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Love Biography

Home > Music > L > Love > Biography

Birth Place: Los Angeles, CA, U.S.
Years Active: 1965 - 1974, sporadically thereafter
Genres: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Garage Rock, Baroque Pop, R&B

Love was an American rock group of the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the first racially diverse American pop bands, their music reflected different influences, combining elements of rock and roll, garage rock, folk and psychedelia. They were led by singer/songwriter Arthur Lee who wrote most material though some of their best known songs were written by Bryan MacLean.

Lee, who was originally from Memphis, Tennessee but had lived in Los Angeles since the age of 5, had been recording since 1963 with his bands, the LAG's and Lee's American Four. He had also produced the single “My Diary” for Rosa Lee Brooks in 1964 which featured Jimi Hendrix on guitar. However, after viewing a performance by the Byrds, Lee became determined to form a group that joined the newly minted folk-rock sound of the Byrds to his primarily rhythm and blues style.

Singer, songwriter/guitarist Bryan MacLean, who Lee had met working as a roadie for The Byrds, joined the band just before they changed their name from The Grass Roots to Love, spurred by the release of a single by another group called The Grass Roots. Also joining the band were another Memphis native, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, and drummer Don Conka. A short time later, Conka was replaced by Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer. Love's first bassist, Johnny Fleckenstein, went on to join The Standells in 1967. Fleckenstein was replaced by Ken Forssi (formerly of a post-“Wipe Out” lineup of The Surfaris). Love started playing the Los Angeles clubs in April 1965 and became a popular local attraction.

Signed to the Elektra Records label, the band scored a minor hit single in 1966 with their version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's “My Little Red Book.” Their first album, “Love,” was released in March 1966. The album sold moderately well and reached #57 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.

In August 1966 the single “7 and 7 Is,” notable for the exceptional guitar work of Echols and proto-punk styled drumming by Pfisterer, became their highest-charting single at #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Two more members were added around this time, Tjay Cantrelli on woodwinds and Michael Stuart on drums. Pfisterer, never a confident drummer, switched to harpsichord.

Their musical reputation largely rests on the next two albums, “Da Capo” and “Forever Changes.” “Da Capo,” released in November 1966, included “7 and 7 Is” as well as the subsequent singles “She Comes in Colors” and “¡Que Vida!” and MacLean's “Orange Skies.” Cantrelli and Pfisterer soon left the band, leaving it as a five-piece once again.

“Forever Changes,” released in November 1967, is a suite of songs using acoustic guitars, strings, and horns that was recorded while the band was falling apart as the result of various substance abuse problems and tension between Lee and MacLean. The band recorded the album in only 64 hours, though many professional session players were utilized, including some who replaced the actual band members in some songs. “Forever Changes” failed to achieve commercial success when it was first released in 1967, but it has since become recognized as one of the finest albums to come out of the Summer of Love. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 as well as added to the National Recording Registry in May 2012.

MacLean, suffering from heroin addiction, soon left the band, while Lee dismissed all the other members. MacLean later emerged as a Contemporary Christian artist. Echols and Forssi also experienced the ravages of drug addiction and disappeared from the scene. Echols eventually moved to New York and became an in demand studio musician. Lee, as the only remaining member, convened a new lineup and continued recording as Love.

The reconstituted version of Love, which included Jay Donnellan and then Gary Rowles on guitar, Frank Fayad on bass, and George Suranovich on drums, played in a blues-rock style, as opposed to the folk-rock and psychedelic styles of the band's previous incarnation.

The new lineup never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group. Three albums were released by various permutations of this lineup, 1969’s “Four Sail” and “Out Here” and 1970’s “False Start.” The latter featured a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix.

Another album by this incarnation of the band was recorded in 1971, but the material was not released until 2009 on the compilation album “Love Lost.” Lee released the solo album “Vindicator” in 1972. Another lost Love album titled “Black Beauty” was recorded by a new lineup in 1973 but Lee's record label went bankrupt before it was released. The album was released by High Moon records in 2012.

These sessions were followed by a final official Love album, 1974’s “Reel to Real,” which was recorded by Lee and session musicians. Love was finally discontinued in the late 1970s, and various plans to reunite the original Love in the following years did not come to fruition. After years in obscurity, Lee re-emerged with the one-off single “Girl on Fire” in 1994.[2]

After spending six years in prison from 1995 to 2001 for firearms offenses, Lee began to play Love's classic songs in concert in collaboration with members of the band Baby Lemonade. In the early years of the 2000s, Love co-founder Johnny Echols rejoined Lee for a series of tours as “Love with Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols.” This reformed group toured for several years, frequently performing “Forever Changes” in its entirety.

On January 5, 1998 Ken Forssi died at age 54 of a suspected brain tumor in his home state of Florida. Bryan MacLean died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at age 52 on December 25, 1998 while having dinner with a young fan who was researching a book about Love. Arthur Lee died on August 3, 2006 in his home town of Memphis, Tennessee, at age 61.

In 2009, a reformed version of Love, featuring Echols, members of Baby Lemonade, and Probyn Gregory of the Wondermints toured the United States and Canada. Echols, joined by Baby Lemonade, continues to tour as “Love Revisited,” and Michael Stuart was listed as a member of this act for a time in 2009.

A compilation album titled “Love Lost,” featuring sessions for the unreleased 1971 album and other items recorded by the blues rock-oriented incarnation of the band, was released in 2009 by Sundazed Music. In 2012, Love's unreleased 1973 album “Black Beauty” was released by the new label High Moon Records.