Begatty, referring to when a writer of something got bogged down in how something came to be. Essentially, the begats of a timeline. When geeks like myself obsess over the connection of this person or the other, but the laymen doesn't really give a toss. Used in a sentence, "The article was good, but the first part got too begatty." It's also just a fun word to say. -Daniel Nov. 22, 2012 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, summer 2012 issue
For many years, much has been discussed and dissected about the essential 1960s group Love, and their leader, Arthur Lee. For all of the stories and myths that still get tossed in the air, what is absolutely concrete about their story is their albums. What started as an excellent garage-rock leaning quintet on their 1965 self-titled debut, quickly grew and changed into something else entirely. Their following album, 1967's Da Capo, flung open the doors of jazz and rock fusion, while still burning brightly with the garage rock classic "Seven & Seven Is." But by 1968, all of that had changed again, and had dovetailed into one of the best albums of the 1960s, Forever Changes.
While Lee carried the Love name until his death in 2006, it was that original lineup of Lee, guitarist Bryan MacLean, guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi, and drummer Snoppy Pfisterer (later replaced by Michael Stuart-Ware on Da Capo, and Forever Changes), that remains the favorite of many fans. Every member of the group contributed something unique to the music on these albums, which we'll be focusing on for this story.
Johnny Echols and Michael Stuart-Ware take us through the creation of Da Capo, and the sometimes complicated road to Forever Changes.
BT: How did Michael and Tjay come to join the band?
Johnny Echols: I had played with Tjay at the Sea Witch, (a local night spot) and we had become good friends. So when we decided to change directions on Da Capo, he was our first choice, he fit right in.
Michael Stuart-Ware: I was playing drums with the Sons of Adam. We were the house band at the new Gazzarri's on Sunset, but occasionally on our night off (Tuesday) we visited other clubs. Like maybe over to Ciro's to catch The Byrds, or over to The Trip to catch Donovan. The clientele at Gazzarri's was the elite of Hollywood, actors and directors and other rich people with a lot of money to blow. Fancy place Gazzarri's was, with neon lights and crystal chandeliers and a red velvet staircase and a car parking crew that wore red vests and black slacks.
Bido Litos was unlike any of the other clubs in Hollywood. It was old school. A beatnik-era club that had been "The Gaslight" back in the older days, Lenny Bruce had done stand-up, and shot smack in the bathroom there. An old red brick place with an enormous wrought-iron gate, a dumpster out front, a sequentially-firing red light bulb sign over the front door in the shape of an arrow, and located on an alley, Cosmo Alley, the club backed onto The Ivar Theater, a half block from Hollywood Blvd. No car parking crew at Bito's. Love was the house band at Bido Lito's, or at least they played there a lot. The clientele at Bido Lito's was art students and hippies, no actors or directors whatsoever.
The Sons of Adam had dropped in at Bido Lito's to catch a set from time to time. I saw the band play there when Don Conka was drumming with the group, then later, after the first album was released, with Snoop on drums. Bido Lito's was the place where other bands would come to donate a guest set on their nights off from where ever they played regularly, because it was... unique.
So, one Tuesday night, The Sons of Adam played a set at Bido Lito's and Arthur and Bryan were in the audience and they liked my drumming, and Love was looking to replace Snoop. I was nursing a ginger ale at the bar after our set, when Arthur came over and introduced himself and ask me to join up with Love and I said, no thanks. Why? Because The Sons of Adam had just played one of the greatest sets we ever played, and the place was still vibrating and I loved the guys in The Sons of Adam and we were on top of our game, doing movies (The Slender Thread) modeling assignments (for GQ and Leslie Speakers) and recording for Decca and playing all the time, so why would I want to jump ship? We were square, almost as square as the clientele at Gazzarri's. We didn't even drink booze, or smoke weed. Just the music.
Love was great and taking Hollywood by storm, but everybody knew they were a drug band. What happened to Conka? Oh yeah. "Signed D.C.", it was right on the album.
"You, I'll Be Following," "My Flash On You." It was all right there. Listen to the words. And to top it off, sometimes people would come into Gazzarri's and tell us they just left Bido Lito's because Arthur got pulled off the stage and arrested for possession, so everybody had to leave. No band.
A few months later, The Sons of Adam and Love began to play gigs together in L.A. and San Francisco and I got to know the guys in Love, and then out of nowhere, The Sons of Adam began to argue a lot, because we had kind of stalled out, and I lost my fear of the drugs and in late-August of '66 I accepted Arthur's invitation to join Love. Fortunately, they still wanted me.
BT: How did those lineup changes affect the songs? Did the band become more
Echols: We were always experimental, the new lineup afforded us the opportunity to push the envelop a bit, and venture into jazz-rock something Arthur and I had always wanted to do.
Stuart-Ware: The lineup changes allowed the band to move in a new direction, away from the "folk rock" genre into what would have to be characterized as "jazz rock." With Arthur, diversity was of paramount importance, and the first three Love albums were a study in diversity... a trilogy of folk rock, jazz rock and baroque-influenced symphonic rock.
BT: What are your overall recollections of the Da Capo sessions?
Echols: We had a new producer Paul Rothchild, and a much better engineer in Dave Hassinger, so the actual recording went very smooth. Though it took a while for the new songs to reveal themselves, and the music to gel.
“Stephanie Knows Who” was really a fun song to play, we had never really played it before we got to the studio, and it took quite a bit of trial and error to find the right time. It was written with the idea of having a 5/4 time signature ala “Take Five.” It was hard to play at that tempo, and even harder to dance to. When we couldn’t make it work, we tried a kind of modified 6/8 or a jazz
waltz kind of thing, which seemed to fit the song much better. Tjay and I worked out the solos, which wound up being one of the first jazz/rock fusion jams.
“Que Vida,” and “The Castle” were both worked out in the studio, with Paul Rothchild breathing down our necks. He had expected to be producing an album much like the first Love album, he was rather taken aback, by the abrupt change in musical direction, and was not sure where we were going with Da Capo. He was also less than pleased with our habit of writing the songs in the studio, rather than having them completed beforehand. Dave Hassinger, the engineer, was great. He told Paul to lighten up. “This is great material, cut them some slack!” After the mild dressing down from Dave, Paul came around, and indeed cut us some slack.
