What Can I Say Dear Arthur Lee? Who Shall I Next Inform? Of Love & Poetry That You Bring…

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I’ve been writing on Pop Junkie for eight months and though I’ve written on Scott Walker, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Blur and Jarvis Cocker many times, I find that I’ve barely mentioned three of my absolute favourite acts; Elvis, The Kinks and Love. Yesterday, August 3rd, marked the third anniversary of Arthur Lee’s passing.

There can scarce be a Pop Junkie reader who doesn’t know and adore Love (if only for Forever Changes). I’ll assume I’m writing for the initiated and just give a few very personal reminiscences. If you have never heard them, then boy, I envy you. You’re in for a treat.

I first heard of them when I was 14 or 15, listening to Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, The Jam, The Specials and The Kinks. I was also in my first band, The Rubberman Dozen, and Mike (if you’re reading this please get in touch), our singer, guitarist and songwriter of prodigious talent was in thrall to his older brother’s record collection, particularly Todd Rundgren and a compilation on Elektra called Love Masters.

This album (on vinyl of course) put together three or four tracks from Love and Da Capo (their first two albums) plus about half of Forever Changes (their third). It is, by any yardstick, a superb compilation and naturally I taped it onto a C-60. This served me well until, in my late teens, I got hold of the original albums. (It is also my only TDK from this era that survives and is in my car at this very moment – not that I’m driving it whilst I type, you understand).

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Within a year I was to discover The Doors and the two bands were a huge influence on my next band, The Dentists. We used to sometimes say that our ambition was “to be as big as Love” as a nod to Jim Morrison’s proclaimed wish.

At this time I was living with my grandparents and used to pretend I was Arthur Lee in my bedroom miming to this cassette. I used to go particularly nuts at Stephanie Knows Who, the psychedelic punk masterpiece which kicks off Da Capo. It made my grandad climb the stairs to see what the racket was all about. He was most amused to see the stupid sheepish look on my face. But ~ I’m Arthur Lee!

The NME ran a big interview with Arthur, must have been around 1981/82 and I remember being amused by his recollection that some unknown kid from England called David Bowie had written to him years back to say how much he loved his music and had written a song about him. (It didn’t say what the song was. ‘Uncle Arthur’ would be an obvious though bizarre trib to Mr Lee. Perhaps we’ll never know) Arthur no longer had the letter, but shrugged and said “well, he could always write me another one.”

The influence on The Dentists of Love (particularly Forever Changes) cannot be understated. The band had grown out of the Bunnymen, Joy Division and Orange Juice-influenced phase and were now carving our own sound, with a heavy-leaning towards Love, that would coincide with like-minded souls in the C-86 ‘movement’. We covered She Comes in Colours at early gigs in 1984. How I wish we’d recorded it, with or without the flute.

I first talked to my girlfriend because of Arthur Lee. I was at the George Robey c. 1989 and saw a band with a girl drummer playing You I’ll Be Following. I recall chatting to her afterwards, Hey, you played a Love song! Back then, finding someone else who had even heard of Love was something special. She didn’t become my gal for another 18 years, but I clearly remember that moment.

Where am I with Love in 2009? I dig the material as much as ever. I’m playing Forever Changes right now. I never ever tire of hearing it, which isn’t to say that I play it every day or even every month. However, I was playing it in the car recently and pulled into a petrol station. It was late night, and as I walked in to the shop to pay I heard The Daily Planet. Wow! Like hearing a favourite song in a club, in the anodyne surroundings of a filling station shop it sounded magnificent. It was also a little odd as it had been the song that was playing in the car as I’d arrived. I tried to bond with the world’s most discerning petrol attendant; “Hey, great to hear this in a petrol station, I’ve just been playing it in the car.”

“What, this, oh I don’t know what it is – it’s Radio One”.

At least it means there’s someone on radio one with good taste.

Thanks Arthur. I might just go and stick on Stephanie Knows Who…

Yeah!

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