With their breezy harmonies and clean-cut image, the Beach Boys were the very picture of innocence and sunny, pop charm in a stormy, troubled decade.
Behind the scenes, it was a different story. In his new book, “The Lost Beach Boy,” founding member David Marks provides an insider’s perspective on the inner workings of an iconic band. This is Part 2 of Goldmine’s interview with Marks.
Goldmine: In your book, you convey that the innocent image of The Beach Boys collided with the stark reality of life on the road.
David Marks: We were presented with various temptations and opportunities to be naughty, and we took them. We were rowdy kids in the neighborhood before we were the Beach Boys; nothing was gonna change us. It just opened up the door for us to be even more mischievous.
When you’re a young teenager, and you’re making lots of money, and there are a lot of opportunities to drink [that can lead to trouble]. There were no drugs around, but we did drink. There weren’t really a lot of groupies. Most of the kids that came to the shows were little girls. Our road manger was the instigator to that one experience with Carl, me, Mike and Dennis going to the hotel with the prostitute.
Mike and Dennis dragged Carl and I because they probably thought it was funny, (laughs) ‘cause we were both virgins. But that’s innocent, too. That was something that happened 45 years ago. It would have been abnormal for a hit rock and roll band on the road not to have done something like that. Dennis and Mike were always on the prowl for chicks. They had an apartment together in Manhattan Beach after the band’s first tour. They had their little competition of who could score the most chicks, and Dennis won (laughs). He was quite the charmer. He looked like a movie star and had the personality to go with it.
GM: Wasn’t Mike (Love) constantly on you about writing to your folks while you were on the road?
DM: On the road we were pretty much unsupervised. Murry (Wilson, one-time band manager and father of Dennis, Brian and Carl) ended up hiring a guy who was just as bad as us.
I kind of suspect that my father took Mike aside and said, “You’re the oldest, take care of him.” Mike was on me about getting up to go to the gigs and write home to my parents. He looked after me and literally saved my life one time in Hawaii and metaphorically after that. We were sitting on a balcony after a show, and we were in a hotel three stories up. I was drunk and we were talking to some girls. I was sitting on the actual railing, and I went backwards over the railing, and he grabbed my ankle and pulled me back up. It would have been disastrous; I probably would have died.
When I was in the gutter in the late '90s, he recruited me to go back and play on the road with The Beach Boys. But even before that, through the years, he would call and ask me if I was doing all right. The fact that he called out of the blue through the years was impressive.
Anyway, Mike kept bothering me to write a letter home to my parents, so one day I sat down with the hotel stationery and wrote this letter detailing every woman and drink I had on the tour. It was filthy, everything you wouldn’t want your parents to know.
When Mike read it, I never really saw him laugh.