Last Update: 22. august 2010
In 2003, following his release from prison and the acclaimed Forever Changes concert tour, Arthur Lee decided it was time he wrote his memoirs. Frustrated by what he considered flawed, exaggerated, and generally inaccurate published accounts of his life, Arthur was determined to set the record straight.
Entitled Rainbow In The Storm: The Book Of Love (Part One), the manuscript was Arthurís life story in his own words, as dictated to a friend, Chris Boyle. Chockfull of hitherto unrecorded personal reflections, insights, and anecdotes, the chronicle was nonetheless a flawed diamond in need of polishing and editing. There were also great gaps in Arthurís chronology that needed filling in, most notably the long, troubled period stretching from the early 70s to the beginning of the 90s. Memories of his final years of touring were also absent. As indicated by the title, this was to be the first instalment; a further volume was to follow.
On August 3 2006, Arthur passed away, his memoirs uncompleted and unpublished. In 2008, I contacted Arthurís widow, Diane Lee, with a proposal to write a full Arthur Lee biography based upon first-hand interviews with those closest to him. These would include family members, childhood friends, bandmates, associates, contemporaries, managers, and girlfriends Ė over 60 individuals in total. I would incorporate Arthurís Ďvoiceí in the narrative, using edited portions of his original memoirs where appropriate. The result is the book you are holding. You will find Arthurís voice presented in italics throughout.
I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to everyone who agreed to be interviewed and whose names appear in the book. Special thanks go to my friend Dennis Kelley for being the facilitator of this project from the outset, and to Johnny Echols, Jac Holzman, Rick Williams, Bill Wasserzieher, Neal Skok, Chris Hall, Russ Danell, Chris Moise, Johnny Rogan, Barry Ballard, Rob Hughes, Mike Randle, Riley Racer, Andria Lisle, Pete Kurtz, Larry Marks, David Dunton, David Housden (publisher of Love fanzine The Castle), and Torben Skott (and his wonderfully helpful and resourceful Love website: http://love.torbenskott.dk), for keeping the Love flag flying. Thanks to Maria Johnson for her typing skills and also to David Fairweather, Mark Linn, Marc Skobac, Kara Wright, the one and only Harvey Kubernik, and Scott ĎLemonade Kidí Earle for his positive vibes and encouragement.
Additional thanks go to Tony Bacon, Mark Brend, my editor, David Sheppard, and the entire Jawbone crew for their enthusiastic support of this project.
Iíd like to express my sincerest gratitude to Diane Lee for allowing and encouraging me to write Arthurís story frankly and sincerely. You are a very special person.
Why a book about Arthur Lee and Love?
Iíve been a fan of Arthur and Love since first buying their debut album in 1966 (I still have it) and followed both the bandís and Arthurís career ever since. I was immediately drawn to the uniqueness and power of their music back then. Being a Byrds fan at the time, I was already tuned into folk rock but Loveís brand of folk rock was darker, raw and compelling. I recall reading what few articles there were at the time about the band and being fascinated by them, the mystery and mystique surrounding them and Arthur being such a distinctively enigmatic character. Over the years I came to believed there was a story there to be told. For me itís always about a compelling story with plenty of human drama and Arthur and Love had plenty of that. Iím not into books of lists Ė gig lists, tracks listings Ė preferring instead to find the story behind it all. I also believe in letting those close to the story tell it. My role is to set up the story, provide the factual links and context and let those who lived it tell the story. Iím known for doing a lot of research in my books and this book was no exception.
How did the project initially come together?
I was in Las Vegas having dinner with my friend Dennis Kelley in the summer of 2007 researching my previous book on the Flying Burrito Brothers and we got to talking about Arthur Lee. Dennis was a personal friend of Arthurís. I told Dennis of my long-nurtured desire to someday write a book on Arthur. Dennis put me in contact with Diane Lee and I presented my concept for a full biography incorporating both new and exclusive interviews along with excerpts from Arthurís own memoirs. She liked the idea, having wanted a book about Arthur to be done and done properly. That was a promise she made to Arthur. I put together a proposal and we took it from there. So if not for Dennis this book might not have happened.
