Saturday 29 January 2011



When they culled the badgers due to
the supposed risk of bovine tuberculosis
I said nothing

When they killed the urban foxes
following a single freak-attack on a child
I said nothing

When they eradicated pigeons from the cities
because the ‘flying rats’ spread disease
I said nothing

When they ‘controlled’ the population
of ‘nuisance’ squirrels
I said nothing

mink and beaver erode waterways
dogs foul pavements, rabbits pilfer farm-crops
seals deplete fish-stocks, cats set up allergies
geese on airport flight-paths get sucked into jet turbines
moles disrupt your lawn and bats are just plain creepy,
best eradicate them in the interest of social health…

Now I awake and where there was a world
I hear only this silence that goes on for forever



Gig Review of:
at ‘The City Varieties’, Leeds

‘This show is going to be dope. You know what I’m saying?’ announces Arthur Lee. Well no, not exactly. But then, of course, this is not exactly Love. Not the same Love that began recording ‘Da Capo’ on 27th September 1966. Nor the Love that recorded ‘Forever Changes’ on a budget of just $2,257. In fact it’s LA band Baby Lemonade, who have almost served as a Love tribute-band since early 1998, their dexterity and precision supernaturally honed to an eerie magic in replicating those antique time-lost select-Electra grooves. But then again, the tall lanky guy with the bandana round his head, his black hat and dark shades, cream shirt hung loose outside his grey pants, is Arthur Lee – the only credible survivor of the psychedelic era. The guiding intelligence and deranged genius behind those albums, the guy who inked quotable lyrics about ‘the news for today is the movies for tomorrow’ – and they are, they are, or anthemic slogans urging ‘write the rules in the sky, ask your leaders why’, which still need saying today. And Love was always a fluid concept anyway. Names like ‘Snoopy’ Pfisterer, Johnny Echols, Bryan MacLean, then Jay Donnellan and Frank Fayad drifting in and out. Yet as soon as he opens “Live And Let Live” with ‘the snot has caked against my pants, it has turned into crystal’, arching from low acoustic strum to violent electric scream, all doubts dissolve like a sugar-cube on the tongue. The hauntingly surreal “Alone Again Or” follows, then “Seven And Seven Is” with its full-tilt crackling acid colours flickering, so tightly compressed that it’s warping and buckling time-space, updrafting towards that explosive count-down, only to emerge back out the other side, into stillness again. Next, the complex collage that is “Your Mind And We Belong Together”, then “Signed DC” – an explicit drug-song with its cellular ache still intact, all following in its immaculate dayglo train. You could say, whatever line-up Arthur Lee happens to be fronting becomes, by definition, Love. Even though this Arthur is separated from that original oddball visionary Arthur Lee by long wilderness decades of narcotic craziness, and even a five-and-a-half year prison-spell on .44 Magnum firearms charges. But hey, we’re all different people too. That past is gone forever. And – like Brian Wilson recreating ‘Pet Sounds’ or ‘Smile’ on stage in 2004, this is something we’ve never seen before. The original Love never toured outside California. It occurs to me – a thought, in my head, I think – that just possibly those original acid-pilots would have been nowhere near as good as this one either, too stoned all-over-the-place ego-driven and problematic to pick out all the little intricacies and inflections you pick up on here tonight. This is the Love that played last year’s Glastonbury, did the Jools Holland ‘Later’, and have a live CD of much of the music they played tonight. I delayed a long time. This, after all, is a band I’ve loved since Arthur was 22, and I was 18. How could it possibly live up to all that? How could this deliver on all those power-to-amaze expectations? But this Love delivers. A brilliant night, no dope, you know what I’m saying…?

