Opher’s World – Tributes to Rock Genius – Love – Forever Changes

Love were one of the best bands ever but subject to the same ego and frailties that laid most bands low. Fame brings it’s excesses and turns out to be nothing like imagined. It destroys most people. It destroyed Love.



Contrary to the connotations of the name Love were not always soft and full of flower-power naivety. They came steaming out of the heat of Los Angeles with its urban gangs, racial tribalism and harsh culture. Los Angeles was a city like no other. It sprawled out from the freeways and boulevards and was constructed for the motorcar. It was not a place you could walk the streets; you cruised in your Cadillac and frequented the Sunset Strip to sample the London Fog or Whiskey-a-go-go where the action was.

Love’s first couple of albums were earthy with a Punk feel to them. The songs were melodic and memorable but they had an edge to them that was raw and full of energy.

Arthur Lee and Bryan Maclean shared the writing and vocals creating a great blend of harmonies that fitted well with the guitar-based rhythms.

Those albums were groundbreaking but Love really came together on the third; the immaculate Forever Changes. This reflected their song-writing, musicianship, vocals and production all at their peak. It was one of the stand-out albums of that Acid Rock period. This was a masterpiece of West Coast Hippie culture that has been voted the best album of all time a couple of times. The album has sophistication and is complex with a divine sound without losing the immediacy and distinctiveness of the band. I love it.

Love captured the counter-culture feel of Los Angeles in the heady days of the sixties.

They also epitomise its collapse.

All the idealism and hopes of those times crumpled. The creative force dried up and it descended into violence, hard drugs, free-loading and sell-out. Greed and abuse destroyed it.

Hard drugs were the main reason for Love’s decline. It was all so predictable. After having broken big they were consumed with adulation, sycophancy and overwhelmed with expectation. They were plied with heroin. After the adrenaline high of performance it is difficult to come down and return to any normality. They were hugely successful, swamped with groupies and expected to live the life.

They were young men and succumbed. After one last OK album they split up.

Bryan went on to produce one solo album before going off into Christian Rock and dying in 1998.

Arthur stumbled along reforming versions of Love but failing to recapture the magic. He got himself into trouble discharging a fire-arm and ended up with a prison sentence.

It wasn’t until the 2000s that he finally got it back together. He found himself a group of young musicians called Baby Lemonade (After a Syd Barrett psychedelic number). He groomed them and formed a new vibrant incarnation of Love.

Suddenly the energy and magic was back. They were every bit as good as the original band in their heyday.

I caught a number of their concerts and they rocked. They even got Johnny Echolls back for a concert. I asked him where he’d been and he said ‘Around’.

Arthur wore his fables leather jacket and a headscarf and looked and sounded brilliant. The band was pulling enthusiastic crowds. Was it all about to happen again?

I had a chat with an enthusiastic Arthur. He was full of optimism and talked of recording an album of original material.

Just as it appeared that it was going to come to fruition and culminate in a renaissance Arthur was diagnosed with leukaemia.

He died. It died.

10 thoughts on “Opher’s World – Tributes to Rock Genius – Love – Forever Changes

    1. There sadly weren’t any more albums from the original band after the 3rd – it was effectively all over after just 2 years.
      They couldn’t get their act together enough to tour and that was their problem – just lack of exposure, to the extent that Forever Changes sold very poorly in USA.

      1. The success came with money and the whole scene that goes with it. Life at the Castle was one huge orgy of madness. It never stopped. It was the heroin that put pay to it all though.

      2. The consensus of opinion of their demise by US writers seems to acknowledge that their initial success in LA was partly due to the absence of The Byrds, who were always touring and they filled that void. Then the rise of The Doors who swept up all of the attention that they had gained.
        McLean leaving due to not getting his songs recorded.
        Two other lesser and easily replaceable members under performing due to drugs – only 2 of the 5 were doing heroin – Lee subsequently fired them.
        The use of extraneous musicians to play on a few Forever Changes songs as most band members just weren’t good enough is not too small a detail.
        Jac Holzman, owner of Elektra stated that Lee’s personal failure was down to his isolationism and not doing anywhere near enough to get his music out there.
        Lee himself said the more money they made, the less they worked. Money spoiled them.

      3. That about sums it up. Though Lee was doing a lot of heroin himself. I had a chance to talk to him when he was touring. He didn’t seem too sharp.

      4. You were talking to an already very ill man. Wasn’t the huge bandana clue enough – all his head hair and eyebrows was gone due to chemo. Hence the big shades.
        Did you see his interview on Later? He was pretty much out of it on autopilot. He was forced to do that tour as he needed the money for his medical costs. He wasn’t going anywhere cept a box, never mind “new album”. Disgraceful really.

      5. I saw him over the course of three or four years. He wasn’t ill on all of them.
        I wonder what happened to that great leather jacket of his?

      1. Speaking of Canadians and rock&roll, while teaching English in Korea, I was good buddies a guy who had sat with Bruce Palmer, bassist for Buffalo Springfield, and had written his biography.

      2. Teaching English in Korea must have been an experience.
        there are a lot of interesting people about, aren’t there? One of my friends was the roadie with Free, Bad Company and Robin Trower.

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