The Byrds: The Ultimate Music Guide

Yup, last week we certainly did finish up our six-month-long Wednesdays series on the Byrds’ Top 25 Songs, and I actually didn’t have a post scheduled for today, until this gem showed up at our local Barnes and Noble.

The Byrds: The Ultimate Music Guide
John Robinson, Editor
NME Networks, February 2022, 146 pp.

5 Stars

I periodically scan the internet for news of the Byrds and in early-February I saw that Uncut/NME Networks out of the U.K. had published an “Ultimate Music Guide” special edition magazine devoted to the Byrds. I asked the person who coordinates the periodical section at our local Barnes and Noble when they would be getting the magazine. Disappointingly, she said had no clue and no way to find out. I visited the store every week for two months and was delighted to finally find the guide on display when I visited on my way home from work this past Sunday.

The magazine includes two-page reviews of each the Byrds’ twelve albums interspersed with articles from the NME archives as well as new material. The articles are listed below, using my own brief descriptions:

  • The fledgling Byrds tour England – August 2-19, 1965 – with disappointing results
  • The daring experimentation of “Eight Miles High”
  • Gene Clark quits the Byrds
  • Gene Clark solo discography
  • David Crosby is fired from the Byrds
  • David Crosby solo discography
  • Gram Parsons, the early years
  • The Byrds go to Nashville and pioneer country-rock
  • Thoughts on the McGuinn-White Byrds
  • More thoughts on the McGuinn-White Byrds
  • Final thoughts on the McGuinn-White Byrds
  • Roger McGuinn solo discography
  • Thoughts on Gram Parsons
  • More thoughts on Gram Parsons
  • Gram Parsons non-Byrds discography
  • Chris Hillman selected discography
  • The uncertain futures of Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman prior to the formation of McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman
  • Clarence White selected discography
  • Spotlight on Clarence White
  • Byrds compilations and live albums
  • The Byrds’ 20 Greatest Tracks*
  • Miscellany, including very brief hat-tips to mynah birds, er, I mean minor Byrds, Michael Clarke, Kevin Kelley, Skip Battin, Gene Parsons, and John York

NME did a great job on this well-designed, special-edition magazine devoted to the Byrds. There are 100 photographs and many additional colorful graphics (e.g., album covers, concert bills, etc.). This isn’t a chronological history of the band. For that, fans should check out “Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1” (2011) by Johnny Rogan. This guide is rather a collection of “snapshot” vignettes of the Byrds as the band progressed and ultimately dissolved. The only drawback is the flowery/hipster prose of the U.K. music press, especially articles written in the 1960s.

*I thought it might be interesting for readers to compare Uncut/NME’s somewhat misguided selection of the Byrds’ top 20 tunes with my ranking (see here). Songs that made my list are in bold type with my ranking # in parentheses. Any Byrds’ songs ranking that has the novelty tune, “Mr. Spaceman,” at #9 and the disastrous “Lady Friend” at #12 can’t be taken seriously. The maudlin and hook-less “Hickory Wind” is on their list at #6 because of the alt-country fawning over mythological hero, Gram Parsons.

20. Ballad of Easy Rider
19. If You’re Gone (16)
18. Wild Mountain Thyme
17. Why
16. Dolphin’s Smile
15. Everybody’s Been Burned (9)
14. Triad
13. Tribal Gathering (8)
12. Lady Friend
11. Wasn’t Born to Follow
10. My Back Pages (15)
9. Mr. Spaceman
8. Draft Morning
7. I’ll Feel A Whole lot Better (12)
6. Hickory Wind
5. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (7)
4. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star (2)
3. Turn! Turn! Turn! (3)
2. Mr. Tambourine Man (4)
1. Eight Miles High (1)

25 thoughts on “The Byrds: The Ultimate Music Guide

  1. Wow you guys got warm weather! It started out here today at 55; but its low 70s now. Hope you enjoy your time sitting outside with your wife! I imagine it is tiring doing all the yard work! Will read this after lunch!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Disgusting. Never again. What’s for lunch today?

        This morning, I visited the two Polish delis in town as planned and picked up some goodies, fodder for a post for next week.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: raced through this book rather quickly
      Lol. I definitely raced through it! I purchased it this past Sunday evening on my way home from work and finished it Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t learn much in the way of new information, although I did learn a couple of the latter-day Byrds got their start at a country-western club in your neck of the woods on Valley Boulevard. The building is no longer standing according to Google Earth.


      1. RE: my Byrds nerdom
        Lol. Thank you kindly. You might be the only person I know who understands the burdens I must bear at my B-501 level of Byrds hyper-nerdiocity.🤓 As I was reading the magazine, I was picking out the factual errors one by one. Somebody has to do it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not a ton of errors, just a few chronologies out of sequence and some photo caption errors. There’s probably a few 30-somethings that worked on this project and 1965 must seem like ancient history to them.

        Liked by 1 person

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