By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two of the most influential rock band to emerge from Los Angeles during the 1960s share the stage at the Chapel in San Francisco Thursday when garage-punk pioneers the Seeds team with the final line-up of Love that backed late leader Arthur Lee up until his death in 2006.
Founded in LA in 1965 when singer Sky Saxon answered an ad placed by keyboard player Daryl Hooper, the Seeds scored a regional hit with their first single, “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine.” Their follow-up single “Pushin’ to Hard” became a national smash, bringing Saxon’s frenetic vocal delivery and Hooper’s rollicking keyboard style to a wider audience. The band would appear on national television (the NBC sitcom “Mothers In-Law”) and later in the cult 1968 film “Psych Out.”
The band’s first two albums — The Seeds and A Web of Sound — are now hailed as pioneering garage-punk recordings. While the group would dive deep into psychedelia on their third album Future, expanding the group’s sonic palette with strings and horns, it’s the band’s early material that would influence countless punk and garage-rock outfits in the years that followed. While the band would return to it’s raw roots and incorporate more of a blues sound on subsequent albums, by 1972 the Seeds had disbanded.
Saxon would release several solo albums during the ’70s and later collaborated with garage-rock and punk disciples like Redd Kross and the Chesterfield Kings before putting together a version of the Seeds for a psychedelic revival tour in 1989. The singer briefly reunited with original guitarist Jan Savage in 2003 for another line-up (the guitarist would leave midway through a European tour due to health reasons) and continued to perform under the band’s name until his death in 2009. The current version of the band led by Hooper features ’60s-era drummer Don Boomer, veteran session guitarist Jeff Prentice, lead singer Paul Kopf and Bay Area-based bassist and noted archival reissue producer Alec Palao playing the Seeds’ greatest hits.
The band is joined by a line-up of Love that pays tribute to the iconic ’60s group’s principle founding songwriters, Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean. Lee and MacLean had worked writing and producing music for several years before deciding to team up in the psychedelic folk-rock outfit that would eventually become Love. With the addition of lead guitarist Johnny Echols, the band became a popular attraction on the Sunset Strip, eventually becoming the first rock band to sign with fledgling label Elektra Records.
They scored a minor hit with a rocked-up version of the Burt Bachrach song “Little Red Book” that would be included on their 1966 self-titled debut, but it was the band’s next two efforts — Da Capo and their masterpiece Forever Changes — that would firmly establish Love as one of the great Los Angeles groups of the psychedelic ’60s. Hailed as a seminal statement that ranks with such all-time classics as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, Forever Changes unfortunately also marked the last album to feature MacLean (his song “Alone Again Or” is a highlight) as the band disintegrated.
Lee would form a new version of Love that pursued a more blues-rock sound over three more albums during the early ’70s, but continuing drug and personal problems led the songwriter to drift into obscurity. He would occasionally tour and play concerts with pick-up bands billed as Arthur Lee and Love, even attempting to reconcile with MacLean to perform onstage to no avail, including a planned tour in the mid-90s that was derailed when Lee went to prison on firearms charges. MacLean would die suddenly of a heart attack in 1998 at age 52.
When Lee finally emerged from incarceration in 2001, he made up for lost time with extensive touring and festival appearances backed by Los Angeles rock band Baby Lemonade and often augmented by horns and strings for full performances of Forever Changes. Sadly diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, Lee was forced to stop touring due to ill health and passed away the following year. Since then, members of Baby Lemonade have periodically toured with returning lead guitarist Echols and classic-era drummer Michael Stewart to perform Love’s classic songs in tribute to the lost songwriters at the Chapel Thursday night.
The Seeds and Love
Thursday, Jan. 3, 8 p.m. $30-$34