pop "concept" album, Wilson called "Smile" his "teenage symphony to God." SMiLE was an artistic leap, both musically and conceptually. A stark departure, SMiLE didn't fit with the Beach Boys 'sand, surf and tan' formula and image.

For a complex of reasons---including internal tensions within the band and Wilson's emotional problems and drug dependency--- completion of SMiLE was repeatedly postponed until the album was finally abandoned entirely and shelved. Many regard it as a lost classic.

Why did Wilson finally decide to record SMiLE?

During 2004, Wilson decided to complete the album at last and release it on his own. Wilson re-recorded SMiLE in its entirety with the help of a young Los Angeles pop band (The Wondermints) and a 19-piece orchestra.

Upon its release, SMiLE quickly earned international acclaim and sold millions of copies. The success of SMiLE marked the beginning of a major comeback for the reclusive and emotionally-troubled Wilson

Why is Mike Love Suing?

Besides being soured by the remake of "Good Vibrations," money matters could be the reason Mike Love is at odds with his cousin. In his lawsuit, Love says that while promoting SMiLE, Wilson handed out 2.6 million copies of a Beach Boys compilation CD to readers of Britain's Daily Mail. Love contends that the giveaway undercut the band's sales.

He also claims Wilson had no rights to the CD to begin with, since Love owns the rights to the Beach Boys name and the exclusive legal right to tour under the Beach Boys name. Others have speculated that Love's lawsuit is an effort to pressure Wilson into allowing Love to continue to tour under the lucrative Beach Boys name, unchallenged.

While Wilson himself is not touring as a "Beach Boy," there is some question about him having the right to distribute the band's music. The lawsuit, which was filed in a Los Angeles federal court on November 3rd, seeks at least a million dollars to "correct the effects of unfair competition and infringing uses" and millions in illicit profits.

It's Nothing Personal

In spite of all this, Love's lawyer insists the two are still on good terms and have a cordial relationship. The attorney, Phil Stillman, claims the lawsuit is "nothing personal." He says there is a problem with the way some of Wilson's associates promoted the album. Stillman maintains the two remain family and co-founders of a very important band in Rock and Roll history. Neither Wilson, nor his attorney, has commented on the lawsuit---leading some to comment that the whole dispute may be just a publicity stunt to stimulate sales.

Love formed the Beach Boys along with Brian Wilson, his late brothers Carl and Dennis, and friend Al Jardine in Hawthorne, California, back in 1961. The band achieved global fame with such hits as the aforementioned "Good Vibrations," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and "California Girls." Wilson split from Love and Jardine on not-so-friendly terms years ago, and his brothers have since died. Jardine now tours with his own band, called Endless Summer featuring Al Jardine."

How will the lawsuit end up? Let's hope those "good vibrations" come back around. In addition to battling the lawsuit from Love, Wilson has released his first solo Christmas album, titled "What I Really Want for Christmas."