“Changing Heart” (2:42)
Written by Gene Clark
Produced by David Crosby
From “Byrds,” Asylum Records, March 7, 1973
The Byrds started out in 1965, but by late-1968, Roger McGuinn was the only remaining original member. The lead guitarist soldiered on for five more years with hired hands. The ersatz Byrds’ released their last album, “Farther Along,” in 1971, but the band continued to tour. With the exponential popularity of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Asylum Records president, David Geffen, thought it would be financially lucrative if David Crosby, McGuinn, and the other founding members of the Byrds, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke reunited for an album, a tour, and possibly more. McGuinn bought into the idea and finally pulled the plug on his ersatz, touring Byrds.
I remember eagerly anticipating the release of “Byrds,” the reunion album of the original members of the band. I got on a bus after school and headed to Midtown Records in downtown Rochester to get my copy. But when I got home and played the LP I was like, “Huh?” Overall, the album was disappointing, but Gene Clark contributed two excellent tunes with “Changing Heart” getting a slight edge over “Full Circle.” That’s Gene playing the harmonica. One of the more disappointing aspects of this album was producer Crosby’s decision to minimize McGuinn’s trademark 12-string Rickenbaker (possibly in retaliation for his firing in 1967?), but we do get to hear some muffled riffs in this tune.
Despite being a gifted songwriter, Gene’s career never took off after he quit the Byrds in 1966 (he’d been the band’s primary songwriter for their first two albums). In this song, Gene bemoans being misunderstood and mishandled by the record company execs. In actuality, much of the problem was due to his own heavy drug and alcohol abuse (in conjunction with other mental health problems). Clark died in 1991 at the age of 46 from accumulated, self-inflicted health issues.
I wasn’t the only Byrds fan disappointed by the reunion album. Due to the unenthusiastic response, a tour and subsequent projects never materialized. The next and last time the five original Byrds appeared together was eighteen years later in 1991 when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just four months before Gene’s death.