There is often a danger with ďauthorizedĒ biographies that there will be some attempt to keep the focus on the positive and ignore the darker sides.
True. But in this case I told Diane at the outset that the book had to
present all sides of Arthur. I donít want to write a white-washed account or
portray Arthur as St. Francis of Assissi. Arthur was Arthur; he had his ups and
downs. She agreed and put no impediments whatsoever in allowing me to tell the
story honestly. And she never asked for anything to be removed from the
manuscript. She trusted me to tell the story. Besides her endorsement opening up
many doors hitherto closed to others, Diane also has Arthurís collected papers
and documents; his personal archives. Having access to these documents including
contracts, letters, lyrics to unfinished songs, legal documents, emails, photos,
interviews, personal thoughts as well as all the court documents related to his
trial and appeal was a treasure trove for my research and a bonus to the book.
What about a previous biography project that Kevin Delaney was working on several years back?
Before I decided to undertake my book I contacted Kevin to find out the status of his project. He and I had corresponded a decade or more ago when he was researching his book. If he was still pursuing his book then I would bow out. I donít want to compete with another writerís project. But Kevin assured me his project was a dead issue. He admitted that it never really got to the stage of actually being a book and that all he had were several interviews. This was confirmed by Love associates I was in contact with. So the field was open for me to proceed. While UK journalist Barney Hoskyns had published a biography under the Mojo Heroes series a few years ago it was a bit flawed and had a decidedly negative perspective on Arthur rather than a balanced one. Arthur disliked the book and even considered suing at one point. It did however hasten Arthur to begin to set down his own recollections in his own memoirs.
Was it difficult getting people to agree to be interviewed?
No, not at all. Everyone I contacted Ė over 60 people in all Ė were unanimously agreeable to be interviewed. Whether they had been on Arthurís good side or bad side (or often both sides) they all loved him and cherished their time with him. There was a feeling as well that given the fact that I had a proven track record as a writer and the endorsement of Diane Lee that this would be a legitimate project so they felt comfortable opening up about their insights and experiences, both good and bad, with Arthur. Once Diane and I agreed to proceed, the first person I contacted was Johnny Echols. Because of his close relationship with Arthur from childhood through Love and even later, I figured that I could not properly tell the story without Johnnyís cooperation. To my delight Johnny agreed. That was the boost I needed to proceed with the project.
What were some interesting interview experiences you had?
Spending an entire afternoon (over 4 Ĺ hours) with Johnny Echols in a beautiful Pacific Palisades mansion that was being prepped as a location shoot for Entourage. Driving up to Lake Tahoe to sit down for a morning with Michael Stuart-Ware. Getting 10 or so of Arthurís boyhood buddies together at Ernieís for lunch. What a hoot that was (and what a bill!). Spending a couple of hours with Jac Holzman at his gorgeous Santa Monica penthouse reminiscing about Arthur as a loveable scoundrel. Visiting with Bruce Botnick near Ojai in his beautiful rural hideaway. Falling afoul of the notorious LA traffic on my way to interview David Green and Dave Chapple, arriving embarrassed 1 Ĺ hours late to find the two of them still waiting eagerly to talk with me. Lunch with David Angel. Spending a morning with Elizabeth McKee and her cats and an evening with Don Poncher. Getting some great anecdotes from Robyn Hitchcock, John Head and Sean OíHagan from the UK. Visiting the Castle mansion (awesome). Cousin Joe Joyner recalling Po as a lad in Memphis. Great insights from never before interviewed close friends like Ria Berkus, Len Fagan, Ronnie Haran, David Fairweather, Gaye Blair, Susan Levine, and Riley Racer among others. Tracking Snoopy down and interviewing Doug Thomas in New Zealand.......
Was there anyone you couldnít get to?
