Love was an American rock group of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were led by singer/songwriter Arthur Lee. One of the first racially diverse American pop bands, their music reflected different influences, combining elements of rock and roll, garage rock, folk and psychedelia.
While finding only modest success on the music charts, Love would come to be praised by critics as one of the finest and most important American rock groups of their era. Their third album Forever Changes (1967) is generally regarded as their masterpiece.
Arthur Lee, who was originally from Memphis, Tennessee but had lived in Los Angeles since the age of five, had been recording since 1963 with his bands, the LAG's and Lee's American Four. He had also produced the single "My Diary" for Rosa Lee Brooks in 1964 which featured Jimi Hendrix on guitar. A garage outfit, The Sons Of Adam, which included future Love drummer Michael Stuart, also recorded a Lee composition, "Feathered Fish." However, after viewing a performance by the Byrds, Lee became determined to form a group that joined the newly minted folk-rock sound of the Byrds to his primarily rhythm and blues style. Byrds roadie Bryan MacLean joined the band just before they changed their name from the Grass Roots to Love, spurred by the release of a single by another group called The Grass Roots. Also joining the band were another Memphis native, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, and drummer Don Conka. A short time later, Conka was replaced by Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer. Love's first bassist, Johnny Fleckenstein, went on to join the Standells in 1967. Fleckenstein was replaced by Ken Forssi (formerly of a post-"Wipe Out" lineup of The Surfaris).
Love started playing the Los Angeles clubs in April 1965 and became a popular local attraction. At this time, they were playing extended numbers such as "Revelation" (originally titled "John Lee Hooker") and getting the attention of such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. The band lived communally in a house called "the Castle" and their first two albums included photographs shot in the garden of that house.
Signed to the Elektra Records label, the band scored a minor hit single in 1966 with their version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "My Little Red Book." Their first album, Love, was released in July 1966. The album sold moderately well and reached No. 57 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In August 1966 the single "7 and 7 Is," notable for the exceptional guitar work of Johnny Echols and proto-punk styled drumming by Lee, became their highest-charting single at No. 33 in the Billboard Hot 100. Two more members were added around this time, Tjay Cantrelli (real name John Barbieri) on woodwinds and Michael Stuart on drums. Pfisterer, never a confident drummer, switched to harpsichord.
Their musical reputation largely rests on two albums issued in 1967, Da Capo and Forever Changes. Da Capo, released in February of that year, included "7 and 7 Is" as well as the subsequent singles "She Comes in Colors" and "¡Que Vida!." Cantrelli and Pfisterer soon left the band, leaving it as a five-piece once again.
Forever Changes, released in November 1967, is a suite of songs using acoustic guitars, strings, and horns that was recorded while the band was falling apart as the result of various substance abuse problems and a failed power play by Bryan MacLean, trying to get more of his songs on the album. The band recorded the album in only 64 hours, though many professional session players were utilized, including some who replaced the actual band members in some songs. Writer Richard Meltzer, in his book The Aesthetics of Rock, commented on Love's "orchestral moves," "post-doper word contraction cuteness," and Lee's vocal style that serves as a "reaffirmation of Johnny Mathis." Forever Changes included one hit single, the MacLean-written "Alone Again Or," while "You Set the Scene" received airplay from some progressive rock radio stations. By this stage, Love were far more popular in the UK, where the album reached No. 24, than in their home country, where it could only reach No. 154. More recently the album has received a number of very distinguished awards.
MacLean, suffering from heroin addiction, soon left the band, while Lee dismissed all the other members. MacLean later emerged as a Contemporary Christian artist. Echols and Forssi also experienced the ravages of drug addiction and disappeared from the scene. Echols eventually moved to New York and became a very busy studio musician. Arthur Lee, as the only remaining member, convened a new lineup and continued recording as Love.
The reconstituted version of Love, which included Jay Donnellan and then Gary Rowles on guitar, Frank Fayad on bass, and George Suranovich on drums, played in a blues-rock style, as opposed to the folk-rock and psychedelic styles of the band's previous incarnation. The new line-up never garnered the wide spread acceptance or acclaim of the original group. Three albums were released by various permutations of this lineup: Four Sail (1969), Out Here (1969), and False Start (1970). The latter featured a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix. Another album by this incarnation of the band was recorded in 1971, but the material was not released until 2009 on the compilation album Love Lost. Arthur Lee released the solo album Vindicator in 1972. Another lost Love album titled Black Beauty was recorded by a new line-up in 1973 but Arthur Lee's record label went bankrupt before it was released. The album was released by High Moon records in 2012. These sessions were followed by a final official Love album, Reel to Real (1974), which was recorded by Lee and session musicians. Love was finally discontinued in the late 1970s, and various plans to reunite the original Love in the following years did not come to fruition. After years in obscurity, Lee re-emerged with the one-off single "Girl on Fire" in 1994.
After spending six years in prison from 1995 to 2001 for firearms offenses, Lee began to play Love's classic songs in concert in collaboration with members of the band Baby Lemonade. In the early years of the 2000s, Love co-founder Johnny Echols rejoined Lee for a series of tours as "Love with Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols." This reformed group toured for several years, frequently performing Forever Changes in its entirety.
