Next year is the 50th anniversary of the release of Love’s timeless masterpiece Forever Changes, Arthur Lee’s warped flipside to the summer of love. Fulsome tributes will certainly be in abundance in 2017 (fingers crossed for a BBC4 special) but it’s worth making the point that Arthur Lee and Love (the two are really one and the same), made so much more glorious music besides a landmark record that frequently comes near the top of greatest ever albums polls.
The brace of albums that preceded Forever Changes demonstrated that Arthur Lee wasn’t the only talented songwriter in the band, but shared that title with Bryan MacLean; author of arguably Love’s greatest and most well known song Alone Again Or. The Byrdsian garage/folk of Love’s eponymous debut album from 1966 gave way to the jazz influenced Da Capo the following year, which in turn led to the wonders of Forever Changes. The classic Love line-up of their first three albums also included Johnny Echols on guitar, bassist Ken Forssi and drummer Michael Stuart, with key contributions from Albarn (Snoopy) Pfisterer and Tjay Cantrelli. Perceived wisdom is that, post Forever Changes, Arthur Lee was a spent musical force, and while he never again quite approached that high water mark, Lee did produce some fine music in his subsequent career. Lee, who died exactly ten years ago had a fascination with the number 14, as illustrated by the demented adrenalin rush of the 7 & 7 Is single and its’ b side No. Fourteen. So, here’s fourteen terrific Love and Arthur Lee songs not included on Forever Changes for your delectation.
My Little Red Book (Love 1966).
Love’s debut single from 1966, and the first track from their debut album, is an edgy cover of the Bacharach and David song. Straight from the opening smack of the tambourine by Lee, (replicated exactly when this writer saw Lee at King Tut’s in 2002) the song blows Manfred Mann’s anodyne version out of the water and left Burt Bacharach deeply unimpressed. One of the great singles of the sixties, and a rare video of Love performing it on American Bandstand (albeit, miming) can be viewed on YouTube.
Softly To Me (Love 1966).
The first magical flowering of Bryan MacLean’s nascent talent is a gloriously trippy, Byrds-like concoction, beautifully sung by MacLean. Hugely atmospheric and very much of its time, yet somehow, timeless.
Signed D.C (Love 1966).
With lyrics like “I’ve pierced my skin again, Lord” and “My soul belongs to the dealer”, only Arthur Lee and The Velvet Underground were writing songs like this in 1966. A precursor to Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt and written from the perspective of a junkie, D.C. was Don Conka, Love’s original drummer, a long term drug casualty. Lee’s chilling anti-drug message still resonates today. Just a shame he didn’t heed the message himself.
7 & 7 Is. (Da Capo, 1967).
Love’s biggest hit single lays fair claim to inventing punk rock. It grabs the listener from the opening bars and shakes them around in a maelstrom of controlled chaos. Driven by Ken Forssi’s sliding bass-lines and some frenetic, non-stop drumming that reputedly took over 30 takes to lay down, the whole glorious two and a half minutes climaxes to the sound of an atomic bomb, and there’s still room for a stoned, bluesy guitar coda. An astonishing, milestone record.
Stephanie Knows Who (Da Capo, 1967) .
Another unique Arthur Lee song with one of his finest, rawest vocals. A baroque masterpiece with time signature shifts aplenty, and there’s even room for a stream of consciousness free form jazz break half way through.
Orange Skies (Da Capo, 1967).
A beautiful Bryan McLean song that could almost have come from a classic Broadway musical. Lovely flute from Tjay Cantrelli. Sung by Lee, much to McLean’s chagrin, but Arthur’s voice fits the song perfectly.
She Comes In Colours (Da Capo, 1967).
The title refers to the garish outfits favoured by the group’s fans. A wonderful flute dominated flight of fancy song. Arthur wasn’t too pleased when the Rolling Stones used the song’s title in their own She’s a Rainbow, but really he should have taken it as a compliment.
The Castle (Da Capo, 1967).
Those with long memories will remember this fascinating track as the theme tune to the BBC’s holiday programme circa 1971. Full of unexpected time changes, beguiling harpsichord flourishes from Snoopy, and beautiful Spanish guitar.
Your Mind And We Belong Together. (Single, 1968).
Along with Laughing Stock, this single was the last recordings of the Forever Changes era Love, and it’s a marvel. A record that screams psychedelia, boasting fantastic fret-work from the great Johnny Echols. One critic called the song ‘an acid trip on vinyl’ but never having indulged I couldn’t possibly comment.
Laughing Stock. (Single b side, 1968).
The weird and wonderful b side of Your Mind And We Belong Together. A besotted John Peel played this track eleven times in succession on his radio show.
August (Four Sail, 1969).
The original Love split after the glorious double whammy of the Your Mind And We Belong Together/Laughing Stock single and a new Love recorded Four Sail which included this glorious guitar work-out for Jay Donnellan. Echoes of Cream as Lee moved towards a heavy rock sound.
Gather ‘Round (Out Here, 1969).
The melody is very much taken from The Times They Are a - Changin’ in this gentle but affecting environmental plea.
Skid (Black Beauty, 1973).
The Black Beauty album didn’t get an official release for almost forty years but it repays close investigation, particularly this edgy, funk driven number, with Lee’s Dylanesque vocal and some lovely psychedelic guitar licks.
Five String Serenade (Arthur Lee and Love, 1992).
A late career renaissance for Lee with this haunting ballad, his best song in years, supposedly composed on a guitar with one broken string, hence the title.