McGuinn pushes forward with hired hands (including a very talented guitarist)

It’s my first posting day of a new month, which means it’s time once again to take a break from theological discussions and return to our monthly review of albums by the Byrds.

Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde
The Byrds
Produced by Bob Johnston, Columbia Records, Released March 5, 1969, Length 34:25

By the time the Byrds’ sixth album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” was released on August 30, 1968, Gram Parsons had already left the band, prompting the hiring of talented country guitarist, Clarence White, who had done significant session work on the previous three Byrds albums. Shortly afterward, drummer Kevin Kelley was dismissed in favor of White’s former Nashville West bandmate, Gene Parsons. When Chris Hillman quit the Byrds in September 1968 to join Grams Parsons in the formation of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Roger McGuinn enlisted bassist John York to fill the hole.

McGuinn’s decision to continue the Byrds after the departure of Hillman, leaving him as the only remaining founding member, was somewhat understandable. The Byrds had built a solid legacy as one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s and McGuinn was reluctant to throw it all away. Plus, McGuinn felt obligated to fulfill the band’s contractual obligations. But several of the former-Byrds went on record saying McGuinn kept the band going strictly for the money. McGuinn has stated, in retrospect, that he wished he had folded the Byrds after Hillman’s departure.

McGuinn and his hired hands (McGuinn was the only member under contract to Columbia) recorded the seventh “Byrds” album at Columbia’s Hollywood Studio in October and December of 1968 under the direction of producer, Bob Johnston. Gary Usher had achieved tremendous results with the Byrds on their three previous albums, but when Usher was released from Columbia, McGuinn turned to Johnston who enjoyed a solid reputation after having produced both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

With the album title and graphics and the backcover photos featuring the band members peeling off space suits to reveal country outfits, the Byrds were announcing their intention to straddle modern rock/psychedelia with country, a combination the band had mastered in “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” but this album can largely be categorized as country rock, dominated by White’s virtuoso country pickin’. The Byrds later complained that Johnston’s finished recording was far too muddy with McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker often buried in the mix. But McGuinn’s Rick took a back seat to White’s Fender Telecaster after Notorious to the point where Roger essentially became the band’s rhythm guitarist to Clarence’s lead. “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde” is notable for being the only Byrds album in which McGuinn sings lead vocal on every song. York provides the high vocal harmonies, but he’s definitely not in the same league with David Crosby. Parsons’ drumming sounds awkward even to an untrained ear. John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas would later take McGuinn aside and tell him, “Your drummer can’t play 4/4 time. He can’t play rock ‘n’ roll, he can only play country.”

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Clarence White #41 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time and that’s a pretty solid distinction. Drummer Parsons was also a mechanical wizard and had modified White’s Telecaster with a B-bender, a device which utilizes the manipulation of the guitar shoulder strap to mechanically bend the B-string, producing a pedal steel guitar-like effect. Guitarists and enthusiasts were simply amazed at the sounds White was able to coax out of his Telecaster using the B-bender (Jimi Hendrix stated Clarence was one of his favorite guitarists), but for my taste Clarence goes way overboard with the gimmick. The two distinctive trademarks of the Byrds’ original sound, McGuinn’s jingle-jangle twelve string and pristine vocal harmonies, are largely missing on “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde” and the next four albums.

“Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde” was released on March 5, 1969 and sputtered at #153 on Billboard’s album chart, earning it the dubious distinction of being the Byrds’ lowest-charting album. The single, “Bad Night at the Whiskey”/”Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man,” was released on January 7, 1969, but failed to chart.

“Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde” has some fine moments, but this first effort of the McGuinn-White lineup dramatically pales in comparison to the albums of the McGuinn-Clark-Crosby-Hillman Byrds. McGuinn  commented years later, “I’m not too happy with (Dr. Byrds).”

Side One:

  • This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan, Danko) – Clarence switches from country pickin’ to soulful fuzz on this rocked-up, Dylan number, but confessed he wasn’t up to the task. “I felt I was faking it,” said Clarence of his efforts on the song. “‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done.”
  • Old Blue (Traditional) – Yech.
  • Your Gentle Way of Loving Me (Guilbeau, Paxton) – White and Parsons pay homage to their former Nashville West bandmate, Gib Guilbeau. Not a bad tune.
  • Child of the Universe (Grusin, McGuinn) – A more embellished version of this song was included in the soundtrack of the 1968 film farce, “Candy.” Co-writer Dave Grusin went on to a highly successful career as a soundtrack composer. I like this tune although it’s out of place on this album.
  • Nashville West (Parsons, White) – Instrumental features some tasty licks from Clarence, but the hooping and hollering at the end is over the top.

Side Two:

  • Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man (McGuinn, Gram Parsons) – McGuinn and the departed Gram Parsons penned this scathing smear of Nashville DJ, Ralph Emery, who had ridiculed the Sweetheart Byrds during their appearance on his WSM radio show the previous year. Sweetheart sessions alum, Lloyd Green, provides the pedal steel licks. Joan Baez and Jeffrey Shurtleff popularized the song with their rendition at Woodstock in 1969. Listen here.
  • King Apathy III (McGuinn) – Ho-hum.
  • Candy (McGuinn, York) – This was the second song written for the film, “Candy,” however this one didn’t make the soundtrack. Critics panned both of the “Candy” tunes, but I’m fond of them.
  • Bad Night at the Whiskey (McGuinn, Richards) – The best song on the album. Love that vocal sustain. Listen below.
  • Medley: My Back Pages/B.J. Blues/Baby What You Want Me To Do – (Dylan, McGuinn, York, Parsons, White, Reed) – York later stated the medley was included on the album to showcase the new lineup’s musical chops. Most listeners considered it as filler.

1997 CD Reissue Bonus Tracks:

  • Stanley’s Song (McGuinn, Hippard) – A less than mediocre outtake. Bob Hippard had also co-written C.T.A.-102.
  • This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan) – Snappier alternate version. Clarence stated he preferred this take.
  • Medley: My Back Pages/B.J. Blues/Baby What You Want Me To Do? (Dylan, McGuinn, York, Parsons, White, Reed) – Alternate version.

McGuinn and his ersatz Byrds reached an artistic nadir with “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.” Would this be the end of the band? Tune in next month to find out.


Gram Parsons hijacks the Byrds to Nashville

It’s the first day of the month, which means it’s time once again to take a break from theological discussions (somewhat) and return to our monthly review of albums by the Byrds and the band’s sixth release.

