25th September 1946 - Died 25th December 1998
MacLean guitarist, singer and songwriter of the cult 60's Californian
band Love, died of a heart attack on Christmas day 1998 in the city of
Los Angeles where he was born.
were responsible for producing the album 'Forever Changes' in 1967 which
has long held the reputation with music critics for being one of the finest
albums ever made and although Arthur Lee did most of the song writing
for the band, it is Bryan's song 'Alone Again Or' from that classic album
that Love are generally remembered for.
in Beverley Hills, California in 1946, Bryan's father was an architect
to the Hollywood stars and his mother an artist and a dancer. Neighbour
Fritz Loew of the composers Lener & Loew recognised him as a melodic
genius at the age of three as he doodled on the piano. Bryan's gift for
music was duly noted and he was given piano lessons and taught classical
arrangement theory. Bryan's early influences were more Billie Holliday
and George Gershwin rather than Robert Johnson, although he confessed
a strong obsession for Elvis Presley. During his childhood he wore out
show music records from 'Guys & Dolls', 'Oklahoma', 'South Pacific'
and 'West Side Story'. His first girlfriend was Liza Minelli and they
would sit at the piano together and sing songs like 'The Wizard of Oz'.
He learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor's pool and his father's best friend
was Robert Stack from T.V's 'Untouchables'. At 17 Bryan encountered the
Beatles, "Before the Beatles I had been into folk music. I had been showing
my art work at a panel shop (I wanted to be an artist in the bohemian
tradition) - where we would sit around with banjos and do folk music,
but when I saw 'A Hard Days Night' everything changed. I let my hair grow
out and I got kicked out of three high schools."
started playing guitar in 1963/64. He got a job at the Balladeer before
it changed its name to the Troubadour Club, playing back-up blues guitar.
It was here he met the pre Byrds Jet Set while dating Jackie De Shannon
and he became 'fast friends' with David Crosby. He moved away from home
and by early 1965 he became road manager for the Byrds on their first
Californian tour with the Rolling Stones. He managed one more cross-country
tour with the group after they hit big with 'Mr Tambourine Man' but the
exhausting 30 one nighters broke him physically and when the Byrds left
for their first U.K. tour in the summer of 1965 they left Bryan behind.
an unsuccessful audition for a part in the Monkees Bryan got into a car
on Sunset Strip which Arthur Lee was driving. Arthur had a band called
the Grass Roots doing a residency at the Brave New World Club and being
street wise knew Bryan's 'connections' with the Byrds. He knew all of
the scene that followed the Byrds would follow Bryan if he invited him
to see the band play at the club as the Byrds were out of town and sure
enough after a couple of weeks the crowds were lined up and down the street
for blocks. Bryan desperately wanted to join the band and he said, "I'd
give my right arm to be in your group." To which Arthur responded "No
- you're going to need it!" The Grass Roots became Love when another group
registered a hit with the name.
were rapidly gaining a reputation as the 'street band' and Jac Holzman's
Elektra Records snapped them up and they hit big with their version of
the Bacharach/David song 'Little Red Book' and a very successful first
album to which Bryan contributed the beautiful 'Softly To Me' as well
as co-writing two others and the Byrds arrangement of 'Hey Joe' which
he sang. In a staggering progression in just nine months Love put out
their second album "Da Capo" and the storming hit single - a pre punk
blast of a song '7 & 7 is'. Bryan's beautiful 'Orange Skies' was just
one of the "6 sides of an uncut diamond" that formed side one of this
classic "flower power" album. As the band threatened to implode with addiction
to hard drugs taking hold; sessions for what would turn out to be one
of the classic albums of the "summer of love" began. Bryan's 'Alone Again
Or' was the opening cut on 'Forever Changes' and although Arthur mixed
Bryan's lead vocal under his own harmony vocal it is still Bryan's song
that Love are remembered for as it has gone on to become a radio classic
and Bryan lived most of his life on its royalties as it was covered by
the Damned and UFO amongst others. Although Arthur's songs crowded out
Bryan's, it is Bryan who believed he influenced Arthur more than the other
way around. "What you have on the second and third Love albums is a black
guy from L.A. writing show tunes." Bryan admits to an addiction to heroin
at this point in his life and had a near death experience where he overdosed
after leaving Love. Meanwhile band members Ken Forssi (bass) and Johnny
Echols (lead guitar) were busted for heroin and armed robbery - they were
known as the 'Doughnut Stand Robbers!' - and served time in San Quentin
and the original Love fell apart.
