Last week, we finished counting down the Byrds’ Top 25 Songs, but we’re not completely done with this series. A couple of more Byrds-related posts came to mind, including this listing of books about the Byrds below. Most people play a music album (via streaming, CD, or vinyl) and just listen and enjoy. But some people, such as Byrds nyrds like myself, have to turn it into rocket science. Below are some print resources for serious Byrds aficionados.
Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1
By Johnny Rogan
Rogan House, 2011, 1216 pp.
Nope, that’s not a typo folks. This formidable tome actually contains 1216 pages. British music writer extraordinaire, Johnny Rogan, covers the entire history of the Byrds, from the origins of the band in 1964 to its dissolution in 1973, and the subsequent exploits of the eleven former members until 2011. The book is full of information and data culled from personal interviews with the primaries and the secondaries. Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1 is an essential for every serious Byrds fan.
Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 2
By Johnny Rogan
Rogan House, 2017, 1248 pp.
Rogan got the notion of following up his excellent general history of the Byrds (Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1) with this same-sized complementary tome in which he scrupulously examines the lives of all of the deceased former band members: Clarence White (d. 1973), Gram Parsons (1973), Gene Clark (1991), Michael Clarke (1993), Kevin Kelley (2002), and Skip Battin (2003). This book is strictly for the extremely serious Byrds nyrd. I’m assuming that Rogan also had in mind a third volume, detailing the lives of the surviving members – Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Parsons, and John York – but ran out of time. Rogan died in 2021 at the age of 67.
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star: The Byrds Day-by-Day, 1965-1973
By Christopher Hjort
Jawbone Press, 2008, 336 pp.
If you thought the first two offerings might be tedious reading, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In dry-as-a-bone encyclopedic fashion, British author, Chris Hjort examines every Byrds recording session and concert from 1965 to 1973 (along with preliminary information from 1960-1964). This is definitely a “must have” for serious Byrds fans, but a casual fan wouldn’t make it past the first chapter. Besides being a rock historian, Hjort is a graphic designer and this is a handsomely constructed volume with plenty of graphics. It’s puzzling that Hjort put such great care into designing this book, but opted for an annoyingly small font size.
Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds’ Gene Clark
By John Einarson
Backbeat, 2005, 352 pp.
This book tells the fascinatingly sad story of Gene Clark, one of the founding members of the Byrds and the band’s most prolific early-songwriter. Clark quit the group in early-1966, but never achieved the solo success people expected. Most of his career (and personal) problems stemmed from mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse.
Time Between: My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother, and Beyond
By Chris Hillman
BMG, 2021, 238 pp.
I enjoyed bassist Chris Hillman’s recent autobiography, but he’s so guarded about what he’s willing to divulge that he brings very little new information about the Byrds to the table. Somewhat vapid. A missed opportunity. Read Rogan’s “Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1” instead.
In the Wings: My Life with Roger McGuinn and The Byrds
By Ianthe McGuinn
New Haven Publishing, 2017, 236 pp.
Ianthe and Roger McGuinn met in 1964, before the Byrds achieved success with “Mr. Tambourine Man.” They were married from 1966 until their divorce in 1971. Ianthe seeks to capitalize on that relationship with this tell-all book. There’s some interesting insights into McGuinn and the band not found elsewhere, but the author also resorts to a few salacious tales. We read that McGuinn was so wrapped up in the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that he predictably had little energy left for being a husband or a father. Following their 1971 divorce, alimony and child-support weren’t forthcoming as McGuinn’s career steadily declined following the breakup of the Byrds. Ianthe is clearly still bitter after all of these years. The most interesting passage in the book describes how Ianthe confronted Roger about why he voluntarily subordinated his signature 12-string Rickenbacker to Clarence White and his B-bender Telecaster after the latter was hired into the band in 1968.
The Byrds: The Ultimate Music Guide
John Robinson, Editor
NME Networks, February 2022, 146 pp.
A well-designed special-edition magazine commemorating the Byrds via NME archived articles and new material. Great graphics and 100 photos.
By Bud Scoppa
Scholastic Book Services, 1971, 175 pp.
This book was written in 1971, but is still available via Kindle. It was written for middle school and high school rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts, so the information is very basic. Not recommended. Strictly for Byrds completists.
David Crosby provided only scant information about his tenure in the Byrds in his 1988 pseudo-autobiography, “Long Time Gone.” He was still coming to terms with being fired by McGuinn and Hillman 20-years after the fact. Most of the material in this book was culled word-for-word from interviews with Crosby’s former and then-current associates rather than being written by himself.
Byrds fans would love to see an autobiography from Roger McGuinn. One was once in the works, alternately titled “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and “A Byrd’s Eye View,” but McGuinn regrettably gave up on it.
Watch for a coffee table photo book, “The Byrds: 1964-1967,” scheduled to be released by BMG Publishing in October.