In perhaps one of the most unusual chapters in rock-and-roll history, a fading but still-influential rock band totally immersed itself in country music in…

Sweetheart of the Radio
The Byrds
Produced by Gary Usher, Columbia Records, Released August 30, 1968, Length: 32:35

After David Crosby (rhythm guitar) and Michael Clarke (drums) were dismissed during the recording of “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” the Byrds were down to the duo of Roger McGuinn (lead guitar) and Chris Hillman (bass). Kevin Kelley, Hillman’s cousin, was subsequently hired as the band’s new drummer and Gram Parsons was added as a keyboard player. McGuinn originally envisioned the Byrd’s next recording project as a concept double-album spanning the history of American music, from Appalachian folk to electronica, but Parsons, former leader of the pioneering country-rock group, the International Submarine Band, was interested only in recording a country album and found a willing ally in bluegrass and Buck Owens/Bakersfield enthusiast, Hillman. The Byrds had dabbled in country music in their previous four albums, mostly thanks to Hillman, but “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” would be a complete immersion.

“We hired a piano player and he turned out to be Parsons . . . a monster in sheep’s clothing. And he exploded out of this sheep’s clothing. It’s George Jones!” – Roger McGuinn in 1969

The Byrds and producer, Gary Usher, worked on “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” from March 9-15, 1968 in Columbia’s Nashville studios. Several notable session musicians participated in the recordings including John Hartford (fiddle, banjo), Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar), Earl P. Ball (piano), and Clarence White (guitar), who had also guested on the group’s two previous albums. Following their recording sessions, the Byrds made appearances in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry and on DJ Ralph Emery’s popular WSM radio show where the “hippie” musicians received rather cold receptions. Remember, folks, this was 1968 and “hippies” and “rednecks” did not mix.

The Byrds continued working on “Sweetheart” back in Columbia’s Hollywood studios from April 4 to May 27. Parson’s lead vocals were replaced on three songs by McGuinn and Hillman with the explanation that problems involving Parsons’ contract with his former record label forced the changes. However, Usher later revealed Parsons’s contractual problems had already been satisfactorily resolved and the decision to alter the vocals was made in order to rein in newcomer Parson’s disproportionate presence on the record.

Parsons left the band in July and would team with Hillman a few months later to form the influential country-rock band, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Following Parsons’ and Hillman’s departures, McGuinn would carry on the Byrds franchise with the help of hired hands until 1973, producing five more albums of uneven quality.

“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was released on August 30, 1968 and reached #77 on the album charts. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”/”Artificial Energy” was released as a single on April 2 and peaked at #75 followed by “I Am a Pilgrim”/”Pretty Boy Floyd,” which was released September 2 and failed to chart.

“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” is considered to be one of the very first country-rock albums, blazing the trail for a flurry of succeeding bands. For a major rock band to have taken such a monumental turn in 1968 was seen as both foolhardy and stunningly courageous. Both rock and country audiences rejected the pioneering album at the time, but it remains a seminal influence to this day. That a newcomer was able to exert so much influence on an established band is a testament to Parson’s determination to popularize country music as well as to McGuinn’s puzzling willingness to relinquish control of the Byrds. McGuinn’s chiming twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar, featured so prominently in the first five albums and the unmistakable signature of the Byrds’ sound, is almost entirely missing from “Sweetheart.”

Rolling Stone magazine selected “Sweetheart” as #117 on its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list released in 2003. Personally, I was not a fan of country music when I first listened to “Sweetheart” in the early seventies and it took many listens before I learned to appreciate Parsons’ “Cosmic American Music.”

Side One:

  • You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Dylan) – The Byrds reclaim their place as Dylan’s ablest interpreters as they borrow this unreleased song from his “Basement Tapes” recordings. A great leadoff song. McGuinn does a nice vocal with Lloyd Green playing some fine pedal steel and with Parsons on the organ. A Byrds classic. Listen below.
  • I Am a Pilgrim (Traditional) – It’s ironic that Hillman sings this plaintive Christian tune as he’ll profess to becoming a born-again Christian years later. That’s McGuinn on the banjo and John Hartford doing a nice job on the fiddle. Listen here.
  • The Christian Life (Louvin, Louvin) – Chicago-native McGuinn’s imitation of a Southern accent is the album’s low point. JayDee Maness shines on pedal steel and Clarence White delivers some tasty licks on guitar. One of the three tunes in which Parson’s lead vocals were erased. Listen here. It’s ironic that, while this song was done tongue-in-cheek, McGuinn would eventually accept Jesus Christ as his Savior nine years later in 1977. I remember both “I Am a Pilgrim” and “The Christian Life” making an unsettling impression on my long journey to Jesus.
  • You Don’t Miss Your Water (Bell) – The second song in which Parson’s vocals were erased in favor of McGuinn. Earl P. Ball handles the ivories while JayDee masterfully supplies the pedal steel licks.
  • You’re Still on My Mind (McDaniel) – Parsons sings lead with Ball playing some honky tonk piano and JayDee on pedal steel. Parsons later claimed that this recording and “Life in Prison” were strictly warm-up versions and should not have been included on the album.
  • Pretty Boy Floyd (Guthrie) – McGuinn takes a Woody Guthrie folk tune to Nashville. That’s Hartford on banjo and fiddle.

Side Two:

  • Hickory Wind (Parsons, Buchanan) – Parsons’ wistful tribute to his Southern roots is considered by many to be one of his best songs. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included “Hickory Wind” on it’s list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”
  • One Hundred Years From Now (Parsons) – McGuinn and Hillman replaced Parsons’ lead vocals. Lloyd Green handles the pedal steel while White adds some tasty guitar licks. The song is one of the few on the album that sounds like the pre-Sweetheart Byrds.
  • Blue Canadian Rockies (Walker) – Hillman sings a nice lead vocal with Parsons on piano.
  • Life in Prison (Haggard, Sanders) – Parsons sings lead accompanied by Ball’s honky tonk piano and JayDee’s pedal steel. Hillman later remarked that pampered rich kid, Parsons, was a “fish out of water” singing this prison song.
  • Nothing Was Delivered (Dylan) – The second Dylan tune on the album also came from the unreleased Basement Tapes. Very catchy chorus. Green provides some sweet steel. That’s Parsons on piano.

2003 Legacy Edition CD bonus tracks:

  • All I Have Are Memories (Kelley) – Outtake. Stick with the drums, Kevin.
  • You Got A Reputation (Hardin) – Outtake. Parsons sings lead on this rocking number. This song and “Lazy Days” had more of a rock feel and did not mesh with the traditional country material on the album.
  • Pretty Polly (Traditional) – Outtake. McGuinn’s arrangement of a traditional folk tune.
  • Lazy Days (Parsons) – Outtake. A version of this rocker will appear on the Flying Burrito Brother’s Burrito Deluxe.
  • The Christian Life (Louvin, Louvin) – This version includes the original Parsons vocals.
  • You Don’t Miss Your Water (Bell) – This version includes the original Parsons vocals.
  • One Hundred Years From Now (Parsons) – This version includes the original Parsons vocals.
  • Radio Advertisement

Also included in the 2003 Legacy Edition are six International Submarine Band tunes from their album, “Safe at Home,” considered to be the very first country-rock album, followed by fourteen rehearsal versions from the Sweetheart sessions. The material is somewhat interesting, but will appeal to only the most ardent Byrds fans.


