Anyone wondering why the Beach Boys agreed to write a song for the 1990 movie Problem Child need look no further back in history than two years before when Tom Cruise’s Cocktail served up a little tune on its soundtrack called “Kokomo.” That ode to a nonexistent island off the Florida Keys gave them their first Number One since “Good Vibrations” 22 years years earlier, providing a huge boost to their sagging career. Mike Love was never one to mess with a winning formula, so within the next couple of years “Make It Big” and “Still Cruisin'” wound up in Troop Beverly Hills and Lethal Weapon 2, two excellent movies that only get better the 600th time you watch them on cable.
Problem Child, however, is not a great movie. (If you loved it when you were eight, try watching it again.) Perhaps the only thing worse than it is the song “Problem Child,” which runs over the closing credits. It begins with children chanting “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah” and manages to go downhill from there. “Who wants to grow up? Who wants responsibility?” sings Carl Wilson. “Who wants to show up at work until you’re 93? Oh, no, not me! Now everybody says you’re runnin’ wild.” Mike Love’s nasally voice now comes in: “Your teacher’s callin’ you a Problem Child!” In 1966, these two men locked voices to create “God Only Knows.” Now they were using them to shill for a bad John Ritter flick.
This came around the tail end of Brian Wilson’s association with Dr. Eugene Landy, so there’s no sign of him on the song or in the video. Don’t worry though, because it has plenty of John Stamos drum action. There’s also a bunch of Gilbert Gottfried scenes from the movie, which actually grossed $72 million and spawned two sequels. Even stranger, it was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the brilliant team behind Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and The People v. O.J. Simpson.
The Beach Boys brought “Problem Child” into their live set the week the movie came out, but six days later it fell out –never to return. (By comparison, they’ve done “Kokomo” well over 1,100 times.) They still play about 150 shows a year, but there’s better odds of Brian Wilson and Mike Love teaming up for an album of Captain Beefheart covers than the song ever appearing again. Even many hardcore fans of the group don’t know such a song even exists but, thanks to the magic of YouTube, nothing is ever gone.