BT: How was it decided as to what songs would be brought into the studio?
Echols: We had a variety of songs we were working on, the ones chosen were the ones that best fit the "new" direction the group was headed in.
Stuart-Ware: We put the songs together up at Arthur's house in the canyon, on Brier, I think it was. He wrote almost all the songs and the arrangements except for Bryan's "Orange Skies,” and the John Lee Hooker jam, "Revelation," which was written and arranged by Johnny, who also sang the primary vocal.
I remember we took occasional and regular breaks to smoke Arthur's blond Afghan while he went out on his deck and pulled a pigeon out of it's comfy home in the big cage and let it fly. The mood was bright and cheery and everybody in the band was the best of friends.
We never played the songs off Da Capo before we went into the studio, except for "Revelation," which the band played with Conka on drums, long before I was in the group. We practiced the songs for a few weeks up at Arthur's pad, then we went into the studio. The first side was recorded at RCA Studios with Dave Hassinger engineering. Side two was recorded at Sunset Sound with Bruce Botnick engineering.
BT: What are your recollections of the “Seven & Seven Is” session? My
understanding is that Snoopy played the drums on that session, and it
was a lot of hard work. How did the coda, after the explosion, come
Echols: “Seven and Seven Is,” was without doubt the most difficult song we ever did, as far as the actual recording process was concerned. I kept getting negative feedback from Bruce Botnick, who didn't understand what we were trying to accomplish. The group needed an engineer who was willing to push the envelope and not use the same old recording techniques used with "normal" songs.
We wanted controlled chaos, with lots of compression, a distorted bass, and over the top "high end" (which was a no-no at the time.) We also needed to have mic bleed on the bass, track, but not on the guitar tracks. Add to that the drums needed to perfectly match the tempo of the vibrato, which gave poor "Snoopy" fits, though I must admit he surprised me, by actually pulling it off. The blues tune that we play after the explosion, was a song I had written as a stand-alone instrumental. After hearing the
playback we realized something else was needed, so we added the explosion, and my blues joint.
BT: How did the band put together new songs?
Echols: Usually Arthur, Bryan or whomever, was writing something they thought was interesting, showed the other group members an outline. Which usually consisted of a few words, and a basic melody. Most times we, in a very informal manner started to work out our individual parts. After a lot of back and forth, and a whole lot of changes, a song would
emerge. Contrary to popular misconception, [all] "Love" songs were very much, a group effort.
Stuart-Ware: Arthur played the tunes on his black Gibson acoustic and then we all wrote our own parts. He never really made any suggestions as to what any of us should play, that I can recall. Each guy was master of his own destiny.
BT: How often were you aware of what Arthur, or Bryan were writing about,
or what had inspired the songs?
Echols: As I alluded to earlier, there were always songs at various stages of completion. We saw each other almost daily, so we were all pretty much aware of what the others were doing.
Stuart-Ware: Was I aware of the content and what inspired the songs? Not really. You have to remember I came from the first album, where the lyrical content was a little more obvious. "Mushroom Clouds", "Message To Pretty," social commentary and love songs, punctuated by an occasional song about the drug world. But then came "Da Capo" "The Castle"?I knew the band lived in a big house everybody called The Castle just before I joined up, and "She Comes In Colours", yeah, I knew what that was about, but "Que Vida"? Not a clue.
However, a song that had great significance from Da Capo, was good old, "Stephanie Knows Who." Everybody knows by now, that Arthur and Bryan were both vying for the affections of the beautiful Stephanie sometime before the Da Capo sessions got underway, but I think perhaps most people underestimate the damage done to Arthur and Bryan's friendship when Stephanie went back to Bryan, just before the album was recorded. Elektra followed through with the original plan and "Stephanie" was made song one on side one, and we performed it in public at every concert. I mean, yeah, Stephanie knows who, and it's Bryan, not Arthur, like he thought. I got the feeling that it was something that Arthur figured for a while he could live with, but eventually the humiliation factor became too much.
I know it sounds like a lot of soap opera crap but that episode became a cancer that eventually destroyed the band. My opinion only. Maybe I'm making too much of it. I just know that at first they were great friends, then a wall grew up between them, for some reason. It happens in a lot of bands, actually. Very common.
BT: Where was Do Capo recorded?
Echols: Da Capo was recorded at RCA studios, in Hollywood.
BT: How much of Da Capo had been played live, before you recorded the album?
Echols: “Revelation” was the only song from Da Capo, that we played live before the
BT: What are your favorite songs on Da Capo, and why?
Echols: “Stephanie Knows Who,” and “The Castle,” were my favorite from the Da Capo Sessions. I chose "Stephanie" because of the counterpoint between Tjay and I. Although “Seven and Seven Is” would have to be my overall favorite. It allowed us to go to a whole other place as musicians, and was a precursor of things to come. I add the caveat because it was recorded at another studio with a different engineer.
BT: The entire side two of Da Capo is taken up by “Revelation”, which had
been a part of your live show. How was that decided to make that part
of the album?
Echols: “Revelation,” aka "John Lee Hooker" was always slated to be on the album.
This is really an under-rated song. The live version is really cool, one of
the first true fusion "jam" songs, which allowed the musicians to really
"stretch out," and take long instrumental solo's. It was meant to be "live
in studio," with the audience from Bito Lido's dancing in the studio as we
played. The musicians Union stepped-in and nixed the idea, claiming that
since they would be heard on the record, they were in effect acting as
de-facto, musicians, and needed to join the union, and pay dues.
Stuart-Ware: I used my regular single-mounted tom set of Ludwigs for the first side of the album and Snoop's double-mounted tom set for "Revelation" because I had to take a solo and I figured another tom would be useful. Funny way to put it, I know. "I had to take a solo," but the truth is, I was never really a drum solo kind of drummer. I always thought drums sounded best when they were used to compliment the overall sound of a composition, interwoven into the fabric, so to speak, but I know that everybody taking a solo on "Revelation" was an important part of what "Revelation" was all about, so I did what I could do. I mean, but do I dig Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones? Well, of course.
BT: Johnny, what guitars were you using on Da Capo?
Echols: I used a 1952 Les Paul gold top, a Mosrite double neck, a 1954 Stratosphere, double neck, and several Martin acoustics.
