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Members include Sherwood Akuna (joined group, 1974), bass;Joe Blocker (joined group, 1974),drums; John Donnellan (joined group, 1968), guitar; John Echols (left group, 1968), guitar; Frank Fayad (joined group, 1968), bass; KenForssi (left group, 1968), bass; Arthur Lee, guitar, vocals; Bryan MacLean (left group, 1968), guitar, vocals; Alban Pfisterer (left group, 1967), drums; Jay Sterling (joined group, 1974), guitar;Michael Stuart (left group, 1968), saxophone; George Suranovitch (joined group, 1968), drums; Drachen Theaker (joined group, 1969), drums; Melvan Whittington (joined group, 1974), guitar. Addresses: Record company--Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 200, Los Angeles, CA 90025, phone: (310) 474-4778, website: http://www.rhino.com.
In 1966, Love was the toast of the Los Angeles, California, rock community. After playing a series of clubs on the prestigious Sunset Strip, an energetic live show won them a contract with Elektra Records, and their self-titled LP garnered favorable reviews. "Love were a legend--the quintessence of Hollywood," Steve Burgess wrote in the Marshall Cavendish History of Popular Music, "simultaneously seedy and transcendental, pure but scandalous." Critics quickly stamped "genius" on eccentric frontman Arthur Lee and noted Love's significance as one of the first interracial rock bands. In 1967 Love completed their masterwork, Forever Changes, an album that synthesized folk rock, a touch of baroque, and a large dose of the psychedelic.
By 1968, however, the group was seemingly in the grips of drug addiction. Love secluded themselves in Bela Lugosi's mansion overlooking Los Angeles, and rumors of the group's bizarre lifestyle and steady intake of drugs ran rampant. "The move from acid to heroin probably gave Love an additional slackboost," noted Mickey Stephens of Pop Matters online. "By 1967, they had the money to support big, soul-sucking habits, and they sure used it." The band also gained a reputation as standoffish and unfriendly, the antitheses of the feeling the group's name implied, leading some to refer to them as "Hate." Lee's tightfisted control of the band and disintegrating mental state led to friction within the band, and by 1968, Love began to implode. In 1969 Lee re-formed the group but without the same cohesion.
Lee, whose given name is Arthur Potter Taylor, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. At age five, he moved to California, and when his mother remarried, Lee adopted his stepfather's last name. A lonely child, he found solace in music, enjoying the popular crooners of the day like Nat King Cole. He also developed something of a reputation in his neighborhood as a "tough guy." His street-smart childhood experiences contrasted sharply to Bryan MacLean's privileged childhood in Hollywood. MacLean's first crush was Liza Minnelli, and he was well versed in both show tunes and classical music. When the two men met at Ben Frank's coffeeshop on the Sunset Strip, Lee invited MacLean to hear his band, the Grass Roots, at the Brave New World.
In addition to Lee, the Grass Roots was formed by members of two other groups, American Four and the LAGs. A friend of Lee's, Johnny Echols, once a neighbor of saxophonist Ornette Coleman, played in both bands. They played R&B, but their musical taste would take a sharp turn after seeing the Byrds perform in Los Angeles in 1965. Formed with these new sounds in mind, the Grass Roots concocted their own style of folk rock mixed with a heavy dose of hard rock and blues. After seeing the band perform, MacLean joined Echols and Lee. In late 1965, the group changed its name to Love, a name that apparently no one liked, to avoid confusion with a commercially successful band also named the Grass Roots.
Love's Labored Triumph
Love carved out a reputation on the rough and tumble Los Angeles club circuit in 1965 and 1966. They played Ciro's on the Sunset Strip, Bido Lito's in Hollywood, and finally the infamous Whiskey A Go-Go. Their combination of garage rock, folk rock, and the psychedelic gave them a unique edge, separating them from the plethora of other Los Angeles bands. Lee mesmerized audiences. He donned fringed jackets, small sunglasses, Edwardian shirts, and army boots, helping to set the soon-to-be-trendy Los Angeles look. The band transformed Bacharach/David's "My Little Red Book" into an angry rock assault, while MacLean's punk rendition of "Hey Joe" proved a highlight of early shows. The band also expressed a softer side on songs like "You I'll Be Following," which leaned closer to the sound of the Byrds. "From the start," wrote David Sokol of MusicHound Folk, "Love fashioned itself as a dynamic, hard-edged band with a soft touch." These live shows attracted Jac Holzman, who was looking to expand Elektra Records to the West Coast. He signed Love in late 1965.