Postscript: It was recently announced that McGuinn and Hillman were going to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Sweetheart” by performing the complete album on stage at The Egg, Center for the Performing Arts, Empire State Plaza, in Albany, New York in September with Marty Stuart, but the performance was subsequently cancelled.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers: The Byrds crumble, just as they peak

It’s time to take a break from theological discussions to return to our monthly review of albums by the Byrds and the band’s fifth release, the extraordinary…

The Notorious Byrd Brothers
The Byrds
Produced by Gary Usher, Columbia Records, Released January 15, 1968, Length 28:28

The Byrds were on the threshold of a major upheaval when they entered Columbia Studios in Hollywood on June 21, 1967 with producer Gary Usher to record their fifth album. Just a few days before, at their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17th, David Crosby (rhythm guitar) had alienated his bandmates with his controversial political comments from the stage and by helping out Buffalo Springfield with their set by filling in for an absent Neil Young.

During the sessions, tensions peaked when Crosby refused to participate in the recording of Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Goin’ Back,” which Crosby saw as an artistic regression in the same mold as “My Back Pages” on the band’s previous album, “Younger Than Yesterday.” As a result, Crosby was unceremoniously fired by bandmates, Roger McGuinn (lead guitar) and Chris Hillman (bass). Crosby had been difficult to work with since the band’s inception and his material was becoming increasingly too radical for AM Top 40 radio. Drummer Michael Clarke had left the Byrds of his own accord during recording, disillusioned with the direction the band was taking. With only half an album of material in the can at that point, McGuinn, Hillman, and Usher fleshed out the balance of “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” with amazing results. Former Byrd, Gene Clark, re-joined the band for a short spell of three weeks in the midst of the recording, but his contributions to the album remain unclear.

“The Notorious Byrd Brothers” was released on January 15, 1968 and reached to #47 on the U.S. album charts. The single, “Goin’ Back”/”Change Is Now,” was released on October 20, 1967 and peaked at #89. It’s ironic that, what many consider to be the finest of the band’s albums, had no Top 40 singles.

Despite the acrimonious recording sessions, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” is widely acknowledged as the band’s finest album. As in “Younger Than Yesterday,” the Byrds explored the musical genres of folk rock, jazz, psychedelia, and country. Usher overlapped the songs in the same manner as the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which gives the album a wonderful flow. Several highly regarded session players were brought in to augment the sound, including Clarence White, Red Rhodes, Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine. White’s country guitar pickin’ and Rhodes’ pedal steel guitar are prominent throughout the album and give it a noticeable country flavor. “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” was one of the first rock albums to feature the Moog synthesizer thanks to McGuinn’s fascination with the new technology. Usher relied heavily on studio experimentation to enhance the album’s psychedelic feel. At a total length of 28:28, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” is the shortest album in the group’s catalog. The album’s cover photograph, with Hillman, McGuinn, Clarke, and a horse peering through windows, has been widely interpreted as the band’s parting jab at Crosby (for an interesting article on the stone house featured on the cover photo, see here).

Over the years, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” has been held in high regard by critics and fans alike. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it as #171 on its “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. If I were limited to being able to listen to only one Byrds album, this would be it. In a 2013 interview, McGuinn stated, “In spite of all the strife that was going on with Crosby and everything, (Notorious) might be my favorite (Byrds album), the way it blends in from one track to another, and it’s got some sound effects in it. We kind of peaked at that point.”

Side One:

  • Artificial Energy (McGuinn, Hillman, Clarke) – By opening the album with this brass-driven oddity that’s totally out of place in the Byrds’ oeuvre, Usher was welcoming the listener to Notorious’ eclectic mix.
  • Goin’ Back (King, Goffin) – I share Crosby’s disdain for the saccharine lyrics and romper room ambience. Why were the Byrds recording Goffin-King material anyway? McGuinn hypothesized decades later that Usher and Columbia were fishing for a Top 40 hit.
  • Natural Harmony (Hillman) – Psychedelic rock at its very best. The studio effects are wonderful. Jim Gordon is a huge improvement over Clarke on drums. Listen here.
  • Draft Morning (Crosby, Hillman, McGuinn) – Hillman and McGuinn reworked this poignant Crosby anti-war song after he was fired. Special effect combat sounds were added by the Firesign Theatre. Crosby was incensed that Hillman and McGuinn had hijacked his composition.
  • Wasn’t Born To Follow (King, Goffin) – Country meets psychedelia. Was included as part of the soundtrack for the film, “Easy Rider” (1969).
  • Get To You (McGuinn, Hillman) – McGuinn later claimed this tune was actually co-written with Gene Clark rather than with Hillman. Another psychedelic trip. Many listeners were unable to decipher the chorus, “Oh, that’s a little better.” Hal Blaine expertly handles the drums. In a later interview, McGuinn said his main motivation in writing “Get To You” was to prove to the departed Crosby that he was also capable of writing a song in uneven jazz timing.

Side Two:

  • Change Is Now (Hillman, McGuinn) – Another excursion into countrified psychedelia. Usher puts together an otherworldly break featuring McGuinn’s Rickenbacker. Blaine is solid on drums and Rhodes adds just enough steel. Listen below.
  • Old John Robertson (Hillman, McGuinn) – This song already saw the light of day as the B-side of “Lady Friend,” but Usher added phasing to the orchestral bridge for this version. Clarence White supplies plenty of expert country picking.
  • Tribal Gathering (Crosby, Hillman) – A delightful, jazzy, 5/4-time Crosby composition about a hippie be-in. Jim Gordon is a remarkable contrast to Clarke on the drums. Listen here.
  • Dolphin’s Smile (Crosby, Hillman, McGuinn) – A lovely, Crosby tune with McGuinn providing Dolphin-like sounds on his Rickenbacker. The ocean would be a reoccurring theme in Crosby’s later work.
  • Space Odyssey (McGuinn, Hippard) – Paul Beever plays the Moog synthesizer on this space shanty salute to Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel,” which Stanley Kubrick will later adapt into “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

1997 CD Reissue Bonus Tracks:

  • Moog Raga (McGuinn) – Groovy, man.
  • Bound To Fall (Brewer, Mastin) – Instrumental. Hillman will later bring this tune to Manassas.
  • Triad (Crosby) – To Crosby’s great annoyance, McGuinn and Hillman refused to allow this eyebrow-raising, self-indulgent number on the album.
  • Goin’ Back (King, Goffin) – Alternate version. Crosby participated on this early take, but withdrew from subsequent sessions.
  • Draft Morning (Crosby, Hillman, McGuinn) – Alternate version.
  • Universal Mind Decoder (Hillman, McGuinn) – Change Is Now instrumental followed by album radio advertisement and in-studio argument primarily between David Crosby and Michael Clarke during the recording of “Dolphin’s Smile.” Fascinating. Is there anything more ironic than Crosby accusing Clarke of being egotistical?

