L1 — Love
Kings of Los Angeles’ psychedelic rock & roll scene from 1965 to 1968, Love can lay claim to a catalogue of firsts. They were the world’s first multi-racial rock group. The first rock band to sign to folk label, Elektra (later home to the Doors). And probably also the first band to have a recognisable, consistent logo.
Soft, bulbous, looping, flamboyant and deeply psychedelic, the unmistakeable Love logo perfectly captures the free lovin’, dope-fuelled spirit of 1960s California. It was commissioned by Elektra Records’ chief Jac Holzman to bring “a consistency of approach [to the label’s] design ethos” as his business diversified. “I guess you’d call it branding today,” he said.*
Holzman recalls asking his art director Bill Harvey to think of the word ‘love’ and draw it on a piece of paper. Harvey duly created four cartoonish letters with exaggerated, curvaceous serifs, and this became the enduring emblem of one of the era’s most brilliantly flawed bands.
Love were fronted by Arthur Lee, described by the New LA Times as “bell-bottomed, beautiful, black, he physically captured the kaleidoscopic possibilities of the era”. They lived in a mansion formerly owned by horror actor Bela Lugosi, where they stored their stash of heroin and guns. You couldn’t make it up.
The logo was unveiled on the band’s eponymous LP in March 1966, but here (as well as on their second album ‘El Capo’) it was set on the vertical. It wasn’t until Love’s masterful third LP, ‘Forever Changes’, that the logo was rendered horizontally, and the L and the V suddenly appeared to be indulging in oral sex with the male and female signs protruding from the O.
On ‘Forever Changes’, the logo was accompanied by what was to become an iconic Bob Pepper illustration. Pepper was a prolific illustrator, heavily influenced by Art Deco, Art Nouveau and, naturally, psychedelic art. As well as record sleeves, he was responsible for a small library of book covers for publishers DAW, who specialised in popular sci-fi titles of the day by authors like Philip K Dick.
In a 2016 interview for the blog Cover Our Tracks, Pepper reveals four particularly interesting points about the Forever Changes artwork:
1 He was not a great fan of Love, in fact, he didn’t like their music at all
2 Its white background made it extremely popular among coke heads
3 He was paid $150 per cover by Elektra
4 The main character’s mouth was originally closed, but Bill Harvey drew in a smile — much to Pepper’s disgust.
Love went on to record one more album on Elektra, ‘Four Sail’ (1969) before moving on to the Blue Thumb label. Holzman had carefully trademarked the Love logo, but he let the band take it away with them, on the grounds that they’d earned it.
Love were never to reach the giddy heights of ‘Forever Changes’ again, although Arthur Lee, certainly left his mark on the cultural scene by pioneering the outrageous ‘ghetto dandy’ look that the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone would later adopt.
* These quotes are taken from a clip on Arthur Lee’s official website — a promo event held on 10 July 2010 at Book Soup West Hollywood, for ‘Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of LOVE’.