Saturday, September 16, 2006

I posted this on MySpace a month ago. I'm reposting it here because I need to fill up space and also because it's really the first of my rock and roll experiences.

Monday, August 07, 2006

RIP Arthur Lee

Almost exactly 40 years ago, in the summer of 1966, my friend Mickey Leonard and i hitch hiked the ten miles from the small town we lived in, Warrensburg, NY to the equally-small but way more interesting tourist trap town of Lake George. I had just come back from a summer in Europe, courtesy of a camp-sponsored exchange program, and was two or three weeks away from going away to prep school. Mickey Leonard was my best friend from junior high school, kind of a fuck up, and the coolest guy i knew.
A couple of miles outside of lake George, a beater of a car pulled up, smoke curling out of the exhaust pipe. We pried open the back door and got in. I remember we had to climb over a stack of lp's. In the front seat were two long-haired scary looking guys, unshaven and dressed in crazy shirts and vests. I had some guys who looked like that in Germany and France, but never this up-close.
The driver, was dark and had kind of an Afro (I call it that in hindsight, because I'm pretty sure i had never heard the term before). He asked where we were going, then without waiting for an answer asked if we had 50 cents, because they had to get to NYC. Mickey and I scraped together 50 cents and handed it over the seat. Then Mickey asked if the two guys were in a band. One of them said yeah. Mickey said, "I saw your album in the drugstore. You're in Love, right?"
The blond guy sitting in the passenger seat said yeah.
It was Arthur Lee and Bryan McLean.
I had been to Europe and knew who the Animals were and the Stones and the Kinks, but I had never heard of Love. And to be honest, even though I liked the Stones and knew all the lyrics to "Dirty Water" and "Psychotic Reaction", I was really a nerdy Herman's Hermits and Dave Clarke Five fan at heart.
As nerdy as I might have been, I still knew that these two guys were the coolest guys I had ever met.
I bought the first Love album as soon as I could, and fell in love with it. I even managed to find a place that sold the suede boots with fringe on the top that a couple of the band members were wearing on the cover of the album
So I've been listening to Love for 40 years. I've been a Velvets fanatic, a Stooges fanatic, a NY Dolls fanatic, a Big Star fanatic, a Television fanatic, a Feelies fanatic. But my appreciation of Love has lasted longer and has been more profound. I'd have to say that their first three albums are maybe my favorite albums of all time.
Even objectively, if you listen to "Forever Changes" now, it's hard to date it. The genre hopping is perfectly in tune with the kinds of stuff Calexico and Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire are doing. The sophisticated melodies and arrangements make it hard to believe that Love, in its heyday, was never really more than a struggling garage band making a living in clubs on Sunset Strip.
I saw Arthur Lee in the early 90's at Trammps and he hadn't lost a thing. His voice was, if anything stronger than it was on the albums. The songs rang as true as they had 25 years earlier.
I know Arthur Lee was fucked up in a lot of ways. (I also think he got treated like shit by just about the whole world.)
But there's no question that may still be the coolest person I ever met. And probably the most brilliant.

1 comment:

WOO DOPS said...

Great story!