Thursday, June 11, 2009

Arthur Lee & Love



Overt self-promotion:
The Secret Museum will be this week’s presenters at Taosound’s “Psychedelic Saturdaze” beginning at 5:30 on, um, Saturday, June 13 (Taosound: 314 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.) The first hour will feature a selection of Arthur Lee’s finer (and occasionally rarer) moments; the second is devoted to Forever Changes. There will be a Q & A period in between. Jim and I have already prepared the questions.
-Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike –

What did you think of Michael Stuart-Ware's book Pegasus Carousel, detailing his time as Love's drummer during their "classic" 1966-69 period? The book varied wildly in my opinion between being a fascinating read into Love and the L.A. music scene circa 1967-68, and Ware reliving too many dull moments in his daily routine. He really takes leader Arthur Lee down a few pegs with various stories detailing Arthur's flakiness in canceling big money gigs at the drop of a hat, and his chronic / caustic put downs of other band members and fans. I think Ware was pissed off that everyone looked at Love as only being "Arthur Lee", and that the other guys didn't really matter regardless of how much they contributed to the songs.

Stuart-Ware seems to either think Love leader Arthur Lee’s talent and musical legacy will somehow be diminished by exposing a sarcastic, rude side to his personality or this is just a big payback for all of the drummers’ problems with Arthur. I’m not condoning any arrogant behavior by Arthur toward his band mates or fans, but it is obvious to me the drummer hasn’t gotten over the fact that he didn’t become rich and famous with Love. The drummer feels unappreciated (your kidding!), and thinks it was the collective strength of the musicians in the band that brought them to their peak.

After Love’s masterpiece Forever Changes was released in November1967 the band started to go though numerous personal changes. Drugs, specifically heroin and LSD, have been reported as a contributing major factor in the band becoming dysfunctional. Lee, guitarists John Echols, Ken Forssi and the other main songwriter in the band Bryan MacLean were all using drugs on a regular basis. Lee had an unusual arrangement with their record label Elektra where all royalties went to him, which also created a lot of tension within the band. Stuart-Ware writes about the ongoing financial issues, where they were promised money that never appeared. MacLean left in 1968 and Love was never really the same.

Love never became a big concert draw outside of California. They did some weekend tour dates in the rest of the country, but it was only in their hometown of Los Angeles or in San Francisco that they played regularly. A stable income from concerts would probably have helped the band weather some of their personal changes. Changing band members seemed almost routine for the big L.A. groups in 1967/68. Neil Young quit The Buffalo Springfield, Gene Clark had already left and David Crosby was fired from The Byrds in ’68. The rock scene was so new and continually changing that everyone thought their “next” lineup or group would be even bigger than what they were leaving (ultimately true for Crosby & Young). Big ambition coupled with big egos created a volatile music scene, and Love was no different than the rest of the aspiring groups of that era. Personality conflicts between members, poor management and drugs were three key areas’ that could help break a band apart, and Love had its share of all three.

I’m not knocking Michael Stuart-Ware’s ability as a drummer; I just think he needs to be more realistic about what made Love’s music so unique. It was always the songs that made Love special, and without song writers Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean the band would never have been heard from. Arthur still wrote some great stuff after Michael left, all Stuart-Ware did was supposedly turn down Neil Diamond to drum on a summer tour of his. I did enjoy the book though, because The Pegasus Carousel gave us some interesting anecdotes about Love, and a musician’s view of the Los Angeles music scene in the mid to late sixties. I’m riding with Arthur though on the question of who was the driving force in creating such timeless and varied music for Love. Arthur wasn’t just an above average musician like the other members in Love; he was also an extremely talented songwriter. What made Arthur Lee great was his ability to meld different strands of folk, rock and rhythm n’ blues together into a new beautiful whole. Love’s enduring musical legacy will always be directly associated with him.
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:


Definitely a case of sour grapes on Michael Stuart’s part, though I don’t know if the Love story could have ended any differently. While Arthur Lee appears to have been fond of playing mind games on both his audience and band mates, it’s doubtful he was capable of playing the music game under any circumstances. Despite the remarkable beauty of his music, Arthur’s work is too full of idiosyncrasies to ever appeal to the mainstream. Still, Forever Changes transcends its time and place, and remains a benchmark Rock recording.
-Michael Mooney

Too bad! You missed it. About a dozen people showed up last Saturday for Peter Greenberg’s DJ set at Taosound, a whirlwind blitz of the finest 60s Garage Punk. Peter had the joint rocking with two hours of classic cuts (Seeds, ? & The Mysterians, Trashmen, Rivieras, Elevators, Moving Sidewalks, Sonics, Remains) along with mega-obscurities (Jolly Green Giants, Alarm Clocks, Bad Seeds), all prime examples of America’s Greatest Art Form. Those in attendance got a breathtaking refresher course in Rock 101: Greenberg is the Professor of the Blazing Decks; he’s the North Shore Shaman- dropping 7-inch Sound Neutrons over Paseo Norte every 2 minutes, 5 seconds in an awesome display of turntable pandemonium.
-Michael Mooney

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