an aborted attempt at a solo career - his demos were rejected by Elektra
- Bryan wrote film music that wasn't used and tried without success to
record an album for Capitol records in New York. He hit a real low point
and shortly afterwards became a Christian, "I was alone in a hotel room
in New York and I had lost practically everything. It occurred to me that
I was in a tail-spin so I thought 'well, why don't I pray?' So I did and
nothing happened for about two or three weeks. At the end of that time,
I was sitting in a drug store on 3rd Avenue having a drink
and suddenly the drink turned to sand in my mouth and I left the bar and
when I reached the pavement and daylight I knew something had changed
and from that point on my life has been totally different.
joined a Christian Fellowship Church called the Vineyard, "The guy that
led the church was the guy that converted Bob Dylan." During Friday night
Bible stints Bryan took the concert part of the session and was so amazed
at the reaction he gradually assembled a catalogue of his Christian songs.
His next move was to open a Christian night club in Beverley Hills called
'The Daisy' and when it closed in 1976 Bryan considered going full-time
into the ministry but decided once again to devote himself to music. He
played an unsuccessful reunion with Arthur in 1978 on two dates but wasn't
paid so he turned down the offer to join Arthur in a U.K. tour as the
'original' Love. Ironically the Bryan MacLean band got a gig supporting
Arthur Lee's Love at the Whisky in 1982 which resulted in a stoned Arthur
constantly interrupting Bryan's show and when physically rejected from
the stage he threw a cup of hot coffee over Bryan, leaving him with, "a
great sense of loss, over someone who'd once been a close friend."
were several attempts in the early 80's to make a solo album for Rhino,
which never came out due to Bryan's continued problems with alcohol. In
1986 Bryan agreed to take Arthur's place at a gig, as Arthur was too unwell
to play the date.
Boone had a hit with Bryan's song 'You Light Up My Life' which was on
her album for which she won a Grammy in 1990 and he worked for a period
with his half sister, Maria McKee writing one song for the debut album
by Lone Justice 'Don't Toss Us Away' while she went on to success Bryan
sank into obscurity. Then along with Arthur in the early 90's he started
to make a comeback.
freely admitted that the small amount of success he had with Love nearly
killed him and indeed it was some thirty years on from his late 60's hey
day with Love that his Love demos were discovered by his mother Elizabeth
in their garage and after 2 years of persistent and patient shopping around
record companies a deal was struck with Sundazed and the CD 'ifyoubelievein'
was released in 1997 and was critically well received. He had completed
a spiritual album of "spooky Christian music" and was about to record
a brand new studio album. His famous song 'Alone Again Or' had been used
on a Miller Draft advert in the U.S. and he'd just recorded a Spanish
language version of the same song for the large Hispanic audience.
a cruel irony that fate should deal him such a blow just as he was finally
beginning to resurrect his career. The mantle of Love had fallen on Bryan
as his Love partner Arthur Lee is two years into a twelve-year jail sentence
for firearm offences.
hoped that as a fitting tribute to Bryan all those songs of the four decades
since and including his time with Love will finally see the light of day*
and then his true legacy will be seen for what it is after being shrouded
in mystery for such a long time. He is a sad loss to the world of music
and he leaves behind his mother Elizabeth and half sister Maria McKee.
Peter Housden, January 1st 1999.
by Sundazed as 'Candy's Waltz' in 2000. See music section.