MacLean, singer and guitarist, died on Christmas Day after a heart attack,
He was born in Los Angeles on September 25, 1946.
BRYAN MACLEAN was a member of the
1960s group Love, for whom he wrote Alone Again Or, one of the most enduring
and evocative songs of the era. The band's truly creative period,
under the leadership of the unpredictable Arthur Lee, was brief, curtailed
by an unhealthy appetite for hard drugs. Yet by the time Love disintegrated
they had recorded some unforgettable music and one classic, Forever
Changes (1967), a record which continues to appear prominently in polls
of the best albums of all time.
Within a year of producing their
masterwork, the original band had fallen apart, and by 1970 MacLean had
left the music business and found religion. He later re-emerged as a writer
of Christian music, but he will always be remembered for his part in the
soundtrack of that distant "summer of love" with which his group shared
MacLean came from a wealthy home
in the Hollywood Hills, where the composer Frederick Loewe, the writer
of My Fair Lady, was a neighbour. He declared the boy a prodigy at the
age of three, and MacLean grew up steeped in musicals rather than rock'n'roll.
Liza Minnelli was an early girlfriend, and the two would sit at the piano
together playing show tunes.
Yet by the early 1960s the Beatles
had made the guitar irresistible and MacLean left high school to become
a roadie for the Byrds. In 1965 he failed an audition to join the Monkees,
when he was one of 437 hopefuls who replied to an advert in the Hollywood
Reporter, but he soon joined forces with the maverick Lee in a band called
the Grass Roots.
Most American groups of the time
gravitated to San Francisco, but after changing their name to Love, the
LA-based band built a reputation playing the clubs on Sunset Strip. A residency
at Bido Lito's brought them to the attention of Jac Holzman, head of the
Elektra label, home already to such folk artists as Judy Collins and Tom
Paxton. Holzman was looking to break into the rock market, and Love became
the first band he signed. The Doors were the second.
In 1966 and 1967, Love made three
impressive albums, clearly influenced by the Byrds and the Beatles but
with an interesting psychedelic strangeness all their own. Although Arthur
Lee was the main writer, MacLean contributed some fine songs, including
Orange Skies, Old Man and the haunting Alone Again Or, with its flamenco-style
guitar and dramatic trumpet flourishes.
Unfortunately a combination of the
drugs and Lee's unstable personality was rendering the band increasingly
dysfunctional. There were lurid tales of group members robbing doughnut
stands to support their drug addiction. "Their name should be Hate rather
than Love," remarked
Peter Albin, of the San Francisco band
Big Brother and
the Holding Company.
By 1968 Love had splintered, leaving
Lee the sole original member. "At least two of them were irrepressibly
hooked on heroin. I felt I needed to get out while the going was
good," MacLean later said. Two of the group's members - Ken Forssi
and John Echols - were soon serving prison sentences, but MacLean was also
addicted. He secured a solo deal with Elektra, but abandoned music and
became a born-again Christian. The turning point, he explained, was sitting
in a New York bar and feeling his drink "turn to sand" in his mouth.
He returned to live with his parents
in Los Angeles, did
various manual jobs and obtained a real
But a Christian fellowship called the
Vineyard was taking
up increasing amounts of his time. He
started singing at
Friday night Bible classes, opened a Christian
nightclub on Rodeo Drive called the Daisy, and served ten years in the
ministry. He also began writing songs again, including several
hits for country-tinged performers such as Debby Boone
and Patty Loveless.
There were various attempts to re-form
Love, which were hampered by arguments over past royalties and soured relations
between MacLean and Lee, who is currently serving a 12-year sentence for
MacLean briefly led a band bearing
his own name in the early 1980s which
included his half-sister Maria McKee, but
when she formed the critically acclaimed Lone Justice he was invited to
contribute only as a writer.
In recent years there has been more
interest than ever in the work of Love and its former members. Ifyoubelievein, released in 1997, was a collection
of original MacLean demos and home
recordings from the 1960s; Alone Again
Or has recently been used in an American
beer commercial; and at least two books about Love
are in the pipeline. At the time of his death MacLean was working on what
he called an album of "worship music".
MacLean is the second original member of
Love to die within a year, after Forssi's
death from cancer last January. He
never married and is survived by his mother and a half-sister.