“Once I had a singing group, singing group done gone/Now I got another group, didn’t take too long…”
Love had split, but they still owed one more record to Elektra, and Arthur Lee, as the group’s leader, was responsible for delivering that record. He needed a band, and fast.
The solution was obvious — take someone else’s band as a package deal, and make them into a new Love. The band he chose were the Nooney Rickett IV, a band led by the eponymous Rickett who were a popular club draw, and had made a few TV appearances, but who were nothing like as popular as Love.
Frank Fayad, Rickett’s bass player, was easily persuadable, but George Suranovich, the drummer, took more work — eventually it took Lee allowing Suranovich to live in one of the two houses that Lee owned before he would agree to join the band, as he had another offer from Joe South.
Gary Rowles, Rickett’s guitarist, however, remained recalcitrant — he’d been offered a job in New Buffalo Springfield, the band being put together by Dewey Martin — and so Lee had to find another guitarist. The player he chose, Jay Donnellan, had an immediate advantage, as he’d been in a band with Snoopy Pfisterer and Tjay Cantrelli, and knew Love’s music.
When Donnellan turned up to his first rehearsal, acoustic guitar in hand, though, he was in for a surprise. This band wasn’t going to do anything like Forever Changes any more — Fayad and Suranovich thought that wasn’t heavy enough. Instead, they were going to be doing Hendrix-style hard rock, with plenty of drum solos for Suranovich.
The new band had to record a lot, and quickly. Not only did Love still owe an album to Elektra, but Lee had signed the new Love to Blue Thumb, a new label owned by Bob Krasnow, and they needed to deliver a double album to him.
The solution was to go into the studio and record twenty-seven new tracks. Elektra were given their pick of the best ten, and the rest were to become the new Blue Thumb album.
The Elektra album, Four Sail, was a good but uninspiring collection, with several very good songs, but with little of the eccentricity and inspiration of Love’s earlier records. It was a massive flop, and Bob Krasnow, worried about the album he was going to get, persuaded Lee to reform the earlier version of Love, although without Bryan Maclean.
Unfortunately, several of the other band members were still heroin addicts, and their one reunion show went horribly. Lee went back to his new lineup, although by now Jay Donnellan had been fired after a row with Lee, and Gary Rowles had joined to play on the last song to be recorded for the new double album, Out Here. It turned out that Dewey Martin had not actually had the rights to perform using the Buffalo Springfield name, and he had been sued by the other members. So Donnellan was out, and Rowles was in.
The resulting album, when released, was a far more mixed album than Four Sail. It varied wildly in quality, and in style, sometimes even in the same song. The songs ranged from the uptempo country number Abalony (chorus “No, I don’t care if you’re from Abalony, that’s baloney just the same”) to the gorgeous ballad Listen To My Song, one of Lee’s greatest ballads.
But too often, the music was half thought-out, and the arrangements had none of the subtlety of even the rockiest earlier Love records. Donnellan does his best to play imaginatively, but the thudding rawkisms of the band keep the album from ever truly lifting off.
Nowhere is this better shown than in Doggone, the song that takes up most of side two. The song starts off as a delicate, beautiful, almost nursery-rhyme style ballad, in which Lee sings over an acoustic backing, giving one of his loveliest vocal performances ever. In three verses he laments the loss of a pretty girl, a shaggy dog, and a singing group, with a simple “dee dee dee” and “sha la la” chorus. It’s simple, it’s beautiful, and it’s clearly the same man who made Forever Changes.
And then comes the drum solo.
The eight minute long drum solo.
The eight minute long drum solo that has nothing to do with anything else in the song. The gentle acoustic ballad just suddenly breaks into eight minutes of Ginger Baker-isms, before going back into an outro that Is once again the original song.
Unsurprisingly, the album was a commercial failure — people who wanted hard rock didn’t want country songs about baloney, and people who wanted more Forever Changes didn’t want eight-minute drum solos — although it rather amazingly managed to make the top thirty in the UK.
But then, commercial suicide was hardly new for Lee (or “Arthurly” as he was now briefly styling himself — if Buckminster Fuller seemed to be a verb, Arthurly was, for a while at least, an adjective). Donnellan remembered hearing Lee’s side of a phone conversation towards the end of his time in the band, in which Lee said to an agent “Naw, fuck it. I don’t want to go to New York for one gig!”
The one gig in question had been Woodstock.
One more Love album would follow by this lineup — a dismal effort aptly entitled False Start, before Lee fired these musicians too, and Love became just a label for Lee to slap on solo albums. Love was no more.
Composer: Arthur Lee
Line-up: Arthur Lee (guitar, vocal), Jay Donnellan (guitar), Frank Fayad (bass), George Suranovich (drums)
Original release: Out Here, Love, Blue Thumb BTS9000
Currently available on: The Blue Thumb Recordings, Hip-O CD