Unfortunately Frank Fayad is in poor health and is no longer able or willing to talk about those days with Arthur. It would have been nice to have interviewed Bryan MacLean but we all know that wasnít in the cards (nonetheless I have Bryanís voice in the book from an exclusive interview a friend did with him). Crimson Crout and John Lucky proved too elusive despite mine, Diane and Joe Blockerís best efforts to track them down. John Sterling was unable to do a direct phone interview so that didnít happen. Those are the only ones.
Arthur's story as presented in magazines and online tends to focus on the original Love band, ignoring or minimizing the later lineups.
True, that's why I wanted to make sure I covered the post-Forever Changes years thoroughly and with insight. I was able to interview many of those who either played in later lineups or were associated with them including Jay Donnellan, Gary Rowles, Don Poncher, Charles Karp, Craig Tarwater, Herbie Worthington, Gary Stern, Robert Rozelle, Melvan Whittington, Joe Blocker and the guys in Baby Lemonade. Their perspectives are all unique and offer further illumination and information.
Did writing the book change your opinion of Arthur Lee? Of Love?
It provided me with far greater insight into both Arthur and all the machinations surrounding Love in all its incarnations. I understood a lot more about the ďwhyĒ of a number of circumstances, actions and decisions. I have a deep respect for Arthur and that remains despite learning far more than I ever knew about his almost uncanny ability to shoot himself in the foot at critical points in his career. He was truly his own worst enemy. I also came to understand his insecurities, of which he had many that hindered his career. As for Love, I developed a much greater appreciation of the role everyone played in shaping the sound and presentation of that band in all its various lineups. The individual players shaped the sound of Love as much as Arthur, despite all the stories about Arthur teaching them all what to play. Not so. Learning the real background to the Forever Changes sessions, for example, was revelatory and will be a fascinating read for fans who think they know the story.
Are there some surprises that readers will find of interest?
Plenty. I know that there are people who think they know the story already but they donít. Many of those I interviewed have never been on record before about their insights and experiences with either Arthur or Love and those who have been interviewed before opened up in a way they had never before done. This is the whole story, not just the glorious 60s or the triumphant new millennium. From birth to death this is Arthur Leeís real story and there is plenty that has never been revealed before, trust me. There is a terrific story arc and character development.
What about all the enduring myths surrounding the band that have grown over the years?
There are so many myths surrounding Love, perhaps more than any other band. As Johnny Echols stated, because there was so little known about the band or its individuals and because of the colourful nature of both Arthur and the group, myth has sprung up to feed the continuing fascination. But the book busts many of those longstanding myths that have come to be held as truths, including the greatest of Love-related myths (Arthurís participation on Forever Changes, the use of session players, and something about donuts). Arthur gave many interviews, especially in his later years, and fans often hold those as being the real story. However the reality is that Arthur disliked interviews and disliked journalists so he rarely told the truth. Stories varied wildly from interview to interview (I know because I went through dozens and dozens of interviews, print and on tape). As one of his close friends confided, Arthur often found it a sport to lead journalists on with misinformation, laughing about it afterwards. So if fans only know Arthur from interviews, theyíre not getting the true story.
Having access to Arthurís memoirs is a major coup for the book.
True. Itís a major feature in the book having Arthurís voice throughout. There were great gaps in his memoirs so there are some chapters of my book where there is little of Arthurís voice. However his recollections, insights and stories are a rare and exciting treat that gives the story a personal touch, especially his childhood and the LA music scene. Sometimes Arthurís perspective differs from others so several sides are often presented in the book.
How do you think fans will respond to the book?
Iím hoping they will be eager to finally read the real story and gain insights into the man and band they have embraced for so long. There is so much to tell in the book. What is also fascinating about the story is that it is multi-generational. Arthurís body of work cuts across the generations and has as many young fans as die-hards who hung in through thick and thin over the years. Thatís truly amazing that Loveís music continues to inspire and impress new fans everywhere. Itís music that is not rooted in time, context or experience. It still resonates today. It will outlive all of us.