Song-by-song it goes like this, all from
‘Forever Changes’ (recorded from 11th August 1967 on)
except where specified:

“Live And Let Live” Mike, guitarist with white dreads and a big white Gibson unspools the solo as Arthur finger-snipes gun-shots at the audience, close proximity only emphasising its strangeness, an everlasting first

“Alone Again Or” Arthur plays crystalline white guitar break, no Tijuana horns, but still hauntingly surreal… covered by others as diverse as the Damned and UFO, yet this remains the definitive take

“Andmoreagain” Wistful whimsy, the first album had a track called “And More”, this is the sequel, now a guitarist with check tie, glasses and a big red Rickenbacker shivers and ripples out all those precise nuances

“Bummer In The Summer” Garage Folk-Rock, with Arthur dropping into a frenzied knee-crouch for the charged riff-rhythmic Bo Diddley middle-eight bridge sequence

“Old Man” Originally a Bryan Maclean song and vocal (he died of a heart-attack 25th December 1998), so Arthur uses a music-stand to read the evocatively mystic lyrics

“Orange Skies” (from ‘Da Capo’) Arthur’s shimmering red maracas punctuate its acid-baked fluidity, you wonder where such ectoplasmic other-world sound-images come from, and to reside in what sort of mind?

“A House Is Not A Motel” Dazed guitars and blood-soaked imagery, Arthur punches out the ‘you can call my name’ with white tambourine, Mike’s solo is piercingly expressive

“Signed DC” (from ‘Love’) A drug-song that still hurts, an incorrigibly strange epistle of explicit addiction, losing elements of its acoustic fragility live, but compensating with Arthur’s razor-edged wailing harmonica. The ‘DC’ is usually taken to refer to early-Love drummer Don Conka, but an elsewhere Arthurly quote credits the ‘District of Columbia’

“My Flash On You” (from ‘Love’) A molten, Byrds/Stones energy-blast that’s sharp and acid-punk short

“Your Mind And We Belong Together” (1968 single, now part of the expanded ‘Forever Changes’) It took 44 takes to perfect this single, tonight it’s full time-change jump-cut collage and harmonies are recreated in 3:30 minutes of compressed liquidity

“The Red Telephone” A skewed stand-out in a set of stand-outs, acting out the ‘I don’t know if the 3rd or the 4th or if the 5th is to fix’ line with a hypodermic mime, lifting his shades for the ‘look in my eyes’ lines, inhabiting an exultation close to fear, from moribund despair and social paranoia to surreal ecstasy – this, remember, comes from the time of nightly-TV Vietnam-atrocity with nuclear annihilation a button-push away, as the chanted ‘they’re locking them up today’ refrain delivers its appropriately dark menace

“Message To Pretty” (from ‘Love’) ‘As unprofessional as this might seem – wrong song’ he comments, sounds right to me, volume, flaring colour, movement, catching light and electric sparks...

“Rainbow In The Storm” (new song) ‘This may not be special to you, but it’s special to me, after all the shit I’ve been through’ he comments, and it has all the familiar Lee mannerisms, even opening with the ‘Alone Again Or’ “yeah”, into lyrics that run ‘does it matter that you are born, do you have to be right or wrong...?’ ‘Rainbow In The Storm’ is also the title of Arthur’s projected autobiography

“Seven And Seven Is” (from ‘Da Capo’) The closest Love ever got to a US hit single, as Electra 45605 it peaked on ‘Billboard’ at no.33 – 10th Sept 1966, later collected onto Lenny Kaye’s vital ‘Nuggets’ box-set where it resides alongside Electric Prunes, Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Chocolate Watch Band gems

“You Set The Scene” ‘At my request, I ask for nothing’. Another set stand-out
“Singing Cowboy” (from the disappointing new line-up 1969 ‘Love: Four Sail’) Full late-vision ‘unedited version’ elongating into an extended ‘coming after you’ call-and-response, allowing band-member solos and introductions, until ‘have you enjoyed tonight?’ spake the spontaneous good-humour-man ‘I’ve enjoyed tonight’, then he go slip-slip away…

“Maybe The People Would Be The Times, Or Between Clark And Hilldale” Back in black-shirt, Jazz-slippery, dropped-lyrics, saved for the encore… worth the wait

Published in:
‘SONGBOOK no.3 (Spring)’ (UK – May 2004)
Full version featured on the website: (UK – May 2004)


