COMPANY TOWN : No Harmony in Beach Boy Suit Between Cousins Love and Wilson
Across the street from the satellite dishes beaming to the world each detail of the O.J. Simpson hearings, another celebrity legal battle is taking place--this one to a mostly empty federal courtroom.
Jury selection is expected to start today in Love vs. Wilson, as in Mike Love and his cousin Brian Wilson, both founding members of the legendary music group the Beach Boys.
The U.S. District Court case marks the latest feud involving the first family of Southern California rock, whose dysfunctional side stands in stark contrast to the group’s feel-good music. Its members have seemingly spent as much time battling in courtrooms as in recording studios.
Love wants money and additional writing credits he feels are owed him for his alleged contributions to 79 songs. They range from the Beach Boys anthem “California Girls,” for which he has received no credit over the years, to “Good Vibrations,” for which he says he deserves more credit--and a bigger slice of songwriting royalties--than he’s been getting.
Wilson’s lawyers counter that Love is 25 to 30 years too late in bringing his case. They allege that he wants credit for songs he didn’t write or barely contributed to, and is out to enrich himself at his cousin’s expense. They also say Love in 1969 signed a letter acknowledging the accuracy of songwriting credits and failed to request additional credit and royalties.
Specifically, Love is asking for a third of a $10-million out-of-court settlement Wilson received in 1992 after he alleged that the Beach Boys’ “Sea of Tunes” song catalogue was fraudulently sold by his domineering father, the late Murry Wilson, for $700,000 to Irving Music.
Brian Wilson alleged that his father coerced him into giving up his interest in the company that administered the songs. He also alleged that Murry Wilson engineered the sale with help from entertainment lawyer Abraham Somer, who Brian Wilson alleges advised him that there was nothing he could do to stop the sale. Wilson alleged that Somer had a conflict of interest because he represented Irving Music. The case was settled before trial.
That $700,000 paid for the catalogue is considered a huge bargain today. Some estimate it could be worth $40 million or more.
The puns come easy. Bad vibrations. No more fun, fun, fun. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could work out their differences.
That isn’t likely to happen with both sides so far apart, and considering the amount of sniping going on between the two. Love lawyer Michael J. Flynn says the singer wants to pursue the case in court because he believes the issue is as much about musical artists being exploited by lawyers as it is about who wrote “Well, East Coast girls are really hip, I really dig those styles they wear.”
Said Flynn: “Mike Love wants this whole thing exposed.”
Flynn says Love is also angry that as much as $6 million of Wilson’s money has been eaten away in attorney fees related to the case when Love is asking for much less. Flynn vows to present evidence that Love objected to the 1969 sale but was told by a lawyer that he had no recourse.
Wilson lawyer Douglas Day argues that Love sees the opportunity to make money from Wilson’s successful settlement over his songwriting rights.
“This lawsuit is about Mike Love wanting to take money from Brian after Brian was successful in his own litigation to reclaim his publishing rights, which are claims Mike was never entitled to,” Day said. “Brian is eagerly awaiting the opportunity for the jury to hear the conflicting claims of Mike Love and Brian’s own story.”
Day further argues that Love has forced Wilson to spend the money on lawyers by pursuing the case and by initially asking for more than $30 million. “Brian has had no choice but to defend this,” Day said.
Love received a $1.5-million payment from an insurance company after he sued Wilson and publisher HarperCollins for slander stemming from Wilson’s 1991 autobiography, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
He also received a $1.6-million settlement from a group of lawyers and Irving Music, named as defendants in the original lawsuit with Wilson.
Both Wilson and Love testified in a pretrial evidence hearing last week, providing vivid reminders that the Beach Boys are hardly boys, but rather middle-aged men fighting over events that took place decades ago.
Love described himself and Wilson as a “successful songwriting team” in the 1960s, saying he listened to the music Wilson created and wrote the words.
While on the stand, Wilson discussed his well-publicized psychological problems, saying he takes four different medications, including one because he “hears voices.”