Down to only two members, McGuinn and Hillman, would the band be able to sustain itself? Find out next month.

Younger Than Yesterday: An underappreciated work that would be recognized decades later

Let’s take a break from theological discussions to return to our monthly review of albums by the Byrds and the band’s fourth release, the extraordinary…

Younger Than Yesterday
The Byrds
Produced by Gary Usher, Columbia Records, Released February 6, 1967, Length 29:11

With their first two albums, “Mr. Tambourine Man” (June, 1965) and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (December, 1965), the Byrds introduced the world to a hybrid of Bob Dylan folk and Lennon & McCartney pop rock. Their following album, “Fifth Dimension” (1966), saw the Byrds continue with folk-rock, but also experiment with new musical styles including jazz-rock, Indian raga-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia. “Fifth Dimension” was a bit of a discordant mess, but proved to be a necessary step in the Byrds’ musical progression

On November 28, 1966, Jim McGuinn (lead guitar), David Crosby (rhythm guitar), Chris Hillman (bass), and Michael Clarke (drums) entered Columbia’s Hollywood studios to begin work on their fourth album, “Younger Than Yesterday.” Gary Usher was brought in as producer after working on ex-Byrd, Gene Clark’s solo debut, “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers.” Recording sessions for the new album concluded on December 8.

“Younger Than Yesterday” explored many of the same musical styles as “Fifth Dimension,” but the songwriting and performances are much more accomplished. The album is distinguished by Crosby’s emergence as the dominant artistic force in the band. Also, Chris Hillman contributes songs for the first time, including two country-influenced numbers that presage country-rock. McGuinn, such a force on the first three albums, takes a noticeable back seat here to Crosby and Hillman. Producer Usher used several recording techniques associated with psychedelic-rock including phasing and reverse tape effects.

“Younger Than Yesterday” was released on February 6, 1967 and peaked at #24 on the LP chart. The single, “So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star”/”Everybody’s Been Burned” was released on January 9, 1967 and peaked at #29. “My Back Pages”/”Renaissance Fair” was released March 13 and peaked at #30. “Have You Seen Her Face”/”Don’t Make Waves” was released May 22 and peaked at #74.

Critical and popular reception of “Younger Than Yesterday” at the time of its release was only lukewarm. Many rock listeners still equated the Byrds with the passé folk-rock sound of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn.” But “Younger Than Yesterday” has gained increasing recognition over the years as one of the very best rock albums of the 1960s. Rolling Stone selected it as #124 on its “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list published in 2003. In 2007, USA Today included “Younger Than Yesterday” as one of the 20 albums that defined 1967’s “Summer of Love.”

Side One:

  • So You Want To Be A Rock `N’ Roll Star (Hillman/McGuinn) – Hillman’s lively rip on the Monkees and other manufactured bands is fabulous. Hugh Masekela’s virtuoso trumpet accompaniment is the first brass used on a Byrds song (see video below). The sounds of screaming female teeny-bopper fans were recorded at an actual Byrds concert in England in 1965.
  • Have You Seen Her Face (Hillman) – Hillman does a nice Beatles imitation. Great chorus.
  • C.T.A. – 102 (McGuinn/Hippard) – McGuinn explores the space aliens theme again. I like this novelty song, full of amusing special effects, much more than “Mr. Spaceman.”
  • Renaissance Fair (Crosby/McGuinn) – Crosby’s beautifully layered ode to a hippy happening. Exquisite. Listen here.
  • Time Between (Hillman) – Hillman steers the Byrds down a country road. Clarence White provides some extremely tasty licks. Nice little tune that Hillman would keep in his repertoire for the next 50 years. Listen here.
  • Everybody’s Been Burned (Crosby) – McGuinn criticized this tune as Crosby’s lounge song, but it’s a stunner. Crosby’s velvet voice combined with Hillman’s rambling bass and McGuinn’s solo make this one of the very best Byrds songs. Written by Crosby prior to the formation of the Byrds. Listen here.

Side Two:

  • Thoughts and Words (Hillman) – A Beatles-like tune on acid with lots of backward guitar.
  • Mind Gardens (Crosby) – Crosby goes way over the top with this melody-less, self-indulgent number. But I still like it. Lots of backward guitar. Groovy, man.
  • My Back Pages (Dylan) – Crosby fought ferociously to keep this song off the album, insisting its anti-protest lyrics were a regression. The song had the distinction of being the Byrds’ last Top-40 single. Great McGuinn Rickenbacker solo that stuck in my head for years.
  • The Girl With No Name (Hillman) – Another of Hillman’s country excursions. That’s Clarence White once again adding some wonderful guitar licks. Girl Freiberg was an actual person.
  • Why (McGuinn/Crosby) – It’s hard to understand why Crosby insisted “Why” be included on the album. A gutsier version had already been released long before as the B-side of “Eight Miles High.”

The Sony Legacy CD reissue includes seven tracks not released on the original album:

  • It Happens Each Day (Crosby) – Crosby should have fought for the inclusion of this number instead of “Why.” Has a very pronounced Jefferson Airplane feel to it, an indication of who Crosby was hanging out with at the time.
  • Don’t Make Waves (McGuinn/Hillman) – Written for the soundtrack of the Tony Curtis/Claudia Cardinale movie by the same title. Embarrassing.
  • My Back Pages (Dylan) – Alternate version.
  • Mind Gardens (Crosby) – Alternate version. Simpler, gentler take.
  • Lady Friend (Crosby) – Recorded over several sessions in the spring of 1967. Crosby kicked the other Byrds out of the studio and recorded the multiple vocal tracks all by himself. Released as a single on July 13 with “Old John Robertson.” Peaked at #82.
  • Old John Robertson (McGuinn/Hillman) – A country song with strings in the bridge. A different version would appear on “The Notorious Byrd Brothers.” Clarence White adds some tasty country licks.
  • Mind Gardens (Crosby) – Some of the guitar parts as they were originally recorded prior to the backward tracking.


Next month: As the band disintegrates, they continue their creative crest.