ISBN 978-1-906002-31-2
Softcover. 334 pages

The first three Love albums stand up there with the greatest trilogy of the Rock era. Their debut gifts the Byrds folk-rock template a hard garage-band edge, ‘Da Capo’ adds restless experimentalism, taking the group into the lush lyricism of ‘Forever Changes’. When, after his long decades of darkness, Arthur Lee played live at Leeds’ City Varieties, he confided he was working on his memoirs. That he died before they were completed is generously ameliorated by John Einarson’s access to the manuscript-in-progess, drawing italicised fragments into this first fully authorised biog. Young Arthur ‘picked up on music faster than an ape can peel a banana.’ Born Arthur Porter Taylor in Memphis, he became Lee through his LA stepfather. Of mixed-race heritage, ‘too light-skinned to be black and too dark-skinned to be white’, he was indulged as a kid, and something of the schoolyard bully. He met Johnny Echols at school where they formed LAG, the LA-group in the same way that Booker T’s band was the Memphis Group, and they cut a debut single – ‘The Ninth Wave’, at Phil Spector’s Gold Star studio, for Capitol, Nat ‘King’ Cole’s label. Then the owner of Revis Records brought in a young guitarist on a Little Richard tour stop-over to play on Rosa Lee Brooks’ sessions for Arthur’s song ‘My Diary’ in 1964. Although the single was a regional hit for which he ‘never received a penny’, the session was a useful connection to James Marshal Hendrix, a ‘false start’ on their way to ‘the everlasting first’. It’s tempting to ramble such intriguing detail. There’s plenty here. About why Love’s unwillingness to tour stalled their career. About the subsequent lesser line-ups. Then Lee’s personal crash. Until his wonderful renaissance probably saw his back-catalogue played live with greater fidelity than the classic personnel could ever have mustered. It was a privilege to be there. This wonderful book captures it all, chord on chord.


Sweet & The Steve Lynton Band
Live at the Wakefield ‘Unity Hall’
11th March 1981

Love Is Like Oxygen. You get too much it makes you high. Get too little you wanna die. A lyric as perfectly shaped as a haiku. Playing around inside my head. The stage blackness strangely focuses the mind, ghosted by spectral roadies fenced in by barriers of paint-peeling amps and curly-wire flex-connections. Sweet are due to emerge from that blackness, that cross-stage chiaroscuro of shadows, that murkily infested zone of half-shapes and furtive imaginings. Sweet, even their sugar-rush name tastes crazy after all these years. Seems like an eternity of nothingness has elapsed since that name was on high-rotation radio, on people’s lips, in the press. An imageless void haunted by squirming rumours, laid over somewhat battered memories of the Chinn+Chapman seventies, Glitter-Pop posturing and the intense immolation of tacky stardom. Should I even be here? How can they possibly measure up? Now, in the hard cold relentless striplight glare of the eighties, washed up in the outer reaches of Yorkshire on the revamp-circuit that so recently infused a degree of credibility into those other walking wounded’s – Slade and Gary Glitter.

W-H-A-A-A-M!!! A sudden light-deluge synched exactly to smoke-bomb ignition and a wall of “Ballroom Blitz” volume that simultaneously rapes eardrum and eyeball. As tight a theatricality, as brash a sense of attack, and as forcefully aggressive a presence as anything this side of ‘Hill Street Blues’. It momentarily dismantles your lurking doubts brick-by-brick, assails and lays waste to your critical logics and critiques in a breathlessly euphoric assault of pure ‘Sound & Vision’. Sure the teen fan-mag back-issues flicker like an insistent strobe in the cobwebbed inner recesses of your head throughout the set, but that’s an additive, and by no means the only commodity on offer. Check the faces. ‘Are you ready, Steve? Aha. Andy? Yeah! Mick? OK. Alright, fellas, let's go!’ Andy Scott on guitar. Steve Priest on bass, with no flirty make-up. No Brian Connolly either (‘you better beware if you got long blonde hair’). Brian quit around May 1979 when his life-style issues turned bad. And in truth, they need his Pop edge. But there’s still Mick Tucker on daunting double-Ludwig drum-kit, monolithically high and chrome-gleaming, demanding seven mikes and a full four-kilowatt p.a. of its own. Plus Gary Moberley co-opted for keyboard chores and spiralling synths (lead-in to “Fox On The Run”), and second-guitarist Ray McRiner. They’re tight and fast. Scott and Priest trading a mike for lead vocals, and then the full three-piece front-line zoning in on exact harmonies, with little loss of momentum as they blend the new with an uneven hotchpotch of the old.

