“I believe in magic. Why? Because it is so quick.”
– Arthur Lee
Brothers and Sisters, on this the final day of the SydArthur Festival, let us bring our celebrations to a conclusion as we honour psychedelia’s very own poet laureate, Arthur Lee. Bolder, braver, softer, crasser, more shocking than the others, Arthur Lee was one erudite motherfucker. The music of Love spewed forth a classic debut album that holds its own with any other, and a slew of A-sides and LP tracks so inventive that bands could have had a whole career merely ripping each one off. It was, however, the third album that gains Lee entry into Poetville: Forever Changes is flawless. Sure, he’d never approach this kind of artistic level again, but if he was going to peak early, at least he made sure that peak was Mount Everest. But this was 1967, and Forever Changes was two years ahead of its time. Even while the hippie dream was for most people still unfolding, Arthur Lee anticipated the era’s collapse. Refusing to buy into the gilded 1967 zeitgeist which reeked of ostentatious overkill, orchestral uproar and flamboyant military costumes, Lee instead served up a supersized Happy Meal of introspection. Far away from the renaissance fairs, far away from the Berkshire poppies and the getting-it-together in the country, Arthur Lee concentrated his weaponry on the Los Angeles suburbs for his anthropological field research. And with Forever Changes, he brought forth rock’n’roll’s most paranoid and suspicious reading of American culture ever.
What made Love so psychedelic? The vibrations bouncing off Arthur Lee’s lyrics resounded in luminous dimensions: spend time analysing the lyrical content of his melted plastic mind, and you’ll soon be getting lost behind the sofas of Arthur’s convoluted metaphysical genius. The bisexual rumours of the 1970s and the band’s bi-racial line-up remain clear evidence of Arthur Lee’s pioneering willingness to trespass again and again across the social norms of his time. No barriers for this brilliant and spikey motherfucker. The absence of anyone like him ever again is proof of how extraordinary he was.