California Dreaming: She Comes In Colors

Love had never been the most easy-going of bands, and by the time they recorded their second album, Da Capo, the relationships both within the band and between the band and the rest of the music business all seemed to be reaching breaking point.

The catalyst for the intra-band problems was Arthur Lee and Bryan Maclean’s similar taste in women. Both men had often shown interest in the same women, and both fell hard for Stephanie Buffington, who became the subject of several songs on the album — most notably Stephanie Knows Who, but also The Castle, with its lyrics “A[rthur] my love, B[ryan] my love, so hard to choose” — after she started relationships with both men. Tensions between the two men became so great that Maclean eventually attempted to have the rest of the band get rid of Lee altogether, but Lee’s friendship with Johnny Echols and Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer ensured that his position in the band was secure.

Pfisterer’s, however, was less so. While Pfisterer was a competent drummer, he was only competent, and the rest of the band disliked him personally, and wished that original drummer Don Conka was able to return. Lee, however, saw Pfisterer as a protege, and so rather than sack him he moved him to keyboards (Pfisterer’s first instrument, on which unlike drums he was excellent), and had him play harpsichord in the studio and piano and organ on stage. His place behind the drums was instead taken by Michael Stuart, and at the same time jazz woodwind player Tjay Cantrelli was added to the band, turning them from a five-piece rock band to a seven-piece band that were suddenly capable of playing more complex time signatures and adding instrumental colours far beyond their early garage-rock sound. While their first album had been folk-rock with a little punk attitude, the new album would feature baroque, jazz, and flamenco influences, as well as going further with the Bacharach influence that had been a minor part of the earlier work.

But a bigger band required more money, and Lee made a unilateral decision to renegotiate his contract with Elektra, successfully pointing out to them that the band’s original contract had been illegal because Lee had not yet been twenty-one when he signed. While Lee had been under-age, the rest of the band hadn’t, so the contract wasn’t easily breakable, but he managed to get a marginally higher advance for the next album at the cost of more than a little goodwill.

The new album was to be produced by Paul Rothchild, the Elektra staff producer who had worked with Tim Buckley and the Doors, but had to wait until he was released from prison after being arrested for marijuana possession — this instantly gave him credibility with at least some members of the band.

While Bruce Botnick, the engineer who had worked on the first album, engineered the first couple of tracks to be recorded for the album (including 7 and 7 Is, the lead-off single) and did the final mix, Arthur Lee wanted the album to have the same sound the Rolling Stones had obtained on their recent hit single Satisfaction, which had been recorded in LA, so he went to the studio they had used (RCA) and used the same engineer, Dave Hassinger, who recorded all the Stones’ music during this period.

Quite what sound Lee was after is difficult to see, however, as while the Stones’ single was a driving fuzz-based rocker much like the music Love had done on their first album, Da Capo was utterly different — with the exception of 7 and 7 Is the album was gentle, pastoral, and barely rock at all. It couldn’t be further from the Stones. However, the extended blues jam Revelation, which took up an entire side of the album, might have been Lee’s response to the Stones’ 11-minute long Going Home from their Aftermath album (though Lee always insisted that the Stones stole the idea of doing an extended blues jam from seeing Love live). Da Capo was, on the whole, far closer to jazz than to the stodgy blues-rock of the British band.

And nowhere was that more apparent than on the second single, She Comes In Colors. While rumours persist that the song’s lyric (“My love she comes in colours/you can tell her from the clothes she wears”) refers to menstruation, the surviving band members say it refers instead to Annette Ferrel, a friend of Lee’s who wore brightly-coloured clothes. Regarded by the band as the most difficult of the songs on the album to play (though in retrospect it’s difficult to see why, as it’s not excessively harmonically complex, and has none of the rhythmic complexity of 7 & 7 Is or Stephanie Knows Who), it’s definitely one of the most beautiful things on the album, with Cantrelli and Pfisterer doubling little chromatic runs on harpsichord and flute to brilliant effect, and Lee at his best, if most allusive, as a songwriter. It’s utterly lovely, and utterly unlike anything else released around that time.

However, while Arthur Lee may have been trying to get the Stones’ sound on his record, turn-about was definitely not fair play. When a few months after the release of Da Capo the Stones released She’s A Rainbow, with the line “she comes in colours everywhere”, Lee was furious, and insisted the British band had stolen the line from him.

She Comes In Colors didn’t make the Hot 100, and the album it was from did little better, as by this point relationships between Lee and Elektra had become so strained over Lee’s continual demands and refusal to tour or promote the records that they in turn gave the album very little push. As Love wouldn’t play outside LA, gigs were hard to come by, and soon Lee had no choice but to sack Cantrelli and Pfisterer. With the band reduced back down to a five-piece, and with relationships stretched to breaking point, the next album would have to be something very special indeed…

She Comes In Colors

Composer: Arthur Lee

Line-up: Arthur Lee (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Johnny Echols (lead guitar), Bryan MacLean (rhythm guitar), Ken Forssi (bass), Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer (keyboards) Michael Stuart (drums, percussion), Tjay Cantrelli (woodwinds)

Original release:
Da Capo, Love, Elektra EKL-4005

Currently available on: Da Capo, Elektra/Rhino CD

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4 Responses to California Dreaming: She Comes In Colors

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    “Lee always insisted that the Stones stole the idea of doing an extended blues jam from seeing Love live.”

    Riiight … because no-one had even though of doing an extended blues jam before.

    • Yeah, Arthur Lee was not known for his firm grip on reality…

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Meanwhile …

        I’m not familiar with the first two Love albums, but I do know and love Forever Changes, which scores very high on the Interesting scale. (Music that doesn’t interest me bores me. Sounds tautological, but doesn’t seem to be true of everyone.) I hope you’ll be covering it.

        • Yeah, I’m getting to Forever Changes in about sixteen essays’ time.
          That said, you should check out Da Capo. Side one is easily as good as Forever Changes — the only reason it’s not regarded in the same light is that side two is the side-long blues jam. But the eight songs on side one are utterly fantastic.

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