Turn! Turn! Turn!: Folk Rock 102

We’ll take a short break from theological discussions as we take a trip back to 1965 and the release of The Byrds second album…

Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds
Produced by Terry Melcher
Columbia Records, Released December 6, 1965, Length 30:24

Following the dramatic success of their debut album, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Byrds returned to Columbia’s Studio A on June 28, 1965 to begin work on their next single and sophomore album. Sessions continued on and off through November 1st. Jim (later Roger) McGuinn (lead guitar and vocals), Gene Clark (vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar and vocals), Chris Hillman (bass), and Michael Clarke (drums) once again teamed with Columbia staff producer, Terry Melcher.

The single, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” including B-side, Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time,” was released on October 1st and reached #1 on the national singles charts. The album, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” was released on December 6 and charted at #17. The second single, “Set You Free This Time”/”It Won’t Be Wrong” was released on January 10, 1966 and peaked at #63.

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a worthy follow-up to “Mr. Tambourine Man” and mirrored the folk-rock style of its predecessor to a tee. However, because subsequent albums were so radically innovative, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” has often been viewed as a slightly disappointing carbon copy of the band’s debut. In a 2004 interview, McGuinn remarked that the last four songs on the album were subpar and that “Satisfied Mind” should not have been included.

Side One:

  • Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) – The Byrds rock up Pete Seeger’s adaptation of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. A lovely, gentle protest song that joins “Mr. Tambourine Man” as the Byrds’ two signature pieces. It’s extremely hard to believe but “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was not included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list released in 2004. In her 2016 autobiography, McGuinn’s ex-wife, Ianthe/Dolores DeLeon Tickner, claimed that it was her suggestion that the band record this tune, which McGuinn had previously arranged for Judy Collins on her 1963 album, “Judy Collins 3.” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was the first song by the Byrds that had a religious connection. Many more would follow.
  • It Won’t Be Wrong – McGuinn does a nice Beatles imitation.
  • Set You Free This Time – Gene Clark’s moody and wordy love lament. Excellent. One of Gene’s best songs. Despite his basic education and his disinterest in reading, Clark was a remarkably talented lyricist.
  • Lay Down Your Weary Tune – A sleepy Dylan number.
  • He Was A Friend Of Mine – McGuinn adapted this traditional number into an ode to John F. Kennedy.

Side Two:

  • The World Turns All Around Her – Another Gene Clark breakup song. Pretty catchy. Crosby’s high vocal harmony, here and elsewhere, is remarkable.
  • Satisfied Mind – The Byrds experiment with country at a time when few rock bands were brave enough to venture into “redneck” musical territory. Chris Hillman, whose roots were in the Bakersfield country and bluegrass music scene, suggested this one. An early sign of things to come.
  • If You’re Gone – An insecure Gene Clark fears the loss of his sweetheart. Wonderful tune. The vocal drone adds something special.
  • The Times They Are A-Changing – A popular Dylan protest song. Was considered for release as a single. McGuinn later said the Byrds felt pressured during the recording of this song due to the Beatles visiting the studio session.
  • Wait And See – A weak McGuinn and Crosby rocker.
  • Oh! Susannah – Just like their first album, The Byrds close “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with this tongue-in-cheek recording of a traditional song.

The following album outtakes were included in the 1996 CD reissue:

  • The Day Walk (Never Before) – Clark’s song is only so-so.
  • She Don’t Care About Time (Single Version) – A lovely Clark number that should have been included on the album instead of “Oh! Susannah.” The B-Side of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” McGuinn was especially proud of his guitar break using Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
  • The Times They Are A-Changing (Earlier Version)
  • It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – A Dylan tune that was considered for release as a single.
  • She Don’t Care About Time (Earlier Version) – The beat is more pronounced on this version.
  • The World Turns All Around Her (Alternate Version)
  • Stranger In A Strange Land – Instrumental written by Crosby. Very catchy. Presaged Crosby’s work in “Fifth Dimension.”

Tensions were developing within the band at the time of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” with increasing resentment over the preponderance of Gene Clark songs being recorded. Crosby was especially frustrated that the songs he was bringing to the group weren’t being considered. Disagreements over artistic direction and the discrepancy in songwriting contributions (and remuneration) fueled the original lineup’s exceptional recorded output, but ultimately led to its eventual disintegration.


Postscript: A rock and roll band achieving chart-topping success with a song based on a passage from the Bible? How unusual! More than a few people were jarred by this improbability. The remarkable story of the Byrds is also the story of McGuinn’s long “journey” to Jesus Christ. Join me next month as the Byrds weather their first personnel shakeup and deliberately break out of the “folk rock” category with their transitional third album, “Fifth Dimension.”

5 thoughts on “Turn! Turn! Turn!: Folk Rock 102

    1. LOL! Thanks! I can vividly remember taking the bus downtown to Jay’s Record Ranch in 1967 to buy 45s. Singles were still a big business at that time. I think I bought my first LP in 1969. It’s funny to me that there’s a niche market now for vinyl. It was a huge annoyance hearing all the crackle when a vinyl record got worn out and scratched.

      Liked by 1 person

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