By January of 1966, the band had added bassist Ken Forssi and drummer Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer to fill out what would become Love's classic lineup. The band entered Sound Set Recorders studio to record their eclectic debut, drawing on many of the songs they had been playing in live shows. The album cover, a photograph taken on the grounds of their old estate in Laurel Canyon, featured a surly and street-smart band. "Hey Joe" reached number 52 on the American charts, and by the time the group's self-titled album was released in May of 1966, Love was the hottest band on the Los Angeles underground circuit. Love also had attitude to spare, which proved off-putting to some, but the band didn't really care. If their behavior occasionally got out of control, as with an ugly incident involving mistreating a member of the press, the band believed their deeds to be innocent enough at the time. Although Love sold 150,000 copies, Lee was unhappy with Pfisterer's drumming. He hired a new drummer, Michael Stuart, and moved Pfisterer to the harpsichord.
Although some people Love's attitude as prematurely arrogant, the recording of "7 and 7 Is" proved the band wasn't a one-hit wonder. This single stood out as one of the premier psychedelic songs of the era, and the warped lyrics gave notice that the band had begun to experiment with drugs. The record rose to number 33 on the American charts, Love's only top 50 hit, and was called one of the greatest rock singles of the 1960s by Mojo magazine. "7 and 7 Is" also laid the groundwork for Love's second album, Da Capo, recorded in September and October of 1966. Under producer Paul Rothchild, the band softened its harder edge and moved toward a psychedelic baroque sound. Critics point to songs like "Stephen Knows Who" and "Orange Skies" when noting that the first side of Da Caporanks with the best music the band ever made. The album's quality suffered, however, with the inclusion of a rambling jam called "Revelation." "Side two consisted of one continuous opus...," wrote Burgess, "an adventurous, if unsuccessful, experiment that made side two as self-indulgent as side one was concise."
Paradise Lost and Regained
Love was poised for even greater success following their sophomore triumph in the studio, but Lee's aloofness and the band's drug use began to create complications. Lee would later accuse Elektra of spending more time promoting their labelmates, the Doors, than Love, but many outsiders perceived the band as unambitious and unwilling to pay the dues required to achieve fame. Lee seldom went out of his way to work with people who could help his career, and he often refused to leave his hotel when playing out of town. "Lee eventually refused to travel more than a few miles to a gig," Burgess noted. Some speculated that the band's lack of ambition came from their plunge into heroin use following the recording of Da Capo. Love further sabotaged their career in the summer of 1967 by turning down a chance to play the Monterey Pop Festival.
The same summer, six months after recording Da Capo,the band entered the studio again to record Forever Changes. In retrospect, it seems a small miracle that the album was made at all. The band was too disorganized to record. Lee's drug use was out of control, and MacLean did not show up for practices. Neil Young, signed as co-producer, only managed to arrange one song, "The Daily Planet." Engineer/producer Bruce Botnick proceeded to book session musicians for studio recording. "The group was in such sad shape, apparently," wrote Richie Unterberger in All Music Guide, "that Elektra planned to record their third album with session men backing Lee (on his compositions) or MacLean (on his compositions)." As Love sat in the studio and watched other musicians play "Andmoreagain" and "The Daily Planet," some members were so upset that they reportedly began to cry. The shock woke the band up. They pulled themselves together and finished the album.
Forever Changes became Love's masterwork. "It wasn't a hit," wrote Unterberger, "but Forever Changes continues to regularly appear on critics' lists of the top ten rock albums of all time, and it had an enormously far-reaching ... influence that went way beyond chart listings." The arrangements began with acoustic guitar and added a wash of strings and horns. The poetic lyrics explored paranoia and violence, themes seemingly at odds with the happy mood of the mid 1960s. MacLean penned two songs, the opening track, "Alone Again Or," and "The Red Telephone." Forever Changes' atmospheric combination of folk rock and psychedelia has been described as both beautiful and gentle. Commercially, however, the album did poorly in the United States, topping out at number 152 on the album charts. It fared better in Britain, though, reaching number 24.
