All this activity culminated with The Forever Changes Concert, available on CD and DVD from Snapper Music. The band is extremely tight, and the horns and strings integrate with the rest of the music nicely. Unfortunately, Lee's voice was no longer the supple instrument it once was, and his vocals lack the delicacy heard on the 1967 recordings.
A few of the songs take on new meaning in this context. Lee obviously references his own plight when he expands the "freedom" section at the end of "The Red Telephone," and the song's refrain "They're locking them up today, they're throwing away the key, I wonder who it will be tomorrow you or me?" sounds less like the result of drug-induced paranoia in the age of Guantanamo Bay and the Bush administration's post 9/11 assault on civil liberties. These concerts were a great triumph for Lee personally, but obviously they will never replace or supplant the original recording.
The following is an excerpt from a simultaneously hilarious and sad interview with Lee printed in The New Music Express and conducted by Jack White of the White Stripes:
JW: How do you want to be perceived right now?
AL: I think I'm the best of them all. I think Mick Jagger stinks. Brian Wilson stinks too. They just don't have that punch. Don't get me wrong: Mick Jagger was a great influence in my life. He was a free spirit. But now he just doesn't have his noggin on straight. You have to protect your noggin.
JW: Love's influence is very important but it's never written as such. What is Love's place in musical history to you?
AL: [Ignoring question completely.] Mick and Brian Wilson should give it up. They should go home and take care of their kids. The Beatle guy too. Paul McCarthy (sic). He should pack it up. He's there singing "yesterdayyyy." Yesterday? I'm talking about right now! I've seen their shows recently and they stink. They're wasting people's time and money now. The people that come and see me play get their money's worth and they get an education, too. I've still got it and I'm 57 years old. I creep into people's hearts and their minds. And once I've got your mind, your mind's on my mind…and your mind and we belong together.
It's hard to know where to start analyzing behavior like this. (Maybe it's better not to, but I can't resist.) I think the proper psychoanalytic term for this sort of behavior is "projection." Despite the fact that he was surrounded by a group of young musicians that idolized him, and was basking in the much-deserved adulation of his fans, Lee obviously remained a deeply unhappy man. Lee's extraordinary level of bluster exposes his own deepest fears more clearly than a frank admission of them ever could. This is clearly the behavior of a man who is terrified that his old music doesn't measure up to that of other rock legends, and most of all is afraid that he has nothing new to say.
It's simply astounding that he would criticize Paul McCartney (or "McCarthy" as he calls him) for continuing to perform "Yesterday" while doing an interview in support of a tour in which he was performing a 35-year-old album in its entirety. Later in the interview he takes Jagger to task for not getting his underwear sweaty enough on stage. Whatever else I might want to say about McCartney and Jagger's post-peak careers, the last thing I would accuse McCartney of is a reluctance to try new things, and the last thing I would accuse Jagger of is not working hard enough on stage. Reading this, it's easy to understand why Lee eventually alienated his new band, just as he had alienated all those who had played with him before.
At the ripe old age of 21, Lee was convinced he was going to die and Forever Changes would be his last words on earth. There is a bittersweet irony to the fact that nearly 40 years later he turned out to be right.