After having been nearly silent for over a decade Arthur Lee started making a halting comeback in the early 90s. In 1992 he released the album Arthur Lee and Love (aka Five String Serenade) on the French New Rose label. He started gigging with various indie-rock conglomerations, featuring members of Das Damen, Uncle Wiggly and others, and played his first shows in New York City and England in over 20 years. The shows were reportedly very uneven in quality, and stories of near-schizophrenic behavior spread among the indie-rock pick-up bands he rarely rehearsed with.
Arthur Lee was back, but it wasn't clear how much music he had left in him. "Five String Serenade" was a wonderful song, and Mazzy Star's cover of it actually made him some money for the first time in a long time. But the rest of the album featured some of the worst music ever recorded by a high-profile 60s rocker (and yes, that includes Starship and Eric Burdon). "You're The Prettiest Song" sounds like "The Lady In Red" only sappier, and that's one of the better tracks. And how did the man who once limited Brian McLean to one song per album allow something as awful as Keith Farrish's "The Watcher" to slip onto one of his albums? Taken as a whole, the album is shockingly bad.
All of which makes this 1994 single all the more interesting. Sometime around 1993 Lee hooked up with the L.A. band Baby Lemonade, gigged with them regularly, and in essence they became his new version of Love. Unlike some of the pick-up bands Lee had been playing with, Baby Lemonade was talented and professional, and the music sounded well rehearsed and organized. It no doubt helped that this much younger group of musicians worshiped Lee enough to put up with him.
"Girl On Fire" is the closest thing to punk Lee had recorded since "7 & 7 Is," and "Midnight Sun" sounds like Hendrix-era Love, only better. Most surprisingly, in 1994 Lee's voice was still a remarkably supple instrument. Lee had finally found a group of musicians who understood him, were sympathetic to his vision, and apparently capable of instilling some discipline in him (or at least the appearance of it).
But all was not as well as it might have seemed. It wasn't clear if Lee's songwriting chops were coming back or not. "Midnight Sun" actually dated back to the lost album Lee recorded with Hendrix in 1970. And "Girl On Fire" recalls "7 & 7 Is" a little too closely to be of any real consequence. Worse, Lee would soon be repeating the lyrics to the song ("I don't want to set that girl on fire, I just want to put a flame in her heart") to a judge after he was arrested in 1995 for allegedly trying to torch a former girlfriend's apartment. This was quickly followed by another arrest on a weapons charge that got him sentenced to 12 years in prison under California's "three strikes" law. Most people figured that was where the story would end...but of course it wasn't.
This single probably sums up Lee's frustrating mix of talent and penchant for self-destruction as well as anything in his catalog.