MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower,” the Aztec god of music and dance
By Francisco H. Ciriza
In 1967, the Los Angeles-based psychedelic/folk/rock group Love released what is considered by many to be one of the all-time greatest rock albums, Forever Changes. Predecessors of the Doors (Love was directly responsible for Jim Morrison and company being signed to the Elektra label) and contemporaries of the Byrds, Love featured a multicultural line-up with lead singer/songwriter and guitarist Arthur Lee as its iconic bohemian front man.
Like all too many others of the era, the group’s members struggled with fame, demands of the business, personality conflicts, and drugs eventually caving in and parting ways. Lee, himself, never fond of fame or of the corporate music world, also discovered the depths of a drug habit and perhaps worse, found a sometimes seething contempt for those around him.
Lee continued to make music through the years but due to some legal issues was forced out of circulation for a brief time beginning in 1992. Upon his return to L.A.’s music scene in the later 90’s, he once again recruited power pop idols, Baby Lemonade, to perform as Love as he had done previous to his troubles with the law and the whirlwind began.
Gloriously skipping across the Atlantic to England and other European destinations almost a dozen times along with two trips through the U.S. and once even to Australia, Love with Arthur Lee recreated the sounds on Forever Changes complete with a small orchestra earning rave reviews from both fans and critics alike. The Forever Changes CD and DVD (Snapper Music) document the groups incredibly detailed efforts to reproduce and enhance the music as well as the fanatical audience approval and obvious enamor for Lee and his music.
However, it now seems both band and fans are ready for new material. Chaos, confusion and a general air of adversity have dampened Love’s second honeymoon.
Mike Randle, Love’s lead guitarist spoke with La Prensa San Diego recently from his home near Los Angeles. He remains upbeat about his work with Love and looks forward to continued touring and perhaps even recording a full-length CD of all new material with Lee.
The results of the pressure being felt by Arthur Lee and company have so far produced a hastily released 5-song independent CD, Love On Earth Must Be, available through a fan’s website. More recently, rumors of this being the end of the line for Lee and Baby Lemonade marriage have begun springing up.
“I don’t know, to tell you the truth, what the goal was [With Love On Earth Must Be]. We (the band) only found out it was going to be sold on the internet and at shows 3 days before we left for one of our tours. He doesn’t always tell us his plan, necessarily. Fans knew about the EP before we did,” said Randle.
Although perhaps at a crossroads with Lee Randle and the group’s other members have made more of a name for themselves. Rusty Squeezebox (guitars), David Chapple (bass) and Dave “Daddy-O” Green (drums, have been recognized time and time again by a number of music insiders as the real deal, “Nash Kato from Urge Overkill jammed with us in Chicago. Robyn Hitchcock, Graham Coxton from Blur gave me props, Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian, Jason from Spiritualized gave Rusty and me a heck of a compliment. Actually he complimented the whole band, as did Jools Holland and of course, Robert Plant,” said Randle.
Known for his humor and considerably optimistic outlook, the sharp-witted Randle explains his perspectives with a certain off-handedness, yet also with a hint of discomfort for a variety of reasons as the band initiates a new U.S. tour so far planned to include up to 14 cities.
“I would describe it as a ‘full blown’ tour, I think. If everything goes right, it could be one of the most memorable tours in a long time. But we’ll have to see, now won’t we?” said Randle.
Randle and his mates enjoy touring and most definitely live true to rock and roll life style, but not for over indulgence’s sake, rather for the opportunities to connect with fans and friends worldwide. It is for that very reason; touring internationally hasn’t been as pleasant recently as it has been in the past for the group.
“We’ve been to Europe I would say at least 10 times in the last 2 years. I have the passport to prove it! The fans in Europe are wonderful, really. The only time I felt unsafe, I mean really looking over my shoulder, was when we were in Athens right when the U.S. Military invaded Iraq. I was very uncomfortable being an American for the first time in my life because people were saying very hateful things about America, quite openly, on the street, in bars and restaurants. But they love good music and just have hearts of gold,” Randle reminisced.
Yet, through the difficulties, Randle, Lee and company have made their mark on the music world. Randle, himself an unabashed music fan, often finds himself face to face with individuals who he respects and who unbeknownst to him, reciprocate the respect. He relates one such instance.
“I was eating at an upscale restaurant in Los Feliz when I noticed Jack White from the White Stripes. I knew him from a show we played in Detroit and I had chatted later with him and his sister, Meg (who got up and played with us during our encore.) He was eating with that famous actress, Renee Zellweger, so I didn’t bother him. When I went to the restroom, he followed me in and old me how much he liked the London show we’d played a few weeks earlier. So he’s a nice, down to earth guy. I don’t normally eat at places like that but it worked out alright that night. Oh, and I got a sweet email from Leonard Cohen…”
Love with Arthur Lee play with the Zombies at 4th & B, Saturday, October 2, 2004. 354 B Street, downtown San Diego. 619-231-4343. Doors open at 8, show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $30 with box seating available.