Fifth Dimension: The Byrds awkwardly break out of the “folk rock” mold

Today, we’ll take a brief break from theological discussions as we revisit our monthly series reviewing all the Byrds’ albums. This time, we’ll take a look back at the group’s transitional third album…

Fifth Dimension
The Byrds
Produced by Allen Stanton, Columbia Records, Released July 18, 1966, Length 29:59

The Byrd’s first two albums, “Mr. Tambourine Man” (June, 1965) and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (December, 1965), pioneered the Los Angeles folk-rock sound and launched the Byrds to unusual success, but the band was not satisfied with resting on its laurels. The Byrd’s principal song-writing member, Gene Clark, freed the band from its “folk-rock” straight jacket with his iconic song, “Eight Miles High,” but abruptly quit the group in March of 1966. When the remaining quartet of Jim (later Roger) McGuinn (lead guitar), David Crosby (rhythm guitar), Chris Hillman (bass guitar), Michael Clarke (drums), and producer, Allen Stanton, entered Columbia’s recording studios in April, 1966, they would explore a variety of new musical styles – jazz rock, Indian raga rock (note the album cover photo with the band resting on an Oriental rug seemingly floating in space), psychedelia, and country rock – mainly at the instigation of Crosby. The resulting album, “Fifth Dimension,” was a diverse collection, confusing to both critics and fans alike who expected more of the same folk-rock genre that was the staple of the previous two albums. The absence of any Bob Dylan songs on this album was another sign the band was anxious to avoid any labels or formulas.

“Fifth Dimension” peaked at #24 on the U.S. charts. With Clark out of the picture, Crosby emerged as a creative force in the band, contributing songs and musical styles which stretched the comfort levels of his bandmates and Top 40 listeners. Clark’s absence also required Hillman to step up and contribute backing vocals for the first time. Due to its lack of cohesiveness and consistency, “Fifth Dimension” is considered by many to be the weakest of the group’s first five albums. With the exception of “Eight Miles High,” side two is definitely overpowered by the much stronger side one. But it was precisely because of their dramatic break from folk-rock to experimentation with new musical forms on “Fifth Dimension” that led to the Byrds’ finest efforts; “Younger Than Yesterday” and “The Notorious Byrd Brothers.”

Side One:

  • 5D (Fifth Dimension) – One of my favorite McGuinn-penned Byrds tunes with a couple of wonderful choral harmonies that build to a nice twelve-string and Hammond B-3 organ ( courtesy of Van Dyke Parks) crescendo. Released as a single and peaked at #44. Listen here.
  • Wild Mountain Thyme – A traditional folk tune that could have easily appeared on the first two albums. Stanton provides some very nice string arrangements which nicely complement McGuinn’s Rickenbacker.
  • Mr. Spaceman – A forgettable novelty song performed in a country style. McGuinn would go on to write several additional songs for the Byrds which contemplated space travel and alien life. Released as a single and peaked at #36.
  • I See You – A driving McGuinn/Crosby rocker with some of the same ragged Rickenbacker work used on “Eight Miles High.”
  • What’s Happening – Crosby steps out with this wonderfully innovative song with McGuinn doing a nice imitation of the sitar on his twelve-string (Crosby had inundated McGuinn with Indian sitar music by Ravi Shankar previous to these sessions). The first Byrds song written solely by Crosby. Listen here.
  • I Come And Stand At Every Door – An anti-war poem put to a traditional folk melody.

Side Two:

  • Eight Miles High – Released as a single on March 14, stalling at #14 on the Billboard chart. Gene Clark’s swan song, with contributions from McGuinn and Crosby. Credited as being the first psychedelic rock song. McGuinn does some trailblazing guitar work patterned after John Coltrane, especially from his song “India” from the “Impressions” album. Banned from many radio stations for its suspected glorification of drugs, “Eight Miles High” is considered by many rock critics to be one of the greatest singles of the 60s. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Eight Miles High” as song #151 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected “Eight Miles High” for its list of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.” Culture was changing so rapidly during this period that drugs would be openly referenced in rock songs only a year later.
  • Hey Joe – Crosby had previously explored the blues prior to the Byrds with “Jack of Diamonds” and “Brotherhood of the Blues.” The Byrds’ version pales in comparison next to Jimi Hendrix’s classic take. Crosby would later achieve success with a blues-style ballad with “Long Time Gone” on the album, “Crosby, Stills, and Nash.”
  • Captain Soul – The Byrds recorded this soul-inspired instrumental to placate drummer Clarke. Considered a throwaway by most fans. Some sources cite former-Byrd, Gene Clark, playing the harmonica while others credit Michael Clarke.
  • John Riley – Another traditional folk song that could have fit on “Mr. Tambourine Man” or “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Stanton added strings just as on “Wild Mountain Thyme.” An unremarkable recording.
  • 2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song) – A novelty song with sounds of a Lear jet crew preparing for takeoff mixed with a repetitious melody. Undoubtedly very cool at the time, but it doesn’t hold up at all fifty-two years later.

The Sony Legacy CD reissue includes six tracts not released on the original album:

  • Why – Released as the B-side of “Eight Miles High” with another version of the song included on the following album, “Younger Than Yesterday.” McGuinn gives a nice sitar-mimicking solo.
  • I Know My Rider – An unremarkable arrangement of a traditional blues song.
  • Psychodrama City – Crosby can’t resist a dig at the departed Clark.
  • Eight Miles High – The raw-sounding, December 1965, RCA Studios version. Thankfully, Columbia refused to release this less-polished attempt and insisted the Byrds re-record it.
  • Why – An unpolished version of the song recorded with “Eight Miles High” at RCA in 12/65.
  • John Riley – A jazzed-up instrumental of the John Riley melody.

At a time when 45 singles were still the bread and butter of the recording industry, the banning of “Eight Miles High” from radio play damaged the Byrds’ market appeal tremendously. The band certainly knew they were stirring up controversy by releasing a single with the word, “high,” in the title and lyrics, but evidently enthusiasm overrode business sense. I certainly don’t mean to glorify drug use or the rock and roll lifestyle with this or any of my other reviews of the Byrds’ albums. Four of the five original members struggled later in life with the debilitating effects of heavy substance abuse. If you stick with me, you’ll see that it all leads to a blessed ending for one of the band’s members.

Next month: The Byrds reach their creative peak as they fire on all cylinders.


George Harrison: Lost and without a shepherd

George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Directed by Martin Scorsese
HBO, 2011, 208 minutes, available on Netflix

I was driving to work this past week, listening to (c)hristian radio, and Greg Laurie (not recommended) mentioned he had recently watched “Living in the Material World,” a documentary about ex-Beatle, George Harrison, on Netflix. So I set aside some time to watch this 3.5 hour documentary.

