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Classic Tracks: Love’s “My Little Red Book”

A look back at the first charting single from Love.

classic tracks - love's "My little red book"

Led by magnetic frontman Arthur Lee, Love was one the first L.A. rock bands to cause a stir nationally in the wake of The Byrds’ stunning success in 1965. The quintet—singer Lee, guitarists Johnny Echols and Bryan MacLean, bassist Ken Forssi and drummer Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer—had only been playing local clubs for a few months when they were snapped up by Jac Holzman’s Elektra Records and brought to Sunset Sound at the end of January 1966 to record their eponymous first album with Holzman, Elektra producer Mark Abramson, and the label’s wunderkind engineer Bruce Botnick.

Though Lee was the principal songwriter, the album also contained a few cover tunes, including “Hey Joe” (pre-Hendrix) and the driving Burt Bacharach-Hal David song “Little Red Book,” which had already been recorded by Manfred Mann for the 1965 film What’s New Pussycat? The Mann version had none of the proto-punkish insistency—nor the “cool” factor—of Love’s arrangement, which was the group’s first charting single, reaching Number 52, setting the stage for their even bigger single from the summer of ’66, “7 and 7 Is” (a precursor to their second LP, Da Capo). The Love album made it to Number 57.

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Botnick recorded the track live at Sunset Sound’s Studio One through the room’s warm-sounding Alan Emig 14-input custom tube console, to an Ampex 300 3-track that had been converted to a 4-track, running at 15 ips. Monitoring was through Altec 604e loudspeakers. “In those days, I always used three mics on drums—one under the snare, one overhead and one kick,” he says. For a vocal mic he often favored a Neumann U 47. He also used the studio’s famous live chamber—containing two RCA 44s—for reverb. The original single version would have been mono; the album was available in both mono and stereo.

The engineer says he can’t recall if Lee cut the vocals at the same time the band recorded the backing track, but suspects he probably did. The entire album was tracked and mixed in just four days, with the best complete takes being used—typical in that era.

“I loved Arthur,” says Botnick, who cut Love’s first three albums. “He was really special. He was a really good poet. I had the good fortune to be with two in that period—him and Jim Morrison; guys who really were word men. In fact, Arthur told Jac Holzman about The Doors, and the Doors signed [with Elektra] because they had Arthur and Paul Butterfield.”