Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Song A Day: Love, "Your Mind and We Belong Together"

JUNE 15, 2017



RELEASED 1968 ON 7” 45

Following the November 1967 release of Love’s Forever Changes album, Arthur Lee—Love’s lead singer and primary songwriter—was forced to reassess his situation.

Forever Changes had failed to sell on release and was not properly recognized in this country for more than a decade. (Elektra Records has never let it go out of print.) The album’s single, “Alone Again Or,” was, as expected, a hit in California but charted nowhere else.

It was now early 1968. Lee’s band, a once-kinetic ensemble now lazy, drugged out, rusty, and drained of confidence, was crumbling around him. Love was never a happy good-time group, instead choosing to anchor itself on the left coast in voluntary isolation, holing up and staying local as other Los Angeles bands traveled the globe.

Racially integrated at a time when such a thing was rare, the daringly eclectic band wore its alienation on its collective paisley sleeve. Some on the Sunset Strip felt that Love should have been called “Hate,” as the band put out strange, aggressive vibes on stage and in its interactions with writers and other musicians. Some of that might have been due to drugs; much was surely due to Lee’s volatile personality.

Now, with 1967 in the mist, Lee switched gears once again. Gone were the lovely string and horn arrangements of Forever Changes, and the jazzy experimentation of the album before, Da Capo, faded even further into memory.

Henceforth, Lee would compete with the harder rock sounds of the day. On January 30, 1968, the fivesome—Lee, Bryan MacLean, and John Echols on guitars, Ken Forssi on bass, and Michael Stuart on drums—gathered in L.A.’s Sunset Sound studio to record a new single.

You couldn’t call the two songs Love recorded that day “commercial.” “Laughing Stock,” which would be the b-side, quoted lyrics from the band’s first 45, “My Little Red Book,” and exaggerated its aggressive stop-start rhythm to an almost parodic level. The ending fade, in which the band literally falls apart, was far too close to the bone.

The a-side, “Your Mind and We Belong Together,” in some ways resembled Forever Changes: it had a typically odd Lee title, it combined several interesting fragments into a sort of suite, and was impossibly sad, as if written by a man watching a dream evaporate like water on a hot day.

I’d like to understand just why I feel like I’ve been through hell and you tell me I haven’t even started yet.
To live here you’ve got to give more than you get—this I know.

So many people, they just seem to clutter up my mind
And if it’s mine, throw it away. Throw it again, once for my girlfriend.

After months of barely playing, the band wasn’t tight; it took 44 takes to get a perfect (?) recording of “Your Mind and We Belong Together.” Outtakes that Elektra released on its Forever Changes expanded CD indicate that Lee ran a tight ship in the studio and sometimes had to be unpleasant to urge a better performance.

The final product, though, is stunning, an extension of the high-art pop single in the tradition of “Good Vibrations,” “Paint it, Black,” “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever." Lee produced a minor masterpiece.

The multi-part paean to a lost love opens with a zippy folk-rock beat and odd time changes. After a couple of loopy but hypnotic verses, it stumbles into a gorgeous flamenco-like section, and just as suddenly veers back into catchy pop, but with an impossibly dark twist.

            I’m locking my heart in the closet. I don’t need it anymore.
You find me behind the door and all of the far-out faces
From long ago, I can't erase this.

Echols’ gritty, sloppy guitar solo takes the record to the fadeout.

Elektra’s decision to release this odd, winding, but riveting single, all 4:22 of it, might have been more about letting the notoriously chippy Lee have his way rather than any feeling that the song could actually be a hit. While the record got a bit of airplay on the west coast, it was not a hit in Los Angeles, San Diego, or anywhere in between.

Oddly enough, “Your Mind and We Belong Together” reached #11 on Toledo, Ohio’s top 40 station, an event that can be put down either to incredibly progressive listeners, an aggressive promotion man, a program director with nothing to lose, or pure lunacy.

Following the single’s failure, the original band dissolved, its members spiraling into drug addiction, crime, and obscurity. Lee formed a new, much heavier, Love and continued to plow forward. Its 1969 album, Four Sail, was very good, but a sort of last gasp; Neither Lee nor Love ever again reached a creative high.

1 comment:

  1. Great tune. It was one of the earliest Elektra 45s to arrive at our house from the newly made deal with our local COUNTRY radio station to get their ROCK DJ 45s that they had no use for. By this time, we knew to expect something ODD but COOL from this label always. WLSClark