Los Angeles based psychedelic/folk/rock band, centered around singer/songwriter Arthur Lee. Lee has been using the name since 1965, and the most recent album recorded under the Love name was in 1989.
While Arthur Lee and the name of the band have remained constant, the band roster and the quality of output certainly has not. Lee came from a traditional black R&B background, but after seeing The Byrds play live in 1965 became heavily influenced by folk music and acoustic guitar work. Recruiting band members, including Bryan Maclean, a former Byrds roadie, he formed Grass Roots, later to become Love. They played intensively across the LA area, and became known as the LA underground band. Naturally, given their surroundings, Sex Chat the band maintained a healthy drug input.
Although hugely popular in LA, the band remained relatively unknown in other areas of the US and abroad. This was mostly because Lee refused to go on tour, or play any gigs outside the LA, and their music was not radio fodder. They were also unfriendly to the music press and other bands, gaining them the rather creative nickname ‘Hate’.
The band were signed to the Elektra label in 1966, the first band to do so (although they would later be overshadowed by The Doors). Most songs were written by Lee, although Maclean wrote some of the band’s more famous tracks, such as Alone Again Or.
Elektra Discography (albums only)
Love – 1966
Da Capo – 1966
Forever Changes – 1967
Four Sail – 1969 (with new lineup)
Following the recording of Forever Changes and one more single, the band split completely. Maclean became a born again Christian (as hinted in the Maclean-penned Forever Changes track Old Man) and kicked his heroin habit. Other members quit as their various drug addictions or arguments with Lee got too great. Lee’s heroin addiction reached it’s peak when he nearly died from an overdose in ’68; had he done so, Love would probably have been remembered a great deal more fondly.
Subsequent to the original group splitting, Lee’s ego went out of control. He formed a new line up around himself, and continued using the name Love. While the band’s final album included some excellent tracks, after leaving Elektra things deteriorated. Lee, with a constantly shifting group of band members, recorded at least another five albums under the name Love, shifting through genres from traditional rock to soul, but never recapturing the quality of the Elektra era, producing material of little worth.
While the group remain largely unknown to the general public, like The Velvet Underground, their influence is acknowledged by today’s psychedelic/folk artists, who frequently list Forever Changes amongst their favourite albums. It’s one of my personal Desert Island Discs, after I happened to purchase it on a whim.
Lee started a reasonably successful solo career in the 90’s, but was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm in ’96 and jailed for eight years, under California’s Three Strikes system (he had previous convictions for drug possession). Some of the members of his UK based backing band went on to form Shack, a recent favourite of the critics.
Bryan Maclean died of a heart attack in 1998. He hated the final sound of Forever Changes so much that he only listened to it once in his entire life. Two retrospective albums of his material have subsequently been released, featuring both his (largely Christian) solo work and some unreleased Love material.
Pick up Forever Changes next time you see it going cheap. It’s the best album you’ve never heard. They’re notably impossible to find on Napster, due to their rather commonly used name.
02/05/2002 – A few updates since crafting this node – Firstly, a remastered re-release of Forever Changes, complete with a bonus CD featuring some extra material (possibly Maclean’s work – /msg me if you know) was released unto the British public late last year, where it promptly collected the Best Re-Release accolade in every music magazine’s Award Issues. Secondly, HexFailure informs me that Arthur Lee was released from jail in December 2001, so keep an eye out for new material.