My five older sisters were big fans of the Beatles and I grew up with their music playing constantly from the family phonograph from 1964 until 1970 when they disbanded. Harrison (1943-2001) was the shy, quiet Beatle who eventually embraced Hinduism (particularly the Hare Krishna sect) with a passion. See my earlier post on Harrison and his influential Hare Krishna song, “My Sweet Lord,” here.

Scorsese’s documentary is an interesting and entertaining look at Harrison’s journey. He was brought up in a Roman Catholic family (as was fellow-Beatle, Paul McCartney), but finding no fulfillment in that impersonal, ritualistic religion, he got mixed up in Eastern “spirituality” through the music of Ravi Shankar. Of course, he didn’t find any real fulfillment in Krishna Consciousness either and regularly fell back into substance abuse and marital infidelity. After having been run ragged by the Beatles’ celebrity steamroller, Harrison sought “spiritual peace” and meaning in all the wrong places.

I enjoyed the many archived photos and videos of the “Fab Four,” along with the interview clips from Harrison, Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, and Ringo Starr, along with many others.* But in the the end, this is a sad story of an unbeliever desperately trying to find spiritual meaning outside of Jesus Christ.

“I was brought up in the kind of Catholic situation up until I was about eleven years old, which was that God is this thing that we’re never going to see, we’re never going to meet, but you still have to believe in what we say. It’s like this blind faith in something that they can’t show you.” – George Harrison

The impersonal and ritualistic religion that Harrison grew up in was/is not Christianity. But you CAN know God through salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” – John 17:3

“When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-38

*I learned from this documentary that Harrison was a major financial backer of Monty Python, the British comedy ensemble. There are times when Christians can be overly dour and humorless, but I found the clips of Monty Python’s satire of Jesus’ crucifixion and a mocking reference to His sermon on the mount in this documentary to be repulsive. It’s understandable why ex-Catholic and passionate Hindu, Harrison, would have found this anti-Christian humor attractive. It’s also obvious why Monty Python never filmed a skit goofing on backer Harrison’s Hare Krishnas with their shaved-heads and saffron robes, chanting incessantly and begging for money at airports.

Chris Hillman: Country-rock pioneer

The Asylum Years (includes the previously released albums, “Slippin’ Away” and “Clear Sailin’”)
Chris Hillman
Omnivore Recordings, 2018, 1 h 15m

Readers of this blog know I was a fan of the folk-rock band, The Byrds, and I’ve recently embarked on a year-long project of reviewing all twelve of that band’s albums. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered the new CD re-release of founding-Byrd, Chris Hillman’s solo albums, “Slippin’ Away” and “Clear Sailin’” and I’ve been enjoying the tunes while pounding away on the keyboard at work this week. Hillman has had an interesting career and I thought I’d write a few words about him.

Nineteen-year-old mandolin picker, Chris Hillman, was bouncing around on the California bluegrass circuit when producer Jim Dickson drafted him as the bass player for the fledgling Byrds in 1964. The only problem was he had never played bass before. But Hillman was a quick study. By the group’s third album he was contributing vocals and by the fourth he was contributing songs. When Gram Parsons joined the group in 1968, he and Hillman hijacked the band down to Nashville to record the seminal country-rock album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Parsons soon split and Hillman followed, to co-found the influential but unprofitable Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969. After the Burritos landed in 1972, Hillman did stints as Stephen Still’s wingman in Manassas (1972-1973) and as one-third of the CS&N copycat, Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (1974-1975). SHF never amounted to much and the president of the label advised the trio to record solo albums instead, resulting in “Slippin’ Away” (1976) and “Clear Sailin’” (1977). Hillman then reunited with two of the other founding members of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, as the short-lived McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman (1979-1980).

Hillman claimed to have had a “born-again” experience* while in Manassas and participated in several small-label, Gospel themed albums following MC&H.  Throughout this long journey, Hillman was learning the music business and all of the skills needed to be the front man of his own group. In 1985, he put together The Desert Rose Band, which achieved much success in the country music category. In a span of ten years, the band recorded five albums and scored a remarkable eight top-ten country singles. After the DRB dissolved in 1994, Hillman released a number of enjoyable country and bluegrass albums, often in tandem with his former DRB partner, Herb Pedersen.

Chris Hillman is hardly a household name, but people in the recording business and knowledgeable fans are aware of his pioneering contribution to the country-rock category. Hillman, although never considered to be a virtuoso instrumentalist or vocalist, was still able to carve out a remarkable fifty-three-year career for himself via determination and perseverance, peaking with his ten-year stint as front man for The Desert Rose Band.

I owned both “Slippin’ Away” and “Clear Sailin’” when they were first released in the late-70s and I’ve really enjoyed reliving the moment with this re-release. “Slippin’ Away” is the better of the two. That album was produced by Ron and Howard Albert and features some heavyweight players including Steve Cropper, Donnie Dacus, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Jim Gordon, Russ Kunkel, Bernie Leadon, Al Perkins, Rick Roberts, Tim Schmit, and Lee Sklar. “Clear Sailin’” has many enjoyable moments as well, with backing from Richard Marx ( not THAT Richard Marx) and the defunct Loggins & Messina band. The twenty combined songs (fifteen were written or co-written by Hillman) are just some good, breezy California country-rock.

*Hillman claimed to have accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in the early 70s as a member of Manassas after hearing the witness of bandmate, Al Perkins. He said he walked away from the Lord for a long period, but became serious about his faith again in the early 80s. However, he states that he eventually grew uncomfortable with evangelicalism and joined his wife’s Greek Orthodox religion with its heavy liturgicalism and sacramentalism. See here. It’s impossible to imagine a person who had genuinely accepted Christ as Savior by faith alone returning to the chains of religious works righteousness and legalism.

Below: The video for “Summer Wind,” a #2 single for Chris Hillman and the Desert Rose Band in 1988.

Turn! Turn! Turn!: Folk Rock 102

We’ll take a short break from theological discussions as we take a trip back to 1965 and the release of The Byrds second album…

Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds
Produced by Terry Melcher
Columbia Records, Released December 6, 1965, Length 30:24

Following the dramatic success of their debut album, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Byrds returned to Columbia’s Studio A on June 28, 1965 to begin work on their next single and sophomore album. Sessions continued on and off through November 1st. Jim (later Roger) McGuinn (lead guitar and vocals), Gene Clark (vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar and vocals), Chris Hillman (bass), and Michael Clarke (drums) once again teamed with Columbia staff producer, Terry Melcher.

The single, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” including B-side, Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time,” was released on October 1st and reached #1 on the national singles charts. The album, “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” was released on December 6 and charted at #17. The second single, “Set You Free This Time”/”It Won’t Be Wrong” was released on January 10, 1966 and peaked at #63.

