"We do an incredible version of Forever Changes, close your eyes and you’re listening to the record": Arthur Lee may be gone, but Love have found a way forward

Johnny Echols onstage
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson via Getty Images)

Johnny Echols, co-founding guitarist of the group Love, returns to the UK next month with the members of Baby Lemonade, the longest-serving band of late, great Love vocalist Arthur Lee. Fans can expect hear Love’s classic 1967 album Forever Changes in its entirety, and Echols tells us what's up, below.


The last time you spoke to Classic Rock, back in 2019, was in promotion of what was being billed as a ‘farewell tour’. You explained that on the band’s previous visit, a third of the proceeds had “vanished into a hole” – and this was before Brexit. 

We’ve been back a couple of time since then, and the band is now playing larger Academy venues, which makes things much easier business-wise. There’s such demand, we have decided to keep on playing until people don’t want to see us any more. 

Could that sentiment extend to new music? 

It will. There are several songs that we worked on with Arthur [Lee, who died in 2006]. We have removed everything but Arthur’s ethereal lead voice, and we are playing along with that. One is called My String Serenade. Those songs will form the basis of a new album to be released some time next year. 

You believe Arthur Lee would have been happy with this continuation of Love. 

I know that for a fact, because Arthur asked me to keep the band going. We had been lifelong friends, and I visited him several times in hospital during his final days. He said: “Why don’t you guys do this until I’m ready to continue?” That was Arthur’s way of articulating that he wanted Love to continue even after he passed.

It seems mind-boggling that disappointing original sales of Forever Changes, belatedly recognised as one of the coolest and most influential albums of the era, caused Lee to sack all of the band – including you. 

That isn’t what happened at all. During the recording of Forever Changes there was a lot of discord. We had been promised a double album, so that Bryan [MacLean, guitarist], Arthur and myself would have a side each. We were tired of being in Arthur’s shadow and not getting any credit. When Jac Holzman [Elektra Records boss] told us that a double would be too expensive, Bryan got really upset and stopped doing the little things that made Arthur’s songs sound so great, so Holzman offered him a deal for a solo record. When Arthur found out he said: “That’s great – you’re fired.” That’s how the group ended. 

The centrepiece of the forthcoming tour is Forever Changes in full, performed with the Stockholm Strings ‘N’ Horns Ensemble. That will bring out the full beauty and subtlety of those songs. 

There will be strings and horns at several gigs, right now I don’t know how many. Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London is one, that’s for sure. For the ones that don’t we have a keyboardist who is able to emulate those sounds, and there will also be a trumpet player. We do an incredible version of Forever Changes, close your eyes and you’re listening to the record. 

In August you have a slightly unusual slot at Rebellion, a punk festival

Some of the music from our first album [Love, 1966] was very minimalist, with no overdubs whatsoever, and we’ll be playing a very specific set that day so I expect us to fit right in.

Love’s UK tour begins on July 10 at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.