33 1/3 Part 23


Love -‘Forever Changes’ (Elektra, 1967)

When Arthur Lee died in 2006, within a few weeks of me starting this blog, I was kicking myself. I wasn’t -and still am not – an authority on his work, but he had been touring this album live, even bringing it to Edinburgh, and I hadn’t made it to seeing him.

Like quite a few of the albums in this series, this is an album that I came to slowly. I remember several people telling me how good it was – including the friend who’d told me about Jeff Buckley and Sticky Fingers. I heard the Damned’s cover ‘Alone Again Or’ without having heard the original to compare it to. Arthur Lee was feted by Michael Head when NME briefly courted Shack. Eventually, I took the £5 plunge in Fopp one afternoon in Edinburgh, a couple of months after I arrived in Edinburgh.

The nearest I had to compare it to was Calexico and Giant Sand. From its’ cover onwards, this conjured up a different world as it appeared in 1967. This is not the anti-hippy bluster of The Velvet Underground in New York, nor what the west coast were up to. Nor does it have any connection with the ‘are we English eccentrics this weeks or revolutionaries?’ of The Beatles, Stones and Kinks in England.

For what it’s worth this is my favourite album of 1967 (yes, above St. Pepper and the Velvets’ debut). I fell in love with it head over heels from that first listen in autumn 2001, and I feel that like a sonic onion, I’m still unwrapping it all these years later. It has been said that it’s the first sign from California that all was not well; that the hippy dream could not last, that it would turn to ashes. Did Lee forsee Altamont and the Manson murders? The assasination of Martin Luther King? Or – as in the case of the chilling ‘The Red Telephone’ that nuclear armageddon was still just a step away. ‘Standing on the hillside/watching all the people die.’ ‘If you want to count me/count me out’ he warns.

And of course, there’s the opening ‘Alone Again Or.’ One of the greatest songs ever written, and certainly one of the very best album openers ever written. There’s so many stars here, the guitars, Lee’s vocal, the brass…give me this over ‘If you’re going to San Francisco Wear Some Flowers In your Hair.’ It should have been a no.1 hit, then again, even The Beatles had to compete with Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967 according to the history books.

From here on in, I started to investigate pre-punk music more. I’ve listened to other Love albums – but I’m still mesmerised by this all these years later. Forty-two years old? This is truly timeless. If Brian Wilson had tried to better this, he really would have suffered in torment.

Love -‘Alone Again Or.’ mp3

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