[Jim Gavin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the biggest Love fan I know. Back in the silvery gloom of the early ’00’s, he met my general ignorance of the band with utter disgust and set me straight. He also took me to see Broadcast at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco and turned me on to the magic of Kurt Heasley’s Lilys. He’s the best of the good eggs. You should definitely check out his fantastic collection of short stories, Middle Men, and follow him on Twitter at @jimatdeltaco. -ed.]
In 1997, a friend taped the Love box set for me. It was just a tape, no case, no track listings. For two years, the Love tape played constantly inside my 1986 Chevy Corsica, which had a V-6 and a decent factory stereo but which otherwise was perpetually on the verge of breakdown. I graduated from college and got a job as a cub sports writer for a big daily paper in Southern California. I worked weird hours, arriving at the office around five o’clock, as the sun was setting, and leaving after deadline, usually around midnight. For an entire year, I listened to Love on my way to the office, or on my way to cover a high school basketball game. I’d start with “My Little Red Book,” flip the tape somewhere around “Stephanie Knows Who,” and the next day I would get to the end of “You Set the Scene,” where the tape stopped (the tape didn’t have room for Arthur Lee’s solo stuff). Then I would start over. I never fast-forwarded a single song. For some reason I couldn’t listen to the tape on my way home, when it was completely dark. I associated Love with twilight – deep shadows and brilliant orange.
Eventually, my Corsica gave up the ghost. I sold it for $500 and a few days later I realized the Love tape was still in the deck. My heart sank a little. In the years since, I’ve become your basic Love freak. I’ve bought and studied the box set; I’ve made my pilgrimage to the house in Los Feliz where the band enjoyed a life of baroque communal squalor; I’ve checked old newspapers trying to find any truth to the rumors that Johnny Echols and Ken Forssi, strung out and desperate, committed armed robbery at several Los Angeles donut shops; and, more than anything, I’ve listened to their records over and over. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but “The Castle” has always stood out for me, not because I think it’s their best song, but because it’s brief and strange and captures some essential mood that plays through all their music. The golden sound – bright, jittery, elegant – countered by Arthur Lee’s melancholy and half-assed wish to escape – “…think I’ll go to Mexico.” Love, famously, never left Los Angeles. They couldn’t escape the city and they couldn’t escape themselves. They never got the recognition they deserved, but something in the music tells me they knew this from the beginning.
I listen to Love now with a full appreciation of their history, the graceful beginnings and the fucked-up endings. However, I still get flashes to my younger self, when I didn’t know much about the band, or even the names of the songs. All I have is the tape, and there I am, at twilight, driving the Corsica up some endless transition loop, squinting through the haze, and escaping with each song into a lost and perfect dream.
[On Friday, February 14th, come see In Love with Love: A Night of Songs of and by Love which will be both a Ball of Wax Volume 35 Release Celebration and tribute to the band Love. Hand of the Hills, Virgin of the Birds, Gonzo (members of the Curious Mystery and geist & the sacred ensemble), Sam Russell, Robert Deeble, Bandolier, Harbor Island, and Joshua Schramm featuring Fairy Robot will play original love songs and cover songs from Arthur Lee’s Love. – ed.]