Bryan MacLean

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Bryan MacLean
Bryan MacLean.jpg
MacLean, ca. 1970.
Background information
Birth nameBryan Andrew MacLean
Born(1946-09-25)September 25, 1946
Los Angeles, California, USA
DiedDecember 25, 1998(1998-12-25) (aged 52)
Los Angeles, California, USA
GenresPsychedelic rock, folk rock, garage rock, proto-punk, baroque pop
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1963–1998
Associated actsLove

Bryan Andrew MacLean (September 25, 1946 – December 25, 1998) was an American singer, guitarist and songwriter, best known for his work with the influential rock band Love. His famous compositions for Love include "Alone Again Or," "Old Man," and "Orange Skies."


Early life[edit]

Bryan MacLean's mother was an artist and a dancer, and his father was an architect for Hollywood celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Dean Martin.[1] Neighbor Frederick Loewe, of the songwriting team Lerner & Loewe, recognized him as a "melodic genius" at the age of three as he doodled on the piano. His early influences were Billie Holiday and George Gershwin, although he confessed to an obsession with Elvis Presley. During his childhood, he wore out show music records from Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma, South Pacific and West Side Story. His first girlfriend was Liza Minnelli and they would sit at the piano together singing songs from The Wizard of Oz. He learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor's pool, and his father's good friend was actor Robert Stack. Bryan appears in the 1957 Cary Grant film An Affair to Remember singing in the Deborah Kerr character's music class. Maria McKee is his half-sister.

At 17, Bryan heard The Beatles: "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 Day's Night everything changed. I let my hair grow out and I got kicked out of high school."

Early music career[edit]

Bryan started playing guitar professionally in 1963. He got a job at the Balladeer in West Hollywood playing folk and blues guitar. The following year, the club changed its name to the Troubadour. His regular set routine was a mixture between Appalachian folk songs and delta blues, and he also frequently covered Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues." It was there he met the founding musicians of The Byrds, Gene Clark and Jim McGuinn, when they were rehearsing as a duo. Bryan became good friends with David Crosby.[2] During that time, Bryan also became friends with songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who fixed him up on his first date with singer Jackie De Shannon.

With MacLean as equipment manager, the Byrds went on the road to promote their first single "Mr. Tambourine Man." By the time the Byrds left for their first UK tour, MacLean was left behind and very disappointed.

After an unsuccessful audition for a role in The Monkees, Bryan got into a car on the Sunset Strip that Arthur Lee was driving. Lee’s band, the Grass Roots (not to be confused with the popular rock band of the same name), was the house band at a club called the Brave New World. Lee knew that the colorful dancers and the scene that had followed the Byrds would follow Bryan, if Bryan joined his band, so Lee took Bryan to sit in with them at The Brave New World.

The Grass Roots[edit]

The members of the Grass Roots were Arthur Lee (vocals, harmonica, guitar, keyboards, drums), Johnny Echols (lead guitar, vocals), Johnny Fleckenstein (bass), Don Conka (drums), and Bryan MacLean (rhythm guitar, vocals). Despite the success of Lee and the others at the Los Angeles club, another Los Angeles band led by P. F. Sloan was first to record under the name The Grass Roots, which spurred Lee to change the name of his band to Love.[3]


Jac Holzman's Elektra Records signed Love, and they had a minor hit with their version of the Bacharach/David tune "My Little Red Book" and released their debut album Love to which Bryan contributed the melodic "Softly to Me," as well as co-writing two other songs. He also contributed The Byrds' arrangement of "Hey Joe," which he performed live, and sang the lead vocal on the record.

In 1966, Love hit #33 on the US national chart with their proto-punk single "7 and 7 Is," followed by their second album, in November 1966 Da Capo, featuring MacLean’s critically acclaimed "Orange Skies."

Despite their early success, by mid-1967 the 'classic' lineup was already falling apart, due to a combination of factors including internal tensions, complacency, lack of rehearsals, drug use, the growing creative rivalry between Lee and MacLean (MacLean was increasingly unhappy with Lee's domination of the songwriting) and Lee's refusal to tour or travel to promote their records. However, this lineup held together long enough to create their third (and final) album, Forever Changes, which is considered one of the finest rock albums ever, reaching #40 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the top 500 albums of all time, #6 on the NME 's (New Music Express's) 100 Best Albums Of All Time (2003) and #11 on Virgin's All-Time Top 1000 Albums (2000). It was entered into the National Recording Registry in May 2012.

