As anyone lucky enough to have seen the late Arthur Lee—born on this day in 1945—in performance can tell you, it was a very special experience. I saw Arthur perform three times myself, including an early 90s gig at the fabled Palamino Club in North Hollywood with Baby Lemonade where the electricity went out and he did a candle-lit “unplugged” set without the group. Pure magic. The entire audience was grinning from ear to ear.
The second time I saw Arthur Lee play was even more memorable. After spending 5-1/2 years in a California Federal prison, Arthur was released and in 2003 he began a tentative series of performances around Los Angeles playing Love’s classic 1967 album Forever Changes in its entirety.
When he walked onstage the night I saw him, at a packed Henry Fonda Theatre, he looked tiny, frail, old, and just plain scared. His clothes looked too big. Everyone was pulling for him, we all wanted this to be amazing and triumphant, but frankly it didn’t look promising. Within seconds, however, he strapped on his hollow body electric guitar, smiled broadly and became the great Arthur Lee before our very eyes. It was a magical musical event. Lee’s voice had lost none of its beauty and range; the songs none of their power. Audience members were moved to tears. It felt like a holy moment, it really did. (Of the third time, a tragically ill-fated show at UCLA in front of an audience that included some major celebrities and rock stars, the less said the better.)
But sadly, as Arthur Lee and Love fans well know, there is almost no footage—as in nearly none—of the original, classic Love line-up performing. There’s an American Bandstand appearance from 1966 with lip-syncs of “My Little Red Book” and “Message to Pretty” but most television outlets had no use for a multi-racial rock group at the time. As with the Velvet Underground, Lee and Love’s most vital and creative years were almost completely undocumented on film and video. They just slipped through the cracks.
The Four Sale-era incarnation of Love with Gary Rowles, Frank Fayad and George Suranovich was shot live in Denmark in 1970. Not the same musicians, save for Lee, who recorded the classic Forever Changes album, but who’s going to complain about vintage live film footage of Arthur fucking Lee? This was aired as A Group By The Name Of Love in July of 1970. The concert footage is from a show at Tivoli Koncertsal, Copenhagen, on March 12, 1970.
A brief interview with Arthur followed by an energetic “Love is More than Words”
A stunning and intense “August”
This is mistitled, it’s actually “Doggone”
Love on German TV in 1969