Backstage Pass: Arthur Lee looks back on Love?s ?Forever Changes?

Love was psychedelic rock. R&B. Folk and blues. The band was at the forefront of the Sunset Strip ’60s, and singer-composer Arthur Lee was driving the train. He was friends with Jimi Hendrix and formed an interracial band before the guitarist ever entertained the notion. Love’s Forever Changes album rearranged everything — horns and strings and zigzag vocals.

At the time of this interview in 1975, Arthur Lee had disappeared himself for some three years. He was now back with a reformed Love and an album called Reel To Real. It is not Da Capo, nor is it even close to Forever Changes, but it is Love, and sometimes that’s all you need.

GOLDMINE: Do you remember where the name Love came from?

ARTHUR LEE: It was immediately after I heard that someone ripped my name off, The Grass Roots. There was a guy who was established, or whoever did it, he must have been established. He had the name copyrighted and all that, man.

I trusted people. I didn’t think anybody was gonna steal my name. It wasn’t my name, actually. But anyway, I think the reason I called the group Love was because rather than to hate somebody for stealing something from you, man, maybe you should love them. It would be a different approach to the whole trip. You dig it?

So, that’s how I got the name Love. I was riding on the freeway, trying to think of another name. “Well, Grass Roots is gone, call it Love?” 

GM: Did you have any other band names that you were thinking about?

AL: The Farts! The Farts was always a gas (laughs)!

GM: Did you have any ideas or concepts for that original band?

AL: I had plans for those guys. If only they could have understood then what they understand now is the same things (laughs)! That’s why we ain’t together.  F**k ’em, man. I was gonna get the group back, that original group, and everybody went for it except Kenny Forssi.

He didn’t go for it because of the terms.  And the terms were: no splitting everything down the middle like I did the first time. It was, ìIf you’re gonna be Mr. Big, and you’re gonna make big money, then you go out and make your name in this group. When you’re recognized for what you want, then you’re entitled to get it. But I’m not gonna give you nothing, man.

Because I tried that before and those cats ripped me off. Hell, yeah. They ripped me off blind. I have a publishing company, but I ain’t goin’ into this, f**k it. But I had bread, man, comin’ from places, and, like, Elektra Records confiscated all my bread, man, because those guys were hocking shit and pawning stuff, man, and making real good music. So, I don’t know. One guy told me, ‘Hey man, you’re thinking about getting that old group back together? You got burned by ’em the first time,’ he said.  ‘Now what are you gonna do? Just jump head on into the fire this time?’ It made sense.

GM: How did you meet up with Elektra?

AL: Elektra met up with me, man. Jac Holzman came to Bido Lido’s. He came with Herb Cohen, Mickey Cohen’s nephew.  That was my first manager. He came to Bido Lido’s, man, and tried to pull a fast one. 

They thought I was 26 or 27, and I signed a contract. If you sign a contract and you’re not 21 — I don’t know how the law goes today, and I didn’t yesterday either. And I sure ain’t gonna be thinking about it tomorrow (laughs)! But if you’re not 21, or you don’t have your parent’s consent or so-called judge’s consent, then f**k it, man, the contract is nowhere. So, I knew that,

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