BT: Michael, what drums did you use on Da Capo?
Ware: I played a basic set of Ludwigs, one small (9x12") mounted tom, a chrome (5 1/2x14") snare, one 16x16" floor tom, standard bass drum (18x20"), Zildjian cymbals, (a light 16"crash, a medium-weight 20" ride and 14" hi hats). Sparkling silver finish.
BT: Describe Bryan's playing style, and influences.
Bryan was deeply influenced by bluegrass music. He liked finger pickers, like J.E. Mainer and the Mountaineers, Jimmie Rodgers, Maybelle Carter and Alton Delmore, etc.. He developed a style that was truly his own. He knew just how to move in and around the chords I was playing, so we never got in each other’s way. Great timing!
BT: Johnny, talk about your guitar playing style, and influences.
Echols: I’m more of a Jazz/R&B player, with a touch of Spanish thrown in to round out the mix. So I would describe my style of play as being rather eclectic. I loved Johnny ”Guitar” Watson, Django Reinhardt, Luther Allison, Kenny Burrell, Wes Mongomery, and Gabor Szabo. Each of them was a fantastic guitar player,though their style of play was completely unique unto themselves.
BT: Johnny, talk about the guitar interplay between you and Bryan. How did you ever each other come up with, or even mesh guitar parts?
Usually we would begin a song with Arthur and I working the kinks out together, before playing them for the rest of the group. He would sing the song for me, playing very rudimentary chords,(Arthur was a novice guitar player at best) and I would find the right chords. Once in a while he would change the song entirely after hearing them with the correct chords, and realizing it didn’t
sound all that great. Or didn’t sound like Love.
Next we’d get together with Bryan, who had a fantastic sense of counterpoint, and instinctively knew just the right thing to play to bring the song alive. We would often work out the acoustic rhythm with the two of us playing the same parts, Later he would juxtapose a finger picking part and I would add flourishes, or a lead solo on the electric guitar.
BT: I have heard that Forever Changes was originally planned as a double album, with the entire band contributing songs. Johnny, I have read you mention the
song Gethesemene in these plans. Were these other songs ever recorded?
What happened to those songs?
Echols: Forever Changes was originally slated to be a double album, but when we were all set to record, the record company decided it was too expensive, and refused to approve the studio budget. So the project was changed to a single album at the last minute, meaning far fewer songs, which was the direct cause of all the problems that would ensue.
Bryan, as well as I, had worked for months on material that wound up not being on the album. Bryan took the news especially hard, which caused dissension amongst a group of people who had always been very close friends.
Gethsemene is a work in progress, I have enlisted David Angel, Michael Stuart-Ware, Vince Flaherty, members of Baby Lemonade, and many other friends to help bring this project to a fruition. There are several songs written for Forever Changes, and never released while others were started by the group but never finished. It is my sacred duty to complete them, and present them as they would have been played by Love. Hopefully, I will have done them justice.
Stuart-Ware: Was FC originally projected to be a double album? Could very well be. Sounds credible, but I wasn't privy to that information. I know Bryan had lots more songs that could have been added to the album, as did Johnny.
BT: Talk about the Wrecking Crew sessions for those two songs on Forever
Changes. Did you know that was going to happen?
Echols: As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of dissension among the group members. Bryan's way of dealing with his disappointment was to sulk, and not play his best, which really affected how the sessions were sounding. It was decided we bring in members of the Wrecking crew, to fill-in the slack, it didn't work, they didn't sound like Love. Carol Kaye played acoustic guitar, along with Bryan and I on "Daily Planet," and Don Randi Played piano on "Bummer in the Summer." Otherwise, they were being paid to just sit and do nothing. Astonishingly, Elektra offered Bryan his own solo album, if he would finish Forever Changes. Thus were sown the seeds for the group's eventual demise.
Stuart-Ware: The Wrecking Crew sessions? I'll tell you about those because, here's the way that happened. Like I said, after Bryan won the battle for Stephanie, everything seemed alright for a while. We recorded Da Capo in September of '66, and for six or so months we toured a little, and everybody was getting along. After a while, Arthur decided the direction the group was taking wouldn't necessitate carrying Tjay and Snoop anymore, so they were let go.
Then one day we had a photo shoot with the five remaining guys, up in Laurel Canyon with Bill Harvey, the photographer that Elektra contracted to do most of their stuff. We had agreed to meet in front of Arthur's pad on Brier, and then we were going to walk up a dirt path to a little remote spot on a hill.
So we're all there at the appointed time, one o'clock. Arthur, Kenny, Johnny, me, and Bill Harvey, but no Bryan. He was late. After we stood there for a while, Arthur starts saying stuff like, "That motherfucker Bryan doesn't give a shit about anything, you know? He doesn't care about this group." And the rest of us are saying things like, "Yeah," and Bill Harvey's over by his car putting film in his camera, trying to get away from it all.
Then, out of the blue, Arthur says, "You know what?, We should fire his ass. Bryan doesn't even belong in this band." We all say, "Yeah, I guess," a little less enthusiastically than before, because we all figured Arthur was just mad that Bryan was late and would cool off when Bryan finally showed up. So sure enough, in a few minutes Bryan pulls up and gets out of his car and leans over and checks his hair out in his car side view mirror, then he walks over to where we were standing; and right away Arthur says, "Hey listen man, we've been talking, and we all think it would be best if you weren't with this group anymore, right guys?" and he kind of looks around at me and Johnny and Kenny for support, but it was obvious from the expression on Johnny's and Kenny's face's they were thinking the same thing I was. Bryan was an integral and important member of the group, and even though he could be arrogant and insufferable from time to time, we were a much better band with him than we would be without him. So we all started saying stuff like, "Well, that might be going a little far, Arthur..." trying to calm him down.
But he didn't calm down. Arthur's eyes got real big and he says, "OH! Hey, well thanks a lot! Okay, I get it!" and he got real mad and said, "Come on. Let's go on up and take the pictures," and he kind of stalked off up the little dirt path.
