Saturday, October 18, 2008

Track of the Week: Alone Again Or by Love

A single off of Love's magnum opus, the 1967 album "Forever Changes," this week's track received the honor of being ranked as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs. At Number 436. FOUR HUNDRED AND THIRTY SIX. Lower than multiple U2 songs, Abba's "Dancing Queen," the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive," some Madonna songs, Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and ARGH! Rolling Stone is disgusting.

Back to describing the song. While not overtly psychedelic, "Alone Again Or" exemplified the Summer of Love (pun intended maybe) and all of it's unique characteristics. Both uplifting and uneasy, beautiful and depressing, at times lush and others sparse, the song (not to mention the album it was taken from) and the sixties, especially 1967, were a time of contradictions and juxtapositions. In the swirl of events taking place at an ever increasing pace: the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the war protests expanding (the protests by the joining of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements by Martin Luther King, Jr.), race riots, Heavyweight Champ (when that used to matter) Muhammad Ali being arrested for refusing induction into the Army; there was still this free love movement happening as a reaction to all the hate.

Only a strong reaction could be rational at this point in time. So, in places across the country people, kids really, threw off the trappings of the culture their parents knew. Completely rejected it. And the experiment would not end well. Some of this was already starting to show. Revolutionaries began talking about and eventually actually started bombing things (this would come back 40 years later as a talking point against electing a guy who was eight at the time and knew one of these bombers many years later, but whatever) and the peace movement would begin to devolve because of this, among other things (heroin, etc).

From Los Angeles the garage rock band Love began to create an album at this tumultuous time (the recording sessions began with session musicians sitting in for most of the band as they were breaking up, eventually to get back together, and with the loss of a producer, slated to be Neil Young, to another project), nearly completely acoustic, immersed in a full, beautiful sound of strings, horns and guitars, but with a somehow depressing feel, like the realization that all the optimism of these hopeful kids outside would come crashing down less than two years later. And then what? What would be left? Destroyed dreams and the memory of over a decade of violence to replace them?

A good analysis of the song can be found here. I am not really good at seeing that kind of stuff. I just like the sound, man.

Anyway, Bryan MacLean wrote "Alone Again Or" with his mother, a flamenco dancer, in mind. There is an unmistakable Latin influence over the song, especially the trumpet solo. Nearly all the covers of the song presented here retain that feel. Now to the covers. Bryan MacLean's two versions are very minimalist and rival, maybe surpass, Love's version. He was supposed to be the lead singer on the original Love tune, but his voice was considered not strong enough and Arthur Lee's backing vocal was mixed as the lead vocal. The Damned's version has an unmistakable 80's punk/new wave-ish feel. Matthew Sweet & Susana Hoffs' cover remains faithful to the original, though the modern production standards are evident (not at all a knock on the song) and there is an electric guitar. Calexico's alt-country rendition also remains faithful to the original, but the trumpet solo is a duet and pretty cool. And the Boo Radleys present their cover with much distortion and power.

I put a couple of other versions at the bottom of the page there. One is an official alternate mix of Love's version from the first c.d. re-release of Forever Changes. The other is my mix. I like playing around with audio so I made it a couple of years ago when I was Production Manager for a college radio station. The cool thing about 60's music in stereo is many times certain instruments are mixed completely to one side. So when I wanted to move parts around and take out certain instruments it was easy to just use one side or the other. What I wanted to do was make the difference between loud and soft parts of the song more pronounced and bring the trumpet solo more to the forefront (I did play trumpet for, like, eight years or something).

The original song starts with the acoustic guitar on one channel. I moved it to the middle so it sounds like its in mono. When the orchestra comes in I put it in stereo. Sort of a black and white to color transition a la The Wizard of Oz.  I then tagged the end of the song onto end of the second verse just before the trumpet solo. I removed one of the channels during the trumpet solo, minimizing the sound and emphasizing the trumpet. Then I brought back the other channel, at this point just the acoustic guitar, in a crescendo and left the rest of the song to play out.


The Damned


Yeah, said it's all right
I won't forget
All the times I've waited patiently for you
And you'll do just what you choose to do
And I will be alone again tonight my dear

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

Alone Again Or by Love
Alone Again Or [Alternate Mix] by Love
Alone Again Or [My Mix] by Love
Alone Again Or by Bryan MacLean
Alone Again Or [Second Version] by Bryan MacLean
Alone Again Or by The Damned
Alone Again Or by The Boo Radleys
Alone Again Or by Calexico
Alone Again Or by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs



  1. I think i learn more from reading your blog, then i do in college... Or at least I learn more stuff i can use everyday.

    Rolling Stone has always sucked ass. They're too broad and also, stupid.

  2. Thanks for sharing the other versions of this lovely song. I loved Matthew Sweet's version.

    Love is a great band, my second favorite one of all times (the Byrds are the first), and I'll never forget the first time I heard Forever Changes.

    Best Regards,