I was checking the news the other day and noticed an item on the passing of Love founder Arthur Lee. I had read recently that he was fighting leukemia and was the subject of a star studded benefit concert on New York City; Robert Plant being one of the performers.
Love has always been a favorite band of mine and maybe because they weren't a household name or had a string of hit albums and singles. But they were something greater than that;their 1967 album Forever Changes has made many a list of "Must Have LP's" and numerous performers cite them as an influence. Robert Plant mentioned them in his acceptance speech upon his induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. Their songs have been covered by artists as diverse as UFO (Alone Again Or), The Move (Stephanie Knows Who), and The Hooters (She Comes In Colors) and they were one of the first acts to record Hey Joe.
Love debuted in 1966 with a raucous cover of Burt Bacharach's My Little Red Book and a debut album on Elektra Records. The story goes that Bacharach was furious when he heard the groups version of his song...An interracial (Lee and guitarist John Echols were black) band that mixed elements of garage rock, folk, jazz, and soul into a heady brew that brought them much attention early on, they released their second LP Da Capo which had the ground breaking side-long epic cut Revelation. But their masterstroke was their1967 opus Forever Changes which is not only a musical tour de force but is almost a soundtrack of the whole LA scene at the time. And 39 years up the road it still sounds vibrant and alive.
Jimi Hendrix described Arthur Lee as being "the first black hippie" and the bandwere never a major success because they didn't want to be rock stars. They rarely played outside of the LA area and never toured the US. They were often curt and monosyllabic with the musical press which is said to have led Big Brother And The Holding Company bassist Pete Albin to remark "They should call themselves Hate". The recording of Forever Changes saw the band in a fragmented state and the original plan was to have Arthur Lee and singer/guitarist Bryan Maclean perform their songs backed by top Hollywood session musicians. It was a psychological ploy that worked; the other band members were so hurt that they forgot about their differences and pulled together to create a classic.
The album wasn't a sales success; I don't think it has ever been certified gold. But it is a timeless soundtrack of LA in 1967 and I was introduced to it in 1982 when I bought the Rhino Records Best Of Love LP. The late Scott Muni would often play "You set The Scene" as a "lost classic" on his show on WNEW 102.7 in NYC.
By the time Forever Changes was released, the band had dissolved in a messy tangle of bitterness and drug addiction. When their money from the band ran dry, John Echols and bassist Ken Forssi took to robbing doughnut shops to finance their heroin habits earning them the nickname "The Donut Shop Bandits and a stretch in San Quentin. Arthur Lee kept several versions of Love together, cut an unreleased album with Jimi Hendrix and would eventually fall afoul of the California "three strikes" law and serve five years in prison after firing a gun in the air during an arguement with his neighbor. The last five years saw a renaissance of sorts, a revitalized Arthur Lee and band performing Forever Changes in its entirety. A show in London was filmed and recorded as the DVD The Forever Changes Concert. At one point a woman in the audience calls out; "Arthur, you don't know how long we've waited for this!" to which he responds; "You don't know how long I've waited!"
Here' hoping that Arthur, Bryan and Kenny are jamming together.....you were never a star, Arthur, but you left us a fabulous musical legacy.....Thanks for the ride!!
Indeed a great musician has left the building! Thanks for the info, mate.
Rest in Peace....
Arthur Lee will be greatly missed.
You will be forever remembered.
Recently Rush released a covers CD which included a version of the Love single Seven And Seven Is which was the only chart hit for the band ; it squeaked into the Top 40 in 1966. A classic blast of energy, it showcased the band in full garage rock mode complete with a recording of an atomic bomb blast in the coda.
I flew out to LA in January 2004 to attend the SLITCOA video shoot and took a number of CD's to listen to in the car while I was there. I remember driving out of the car rental at LAX and putting on the Forever Changes Concert CD as my soundtrack as I drove up to Van Nuys. Over the next two days as I drove around the area, Arthur Lee's songs were my backdrop. That memory will always stay with me
This man's music really touched your heart, huh Bill?
And genius is usually impossible to replace.
Luckily the music is forever.
Your comments on his passing definitely rate as PROFOUND.