Bido Lito!: From Liverpool with Love, with Johnny Echols

Bido Lito! is a Liverpool-based music magazine. This article is taken from their latest issue, From Liverpool with Love.

The piece, published to coincide with Bido Lito!’s recent Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF) commission of the same name – featuring American rock band Love’s guitarist Johnny Echols – looks at the story of this counter-culture 60s band and why they have such a close link to Liverpool. Words by Richard Lewis.

“Now you’re part of the chain. Pass it along.”

So implores the liner notes in the 2001 reissue of Love’s iconic album Forever Changes, something that successive generations of Liverpool music fans had already been doing for decades. The 1967 album by the late Arthur Lee’s cult LA rock band shares a thread of poetic beauty with Liverpool greats, from The Teardrop Explodes to Echo & The Bunnymen, from The Stairs to The Coral.

The story of Love, and how their seminal proto-punk, proto-psychedelic, protest music came to chime with the city of Liverpool was celebrated in an event of our – Bido Lito! magazine’s – own making, performed especially for this summer’s LIMF, the largest free music event in Europe. From Liverpool With Love was a re-presentation of the ideas, themes and music of Love, told with the help of the band’s original guitarist, Johnny Echols, who was joined by a band and special guests comprising some of Liverpool music’s most revered names. It is also the story of our own name. For a band who never toured their home country or had any notable commercial success, the weight of Love’s cult status is even more remarkable given that it spread largely by word of mouth.

“We didn't consider ourselves part of an underground scene in 1965, when we were still known as The Grassroots,” Echols explains of the LA music scene in the mid-sixties. “Later, when we became Love, we were able to fill whatever venue we played and, for reasons I don't quite understand, we were able to out-draw virtually every other group playing in Los Angeles at the time. So we had a much different experience than most other groups.” “We moved over from the Brave New World Club (located nearby) in the summer of 1965, to a brand new venue called Bido Lito's, which was an acronym for venue owners Bill, Dorothy, Linda and Tommy,” Echols continues.

“As we were the first group to play there, we were given the opportunity to have input as to the layout as well as the type of soundsystem the club would have. Soon after we began playing there, Bido Lito's became the "in" spot. Groups like The Doors, the Iron Butterfly and many others followed Love, making it a very important venue for up-and-coming groups.”

“We were in effect town criers,” Echols continues. “So much of Love's music is actually a newsreel, memorialising the times in which we lived.”

Love were a colossal success amongst native Angelinos but never became known nationally during their initial run. “There were many reasons why Love did not become as big as we should have,” Echols explains. “One huge blunder on our part was insisting that Elektra (the label that signed Love, after label boss Jac Holzman saw them playing in Bido Lito’s) sign The Doors.

"We had been offered a fantastic deal to leave Elektra and sign with MCA, a much larger and better-financed company. Being very young and naive as far as business is concerned, we reasoned that if Elektra had another successful group, and considering how unhappy we were, they would let us go. That obviously did not happen and, to show us who was in charge, they refused to promote Love; instead, monies that were to be allocated to promote us were used to promote The Doors.”

Despite this huge upheaval, Echols still looks back on his tenure in Love as an enjoyable experience. “Besides this year being the 10th anniversary of Arthur's passing, it is also the 50th anniversary of the group Love. I have enjoyed every moment of that experience... the tough times as well as the good times.”