Love did not seem bothered by the lack of public response. Critics loved the album and that was good enough. But all was not well within the group. "Things appeared to be getting out of hand at the communal chateau," wrote Burgess, "and gossip about groupies, drugs and gay liaisons between members of the band were rife." When the band entered the studio again, they seemed to have lost all sense of direction, running up a large bill and recording little of quality. Only "Laughing Stock" and "Your Mind and We Belong Together," released in 1968, were culled from the sessions. Echols' heroin habit had become so advanced that he sometimes showed up without his guitar. MacLean, frightened by these developments, felt that it was time to get out. Echols, Forssi, and Stuart soon followed, leaving Lee's band in shambles. In the summer of 1968, a demoralized Lee overdosed on heroin and almost died.
Problems Ran Deep
When Lee got back on his feet, he quickly put together a second version of Love with drummer George Suranovich, bassist Frank Fayad, and guitarist Jay Donnellan. They recorded 30 tracks that would eventually be issued on two albums, ten on Four Sail in 1969, and the remainder on the double-album Out There in 1969. The music leaned toward heavy rock, and many critics found the albums disappointing. Lee recorded with his friend Jimi Hendrix in 1970, but only one track, "The Everlasting First," was issued on the album False Start. The band's lineup continued to change, and two more albums were recorded between 1972 and 1974 before Love disbanded (Black Beauty went unreleased). "The problems ran deeper," wrote Unterberger, "than unsympathetic accompaniment: Lee's songwriting muse had largely deserted him as well, and nothing on the post-Forever Changes albums competes with the early Elektra records." An attempt at a reunion in 1978 that included Lee and MacLean quickly fell apart.
Though several members joined and recorded with other bands, these explorations failed to recreate the success of their work with Love. Time also proved unkind to several members. On January 5, 1998, bassist Forssi died from brain cancer, while MacLean died on December 25, 1998 of a heart attack. Lee toured with Baby Lemonade in 1996 but a subsequent arrest on a firearms charge landed the singer in jail with a 12-year sentence.
Despite these misfortunes, the music that Love made over 30 years ago continues to influence the current music scene. "[I]n later years," wrote Jam! online,"the group--and particularly frontman Arthur Lee--has become a frequently mentioned influence on the current generation of rockers." Rick Gregory of Audities online noted, "To this day, Forever Changes sounds as if not a speck of dust has touched it." The psychedelic music of Love influenced the Paisley Underground movement in the 1980s and has reverberated in English bands like Swervedriver and Jasmine Minks. The deluxe reissue of Forever Changes by Rhino in 2001, complete with bonus tracks, assures that a new generation will be introduced to the lush pop/rock of Love.
by Ronald D. Lankford Jr
Formed group in Los Angeles, CA, 1965; played shows on the Los Angeles club circuit; signed to Elektra Records, 1965; recorded self-titled debut, 1966; expanded to a seven-piece unit for sophomore effort, Da Capo, recorded Forever Changes, 1967; original lineup disbanded, 1968; band re-formed, under Arthur Lee's leadership, released Four Sailand Out There, 1969; toured Europe, released False Start, 1970; group disbanded, 1974.
- Selected discography
- Love Elektra, 1966.
- Da Capo Elektra, 1967.
- Forever Changes Elektra, 1967; reissued, Rhino, 2001.
- Four Sail , Elektra, 1969.
- Out Here , Blue Thumb, 1969.
- False Start , Blue Thumb, 1970.
- Reel To Real , RSO, 1974.
- Love Live , Rhino, 1982.
- The Best of Love: Golden Archive Series Rhino, 1986.
- Out There , Big Beat, 1994.
- Love Story 1966--1972 Rhino/Elektra, 1995.
- Once More Again , Distortions, 1996.
- Brown, Ashley, editor, Marshall Cavendish History of Popular Music, Marshall Cavendish, 1990.
- Santelli, Robert, Sixties Rock: A Listener's Guide,Contemporary Books, 1985.
- Walters, Neal, and Brian Mansfield, editors, MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- "Love," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 6, 2001).
- "Love: Forever Changes," Audities, http://www.audities.com/audities (June 11, 2001).
- "Love: Forever Changes," Pop Matters, http://www.popmatters.com (June 11, 2001).
- "1960's Band Love Getting Reissued," Jam! http://www.canoe.ca/JamMusicArtistsL/love.html (June 11, 2001).
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