I think that might have been the moment Arthur decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Suddenly it was him against us, because we sided with Bryan. From then on, we didn't work at all. I had promoters call me and try to book the group through me because Arthur was turning down every opportunity that came our way. So, we sat around and got high and did nothing until a few weeks before the Forever Changes were to begin. Then we ran over the tunes a few time up at Arthur's new pad near the top of Kirkwood. The place with the indoor-outdoor swimming pool, and it was a new Arthur, kind of distant and non-communicative. No joking around, like when we were putting Da Capo together. All business, it was.
Arthur would show us a tune and we would work up our parts and go over the song a few times and Arthur would say, "Yeah, okay, that's good," and we would move on to the next. So, amazingly enough, in the late summer of '67, when we finally went in the studio to begin laying down the instrumental tracks for the album, we were a little out of practice and couldn't get the first song down in the first few takes, but realistically, we weren't that far off.
So, I look up in the booth and I see Arthur huddling with Bruce Botnick and the Elektra rep who was there, and in a minute Arthur comes out and says, "Hey, look guys, we've been talking and we think it might be a good idea to go ahead and bring studio cats in to lay down the basic instrumental and you guys can do instrumental and vocal overdubs later, and that'll save us all a lot of money. Is that cool?"
We were all taken aback. I mean, we just got here. Let's try a little harder to get the first song right before we throw up our hands and wave the white flag. But Arthur was insistent and Botnick was saying "Yeah, that's a great idea, fellas," So after some discussion, that's what we agreed to do.
Actually, the plan was for us to go ahead and show up anyway, and give the studio people guidance and advice on how to play the parts, so it would have the "Love sound." On the first day of the new sessions with 'The Wrecking Crew," we all walk in and there are strangers in our chairs, chatting with each other and generally just shooting the breeze, and the next thing I notice is this middle-aged woman wearing glasses and a dress, sitting in the middle of the room thoughtfully studying a chart and holding a Fender bass. Carol Kaye. That was Kenny's replacement. Then I look over and sitting behind a set of Camco drums is Jim Gordon. I knew Jim Gordon from when Snoop and I saw The Everly Brothers play at The Hullabaloo. He started playing and touring with the Everly Brothers in 1963 when he was eighteen. That's how good he was.
So I go over and start talking to Jim and we talked about his drums (because nobody but him played Camco drums, it was such an obscure brand), and we talked about how odd it was that more drummers didn't play Camco drums, and I played some stuff on his set and he showed me some riffs and he was a real nice guy. Then I looked over at Carol Kaye and Kenny, and Kenny is showing her what to play on the first cut they were scheduled to put down, which was "Daily Planet", and the moment was overwhelming. I mean, here was Kenny Forssi, one of the most dynamic and gifted bassists in Hollywood, the man who captured the imagination of all the Love fans and critics of great music with his work on the first album and who mastered the transmigration from folk rock to the jazz rock of Da Capo without so much as shifting gears, the man who blew everybody's mind with his awesome creativity and gargantuan power on "7&7 Is", and he's being replaced by a woman? All of a sudden, Arthur walks by Kenny and Carol and he pauses for a moment and listens and says, "That sounds pretty good what you're playing, Kenny. Why don't you go ahead and play the bass on this cut, and she can play something else, like rhythm guitar or whatever." And he walked away. That's right. And Kenny played the bass on "Daily Planet" and Carol played rhythm guitar. She complained after every take, too, kept holding her left hand up and shaking it, like the little strings hurt her fingers.
Jim Gordon played the drum part, and did a beautiful job. You can hear the same licks and technique he used later on, when he played drums with Eric Clapton. It's unmistakeable. It was an honor to have him replace me, but painful, nonetheless. They knocked "Daily Planet" out in four or five takes, I guess. Then they tackled "Andmoreagain." That was no problem, either.
But the next day, a funny thing happened. The Elektra rep called me and Johnny at home, and said he had listened to the cuts the studio cats and chick laid down, and the results were too plastic, not what the company was looking for at all. And he said he had talked to Arthur, and the new plan was for us to take some time to practice and come back in and do it ourselves.
Part two coming later this year, with the publication of the winter issue of the Big Takeover.
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, winter 2012 issue
You can find part one in my May 2012 postings
Last issue, Johnny Echols and Michael Stuart-Ware took us through the creation of Love's second album, Da Capo. Released in January of 1967, the album saw the band sprouting wings that pushed them away from their L.A. garage rock roots, and embracing rock and jazz fusion. For this album, the band were joined by saxophonist Tjay Cantrelli, and original drummer Snoopy Pfisterer moved to keyboards, making way on the drumset for Stuart-Ware. After the album's release, the band let both Cantrelli and Pfisterer go, as they began moving towards making their most famous work, 1968's Forever Changes.
While band leader Arthur Lee is certainly deserving of the credit for writing and directing much of Forever Changes, it is the entire band (Lee, Echols, Stuart-Ware, Ken Forssi, and Bryan MacLean) that shaped the album. The road to Forever Changes was not an easy one for the group, but strip away all of the stories and myths, and what you have is great music, put together by great musicians. Echols and Stuart-Ware now pick up the story.
Michael Stuart-Ware: So, in September, we came back into the studio and did the rest of the album ourselves. The company kept their version of "Daily Planet" but threw out "Andmoreagain" and we did it again ourselves. I've heard different versions of what transpired, like Hal Blaine played on "Daily Planet," but that's wrong. It was Jim Gordon. Then I heard, "Well, then Hal Blaine played drums and Carol Kaye played bass on 'Andmoreagain'." That's wrong, too. I mean, maybe they played on the version that was shitcanned, but that's Kenny playing bass on "Andmoreagain" on the album...not Carol Kaye. Listen to the tone, that's not Carol Kaye's Fender. That's Kenny's bass, an Eko. A small hollow body bass, similar to Paul McCartney's Hofner. Gets a real aggressive tone with a lot of attack. Not like a Fender at all, which is more muddy. Listen to the traveling bass lines at the end of each phrase. Those are easily recognizable Forssi runs.
And the drums? When the engineer makes the settings, he listens to the musician play, makes a series of volume adjustments with the pots and then we record. After Bruce made the drum settings and we started the "Andmoreagain" take, I accidentally overplayed the volume several times, most noticeably during the words, "...and I, ..." and near the end of the bridge during the build, including the two very last notes of the song when it ends. I played too hard, and it's a quiet tune. I cringed when I did it. I immediately knew what I had done. It was a mistake I was hoping I would have the opportunity to correct during the next take, but the next take never came. It was left like that. Listen to it. It's on the record. And it's the kind of faux pas the most experienced session drummer in the business would never make. Hal Blaine? Not hardly. I did some drumming fills and overdubs on "Daily Planet," too, so I play drums on all the cuts. Me and Jim Gordon playing drums on the same song. Check out all the great drumming on that tune. That's Jim.
