Tuesday Night Music Byte
Love was an American rock group of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Arthur Lee and the group’s second songwriter, guitarist Bryan MacLean. One of the first racially diverse American pop bands, their music reflected different influences, combining elements of rock and roll, garage rock, folk and psychedelia. Love started playing the L.A. clubs in April 1965 and became a popular act. At this time, they were playing extended numbers such as “Revelation” (originally titled “John Lee Hooker”) and getting the attention of such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. The band lived communally in a house once owned by horror actor Bela Lugosi, and their first two albums included photos shot in the garden of that house.
Their musical reputation largely rests on two albums issued in 1967, Da Capo and Forever Changes. Da Capo, released in January of that year, included rockers like “Stephanie Knows Who” and “7 and 7 Is,” and melodic songs such as “¡Qué Vida!” and “She Comes in Colors.” Gone were the Byrds influences and jangly guitars, replaced by melodically airy art-songs with predominantly jazz and classical influences. Some critics derided it as a one-side album, with the six songs on Side One contrasting markedly with the lack of focus displayed on the other side, which was devoted entirely to the 19-minute “Revelation.” Cantrelli and Pfisterer soon quit the band, leaving it as a five-piece once again.
Forever Changes, released in November 1967, is a suite of songs using acoustic guitars, strings and horns that was recorded while the band was falling apart as the result of various abuses. Producer Bruce Botnick originally planned to record the entire album with session musicians backing Lee and MacLean but after two tracks had been recorded in this way the rest of the band were stung into producing the discipline required to complete the rest of the album in only 64 hours. Writer Richard Meltzer, in his The Aesthetics of Rock, comments on Love’s “orchestral moves,” “post-doper word contraction cuteness” and Lee’s vocal style that serves as a “reaffirmation of Johnny Mathis.” Forever Changes included one modest hit single, the MacLean-written “Alone Again Or”, while “You Set the Scene” went on to receive airplay from some progressive rock radio stations. By this stage, Love were far more popular in the UK, where the album reached #24, than in their home country, where it could only reach #154. Love did, however, have a strong following in the U.S. at the time among critics.
MacLean, suffering from heroin addiction, soon left the band, as did all the other members except Lee. MacLean later emerged as a Contemporary Christian artist. Echols and Forssi also experienced the ravages of heroin addiction and disappeared from the scene. Arthur Lee, as the only remaining member, convened a new lineup and continued recording as Love. The reconstituted version of Love, which included Jay Donnellan and Gary Rowles on guitars, Frank Fayad on bass, and George Suranovich on drums, played in a blues-rock style very different from the band’s previous line-up. Three albums were released by various permutations of this lineup: Four SailOut Here (1969), and False Start (1970). The latter featured a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix. Arthur Lee released the solo album Vindicator in 1972, followed by a final official Love album, Reel to Real (1974), recorded by Lee and session musicians. Love was finally discontinued in the late 1970s, and various plans to reunite various Love lineups in the following years did not come to fruition. Lee reemerged with the one-off single “Girl on Fire” in 1994.
After spending six years in prison from 1995 to 2001 for firearms offenses, Arthur Lee began to play Love’s classic songs in concert by reuniting with the members of Baby Lemonade. In the early 2000s, co-founder of Love and original guitarist Johnny Echols rejoined Lee, in this line-up and performed as “Love with Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols.” This reformed group toured for several years, frequently performing Forever Changes in its entirety.
Ken Forssi died of a suspected brain tumor in his home state of Florida on January 10, 1998, at age 54. Bryan MacLean died in Los Angeles of a massive heart attack at age 52 on December 25, 1998, while having dinner with a young fan who was researching a book about the band. Arthur Lee died in Memphis, Tenn., on August 3, 2006, of complications from leukemia at age 61.
Please enjoy Love performing two songs from the Forever Changes album, “Alone Again Or” and “A House Is Not A Hotel”.