Love: From Da Capo, To Forever Changes, pt. 2
interviews and introduction by Daniel Coston
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.