BT: I have heard that the band rehearsed a lot after the Wrecking Crew
episode. Is that so, and if so, how long did you all rehearse?
Johnny Echols: After being offered a lot more money, and afore mentioned incentives aimed toward Bryan, we all got together, and decided it was in our best interests, (both individually, and as a group) to have Forever Changes be our best album ever.
If memory serves, we didn’t rehearse that much together. We met a couple of times informally at one of our houses and just ran through the songs.We each knew what our parts were going to be from the time in the studio, so the vast majority of the time we worked out our parts alone. All of us were just a bit rusty, and needed to reconnect with our musical selves.
Stuart-Ware: Whenever we came back into the studio, August or September, and we re-recorded the instrumental to "Andmoreagain," and I laid down some fills on "Daily Planet," then after that I really don't remember the sequence, but we went from song to song and did them all without any problem that I can recall. But it was a different mindset this time around. It wasn't like, "Okay, now we're going to go into the studio and try and start to lay down the instrumental tracks and see if we can do it." There wasn't a question of if we could do it. We just did it, because the studio people's sound had already been deemed "unacceptable" by Elektra, so now it was up to the real group, like it should have been in the first place.
Each cut took a reasonable number of takes, you know. Six or eight, I don't know. It went pretty fast. We were "The New and Improved Wrecking Crew." Because you have to remember, I came from another band, a real good band, The Sons Of Adam. I was a fan, and I saw Love from the outside, and I knew well their reputation before I joined up. I knew what everybody else knew. Arthur and Bryan, and Kenny and Johnny were considered to be four of the most profoundly talented musicians on the music scene in the late-sixties. Their musical accomplishments were downright legendary. This group counted, among their devoted fans, members of the The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and The Kinks and The Animals and they were bad-ass motherf--kers and could leap tall buildings in a single bound and never in this or any other world would they need studio musicians to come in and play their music for them because they couldn't hack it themselves (be it Conka, Snoop or me on drums), unless it was all part of a plan orchestrated to achieve an ill-conceived goal. Okay? Now you get it. The plan just didn't work, that's all. Not this time around. Nice try.
BT: What are your recollections of the Forever Changes sessions?
Echols: My reflections of those sessions, was of friends dealing with animus and near mutiny, that had somehow morphed into a moment of redemption. Best friends who had once been at each others throats had re-dedicated themselves to the job at hand, which was creating the very best music they could.
After all the previously mentioned drama, it was refreshing to play with my friends again, and have them completely there ready and able to play music. All things considered, it was one hell of an experience.
Stuart-Ware: After all the instrumental tracks were laid down, the group came back in to do the vocals. I think Bryan's "Alone Again Or" was one of the first. The name? Bryan played the tune for Arthur to see if he liked it and Arthur said, "Yeah, that's a nice tune, what's it called?," and Bryan said, "Well, I guess, 'Alone Again',... or..." and Arthur said, "OK, that's good, we'll call it 'Alone Again Or'." Bryan and Arthur and I all worked off one big omnidirectional mic set up, not in a vocal booth, but right out in the middle of the floor of the studio at Sunset Sound. I sang low harmony because my voice is naturally low anyway, so, natural fit. "The Red Telephone"... I chimed in on the spoken words, "...paint me white (yellow, black, brown) along with Arthur and Bryan and Kenny and Johnny). Yeah I know, there's a color missing. Oh, and then on "The Red Telephone", I sang the "sha, la la,"s on the bridge, as well.
"Old Man," Bryan's song about an old man who gave him good advice. I played quadruplets on the high hat only. No other drum parts.
"Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale," everybody knows...a musical profile of the action on Sunset Blvd, between the streets, Clark and Hilldale, right there where The Whisky and (across the street) The Eating Affair was located. And here it comes, the reason why the answer to your question, "can you listen to it now?" is still "no," and probably always will be.
People have described Arthur's talent in glowing terms, he richly deserves all the good things people have said about him and his creations, and no doubt he deserves almost all the credit for the success of Forever Changes. After all, it was his brainchild. He wrote and sang most of the tunes. He was the engine that pulled the train. But nobody's perfect, and every once in a while he came up with a dinger from left field that didn't quite pan out. For instance, Arthur had a habit of waiting until the eleventh hour, until we were actually in the studio, to give, you know, "last minute instructions", as it were, and when we were actually in the studio at Sunset Sound, he came over to me early on, and confided, "Look Michael, Bryan's dragging on all the up-tempo tunes. I want you to push the tempo, kind of move it along. These tunes have to have excitement, and a fast pace."
I didn't really know what the hell he was talking about at first, because for one thing, I didn't hear Bryan dragging his guitar parts at all, and for another (and perhaps more importantly), there's "the tempo" It's a very exact and definite thing. The tempo is what it is, it's untouchable, and if you push it, then you're simply rushing, it becomes uneven and everything gets all out of whack. It doesn't sound right if one guy does it or if the whole band does it. "Observe and follow the established tempo" is a rule in music that you just don't break. And besides the act of "pushing the tempo" is a very inexact and approximate non-science. You can't push it throughout, or the song would go faster and faster, so push it when? How much? You have to pick your spots. It was a dangerous thing to do and just as importantly, something we hadn't practiced.
Nevertheless, Arthur was a rule breaker, and so he asked me to "push the tempo" on almost every one of the up-tempo songs on the album, including Bryan's "Alone Again Or.," and, being a good soldier, I did, all the while naturally, trying to push it gently and delicately, so as not to mess things up noticeably and still follow orders. But on "Between Clark and Hilldale," Arthur asked me to push it even more than I had been doing to that point, and so I pushed it even more, and it's very noticeable, indeed, and sounds horrible. To me, anyway.