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a worthy follow-up to “Mr. Tambourine Man” and mirrored the folk-rock style of its predecessor to a tee. However, because subsequent albums were so radically innovative, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” has often been viewed as a slightly disappointing carbon copy of the band’s debut. In a 2004 interview, McGuinn remarked that the last four songs on the album were subpar and that “Satisfied Mind” should not have been included.

Side One:

  • Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) – The Byrds rock up Pete Seeger’s adaptation of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. A lovely, gentle protest song that joins “Mr. Tambourine Man” as the Byrds’ two signature pieces. It’s extremely hard to believe but “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was not included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list released in 2004. In her 2016 autobiography, McGuinn’s ex-wife, Ianthe/Dolores DeLeon Tickner, claimed that it was her suggestion that the band record this tune, which McGuinn had previously arranged for Judy Collins on her 1963 album, “Judy Collins 3.” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was the first song by the Byrds that had a religious connection. Many more would follow.
  • It Won’t Be Wrong – McGuinn does a nice Beatles imitation.
  • Set You Free This Time – Gene Clark’s moody and wordy love lament. Excellent. One of Gene’s best songs. Despite his basic education and his disinterest in reading, Clark was a remarkably talented lyricist.
  • Lay Down Your Weary Tune – A sleepy Dylan number.
  • He Was A Friend Of Mine – McGuinn adapted this traditional number into an ode to John F. Kennedy.

Side Two:

  • The World Turns All Around Her – Another Gene Clark breakup song. Pretty catchy. Crosby’s high vocal harmony, here and elsewhere, is remarkable.
  • Satisfied Mind – The Byrds experiment with country at a time when few rock bands were brave enough to venture into “redneck” musical territory. Chris Hillman, whose roots were in the Bakersfield country and bluegrass music scene, suggested this one. An early sign of things to come.
  • If You’re Gone – An insecure Gene Clark fears the loss of his sweetheart. Wonderful tune. The vocal drone adds something special.
  • The Times They Are A-Changing – A popular Dylan protest song. Was considered for release as a single. McGuinn later said the Byrds felt pressured during the recording of this song due to the Beatles visiting the studio session.
  • Wait And See – A weak McGuinn and Crosby rocker.
  • Oh! Susannah – Just like their first album, The Byrds close “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with this tongue-in-cheek recording of a traditional song.

The following album outtakes were included in the 1996 CD reissue:

  • The Day Walk (Never Before) – Clark’s song is only so-so.
  • She Don’t Care About Time (Single Version) – A lovely Clark number that should have been included on the album instead of “Oh! Susannah.” The B-Side of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” McGuinn was especially proud of his guitar break using Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
  • The Times They Are A-Changing (Earlier Version)
  • It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – A Dylan tune that was considered for release as a single.
  • She Don’t Care About Time (Earlier Version) – The beat is more pronounced on this version.
  • The World Turns All Around Her (Alternate Version)
  • Stranger In A Strange Land – Instrumental written by Crosby. Very catchy. Presaged Crosby’s work in “Fifth Dimension.”

Tensions were developing within the band at the time of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” with increasing resentment over the preponderance of Gene Clark songs being recorded. Crosby was especially frustrated that the songs he was bringing to the group weren’t being considered. Disagreements over artistic direction and the discrepancy in songwriting contributions (and remuneration) fueled the original lineup’s exceptional recorded output, but ultimately led to its eventual disintegration.


Postscript: A rock and roll band achieving chart-topping success with a song based on a passage from the Bible? How unusual! More than a few people were jarred by this improbability. The remarkable story of the Byrds is also the story of McGuinn’s long “journey” to Jesus Christ. Join me next month as the Byrds weather their first personnel shakeup and deliberately break out of the “folk rock” category with their transitional third album, “Fifth Dimension.”

Mr. Tambourine Man: The Byrds take flyte and Dylan and the Beatles take notice

As you know, this blog deals mainly with theological issues, but I do take occasional “non-theology” breaks now and then. Last year, I reviewed all nineteen of director, Elia Kazan’s films. This year, I’m going to focus on the influential rock band, The Byrds. I’ll be writing a monthly review of one of the band’s twelve albums, beginning today with their amazing debut. But be careful, I may slip in a theological point here and there because, well, the Lord is Lord of all. P.S. Future reviews won’t include as much biographical information and will be much, much shorter.

Mr. Tambourine Man
The Byrds
Produced by Terry Melcher, Columbia Records, June 21, 1965

In 1964, folk musicians, Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby individually saw the rising tide of Beatlemania and rock and roll and concluded, “the times, they are a changin’.” The trio joined forces at the Troubador Club in Los Angeles, drawn together by their common interest in creating a synthesis of folk and pop rock; in essence, combining Bob Dylan with John Lennon. The group worked on honing their unique sound for the balance of the year at World Pacific Studios under the tutelage of Svengali manager and producer, Jim Dickson. Chris Hillman (bass) and Michael Clarke (drums) were brought in to augment McGuinn on lead guitar and Crosby on rhythm guitar. Vocals were handled by McGuinn, Clark, and Crosby. The Byrds were born. Dickson had some connections to Dylan, which resulted in the group rehearsing his yet-unreleased “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Through the efforts of Dickson and with the help of Miles Davis, the Byrds were offered a contract from Columbia Records.

The Byrds entered Columbia’s Studio A in Hollywood on January 20, 1965 to record “Mr. Tambourine Man” and B-side, “I Knew I’d Want You” (by Gene Clark). Producer Terry Melcher (son of actress, Doris Day) allowed only McGuinn to play on the two tracks, relying on the “Wrecking Crew,” veteran session musicians, to fill out the instrumental backing. The rest of the songs on the “Mr. Tambourine” album were recorded from March 8 to April 22 with the band members playing the instruments.

“Mr. Tambourine Man,” the single, was released on April 12, 1965 and by June had become the #1 charting song in the U.S. Another single, “All I Really Want To Do,” with B-Side, “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” was released on June 14, but only peaked at #40 on the charts. The album was released on June 21 and peaked at #6.

Side One:

  • Mr. Tambourine Man – One of the most influential singles of the 60s; the marriage of folk and pop rock. The famous Wrecking Crew session players backed McGuinn. Rolling Stone voted the Byrds’ single version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” as song #79 on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list released in 2004.
  • I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better – Gene Clark makes the best of a romantic breakup. One of his best songs. Selected as #237 on Rolling Stones’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.
  • Spanish Harlem Incident – Another Bob Dylan tune. Nothing special.
  • You Won’t Have To Cry – Clark’s and McGuinn’s simple, Beatle-ish love song.
  • Here Without You – A great Gene Clark tune.
  • The Bells of Rhymney – The Byrds take a Scottish folk song, made famous by Pete Seeger, and rock it up. Fabulous! George Harrison borrowed the lead guitar riff for his “If I Needed Someone.”

