The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #5, “Change Is Now”

“Change Is Now” (3:21)
Written by Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn
Produced by Gary Usher
From “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” Columbia Records, January 15, 1968. Also released as the B-side of “Goin’ Back,” October 20, 1967

Bassist, Chris Hillman, contributes song #5 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “Change Is Now.” With their fifth album, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” the Byrds continued on a creative pinnacle that began with their previous LP, “Younger Than Yesterday.” “Change Is Now” was the opener on the B-side of the album and it’s a stunner. Hillman presents some of the same joie de vivre and carpe diem themes that he used on a different cut of his from the album, “Natural Harmony” (song #17 in our countdown, see here), as he exhorts listeners to “dance to the day when fear it is gone.”

Musically, “Change Is Now” is a blend of psychedelia and country-rock, a Byrds specialty found elsewhere on this album and other LPs. Country music virtuosos, Clarence White (future Byrd) on guitar and Orville “Red” Rhodes on pedal-steel contribute the authentic twang. David Crosby, for the first and only time in his career, plays bass, while Roger McGuinn and Hillman handle the guitars. Byrds biographer, Johnny Rogan, hypothesizes that McGuinn uses a 6-string Fender, possibly fed through a Moog synthesizer, for the secondary guitar on the raucous, psychedelic solo (“Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless,” Vol. 1, p. 407). Crosby contributes an excellent high-harmony vocal and session drummer, Hal Blaine, provides the percussion in place of the departed Michael Clarke.

I wore out this track when I used to listen to “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” album as a teenager. Of course, joie de vivre and carpe diem are hollow life philosophies, as the personal lives of Hillman, McGuinn, and Crosby attest to, but it made perfect sense in my 17YO mind. “Change Is Now” was the first song recorded at the “Notorious” sessions and the band initially envisioned it as a hit single, but that didn’t materialize. McGuinn commented in 1969, “It’s another of those guru-spiritual-mystical songs that no one understood.” This song was another marker on McGuinn’s journey to accepting Jesus Christ as Savior in 1977.

Without any further ado, I present song #5 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “Change Is Now.”

18 thoughts on “The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #5, “Change Is Now”

  1. Such a song of its time! That’s the 1967 hippie mindset in a nutshell. Very interesting notion about the guitar being fed through a Moog synthesizer; it indeed had an unusual sound.

    Lyrically, I found the repeated lyric, “truth is real” to be very ironic as a few of the band members would eventually come to know THE Truth, Way, and Life.

    I also like the lyric, “Dance to the day where fear is gone.” Of course, that day is coming — in both the Millennium Kingdom followed by the eternal Heaven on Earth.

    Sorry, couldn’t help getting theological there.

    Great post, Tom, and looking forward to songs 4 through 1!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot, David! Yup, this song has “1967-era youth counter-culture” stamped all over it.

      I definitely get what you’re saying about the lyrics and theology. As a believer, my thoughts about “truth” and the absence of fear are quite different than when I was enthralled with this tune as a high-schooler. McGuinn, the song’s minor co-writer, was definitely searching.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Day has been good! Teaching and also lots of pastoral discussion with last night’s study from Nahum, God seems to be working with interests with the study of the Word, so I thank God for that; will be later meeting with one of our special needs member in about 2 hours, so excited for that! Will read this shortly!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What a joy it was to switch from typewriter to computer. I began attending night school in the late 70s using a typewriter for short papers and term papers, took a long break and returned to night school in the late 90s using Microsoft Word. Oh, such a difference!

        Liked by 1 person

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