Monday, September 03, 2007

Orange Skies

There can be no serious summer songs series without Orange Skies. This week’s offering is Bryan MacLean’s solo version.

Always a minor player compared to the towering genius of Arthur Lee, in most other bands MacLean would have been a major star. If only he’d had passed the auditions for The Monkees.

Still, the night he failed that Monkees gig, he saw Lee’s pre-Love band The Grass Roots. Afterwards, Bryan said, "I'd give my right arm to be in your group," to which Arthur responded, "No - you're going to need it!"

Bryan, a pretty boy from the suburbs, had no chance against Arthur “Polo” Lee, who he described as “the toughest guy from the toughest part of south LA”, which is why he felt that in the studio his talent never quite got the chance to fully shine with Lee present.

The closest the two ever came to blows was when MacLean’s other masterpiece, Alone Again Or, was mixed so that Lee’s harmony swamps MacLean’s lead vocal. “No one has actually heard how pretty that melody actually is,” he said in 1997. “It’s a much nicer melody than you think.”

Bryan was 17 when he wrote Orange Skies, based on Jim McGuinn’s break in Bells Of Rhymney (MacLean was tour manager for The Byrds in 1965), bringing a folky flamenco flavour to Love’s psychedelic flurries and mariachi exhilaration.

Orange Skies and Alone Again Or are from the orange vinyl 7” that came with 1997’s Ifyoubelievein compilation. My feeling is that these songs benefitted from Lee’s quicksilver touches, but it’s great nonetheless to hear them in their stripped-down form by the songwriter.

Orange Skies
Alone Again Or

● At 17 Bryan heard The Beatles for the first time. "Before the Beatles I had been into folk music. I had 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 high school."

● Bryan joined a Christian ministry called the Vineyard, that was the same church that converted Bob Dylan.

● Bryan’s half sister is Maria McKee and he wrote Don’t Toss Us Away for the Lone Justice debut album.

● He played an unsuccessful reunion with Arthur Lee in 1978 on two dates but wasn't paid, so he turned down an offer for a U.K. tour which was to have been billed as the 'original' Love.

● Ironically the Bryan MacLean Band got a gig supporting Arthur Lee's Love at the Whisky in 1982.

● He died of a heart attack on Christmas Day, 1998.

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