On January 5, 1998 Ken Forssi died at age 54 of a suspected brain tumor in his home state of Florida. Bryan MacLean died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at age 52 on December 25, 1998 while having dinner with a young fan who was researching a book about Love. In 2002 Michael Stuart (now known as Michael Stuart-Ware), the drummer on the Love albums Da Capo and Forever Changes, wrote the acclaimed book Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousel with the Legendary Rock Group Love. Stuart-Ware and Johnny Echols performed with Baby Lemonade at Hollywood's Whisky A Go-Go on June 28, 2006 in a benefit concert for Arthur Lee, who had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia earlier in the decade. Lee died of this disease on August 3, 2006 in his home town of Memphis, Tennessee, at age 61.
In 2009, a reformed version of Love, featuring Johnny Echols, members of Baby Lemonade, and Probyn Gregory of the Wondermints toured the United States and Canada. Echols, joined by Baby Lemonade, continues to tour as "Love Revisited," and Michael Stuart was listed as a member of this act for a time in 2009.
A compilation album titled Love Lost, featuring sessions for the unreleased 1971 album and other items recorded by the blues rock-oriented incarnation of the band, was released in 2009 by Sundazed Music. In 2012, Love's unreleased 1973 album Black Beauty was released by the new label High Moon Records. Produced by Paul Rothchild, who worked on The Doors' first five albums, the R&B-infused album was meant to be the first record by a new line-up of Love after Lee had dismissed the blues rock-oriented line-up that had in turn replaced the original incarnation of the band. Arthur Lee's label had gone bankrupt before the album was released, and the material had been shelved for nearly 40 years until the High Moon release.
Today, the band's critical reputation exceeds the limited success they experienced during their time; their 1967 album Forever Changes is held in particularly high regard and often appears on lists of the best rock albums of all time. The band's influence extends beyond the realm of 1960s psychedelia to such punk and post-punk bands as Television Personalities and The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose William Reid wore a Love t-shirt in his band's video for "Head On" from their Automatic album. The Damned covered "Alone Again Or" on the album Anything, and the Swedish band The Hellacopters covered "A House Is Not A Motel." Love have also influenced many 1960s-inspired Top 40 UK acts, including The Stone Roses, The Bluetones, Shack, The Stands, Primal Scream, and Ricky, whose mini-album You Set The Scene was named after a song on Forever Changes.
In tribute, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant cites Forever Changes as one of his favorite albums ever. A tribute album We're All Normal And We Want Our Freedom: Tribute To Arthur Lee & Love was released in 1994. Jim Morrison's 1967 personal biography for Elektra listed Love as one of his favorite bands.
- Current members (Love Revisited)
- Johnny Echols – lead guitar (1965–1968, 2002–present)
- Rusty Squeezebox - guitar, vocals (1994–present)
- Mike Randle - guitar (1994–present)
- David "Daddy O" Green - drums (1994–present)
- David Chapple - bass guitar (1996–present)
- Former members
- Arthur Lee – lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, harmonica (1965–1975, 1978, 1982, 1992–2006; died 2006)
- Johnny "Fleck" Fleckenstein - bass guitar (1965–1966)
- Don Conka - drums (1965)
- Bryan MacLean – rhythm guitar, vocals (1965–1968, 1978; died 1998)
- Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer - drums, organ, harpsichord (1965–1967)
- Ken Forssi – bass guitar (1966–1968; died 1998)
- Michael Stuart - drums (1966–1968, 2009)
- Tjay Cantrelli - woodwind (1966–1967)
- Frank Fayad - bass guitar, backing vocal (1968–1970, 1982)
- George Suranovich - drums, backing vocal (1968–1970, 1978, 1982)
- Jay Donnellan - lead guitar (1968–1969, 1982)
- Drachen Theaker - drums (1968–1969)
- Gary Rowles - lead guitar (1969–1970, 1982)
- Paul Martin - guitars (1969)
- Nooney Rickett - guitars (1969–1970)
- Probyn Gregory - multiple instruments (2009)
- 1980: Love Live - live, 1978 concert
- 1982: Studio / Live - second side live from a 1970 concert
- 2003: The Forever Changes Concert
- 2003: Back on the Scene - live at My Place, Santa Monica in 1991
- 1968: Love Revisited Elektra
- 1980: The Best of Love Rhino (2003 expanded version on CD)
- 1988: Out There (Love album) ACE Records Ltd (Big Beat Records)
- 1995: Love Story 1966-1972 Rhino
- 2006: Love: The Definitive Rock Collection
- March 1966: "My Little Red Book" b/w "A Message to Pretty"
- July 1966: "7 and 7 Is" b/w "No. Fourteen"
- December 1966: "She Comes in Colors" b/w "Orange Skies"
- March 1967: "¡Que Vida!" b/w "Hey Joe"
- January 1968: "Alone Again Or" b/w "A House is Not a Motel"
- September 1968: "Your Mind and We Belong Together" b/w "Laughing Stock"
- 1994: "Girl on Fire" b/w "Midnight Sun"
- 2004: "Love on Earth Must Be EP"
- Warwick, Neil; Jon Kutner, & Tony Brown (2004). The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-058-0.
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Image from Discogs