THE 50(ish) GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME…
Love & Other Conspiracy Theories
Album #2 : Love — Forever Changes
OK, hands up, who has listened to this album?
Put your hands down, you’re not fooling anyone.
This album is a perfect example of what this project is all about — Forever Changes is exactly the kind of record that we all should have listened to, but few of us have ever bothered. It is one of those records that you see in lists of The 100 Best Ever Albums but you don’t notice it because the only reason you are there is to see whether your favourite album is near the top. Be honest, you’re only there to check how cool you are. (The answer for me is, invariably, Not Very Cool).
Once you do listen to it, you can see why it is in those lists. The record immediately has the feel of a ‘critics favourite’. If you were to listen to Forever Changes when it was released in 1967, it would have blown you away with its boundary pushing originality. Nowadays, however, it has been copied so many times that the source material seems old and stodgy.
Another reason why Love feel like a critic’s favourite is that Love are, or were, quite cool themselves. They were new and exciting, and managed to gather a cult following despite never really having a big hit single or album and refusing to tour.
However, the real excitement comes when you inspect the history behind the album Forever Changes and of Love frontman Arthur Lee. The album itself very nearly didn’t happen as a bona fide Love record — the band’s members had been, shall we say, enjoying themselves quite a lot (this was L.A. in the late 60s, so you can guess what they were up to) and as such the group was so out-of-sorts that they could hardly be corralled long enough to record an album.
Eventually, thanks to the threat of replacing them with session musicians, the real line-up sobered up long enough to record Forever Changes — which was widely regarded to be a good thing.
Frontman Arthur Lee’s story is even more astounding. After Forever Changes, Lee disbanded Love’s original line-up. Nobody seems to know why but my guess is that he is the original hipster who ‘knew about that band before they were cool’ and then abandoned them once they got a bit of attention, temporarily forgetting that he was the frontman.
After that, “Love” (i.e. Lee and backing musicians) released various albums with limited results. Then, in the early 90s, things went a bit awry for Lee. It is a long and complicated story but the abridged version is that he was imprisoned for arson, then some time later arrested again for firing a handgun during an argument . Thanks to California’s “Three Strikes” rule, he got a 12 year custodial sentence. He served six years before having his conviction quashed thanks to an appeal court deciding his original prosecutor had been guilty of misconduct.
Quite the story!
And that’s only the bits that were true. There were also rumours that Lee was so poor he was reduced to begging on the street, that he was involved in a ritual hanging of a roadie and even that he had shot himself in the head on stage. All of these proved to be wildly untrue.
It is little surprise that so much controversy and mystery surrounds Arthur Lee, of course, because he has two first names. And we all know you cannot trust a man with two first names. (Think about it; David Cameron, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, Cliff Richard, Rolf Harris…)
At this point I should say I am sure I came up with that theory, but now it is so widespread that it cannot possibly have been me… wait, Beck can be a first name, right? Can I trust myself? I’m not so sure anymore…
Lee died in 2006 and, especially considering this week’s news that the UK is to be plunged back into lockdown, one has to wonder what he would be like if he were alive today. Would he be living a quiet life, releasing cosy lockdown records like McCartney? Or would he have gone full Ian-Brown-Twitter-Lunatic? Spewing anti-lockdown bile and going on about how “you’ve got to fight the man, man”, painfully unaware that the position of privilege through music has now made him The Man that he so desperately reviles.
Anti-lockdown sentiment has clearly been on the rise recently and not just amongst the Mancunian Musical Elite. There have been reports of people gathering outside of hospitals to protest… something. I don’t know what? A disease? It can’t hear you guys, go home.
Some of them seem to believe that they are being lied to by the media and that Covid-19 isn’t real. It is, obviously, and believing conspiracy theories you read online/on former front men’s Twitter pages is dangerous.
All I will say is that it is incredible how hard you have to dig to find truth nowadays. (No not the truth the mainstream media are telling you! The Real Truth!) It’s also incredible that The Real Truth is remarkably similar to what you wanted to believe in the first place, isn’t it? It is almost like The Real Truth isn’t the truth at all and you have been taken in by some two-named conspiracy theorist called Paul David or John Chris or something like that.
But no, I’m sure that independently regulated media outlet is lying to you and Kevin George is telling you The Real Truth (which is, once again, what you wanted to hear in the first place).
Anyway, would Lee have been one of them? I don’t think so. Post-prison interviews with him suggest that he mellowed significantly and that all he really wanted to do was bring love (and Love) to as many people as he could. In fact the more you find out about him, the more he seemed like a troubled soul who released some great music and yet still never hit his full potential.
But then, those two first names, man… I’m sure I read something that said they weren’t to be trusted…
Thanks for reading – over the course of 2021, I’ll be reviewing 50(ish) of the greatest albums ever recorded. You can see the list here.