Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love

Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love
Antonio G. Pereira © 2011 Antonio G. Pereira

Finally, a book about Arthur Lee and Love worth reading. Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love by Canadian writer John Einarson. (Published by Jawbone Press ) Although, if not careful, and walking that fine line when writing about a subject not of one's own culture or country, can place one in the 'guessers hall of fame (or infamy, depending on your motives)', John Einarson has done most of his homework; and come up with a biography that is mostly quite good. A little more care could have been exercised in following up on sources of additional and (might I say) very valuable information and perspectives on Arthur Lee. I would suggest these two websites: (1). Today Is Forever and (2). Doug Thomas Both of these sites (especially Today Is Forever, which has an incredible and elaborate archive), are essential. That said, John Einarson's book is very well researched, and he appears to have taken the time to do an honest assessment of his subject's life, rather than relying on the Albert Goldman (or worse still, the poor man's Albert Goldman, Harry Shapiro) school of journalism; that unfortunately thrives in much music writing these days. e.g. (1). Bryan MacLean's very detailed and angry letter to Mojo magazine (published in their 'Theories, Rants, etc. - Letters To The Editor section') on page 7 of their August 1997 issue, referring to an article written about Love by a Mojo writer, published in their June 1997 issue, and including an interview with MacLean, that he said was taken out of context. Mojo Magazine being one among a few, with very colourful graphics and first rate picture selection of many rare photographs, but more often than not, with very poor sensationalist writing, and loads of misinformation. (Sounds like a faux counterculture version of a Rupert Murdoch publication for novices. e.g. (2). Mojo - A not very clever name borrowed from the late Greg Shaw's 1960s newsletter, Mojo Navigator). Once in a while in 'Mojo', if you're lucky, you might get a first rate class article by someone like Music Journalist and Photographer Valerie Wilmer.
Anyway, returning to John Einarson's book, from the author's chosen excerpts from Arthur Lee's unfinished autobiography which are added to the narrative, the resultant picture materializes as Arthur Lee's life. From his childhood in Memphis Tennessee, where he was born, to his growing up in Los Angeles, after his family moved there. There are great informative interviews with people who had known him and his family during his lifetime. Most interesting is the information about the original Love, which takes up a good half of the book. (Oddly, there is no mention of a very lengthy interview with Bobby Beausoleil (Go to The Internet Archive , type into The Wayback Machine and click Take Me Back) who was a part-time member of the original Grass Roots, (It's interesting to note that Beausoleil's recollection of events concerning his tenure in The Grass Roots, differs considerably from John Echols' (see below), and Beausoleil's recollection of the situation with 'some blacks from the Fillmore District' that were 'raping and robbing some of the young white runaways' in the Haight Ashbury District, differs from Emmett Grogan's, as Grogan wrote in considerable detail in his autobiography that it was The Black Panthers whom he contacted in Oakland, who put a stop to all of that. (And in the 'Isn't it interesting how history repeats itself department', The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, claiming in former Rolling Stones employee Sam Cutler's book 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', that it wasn't they who were attacking audience members at the Altamont Festival in the film 'Gimmie Shelter', but criminals 'pretending to be Hell's Angels'.) It's also a little odd that the person from Seconds Magazine who is interviewing Beausoleil, doesn't seem to know the difference between Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.) before Arthur Lee changed their name {due to a conflict with Lou Adler - see John Echol's three part posting, 'How The Grass Roots Became Love', at The Freedomman: }) to Love. The creation of Forever Changes is fascinating to read, and David Angel, who sat down with Arthur Lee and created the orchestrations and arrangements with him, is quite a unique and rare individual. After awhile however, it gets a little tiring reading about how some people felt that Arthur never topped Forever Changes; as upon listening to his subsequent recordings (starting with his final album for Elektra, 'Four Sail'), it's pretty obvious that Arthur continued to create great music. (And wasen't Forever Changes a completely different album from the previous two albums, Da Capo and Love?) But that I guess is a matter of opinion. It might have helped a little more, to point out his expansive embracing of other styles of music, like Jazz, Funk, Country, Progressive Rock, and his authentic reproduction of Reggae. Where did this come from, and who was influencing him? (For more on this, check the following posting ) When it comes to his RSO period, there is no mention of Arthur's detailed two part interview, which you can find at Today Is Forever (Part 1 - Posted Thursday April 24th, 2008, Part 2 - Posted Saturday May 10th, 2008). And Arthur Lee was not the only artist (there were some right there in merrie old England), who thought Robert Stigwood was a fool. (Check out the chapters, 'The Nemperor' and 'The End of the Road', in Beatles Press Officer Tony Barrow's book, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Me: The Real Beatles Story - Published by Thunder's Mouth Press (US) and Andre Deutsch Limited (UK), and British Promoter Don Arden's less-than-flattering interview, given to Mojo magazine in the May 1999 issue). It's interesting to read a little more about Arthur Lee's relationship with Jimi Hendrix. And one is left with the feeling that there is still more to that story. The portions where Arthur Lee is quoted, get a little confusing as to whether he is referring to their meetings in London in 1970 or their meetings in Los Angeles in 1969. The last section of the book, that covers the Forever Changes touring from 2002 to 2004, makes very good reading, (and I might add, compliments the Tour Documentary in the Special Features section of the stupendous Forever Changes Concert DVD); telling the story of how all the pieces were put together, from rehearsing the band with Arthur, to adding the orchestra and strings, and negotiating and booking the tours themselves etc... The collection of photographs are quite good, and would have been even nicer with more pictures. As I remember very clearly, the Benefit For Arthur Lee at The Beacon Theatre here in New York, before he passed away, it's obvious that this was a calibre of artist whose body of work meant something meaningful and special to a lot of people. This book reflects that thankfully, and Arthur Lee has earned himself a place as one of the greatest artists of the millennium.