These guys – or at least a fair percentage of them, formed the blueprint for the first five-year plan of the previous decade, through which controlling-svengalis Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn designed their aural cash register. For the first half of the seventies the writing-production duo formed what Howard & Blaikley had been for the sixties (Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, the Honeycombs and The Herd), and what Stock Aitken Waterman would be for the eighties, and they used the untested Sweet as a dry-run for their emerging Pop empire (Suzy Quatro, Mud, Smokie, Racey). Shunting backwards into the charts as early as March 1971 with a flimsy lightweight “Funny Funny” and other awkward bubblepop prototypes designed to test the water. Who now remembers “Alexander Graham Bell”? Then a solid grounding in nudge-nudge novelty hits – “Little Willy” and “Wigwam Bam”. How dare they, how very dare they? You want funny clothes? puerile pubescent double-entendrĂ©? lurid drag? you got them with a vengeance. Until the squeaky-clean hit machine up-gears into overdrive with the power-Pop Glam of “Blockbuster”, opening with a siren-wail that gets it restricted-airtime on Radio 1’s Tony Blackburn or Dave Lee Travis shows due to its habit of setting off panic-alerts when played over factory pa’s. Followed into the Top Three by full-on “Hellraiser”, “Ballroom Blitz” and “Teenage Rampage”, their percussive aggression modelled on the Who, their appeal tempered by Brian’s prettiness. If David Bowie made androgyny dangerously subversive, Sweet on ‘Top Of The Pops’ gave it Pantomime camp with vamping sequins and fluttering eyelashes. The ‘Pure Pop For Then-People’ didn’t stop until ChinniChap quit for America with visions of dollar signs, with Knack and Blondie adhered to their retina. By which time Sweet had outgrown their limitations anyway and were striving to write and produce their own sides, seeking credibility. Come the Punk freeze-out of 1976, England forgot, and Sweet were also exiled to tread exclusively on American stage-boards where audiences knew little about the band and didn’t prejudge them on their baby-steps hits. Sweet were rewarded by three massive highly-regarded American hits, “Fox On The Run”, “Action” (‘I was suicidal ‘cos you was my idol’) – which would later be reactivated by Def Leppard, and the aforementioned “Love Is Like Oxygen” which arrived with a complete Prog-Rock extended twelve-inch version. Such late-career vindication must have been very… er, sweet.

Here and now they attract a curious motley of tribal identities drawn from those who first hit adolescence when “Co-Co” first hit ‘Top Of The Pops’. Plus those confused and cut adrift by post-Punk Industrial-bleakness, alienated by the self-idolatry of New Romance, and abandoned by the Pop-wise ‘U’-turns of Antmusic (‘even when you’re mindless / and your braincell count is low / Antmusic gives illusions / that you got some place to go’). They watch bemused as support act – the Steve Lynton Band, go through sub-Hendrix guitar visuals, but find real comfort in the clean harmonies and clean nostalgia of Sweet, remembrance of times when choices and allegiances were simpler. But Sweet have cut the camp and the rabble-rousing, they’re now more ‘Level Headed’. Musically they’re better than either Glitter or Slade. The sound-mix is contemporary with a bass-heavy foundation, Tucker’s percussive arsenal achieving more aural GBH than any other two drummers on raised drum podiums I can think of. They trade on their past, sure, they’d be daft to do otherwise, but they’re not drowned by it. Whether their audience is as equally able to grow is another matter entirely. But to anyone still tuned to the glorious absurdity of Rock, how sweet it would be!

Sweet performed their last live show soon after this appearance in Wakefield, at Glasgow University on 20 March 1981, before breaking up. There would be subsequent partial re-unions with different line-ups, but this was essentially the end of the original Sweet story-arc.