Love's Forever Changes is a crucial element of the soundtrack of my coming of age. With its acoustic guitar base, smart orchestral arrangements (strings and mariachi horns), art-rock feel and poppy lyrics, it stands apart from the most of the music of the psychedelic era. The album is best known for the track "Alone Again Or," essentially the brainchild of writer Bryan MacLean, bandleader and vocalist Arthur Lee and producer Bruce Botkin. Written as "Alone Again" by former Byrds roadie MacLean, who had serious heroin problems, the track was remixed and renamed by Lee who worked closely with Botkin on the project. A huge artistic stretch, the track is simply unforgettable and stood out even in 1967 as something unusual.
During Chicha Libre's April 26 gig at the Continental Club, I was in the restroom when I heard the Brooklyn outfit fire off into something vaguely familiar. By the time I got back to the bar, I realized they were covering "Alone Again Or." And a spine-tingling cover it was. I was talking to Sig's Lagoon owner and Clouseaux vocalist Tomas Escalante about the Chicha Libre version when he reminded me of Calexico's great cover of the song (above).
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This led me to revisit Love and "Alone Again Or" for the first time in ages. Visiting Google, I discovered that the song had been frequently covered. In 1987, the Damned put their own singular stamp on the tune. It has also been covered by the Boo Radleys, UFO, Sarah Brightman, Matthew Sweet & Suzannah Hoffs, and Les Fradkin. Despite 40 years having passed, the song remains absolutely mesmerizing.
Love had other great tracks: "7 and 7 Is," "She Comes In Colors," a smart cover of Burt Bacharach's "Little Red Book" and the catchy "You Set The Scene," but nothing ever equaled the brilliance of "Alone Again Or."
In 1998, MacLean died of a heart attack, and Lee succumbed to leukemia in 2006. "Alone Again Or" lives on.