For all their critical adoration, Love - the psych-rock band founded by Arthur Lee in the '60s - only had one pop hit to their name, but it was a good one.
Released months after their 1966 self-titled debut and featured on their second album Da Capo at the end of the year, "7 and 7 Is" was a short burst of raucous energy - just over two minutes, with two short but evocative verses, the sound of a sudden explosion, and a muted, bluesy coda. Lee was inspired by memories of his adolescence. The lyric "In my lonely room I'd sit, in my mind an ice cream cone" referred to his difficulties in school, the "cone" being a dunce cap students used to have to wear if they were doing poorly. (What was with that?)
Like many of Lee's songs, it came to him early in the morning, leaving him sprinting for a quiet place to jot it all down. "I went in the bathroom, and I wrote those words," he later told a biographer. "My songs used to come to me just before dawn, I would hear them in dreams, but if I didn't get up and write them down, or if I didn't have a tape recorder to hum into, I was through. If I took for granted that I could remember it the next day—boink, it was gone."
The backing track is memorable for its jangly guitar from Johnny Echols - later a first-call session musician who worked with Miles Davis - and a relentless drum track that percussionist Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer took as much as 30 takes to nail. (Rumors persisted for years that Lee, a multi-instrumentalist, ended up taking up the kit himself, a theory Lee himself would later debunk.) The climactic explosion was taken off a sound effects record by engineer Bruce Botnick, though the band would replicate it in concert through a reverb unit, which they would kick for full effect.
"7 and 7 Is" would be Love's only song to reach the Top 40 in America, peaking at No. 33 in the summer of 1966. Follow-up Forever Changes (1967), a nuanced criticism of the burgeoning countercultural movement, only sold modestly as well - though today it's seen as a classic of the genre. And "7 and 7 Is" was embraced as a classic of rock radio, influencing artists from Alice Cooper and the Ramones to Deep Purple to add it to their set lists.