Tributes to Rock Genius – Arthur Lee and Love

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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.

If you are liking my tributes you might like my book. You will find numerous brilliant artists you may never have heard of plus all the familiar ones. Why not find out what I’ve got to say about them?

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