But you know, if there are people out there that love the album anyway, and they say, "Man, that's one of the things I love most about the songs on 'Forever Changes', is the pushing of the tempo and the excitement it generates!" Well then, once again, you have to give all the credit to Arthur. That was his idea and as crazy an idea as I thought it was at the time, it makes me happy if people like it, forgive it, whatever. It really does.
BT: Johnny, you played with Arthur longer than anyone else in the band. How did your musical relationship with him change during the Da Capo/Forever Changes era?
Echols: It didn’t change that much at all, Arthur’s instrument back then was the organ, which didn’t really fit as a part of the sound we were developing. He needed me, as well as Bryan, to put Loves stamp on the words he was writing. That sound, the guitar interplay, was recognizable no matter the direction the music took.
It is quite easy to hear the demarcation point from the original Love to the sound of Arthur’s “side men.” Most were fine musicians, they just had their own interpretations, their own sound, which was not the sound associated with Love. The guys in Wings were
excellent musicians, playing excellent music, they just weren’t the Beatles.
BT: Where was Forever Changes recorded?
Echols: We recorded at Sunset Sound, and Western Sound Recorders.
BT: Were you aware that strings would be added at a later session? How much
input did Arthur, and the rest of the band have into the string and
Echols: We were aware from the beginning, there would be strings and horns. But after the fiasco with the double album, none of us were sure it would really happen. None of the charts were actually written before we began recording, so we had to tailor our parts ie. leave room, for other musicians but not leave voids in case things changed.
Arthur played a critical role in the arranging of the music, for Forever Changes he worked with David Angel daily, as did Bryan and I, although Arthur should be singled out for the incredible job he did.
Ware: I remember hearing early on that strings and horns would be added to the basic instrumental tracks, but as far as I know David Angel did all the arrangements with input from Arthur and Bryan and Johnny. How much? Not sure. I wasn't there in the room when they were doing that stuff. The drums parts were all strictly my call, both on Da Capo and Forever Changes.
BT: Johnny, my understanding is that the guitar duels on “A House Is Not A
Hotel” is all you, multi-tracked. How did that come about?
Echols: That was a strange session, my guitar solo's were played last, after all the other tracks were done. There was a glitch with the head phones, so I could not hear the first solo, as I played the second, In effect I had to anticipate what I would play on the second solo, while playing the first, and trying to make each compliment the other. Confusing to explain, even more of a challenge to play. It just worked out that way, serendipitous.
BT: I’ve also read that Arthur not play any guitar on Forever Changes, leaving the guitars to you and Bryan. Is that true, and if so, had that been planned?
Echols: Arthur never played guitar on any records, with the exception of “My Flash On You,” from the first album.
BT: In listening to the album now, it seems there a huge jump forward in the lyrics that both Arthur, and Bryan were writing? More adult subject matter, a larger view of the world. Were you aware of those changes, at
Echols: Absolutely, there was tremendous growth in the both of them, though they were always great word smiths, one could sense a more mature perspective as the sessions unfolded.
Stuart-Ware: Bryan's songs were pretty straightforward. "Alone Again Or," was about a guy being dumped and ignored, periodically or finally, and lonely, along the lines of Dylan's, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"...you know, "..Yeah... say it's alright, I won't forget..all the times I waited patiently for you.. and.. you do.. just what.. you choose to do, and I will be alone again tonight my dear", and he's going to be alone, even though he thinks people are the greatest fun. A cruel perpetration and a revolting development indeed, and one most of us have had to endure from time to time. Loneliness or solitude? It depends on one's perspective, I suppose, because perspective is reality any way you look at it. The music to the song was predicated on a flamenco edge added to a riff from a composition by the Russian composer, Prokofiev.
"Old Man," as previously mentioned, a song about the wisdom handed down to a younger person from a wise old man. Like I said, eighth-notes played lightly on a closed hi hat was the only percussion with Kenny laying down a bass line and Bryan playing the acoustic guitar part on his Gibson Hummingbird. Then add strings, horns and vocal. Both absolutely beautiful songs and each a testament to Bryan's profound songwriting ability. He had the gift and he used it well. During his time with Love, Bryan always sang straight, with no vibrato, which added an innocence to the vocal quality and fit the character of his compositions perfectly. His mother Elizabeth (a flamenco dancer, herself) once told me that he was always self-conscious about trying to sing with vibrato, so he didn't, until much later when he was off on his own.
Arthur's songs were, for the most part, based upon his observations of our society and the world we live in, and and his conclusions based on those observations, but sometimes it was just, "...about some chick", as he was prone to say, like "Bummer In The Summer" and "Andmoreagain." I didn't really think too much about the words to the songs on Forever Changes at the time we recorded the album. The words to a song are often a personal thing that the individual who writes the song is thinking and feeling at any given moment, a microscopic look into the soul of the composer, not something that everybody in the band is thinking or feeling.
"The Good Humor Man, He Sees Everything Like This" Arthur occasionally gave Bryan a hard time about the lyrics he wrote to the songs he composed, like, "Orange Skies,.. carnivals and cotton candy and you..." or, from "Softly To Me," off the first album, "...orange sugar chocolate, of cinnamon and lovely things and you." Stuff like that. "Why do you always write about happy shit?," Arthur would ask him, (rhetorically) because Arthur didn't think those songs fit the character of the band. He didn't think that's what Love was all about, and he appeared frankly embarrassed by those lyrics. They rubbed him the wrong way, so to speak. Then, between the recording of Da Capo and Forever Changes, Bryan started wearing a white suit out in public, tie and everything. Arthur didn't like that, as well, and started calling it "Bryan's ice cream suit," because it was white, like vanilla ice cream. I mean, Arthur didn't invent that phrase. It's been around for years, (like, Colonel Sanders wears an ice cream suit) that's what it's called, but Arthur used the phrase on Bryan and his suit.
So, if you look at the title, "The Good Humor Man, He Sees Everything Like This," and you listen to the words that are all about happy things, the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn, is that this song is Arthur ridiculing Bryan and the subject matter of his tunes. That's the way I see it anyway. Arthur and I never sat down and had a heart to heart about it, but you know, if it walks like a duck. It's a good song, nevertheless. Once again, I sang the "Ahhs..." in the chorus. Me on drums, Kenny on bass and Bryan on acoustic guitar. Strings and horns.
BT: Any special recollections about recording “Alone Again Or”? Or “You Set The Scene”?
