Johnny Echols – Love Revisited
Thanks to the splendid chaps in Love Revisited, we had the chance to ask original Love guitar man Johnny Echols some questions about him, Arthur Lee, The Doors and everything. Here are his lucid and entertaining responses so thank you gentlemen and see you at the gig!
- What are your current favored stage instruments, with the tour pending?
“I love the newer synthesizers, they’re great at replicating real instruments especially strings… however I’m a dyed in the wool guitar player, so the guitar is always my first love.”
- Do you own instruments you don’t want to take on tour due to memories or whatever?
“I have some very old and extremely valuable Les Pauls and other guitars that are stored in climate controlled, fireproof, theft proof vaults.” That being said, my late model Schecter, sound’s and play’s much better than any “collector” instruments.”
- Did you ever see or meet Jimi Hendrix?
“Yes I knew Jimi quite well, we first met when he was Jimi James. I was an underage kid playing in the “house band” at the iconic California Club and he was with the Isley Brothers band. Our introduction was inauspicious, he was standing on stage during a rehearsal playing my 1952, Fender Esquire, without my permission. I was p****ed to say the least, you just don’t do that… a man’s axe is off limits, he may as well have been fondling my lady. Anyway after he apologized and things calmed down a bit, I began to warm up to him, we later became “semi” friends though he was much closer to Arthur Lee.”
- Did you ever see or meet Eric Burdon & War?
“No, I never saw them play as War, though I played with Lonnie Jordan and other group members on the East Los Angeles club scene before they became “War.” I’ve never met Eric Burdon.”
- How different was Love on stage, to Love in the studio?
“Love were a “live” band… we were in our element in front of a crowd, everyone was on, as soon as we hit the stage. There was no one there to groove-block us as they did in the studio, no engineer or producer was there telling us what we couldn’t do.”
- Are you aware that someone at the BBC TV station used The Castle in a weekly travel show, as a theme? How was that song recorded?
“Yes, I am… I examine my royalty statements very carefully, so I’m aware whenever our songs are used commercially. I learned that the hard way. The Castle was recorded at RCA studios in Hollywood… Dave Hassinger was engineer and Paul Rothschild was producer. Bryan and I created our contrapuntal acoustic guitar parts in studio, the song was completed in a couple of takes.”
- Please tell me about Your Mind & We?
“Your Mind & We… was written expressly so that I could stretch out on lead guitar. I was very young and restless, I thought my talents as a guitarist were being underutilized, so I Kept after Arthur to write a song that would allow me to burn. If you’ve heard the out-takes, I’m sure you’re aware of Arthur prodding me to step-it-up. After playing a song fifty or sixty times in a row, you tend to become bored, your creative drive becomes stuck in neutral. Arthur (knowing how important this opportunity was for me) was reminding me that this was my moment to shine. He was in effect pulling my coat to the reality that I needed to stop half-stepping and Shine. After being called out in front of everyone, any self respecting guitar player would have either punched Arthur in the mouth, or forced him to eat his words. It’s up to the listener to decide whether or not I reached my goal.”
- I loved Elektra’s album and font styles and the whole ambience of the label BUT why did they spend more on The Doors than Love? Do you feel bitter about this?
“Love, had been offered a fantastic deal to leave Elektra and sign with MCA (a much larger company). We realized that they would never let us go unless they had another rock group on their label, at the time, we were the only one they had. Being young and naive, Arthur and I came up with the brilliant idea of hooking them up with the Doors… childishly believing it was the way to get Elektra to release us from our contracts. Jac Holzman, Elektra’s president, was not impressed with the Doors, in fact he hated them. Somehow, through constant cajoling, we managed to get Jac to come and see them two more times, on the third outing, Jim was at his best and Holzman, who brought producer Paul Rothschild with him, finally saw what we saw and signed the Doors. However, our Brilliant idea proved to be our undoing, not only did Elektra refuse to release us from our contract, they spent the money meant to promote Love, on the Doors instead. However, we were never upset with the Doors, they were our friends, we wanted them to succeed, it wasn’t their fault we shot ourselves in the ass with both barrels..!”
- With Arthur Lee being volatile, was there a peacemaker in the Love lineup?
