Thursday, June 21, 2007

Forever Changes

I'm stil sad that Arthur Lee, the subject of this post, is gone. Love was an incredible band. Originally posted on 8/7/06:

I was listening to generally sucky rock station KLOS at lunch today, and I was surprised to hear one of my favorite songs, "Alone Again Or" by the band Love, being played. Sadly, it turns out it was being played as a tribute to Love founder Arthur Lee, who died last week after a long battle with leukemia. The fact that this death will go mostly unnoticed by the media and public saddens me beyond belief. Love may not be well known, but without them, the great music of the late 60s would sound very different. They influenced Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Doors (see the attached article to find out how much) and numerous lesser acts; they were one of the key architects of the LA psychedelic sound, but they were a lot more than that, too.

Their song "Alone Again Or" is featured on my page's music playlist, and I'm sure most of you have heard it before (or one of the many covers by artists like The Damned, Calexico or Matthew Sweet), but listen to the lyrics and music a little more carefully this time, and if you really dig it, buy the album that it's featured on, "Forever Changes"; to quote a great movie, "it'll change your life". In today's LA Times, John Densmore, drummer of the The Doors, paid tribute to Arthur Lee; here's the article**:
It was 1965 when I rushed down to the Whisky a Go-Go to stand out front and listen to a group called Love. My band, the Doors, was playing in a dumpy club up the street, and we were on a break. I craned my neck past Mario, the doorman, to get a glimpse of a band that was so far ahead of its time, the public still hasn't caught up.The first time I saw Love, I was shocked. They were bizarre. Arthur Lee, the African American lead singer, wore rose-tinted granny glasses, and they had a guitar player whose pants were so tight, it looked like he had a sock stuffed inside his crotch. It was a racially mixed group who seemed to be friends. After experiencing Love, I knew I had a ways to go before being hip. Wearing leather capes and pin-striped pants, suede moccasins, paisley shirts and jackets with fringe everywhere, I wondered if they went out on the street like that. Not that they were fashion without substance; as Lee told us all: "And the things that I must do consist of more than style."

This was a revolutionary band, way before Jimi Hendrix. No black man had crossed over from "soul music" into rock before Arthur. I desperately wanted to be in this band. Arthur clearly had tons of talent and charisma, a quality that our singer, Jim Morrison, hadn't developed yet.When we finally became the house band at the Whisky, Arthur graciously suggested to Jac Holzman, the president of Love's record company, that Jac check out the Doors. Due to Arthur's jump-starting, we got a record deal.Jim and I would drive down from Laurel Canyon to the Chinese restaurant next to Greenblatt's Deli to get egg fried rice for breakfast. On one of those excursions "My Little Red Book" came on the radio, Love's cover of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song. "If we could make a record as good as that," Jim said, "I'd be happy."Love went on to make several albums for Elektra Records, one of which, "Forever Changes," is a masterpiece (and, it should be noted, was produced and engineered by the vital Bruce Botnick). This album defined the '60s and is the "Sgt. Pepper's" of the West Coast, the "Pet Sounds" of psychedelia. One title from that album, "Maybe the People Would Be the Times, or Between Clark and Hilldale," reflects the street life on the Strip, the Whisky being located on Sunset Boulevard "between Clark and Hilldale."*And oh, the music is so loudAnd then, I fade into the crowdsOf people standing everywhereAnd here, they always play mysongsWrong or right, they come herejust the sameTellin' everyone about theirgame*Forgive me now, for copying a slew of lyrics from this brilliant record, but better to quote a genius than wax on with helium upstairs.*On racism:
Around my townHere, everyone's painted brown
And if with you that's notthe wayLet's go paint everybody gray*Reincarnation:I've been here once, I've beenhere twiceI don't know, if the third's thefourth, or the fifth's to fix*War:There's a man who can't decideIf he should fight for what hisfather thinks is right
*Prophecy (Arthur spent some time in jail years after this was written):They're locking them up today,
They're throwing away the key,I wonder who it will be
tomorrow, you or me*Philosophy:This is the time in life that I amlivingAnd I'll face each day witha smile
For the time that I have beengiven, such a little whileAnd for everyone who thinksthat life is just a gameDo you like the part you'replayin' *Death:Sitting on a hillside, watching
all the people dieI'll feel much better on the other side *

Arthur, I hope you're sitting on that hill in fact, the Doors' lead singer is waiting to show you where that hill is and I'm sure you'll feel better.Unfortunately, Arthur smoked so much herb that he was reluctant to leave his house. "Forever Changes" became a critical and chart-topping monster in England, but Lee wouldn't cross the pond. For those of you who are new to the importance of this band called Love, please check it out.When I heard the news that Arthur died Thursday, I lit some white sage given to me by Native American musician friends, in honor, and to help Arthur Lee with his crossing. He was an extremely talented, tortured artist, not unlike Jim, and the two of them are sitting on that hill."Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."Howard Thurman, African American mystic and activist

** Last note from Tully: I love the reference to the song Between Clark and Hilldale, as I worked for an "adult products emporium" a couple doors down from The Whiskey on Sunset Blvd. Sadly, it was a few years after the heyday of that great club, but hanging out on that block was always a blast.

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