Stuart-Ware: The vocal harmony parts that Arthur and Bryan and I came up with on "Alone Again Or" just happened when we stood at the microphone and did "take one" of the vocal. We didn't really practice it. Same with the "Ahhs" on "The Red Telephone" Arthur just said, "We'll all sing 'Ahhh' right here." We more or less improvised the harmony parts on the spot.
Echols: “Alone Again” began life as a kind of bluegrassy tune, that was little more than an instrumental intro, with a catchy vocal hook. Since neither of us played banjo we really didn't know what to do with the song, it almost didn't make the cut. I was warming up near the piano noodling Spanish riffs, when David Angel walked by. He listened for a few minutes before asking me to "play that for Bryan, this would go great in his song." So I played the riffs for Bryan, and went to speak with John Haney in the control room. When I returned David and Bryan were sitting at the piano writing a trumpet part that would mirror my Spanish guitar noodling. Again, serendipity played a major part in how this beautiful song evolved.
“You set the scene” was a different story entirely. Kenny Forssi, took three separate songs that Arthur had written, but not yet finished, and put them together to form one complete song. He worked on them for months, and melded them seamlessly into what has become one of the signature songs on the album.
BT: Do you have any favorite songs on FC?
Echols: “House Is Not A Motel,” is my favorite, followed by “You Set the Scene,” though in all honesty they are all fantastic works, that I'm truly proud of.
Stuart-Ware: My favorite songs on Forever Changes? I guess I like "Old Man", and "Andmoreagain", and "The Red Telephone" okay.
BT: At the end of You Set The Scene, Arthur originally "rapped" over the song's coda, but was mixed out. Where did this idea come from?
Echols: Arthur and I would often listen to the "Last Poets," who in my opinion were the forefathers of rap. Anyway, he got the idea in the studio as we were recording to do an impromptu "rap." I thought it was so cool, Jac Holzman thought otherwise and nixed it.
BT: Johnny, what guitars did you play on Forever Changes?
Echols: A 1952 Les Paul gold top, with P-90 pickups, a Gibson L5, a 1951 Epiphone Zepher, a Gibson twelve string, and several Martins. Along with a Vox AC 15 amp......
BT: Michael, what drums did you play on Forever Changes?
Stuart-Ware: I played the previously mentioned Ludwigs.
BT: When Forever Changes was done, did you feel like you and Love had made a great record?
Echols: I thought it was fantastic, my mind was blown, and I was truly astonished that we were able to pull it off..
Stuart-Ware: Did I feel that we had made a great record? Not really. I mean, I don't feel the least bit defensive about not recognizing the greatness of the record. I think it's pretty normal. Most people who create anything are trying just as hard as they can to reach a level closely approaching perfection, so that's really the standard of satisfaction for the guy doing it. It's like a test in school, 90% is good, you know, because that's an "A", but what about the other 10%? Even if you get 99 out of a hundred, aren't you going to agonize about the one you missed?
Like, for instance, I took a Real Estate Appraisal class around 15 years ago and I missed one question on the final. It was, "When you've paid off a mortgage on a piece of property, how does the Deed of Reconveyance get sent out?" "By Mail," is the correct answer. Just regular old mail. Not Certified Mail like you would think, so I missed it. I came THAT CLOSE! to getting a perfect score and I still hate that I missed that one question. And, by the way, to show that I should have gotten it right, when I paid off the mortgage on my house, and the bank sent out my Deed of Reconveyance it got lost in the regular old mail and I never got it. My Deed of Reconveyance is still floating around out there somewhere laying in a gutter or stuck under the seat of the mail person's delivery vehicle or on the floor of his closet at home because he got too tired that day. So, you see, it should have been sent Certified Mail, like I put. Anyway, the point is, when I listen to Forever Changes I can only hear that 10%, or 6% or 2% that we/I missed.
But all that being said, I'm happy beyond words that so many people who love good music think Forever Changes is so beautiful and get so much enjoyment from listening to it, and I'm deeply honored to have been a contributor to it's making.
BT: Michael, on your website, you have a photo of the billboard that Elektra put up to promote Forever Changes.
Stuart-Ware: A few days after Forever Changes was released, I guess, Bryan called me on the phone and says, "Hey, our billboard went up. Come get me and we'll go look at it." So I jumped in my car and drove up to his house, which was also in the Canyon, and we cruised down Laurel Canyon to Sunset and turned right and BOOM! There it was, perched high above The Liquor Locker; and I have to say it was impressive, all glorious and white with Bob Pepper's great colorful artistic rendition of our faces intertwined in the shape of a human heart. "Watch For The Third Coming of Love," the billboard read.
And we must not have seen the album cover yet, because Bryan says, "Hey, they put you in the middle!," like, he didn't think I belonged there or something, and then he says,"My picture doesn't look like me at all. I don't like it." We had slowed down a little, because you know, we didn't want to just go whizzing by, and we were in the right hand lane so we could take our time and get a good look, and this guy in another Porsche, I think, pulled up alongside us on the left, and he slowed down too, and looked over and gave us a big smile and a thumbs up. Bryan says, "Let's get out of here." We had been busted gandering at our own billboard. Must have been a trip for the stranger in the other Porsche. "Dang, there's the billboard, and there's the guys in the picture on the billboard and they're like looking at themselves on the billboard. How often do you see that!?" He must have thought he was in The Twilight Zone.
A few months earlier, we had gone up to somebody's house in the hills (could have been Terry Melcher's pad, maybe) and each of us, one at a time, sat in a little chair out by the pool to have the pictures taken that were used by Bob Pepper for the drawings. The photographer shot each of us from different angles, each side and then straight on face shot, then they sent the proofs on back east to New York, and Bob Pepper formulated the composite in the shape of a real human heart. I don't know for sure, I guess he was in New York.
How did he decide who went where? Good question. I think maybe he looked at my picture and saw something unique; he saw that certain something that made him think, "Now this individual is obviously talented. He has the gift, intelligence, imagination, he's good looking, and he possesses the visual persona of a true rock legend. He's probably the main guy in the group. I'll go ahead and put him in the middle."
BT: Did the band have any trouble translating Forever Changes onto the stage, without the strings and horns that are on the album?
