Michael Stuart Ware
Pegasus Epitaph: The Story of the Legendary Rock Group Love
published: 29 /
Nicky Crewe reviews Michael Stuart Ware’s must-read for fans of Love and their music, written by one who was there and who has lived to tell the tale with insight and understanding.
This is a revised and updated edition of Michael Ware’s memoir first published in 2003. This edition ends at the 2006 funeral of Arthur Lee, who was of course such a huge part of the Love story.
It’s a fascinating read, packed with detail of the life and times of the writer and his deep connection with Love. He was the drummer on ‘Da Capo’ and ‘Forever Changes’, both now acknowledged as legendary Love albums.
I was introduced to these two albums by a musician boyfriend in my early teens and Love’s music has haunted me ever since. I did get to see Arthur Lee play with Love in the mid seventies. I’d accepted Love as a beautiful phenomenon and became curious about where they had emerged from and how as I witnessed the trajectory of Arthur Lee’s later life and career.
Michael Ware’s personal story of how he came to pursue a career in music sets the scene. His success with the band Sons of Adam brought him into Love’s orbit and he was asked to join Love by Arthur Lee - an opportunity that he eventually decided he couldn’t turn down.
This is a book produced by an independent publisher, so it isn’t full of glossy colour photos, though there are enough black and white ones to bring things to life and serve as reminders for album covers and bandmates. At first sight, it looks a slim volume, but the format packs in the words.
Ware takes us through his childhood and into his teens, from high school groups to dropping out of college to concentrate on music. We get a real sense of the times as the early sixties unfolded, and the alternative hippie culture blossomed through music and lifestyles. And drugs, too, of course.
He is an insightful writer. From a dedication in the book, I’m guessing that Buddhism took over as he gave up the drugs. He seems a reliable witness, and he is certainly a likeable one.
There are stories of his own difficulties with Arthur Lee, but he aims to understand Lee rather than criticise him. Along the way there are insights into some of the main players in the music business of the day, from managers to record company executives, promoters to club owners. Love toured and played in venues that are now the stuff of legend.
There’s a sense that Love, and Arthur Lee in particular, were aware that they were destined to become a legendary band. A reputation for unreliability and a sense that they weren’t going to be able to overcome the distractions of the touring musician’s lifestyle meant that at the time, back in the sixties, there seemed a real danger that they wouldn’t and couldn’t fulfil their potential. Self-sabotage and missed opportunities are part of the myth and mystery that surrounds the band.
Since that time, the reputation of Love has grown and in particular ‘Forever Changes’ has been recognised for the remarkable and influential musical creation it is. It’s surprising to realise how close it came to being recorded by session musicians.
Michael Ware’s memoir gives us the chance to experience that story as it happened, with all its risks and uncertainties, its flaws and its genius, its highs and its lows.
Ware is honest and uncompromising. He doesn’t sensationalise, though parts of the story beggar belief. There’s a level of detail that is rewarding, whether or not you are a fan of Love, because of the picture it paints of life in LA and San Francisco at the time. He shares some great stories about his own life and career and some of it is very entertaining. Check out his close call on working with Neil Diamond!
This book helps explain the disintegration of Love, a band who created such beautiful music. It’s also a cultural history of the times. It’s great that Ware has lived to tell the tale.
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