Published: Jan 01, 2005
Beware the aging boomer come to tell you about a neglected masterpiece from the 1960s, an album so great it stands with the best of the Beatles. Pity his failing eyesight, his muddied hearing, his growing gut and receding hair. Giftwrap Viagra for him. Pat him on his flabby arm. And move on.
The thing is, there is such an album, and it is that good, and people who have the history of rock music in their heads put it in the pantheon of greatness. I will make the case for it here. But you can easily test my praise for yourself. Click on the ‘buy’ link. Sample the songs. If you are not excited — if you don’t feel you’ve just had the audio equivalent of a double shot at Starbucks — consign me to the Old Hippies Home and never trust me (on the ’60s, anyway) again.
The group is Love. They made a few albums, and then, in 1968, they made ‘Forever Changes.’ Arthur Lee — the leader of Love — thought it was his swan song; he expected his imminent death.
‘Forever Changes’ was huge in the band’s native Los Angeles, big on a few campuses, ignored everywhere else. And not because of the songs: they are smartly written and expertly played. But they are also ‘produced’ — there are strings here, and horns. In a summer when police were beating kids at the Democratic Convention in Chicago and we were dropping more bombs on Vietnam than we did in World War II and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were getting killed, the last thing Young America wanted was Smart and Complex.
Time clarifies. Dust settles. Now no one cares who did what back when. Without expectations, maybe you can actually hear this CD for what it is. [To buy 'Forever Changes' from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
What you’ll hear is a blend of rock and psychedelia. There’s the punch of rock lyrics — ‘The news today will be the movies for tomorrow’ —- and the longing of high-altitude, late-night musing:
Yeah, I heard a funny thing
Somebody said to me
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone
I think that people are
The greatest fun
And I will be alone again tonight my dear
You are just a thought that someone
Somewhere somehow feels you should be here
And it’s so for real
To touch, to smell, to feel, to know where you are here
And the streets are paved with gold
And if someone asks you, you can call my name
For all the romanticism, there’s plenty of paranoia. Lee recites, over martial drums:
They’re locking them up today
they’re throwing away the key
I wonder who it will be tomorrow
— you or me?
But in this song cycle about confusion and thwarted romance and the deep ache for wholeness, there’s a surprisingly upbeat conclusion:
This is the time and life that I am living
And I’ll face each day with a smile
For the time that I’ve been given is such a little while
And the things that I must do consist of more than style
At the end, Arthur Lee invokes the idea contained in the title:
Everything I’ve seen needs rearranging
And for anyone who thinks it’s strange
Then you should be the first to want to make this change
And for everyone who thinks that life is just a game
Do you like the part you’re playing?
Love didn’t. The group broke up. Arthur Lee spent more than a decade in jail for a gun violation. And now here is ‘Forever Changes,’ re-mixed, even better, fresh as a spring morning in Los Angeles almost 40 years ago. Oh, dear. That long ago?