Echols: Not at all! We mostly did songs like “Bummer in the Summer,” “A House is not a Motel,” “Live and let live,” “Between Clark and Hilldale,” “You Set the Scene,” where the strings and horns weren’t really missed. We mixed in songs from the first album, and Da Capo, and we pretty much had a full set list. Though I must admit, later, when we finally played with strings and horns on stage, the sound was just magical.
BT: The Forever Changes/Da Capo did record one more single in early 1968. Tell me about that.
Stuart-Ware: January 30, 1968, we went back into the studio for the final time to record what would be a single, "Your Mind and We Belong Together" and a B side, "Laughing Stock." John Haeny engineered the sessions at Sunset Sound, the same studio where we had recorded Forever Changes.
No strings or horns, just us. Haeny did a little better job on the mix than did Bruce. You can hear it. Cue it up. When Arthur played us the tunes for the first time on his acoustic Gibson, I thought, "Alright! Something cooking this ways comes." Something to sink my teeth into a little bit. So we did the sessions. The words to the tunes didn't bode well for the future of the group, "...I feel I've been through hell and you tell me I haven't even started yet."? And on "Laughing Stock"..."I keep on singing my songs...I keep on playing my drums"? Yeah, first person singular, I'm hearing, and complaining.
So, even though the songs were good, realistically there hadn't been a whole lot of communication between members of the band for a while, we were drifting in different directions and there was just an inescapable feeling that, all things considered, things were coming to an end. Which they did, I think, around the next June. And that was it.
Echols: That was a very strange session. Arthur had written the song expressly because I was continually on his case about never being able to really stretch out as a lead guitarist. He was well aware of exactly where I was going with the song, I had played an outline for
him so he knew what to expect. I wanted to play something really different, the kind of solo one would remember, like a jazz solo, with a rock tone. It needed to ebb and flow, I would start in the lower register, hit some high notes then drop back down, (tell a story) like a Sonny Rollins tenor sax solo.
Arthur, with the urging of Bruce Botnick, decided I needed to use a lot of distortion, and play more in the upper registers, which was popular at the time. I used a 1951 Les Paul, and a Vox AC-15 amp with no other added effects, which to me, was what sounded best. After a lot of back and forth, he decided to just let me play the song the way I heard it. I’m glad he did, It turned out to be one
of my favorite guitar solos.
BT: When did you first discover, or realize that Da Capo and Forever Changes had been discovered by a new generation, and lauded as classic albums?
Echols:It was a gradual transformation, I first noticed our audience’s were getting younger around 2004, when we toured with the Zombies. [At the time] I kind of attributed the young crowd to them. Later when we played colleges, we were drawing huge crowds who knew all the words, and were singing along with us. That’s when it hit me, we had been discovered by a whole new generation.
Of all the wonderful things that have happened for us in the last several years, having our group, our music, deemed relevant, by the younger, up and coming musicians trumps it all. I’m so proud for my brothers Arthur, Bryan, Kenny, and Michael, that Love has stood the test of time.
Two weeks ago, I photographed the Patriot Gala, which is an annual gala in Charlotte to benefit veterans of the military and their families. I soon discovered that there were six other photographers at the event, and they all were prowling the entrance to the event. I spent much of my time in the back part of the country club, trying to get photos for the Charlotte Observer that looked different than what everyone else was taking.
As I was getting ready to leave, I made one last look around the main dining hall. Recognizing someone in a group of five that was huddled together, I introduced myself, and got the group to pose for a photo. I soon realized that among the group was a local author, who had recently written a biography about a decorated US General and current CIA head. The author recognized me from photographing her at another event. After the group photos were done, the author and I talked briefly, and I took photos of her with her husband, who had also been in the group pics.
The author gave me her card, and I promised to send jpegs of the pics. I did so the following week, and I received a very nice email from the author on November 8th. The following day, I was returning from a trip to South Carolina when I heard that the subject of her biography had resigned from the CIA, citing an extra-marital affair. Wow, I thought. What will that mean for the book? A few minutes later, it was announced that the author had been revealed as the one involved in the affair. I was stunned. I also knew that the Observer was posting my Patriot Gala pics that same afternoon. I wonder if anyone will find the pics, I thought to myself.
The following morning, I woke up to an email from the New York Post. They wanted to buy outright any and all of my photos of the author. I initially said yes, as the money was remarkably good. However, I soon began to have second thoughts. I wasn't used to making deals like this, and what would the Observer say? Still, I was prepared to go through with it. That evening, while photographing a gospel music event when I happened to check my email. The Post was contacting me in a panic, as other outlets had begun to post my photos. Complicating the matter was that I had left my cellphone at home, and could not call back or email the Post. I ran home, found my cellphone, and adjusted the contract to just be a purchase of one photo, and one-time usage. A good deal less money, yes, but in the long run, I think it was for the best.
As it turned out, many outlets had found the Observer pics. The Observer themselves put the photos on the front page of their Sunday paper, a rarity for a social event pic. In the meantime, major newspapers such as the NY Daily News, London Daily Mail, and other websites have since grabbed the pic, and published it. The irony is that while they did use the photo without purchasing it from myself or the Observer, all of the sites did credit me, which has allowed me to track the photo's usage. The photo has also been sold via Getty, which has a deal with the corporation that owns the Observer. This was also news to me.
So far, photos has been purchased by the NY Post, NBC, and People Magazine, who also interviewed me about photographing the author. And I appreciate their patronage, and willingness to buy the photo from me directly. The Observer has also confirmed that I do own the photos, which I appreciate. The other newspapers I mentioned will receive invoices from me shortly. Will I get paid from them? I don't know. But all I can do is try. This experience has taught me a lot about how the media works now, and how images and information can travel faster than you can hold it back.
Do I feel guilty about selling a photo that's related to an international scandal? Yes, a little bit. I got into photography because I wanted to take photos, not to be a part of what can amount to high-tech rubbernecking. But if I don't, other people will profit from my reticence. That's not an excuse, that's reality, and it's online for all to see. But I am being choosy about my options. What I do hope, when all the cameras go away, and the media moves on to other matters, if that the people involved on all sides of this can put their lives back together. Sooner or later, when the fame or infamy fades, you're left with just yourself, and what you want (and need) to do to get on with the rest of your life. And I hope they do.