The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #24: “Bad Night at the Whiskey”

“Bad Night at the Whiskey” (3:23)
Written by Roger McGuinn and Joseph Richards
Produced by Bob Johnston
Released as a single, January 7, 1969
From “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde,” Columbia, March 5, 1969

After Chris Hillman quit the Byrds in the Summer of 1968, only Roger McGuinn (guitar) remained as a founding member. McGuinn pressed forward with hired hands, Clarence White (guitar), John York (bass), and Gene Parsons (drums). Their studio album, “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde” was met with a cool reception by fans and critics. The songs were mostly mediocre and the production was terrible. Bob Johnston, producer of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, inexplicably turned the treble way down in the creation of this muffled disappointment.

One song stood out for me on this album and that was “Bad Night at the Whiskey,” written by McGuinn and his friend, Joey Richards, an early-60s rocker. Columbia execs also thought enough of the song to release it as a single, although it failed to chart.

I enjoyed “Bad Night…” a lot despite the muffled mix. The vocal sustain is a nice element. A couple of minor criticisms: York’s high harmonies can’t compete with the masterful high harmonies of former-Byrd, David Crosby, and über-talented country guitarist, Clarence White, is a fish out of water as he attempts to play rock ‘n’ roll. Many have labeled the angry lyrics of this tune – e.g., Well I’ll stay out of your way if you keep out of mine – as “allusive,” and perhaps that was on purpose. In her book, “In the Wings: My Life with Roger McGuinn and The Byrds” (2017), Ianthe McGuinn writes that her relationship with the Byrds’ leader was very troubled at this stage because of Roger’s hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. They would legally divorce in 1971. The “Whiskey” in the title refers to the Whisky A Go-Go, a night club on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles that featured many of the most popular rock bands of the era.

Enjoy.

12 thoughts on “The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #24: “Bad Night at the Whiskey”

  1. You really know about this band; and its amazing in an album that wasn’t that good this one stands out. Crazy to read about Sunset and there’s been time I use to work security for events on Sunset. Sad to read the lifestyle of rock and roll also breaks marriages and ends up in divorce =(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m one of those square pegs that couldn’t just sit back and enjoy a band’s music, but had to turn it into rocket science.

      RE: Sunset Strp
      We all knew about Sunset Strip on the East Coast from a popular TV show in the early-60s, “77 Sunset Strip.” And one of my other favorite 60s bands had a popular song called “For What It’s Youth” about youth protests on the Strip in 1966.

      RE: rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle
      Some WordPress believers are probably aghast at my countdown of the Byrds Top 25 tunes, but I’ll be periodically mentioning my favorite Byrds story: McGuinn hitting rock bottom and accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the best story from the Bryds! I’m like you too with wanting to go deeper with things as a way of enjoying something! Like I have to know the history of it!!! I worked on Sunset Blvd before I realized it’s famous and first clue was hearing a movie was called Sunset BLvd…I was naive when I was younger and watched few movies and care little for Hollywood lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yup, I immediately start thinking about the history of something. Interesting how you got a taste of the Hollywood celebrity machine working security back in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

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