“It wasn’t that Arthur was volatile, he simply wanted Love to be the best group on the scene. Everyone was expected to be their best selves every time we stepped on stage, if they weren’t, there was hell to pay. Knowing where he was coming from, I took on the role as a kind of “ombudsman” whose job it was to soothe hurt feelings. It had taken us a long time to assemble the right personnel… and I did everything I could to keep the gears running smoothly… I was successful most of the time.
- Da Capo is staggeringly wide ranging. Was that down to Bryan? Arthur? You?
Contrary to popular misconception, with the exception of two songs on the first Love album… Arthur did not play an instrument on any subsequent albums. He was not really interested (at the time) in being a musician, he had neither the time nor the inclination to put in the work required to become proficient on an instrument.”
Arthur was essentially a poet, a world class wordsmith, who saw the world from a very unique perspective. He wrote the words and melodies and performed the vocals. As I mentioned before, it took us a long time to find the right people and Arthur, being savvy, realized how fantastic the musicians we had brought together were… so he tried his best not to get in their way. Of course he had input as far as what everyone played on his songs and was quick to tell you what he liked and didn’t like, but the group members collectively, were allowed the freedom to experiment and create the music the way they felt it.
- Please tell me about recording 7 & 7 Is ? it’s a great number and the blues coda is so cool!
“Seven And Seven Is… was a difficult song to record, “Snoopy” our drummer at the time, wasn’t up to the task. He couldn’t keep-up with the unrelenting vibrato on my amp… he finally succeeded after over one hundred takes. The blues part was a separate song I wrote years earlier and we decided to add it to the main track after the bomb blast.”
- Did the drumming on say Stephanie take a while to get right?
“No, Michael Stuart-Ware is the consummate drummer, We finished it in one take!”
- Do you have a favorite cut on Forever Changes? Why so?
“I Like the whole feeling and the back story of “A House Is Not A Motel, I’m also amazed at how my guitar solo’s turned out, considering the fact that due to a glitch in the headphone system, I could not hear the first solo, while playing the second. Arthur gave me hand signals from the booth, ie. when to play higher on the neck and when to play lower, the rest was muscle memory and serendipity”
- I absolutely love Four Sail…Robert Montgomery especially…what do you think of it? (the album)
“I think it is excellent, though highly underrated… It is my favorite post “Original Love” album.”
- Lee seemed to be sometimes selfish and sometimes kind as anything ..what might explain this?
“Arthur was a poetic genius who was often misunderstood, sometimes folks who didn’t know him would take offense at Arthur just being who he was… a very complex, often temperamental man with a bizarre sense of humor. He simply enjoyed playing with people’s heads. But from my perspective he was never mean spirited”.
- Is there a book or novel that you would like to do the film score for?
“War and Peace works for me!”
- How was the orchestra funded on the return dates?
“The Swedish Government funded the orchestra through their cultural exchange program, for Love, as well as Brian Wilson. Otherwise it would have been cost prohibitive to tour with that many people.”
- Which three blues artists influenced Johnny Echols most?
“That’s easy, Albert Collins… Luther Allison… and Riley B King, among many many others.”
- How do you get your fuzz sound with such clarity?
“I record with a 1952 Les Paul gold top with P90 pickups and a Vox AC15 amp usually at full volume… That’s it, no pedals, nothing else.”
- Are you looking forward to being back in Britain and London? Any memories?
“I love playing the UK, and especially London and Liverpool, our friends there are simply fantastic. My most cherished memories are of the British Parliment singling out Forever Changes, as one of the finest rock albums ever recorded. And of receiving a standing ovation in London when Arthur introduced me to the audience, after I joined him and Baby Lemonade on tour in 2004… I’d better stop now, I’m tearing up!”
- Do you see the influence of Love on any current American artists or bands? Sam Sallon here has a tinge of that Love mystery.
“I’ve not heard Sam Sallon… From my perspective, Baby Lemonade, The Fast Camels and Yo La Tengo, are excellent keeper’s of the flame..!”
Love Revisited (Arthur Lee’s band) reunite for a 10th Anniversary Tour which embarks on a nine-date UK Tour in June/July 2016. For tickets and more information visit the offiical Love Revisited website here: http://bit.ly/1UOkZS3
(Many thanks to Johnny Echols and Frank Farmer for all of their support with this interview)