File under: Is this the greatest pop song ever recorded?

"Alone Again Or" is a song by Love, the psychedelic folk-rock proto-punk group from L.A. who recorded some of the most outstanding music of the 1960s. It was written by guitarist Bryan Maclean, and first appeared on their landmark 1967 album Forever Changes, and (in slightly edited form) as a single from the album. Love never had much of an audience outside Los Angeles, owing to their stubborn refusal to leave the city, and this single made barely a dent on the national charts. (They were slightly more successful in Europe, and Forever Changes reached #24 in England.) But the track remains to this day the all-elusive Perfect Pop Song.

The essence of the song is the contrast between the positivity of the tune and the resigned bleakness of the lyrics. "Yeah, I heard a funny thing - somebody said to me, 'You know that I could be in love with almost everyone, I think that people are the greatest fun.'" The lyrics read like everyday speech. But consider then the chorus: "And I will be alone again tonight my dear." This line is the crux of the song.

In the Love recordings, the chorus was accompanied by a joyful Tijuana brass ensemble. But as soon as the chorus is over, the brass and other instruments give way to the lone acoustic guitar break that also opens and closes the song, with a melody that sounds anything but ecstatic. The contrast between the joyful brass and the lonely acoustic mirrors the contrast between the upbeat chorus melody and the bleakness of a lyric which revolves around a line like "And I will be alone again tonight my dear."

The late Bryan Maclean was originally supposed to be the lead voice on the Love versions of the song (he had written it after all), but it was decided that his voice was too weak. Although Maclean's vocal was kept in, the harmony from Love's main man Arthur Lee - originally intended as just backing - was eventually mixed over the top, so what the listener heard was actually someone else, singing something other than the intended melody.

Maclean eventually admitted that his voice had not been quite strong enough to hold the tune, but he did later learn to sing it properly, as demonstrated on the solo version from his album ifyoubelievein. In this cut, the song is stripped down to just his lone voice and an acoustic guitar, with Maclean humming the part played by the brass on the original Love version.

I've rambled on long enough, and so here, ladies and gentlemen, is "Alone Again Or":


Yeah
Said that's alright
I won't forget
All the times I've waited patiently for you
And you'll do just what you choose to do

And I will be alone again tonight my dear

Yeah
I heard a funny thing
Somebody said to me
You know that I could be in love with almost everyone
I think that people are the greatest fun

And I will be alone again tonight my dear

(repeat)

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