Much of the credit for the completion of Forever Changes is due to co-producer Bruce Botnick. After early sessions stalled due to the group's lack of rehearsal and preparation, Botnik hired in several members of legendary L.A. session cohort "The Wrecking Crew" to record with Lee and MacLean on two tracks - a tactic that effectively 'shocked' the group's recalcitrant rhythm section back into action, and after a brief period of intensive rehearsals, they returned to the studio and completed the remaining cuts for the album in just 64 hours.

MacLean’s "Alone Again Or" is the opening track with Arthur Lee providing co-lead vocals.

"Alone Again Or" was the sole single released from the album to appear on the Billboard singles chart (its B-side was Lee's "A House Is Not A Motel." A remixed mono version of "A House Is Not A Motel" was released as a promo single by Elektra in 1970). "Alone Again Or" initially peaked at #123 in 1968 in an edited version, while the longer, original album version spent three weeks on the singles chart in 1970 before peaking at #99, according to Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2010." In 2010, "Alone Again Or" came in at #442 in a poll of the 500 greatest songs of all time conducted by Rolling Stone magazine (it was #436 in the 2004 poll). It had since been covered by many notable acts including UFO, Calexico, and The Damned.

Spiritual conversion and solo music career[edit]

Bryan was offered a solo contract with Elektra after the dissolution of Love, but his demo offerings were rejected by the label, and the contract lapsed. Subsequently, he wrote a film score that was not used. Thereafter he tried without success to record an album for Capitol records in New York. "I was alone in a hotel room in New York and I had lost practically everything," Bryan was quoted as saying. "It occurred to me that I was in a tail-spin so I thought 'well, why don't I pray?' So I did, and nothing happened for about two or three weeks. At the end of that time, I was sitting in a drug store on 3rd Avenue having a drink, and suddenly the drink turned to sand in my mouth. I left the bar and when I reached the pavement and the daylight I knew something had changed. From that point on my life has been totally different.”[citation needed]

Bryan joined a Christian ministry called the Vineyard, the same church that later converted Bob Dylan. During Friday night Bible readings, MacLean took the concert part of the session and was so amazed at the positive reaction he received that he gradually assembled a catalogue of his Christian songs. His next move was to open a Christian nightclub in Beverly Hills called The Daisy. When it closed in 1976, MacLean considered going full-time into the ministry but decided once again to devote himself to music.

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 UK tour which was to have been billed as the "original" Love. The Bryan MacLean Band got a gig supporting Arthur Lee's Love at the Whisky in 1982. Bryan also worked with his half sister Maria McKee and wrote the song "Don't Toss Us Away" for the debut album of her band Lone Justice.

In about 1996, his Elektra Records demo tapes were discovered by his mother Elizabeth in the family garage, and after two years of persistent shopping around record companies, a deal was struck with Sundazed, who in 1997 released the CD Ifyoubelievein.[4] "(It's), in a sense, the Love record that never was: solo demos and home recordings of fourteen original MacLean songs, all written in the earliest and most vital years of Love and all but three virtually unheard in any form since MacLean wrote them," said David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine.

In the album's liner notes, MacLean adds, "The music that is presented in this collection was written decades ago, when I was in the band Love, and was written with that band in mind, and had been intended to be performed by, and associated with the band, Love. I firmly believe that if things had been the other way around, by now, you probably would've already heard a great deal, if not all of what is assembled here. For one thing, I would've stuck around the band a lot longer, not feeling the frustration of having such a backlog of unpublished, and unperformed material, and the natural unfulfilled desire for recognition, or even vindication."

MacLean then completed a spiritual album of Christian music and was about to record another album when he died of a heart attack in a Los Angeles area restaurant on Christmas Day 1998.[5][6]


  1. ^ "G. MacLean; L.A. Architect, Land Developer". Los Angeles Times. 12 December 1985.
  2. ^ MacLean, Bryan (13 February 1987). "Sound of the Sixties". KCRW (Interview).
  3. ^ "Obituary: Bryan MacLean". The Independent. 1 January 1999.
  4. ^ Cody, John (September 2008). "Bryan MacLean: Love before, after, and beyond". BC Christian News. Canadian Christianity.
  5. ^ "Bryan MacLean; Guitarist and Songwriter". Los Angeles Times. 29 December 1998.
  6. ^ Vanhorn, Teri (29 December 1998). "Ex-Love Guitarist Bryan MacLean Dead At 52". MTV News. Viacom International Inc. Retrieved 13 September 2014.

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