Even now, forty years later, there really isn’t anything quite like Forever Changes, the baroque psychedelic classic that Love unleashed upon the world in late 1967.
While their previous two albums had their moments — the rocked up Burt Bacharach/Hal David of “My Little Red Book,” the mandated-by-law cover of “Hey Joe” and the drum-fueled math problem of “7 and 7 Is,” none of it prepared the world for the way the acoustic guitars faded in from infinity to start “Alone Again Or.”
Or so I imagine.
It was a book called Rock Critics Choice that introduced Forever Changes to me. A 1978 poll of all of the bigwig rockcrits that was also a pretty great introduction to the canon as it stood just before punk and hip-hop reconfigured everything (though The Clash snuck in at #24, it was an invaluable guide to 15-year-old me.
So there among the expected Beatles, Dylan and Stones was a record I’d never even heard of — Forever Changes. Which at some point in 1979, I went out and bought.
And at first, I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. It was full of horns and strings — anathema to me at the time — but they also felt natural to the songs, which had weird titles like “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale,” “Andmoreagain” and “Alone Again Or,” which as first songs should do, drew me into the rest of the album.
At first, it’s just a lonely acoustic guitar, strumming away in the right speaker, and then as the drums kick in, the co-lead vocals of evil genius Arthur Lee and guy who actually wrote the song Bryan MacLean harmonize.
Yeah, I said it’s all right
I won’t forget
All the times I waited patiently for you
I think you’ll do (just what) you choose to do
And I will be alone again tonight my dear
The music builds and builds throughout the verse, by the time it hits the last line, it’s a veritable stop-time explosion of horns and strings and drums before dropping back down to that lonely acoustic guitar in order to start over again.
Yeah, I heard a funny thing
Somebody said to me
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone
I think that people are the greatest fun
And I will be alone again tonight, my dear
And now, of course, it’s solo time, but just when you might expect an electric guitar, instead it’s a lone trumpet ringing out from the heavens, with the string section swelling in ecstatically as support and the acoustic guitar following until they all crash together again and again.
Then, just you in case you didn’t get the message, it’s a repeat of the “I think people are the greatest fun” verse, and the acoustic guitar twirling away from the speakers.
While “Alone Again Or” is basically the same musical motif repeated four different times, I fell for Love’s utter command of dynamics, the near effortless way they built and built every time, and “Alone Again Or” led me into the rest of the album proper.
“Alone Again Or”
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