Friday, September 15, 2006


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Love Story
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In 2002, Labour backbencher Peter Bradley entered a motion in the House of Commons, declaring 'That this house pays tribute to the legendary Arthur Lee... front man and inspiration of Love, the world's greatest rock band and creators of Forever Changes, the greatest album of all time.' Though many would be entitled to question the credibility of the source, few who love rock music could argue with the sentiment. First time filmmakers and fans Hall and Kerry celebrate Love's music, seeking to tell the story of the striking, multi-racial LA phenomenon, together at a time of extreme racial tension in the USA, by focusing on their first three classic albums, culminating in the timeless masterpiece that is Forever Changes. There are interviews with band members, including charming Johnny Echols and eccentric drummer Alban 'Snoopy' Pfisterer, along with archive footage of the late Brian MacLean, and telling contributions from Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, all providing insight into the creative chemistry of the band. Inevitably, it is the touching interviews with Arthur that provide the focus of the film. He passed away as the film was being completed, and, sadly, it now stands as a fitting eulogy to the man and his genius.
Michael Hayden
Cast and Credits:
Directed by Mike Kerry, Chris Hall
Country UK
Year of Production 2006
Running Time 110 minutes


‘Love Story’ - The Ritzy Brixton (BFI 50th London Film Festival) - 29th October 2006.

Review by Andy Riggs

As part of the BFI London Film Festival there have been two showings of a new documentary about the life of Arthur Lee and Love (mainly covering the years 1965-1967). First time filmmakers and fans Mike Kerry & Chris Hall have produced a gem of a film seeking to tell the story of the enigmatic, combustible, multi-racial LA phenomenon that was Love. Mike & Chris spent several years trying to get access to Arthur Lee and the surviving members of the band in addition to Jac Holzman & Bruce Botnick.

Arthur Lee passed away in August of this year and this superb documentary raises as many questions as it does answers, to the enigma that was Love in the halcyon days of mid 60s of LA. Unlike many cult figures that were around with Love such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix & Janis Joplin, Arthur survived the self-inflicted drug onslaught.

The film is a revelation, when the group first formed there was resistance about having two black musicians, and for the cover of Forever Changes there was an artist’s drawing of the group which avoided the fact that this was one the first mixed race ‘pop groups’.

There are some terrific home photos of Arthur, his great adversary in the band Bryan MacLean & surviving member Johnny Echols in addition to live footage from 1965. Arthur’s competition with Bryan led to many conflicts within the group – and it was clear that the band should have been called Arthur Lee & Love. When they first signed up with Elecktra records the $5,000 dollars signing on fee was paid in cash to Arthur, Jac Holzman recalled that Arthur immediately went out and purchased a two-seater Corvette costing $4,500 – the balance was shared out amongst the rest of the band. Jac Holzman recalled with some emotion driving through LA and hearing Love’s brilliant rendition of ‘My Little Red Book’ on the radio (it became their highest chart entry). You can see the writing the wall as success brought the cash and the ‘hangers on’.

The conflict between the two leading songwriters Bryan & Arthur contributed to the split in the original line up, with Arthur looking to create music with a ‘message’ and Bryan concentrating on the more melodic side with Softy To Me, Orange Skies, Alone Again Or & Old Man under his belt Arthur obviously felt threatened.

The film concentrated on their first three releases, which rank as some of the best music of the sixties, even allowing for the rather eccentric and experimental 18 minute jam on Da Capo. In addition, the film elaborated on the role of the Elektra team and how Love introduced The Doors to Elektra (John Densmore was interviewed). The Doors debut was released in 1967 and stole the thunder from the peerless Love record of the same year Forever Changes. As we all know Love’s career high was Forever Changes, refusing to tour outside of LA combined with Elektra’s apparent decision to promote The Doors instead of Love contributed to the lack of sales and the demise of the original line up.

Arthur is interviewed driving through LA, and it’s very clear Arthur had his own take on the Love Story, he comes across as shy, introverted, egoistical but hugely charismatic. There is a terrific segment from 2004/5 where Arthur wanders through the legendary Bela Lugosi Castle where Love held court after the release of their first two records.

The film features music from all three records and allows the story to unfold. Lasting almost 2 hours the film never treads water, each interview peels back the layers of this legendary group whose story has never really been told.

After the show the two directors & original member Johnny Echols answered questions for about twenty minutes. The directors aim to get distribution in the UK and US – let’s hope they get the DVD issued before Oliver Stone decides to make a film about Arthur with Will Smith as the lead!

When I got home I played Forever Changes all the way through, testament to this terrific film and enduring hold that his music has on many of us, and the enigma that was Arthur Lee.

Arthur Lee R.I.P.

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