Side Two:

  • All I Really Want To Do – Another Dylan tune. Sonny and Cher heard The Byrds do this one live and beat them to the punch by releasing their popular (#15 on the singles chart) version first.
  • I Knew I’d Want You – Another wonderful Gene Clark love song.
  • It’s No Use – Clark and McGuinn wrote this driving rocker which presages the Byrd’s “Fifth Dimension” album.
  • Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe – The Byrds pay homage to early supporter, Jackie DeShannon.
  • Chimes of Freedom – A Dylan protest song is transformed into a classic Byrds folk-rock tune.
  • We’ll Meet Again – The Byrds end the album with tongue in cheek with this British WWII song that was featured in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). The Byrds will continue to feature a novelty song at the end of their next several albums.

The following album outtakes were included in the 1996 CD reissue:

  • She Has A Way – A lovely Gene Clark tune. Too bad it didn’t make the original album in place of “We’ll Meet Again.”
  • I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better – Less polished, earlier version. Gene’s vocal is more pronounced.
  • It’s No Use – Earlier, alternate version.
  • You Won’t Have To Cry – Earlier, alternate version.
  • All I Really Want To Do – Single version.
  • You and Me – Funky instrumental credited to McGuinn, Clark, and Crosby.

From the beginning of 1964, American rock music listeners had wondered when a domestic band would rise to the challenge of the “British Invasion” (The Beatles, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Peter and Gordon, The Yardbirds, The Zombies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, etc.). “Mr. Tambourine Man” was the first noteworthy American response to the eighteen-month British domination of the pop charts. Reaction to The Byrds was immediate. Critics labeled the innovative new sound as “folk-rock.” The chiming, jingle-jangle sound of McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker combined with the soaring choir-like harmonies of McGuinn, Clark, and Crosby became The Byrds’ trademarks. Also, the adult-oriented lyrics of The Byrds’ songs were in stark contrast to the teenybopper-themed material from the other rock and roll bands of the day, including the Beatles. At a time when rock albums were usually comprised of a hit single surrounded by weak filler, this album was solid from start to finish. “Mr. Tambourine Man” directly influenced the future work of Dylan and the Beatles and spawned a myriad of imitators. By elevating rock and roll from high schoolers’ malt shops to college dormitories, The Byrds ensured rock music would be the soundtrack of the rising youth counterculture. There are only a handful of rock albums from 1965 that are worth listening to now and “Mr. Tambourine Man” is one of them. Rolling Stone magazine voted “Mr Tambourine Man” #232 on its “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” list released in 2003.

The Byrds recorded a total of twelve albums from 1965 to 1973 and were often at the forefront of new musical styles including jazz rock, raga rock, psychedelic rock, and country rock. Four of those albums were included in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” list: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Younger Than Yesterday” (#124), “The Notorious Byrds Brothers” (#171), and “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (#117). Even the compilation, “The Byrd’s Greatest Hits,” made the list at #178. No other American rock and roll band from the 1960’s approaches that level of recognition. Rolling Stone also selected The Byrds as artist #45 in its “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time” list, released in 2008. In addition, Rolling Stone chose Roger McGuinn as #95 on its 2011 list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time.”

Band members dropped out (or were fired) and were replaced over the years with McGuinn being the only constant. Former Byrds went on to enjoy significant and influential careers as soloists or members of other bands, but the original Byrds will always be remembered for their pioneering accomplishments. The five founding members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 in their first year of eligibility. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also included three Byrds recordings on its “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll”: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Eight Miles High,” and “Hickory Wind.”

Gene Clark (d. 1991) and Michael Clarke (d. 1993) died many years ago, but the remaining founders, McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman, have not reunited in 28 years, even for the band’s 50th anniversary in 2015, because of spiritual reasons. More on that in a future review.

Postscript: In a 1997 interview, Roger McGuinn shared an amazing insight into “Mr. Tambourine Man”:  “Underneath the lyrics to ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ regardless of what Dylan meant, I was turning it into a prayer. I was singing to God and I was saying that God was the Tambourine Man and I was saying to him, ‘Hey God, take me for a trip and I’ll follow you.'” After years of living the reckless and hedonistic rock and roll lifestyle, McGuinn accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1977.

Final words

No, not MY final words! David Cassidy’s!

If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, the news of the death of David Cassidy at the age of 67 on November 21st may have struck a chord with you.

Cassidy was a cast member of “The Partridge Family” television show, which ran on ABC from 1970 to 1974 and featured Shirley Jones, Cassidy, Susan Dey, and Danny Bonaduce as a single mother and her children trying to make it as a rock and roll band.

The show was pretty successful, although I would have never admitted to watching it. The music was strictly for teeny-boppers while I saw myself as a cool teen by that time who only listened to FM rock. Truth be told, I may have watched “just a few” episodes, if no one was around, to check out actress, Susan Dey. I thought it was a bit strange that Keith Partridge (Cassidy) obviously spent more time on his hairdoo than his sister, Laurie (Dey).

The show launched Cassidy into the entertainment stratosphere with every pre-teen girl in the country falling in love with him. But Cassidy could never shake his television character persona. Try as he might to escape it, Cassidy would always be Keith Partridge to his fans. The dictionary featured a photo of Cassidy next to the word, “typecast.” David kept singing in small venues right up until the end of his life, but the one song his fans showed up for was the Partridges’ #1 hit, “I Think I Love You.” Cassidy descended into drugs and alcohol to cope with his bitter disappointment and frustration.

Following the news of Cassidy’s death, I saw the story below in which Danny Bonaduce had some comments regarding his former co-star. On Cassidy’s frustration with his career, Bonaduce said, “He never did get the life he wanted. It really was a tragedy…And I heard his last words were, ‘So much wasted time.'”


Those are some SAD last words. Of all the countless millions of people who ever picked up a microphone or guitar, probably 99.9% of them wished they had a fraction of the worldly success that Cassidy did, but it didn’t bring him fulfillment. This life is full of personal accomplishments and failures, but in the end they don’t matter for much. The only hope in this life is Jesus Christ. I accepted the Lord thirty-four years ago and my hope is in Him. When I’m laying on my death bed, unless the Lord chooses another exit ramp for me, my last words will be, “Take me home, Lord Jesus! Thank you, Lord Jesus!” What a blessed Hope believers have!!! The unsaved have no Shepherd to cling to through the valley of death.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” – Psalm 116:15

Danny Bonaduce on ‘Partridge Family’ Pal David Cassidy: “He Never Did Get the Life He Wanted”