In 1967, the Los Angeles rock band Love released perhaps the greatest album you've never heard: Forever Changes, a cult classic that features inscrutable lyrics and dreamy arrangements of 12-string guitar, violins and horns.
Your chance has arrived to dig in to the music of Love, reportedly a favorite of Doors front man Jim Morrison. On Friday, Feb. 15, Mickey's Tavern will host a 10 p.m. performance of Forever Changes, in its entirety, by the local cover band The Low Czars. The group will round out the set with more Love classics.
"It's an essential '60 record that, in critics' circles, is not as popular as some of the recordings of that era," says Low Czars singer Aaron Scholz, who as a solo artist is an acclaimed local country and folk performer. "It's a good mix of folk and psychedelic. It's also very political -- not overtly, but it's about Vietnam and the political upheaval of the late '60s." The Low Czars do not reproduce the violins and horns, cautions Scholz.
As classic 1960s rock music, Forever Changes fits comfortably into the repertoire of the Low Czars, an atypical cover band. "We want to cover stuff that people haven't really heard," says Scholz. Their arsenal draws on the music of '60s stalwarts like the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks and the Monkees, among others. Formed in 2005 for a wedding gig, the Low Czars includes members of Madison bands the New Recruits, the Outtatunes and Goat Radio. One Low Czar is Isthmus guide editor Bob Koch.
Love was helmed by the enigmatic Arthur Lee, who wrote most of the songs on Forever Changes. Possessed of remarkable if eccentric talent, Lee disbanded the original lineup of Love after Forever Changes was released. He continued performing, with diminishing success. In 1996 he began a six-year prison stint for the crime of negligent discharge of a firearm. (He received the stiff sentence thanks to California's three-strikes law.) In 2006, Lee died of leukemia at age 61.
"I think he really thought he was a genius, and he kind of isolated himself because of that," says Scholz. "That killed any momentum his band had. I think he was a very troubled guy, with drug problems and personal problems." Love's greatest commercial success was the 1966 single "7 and 7 Is," which reached #33 on the Billboard chart.
Scholz witnessed a 2002 performance by Arthur Lee at Chicago's 473-capacity Double Door nightclub. "We thought it was a misprint," says Scholz of the club listing.
Was it always the plan that the Low Czars would play their Love show the week of Valentine's Day? Given that, you know, the show is about Love? "It wasn't, but it worked out pretty well," says Scholz. "Since everybody in my band is in at least one other band, it's a crapshoot trying to schedule shows."