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

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.

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.”

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”

The Byrds in minute detail

Today, I’m taking a break from theological matters, but believers know that all things lead back to Christ.

Byrds: Requiem For The Timeless: Volume 2
By Johnny Rogan
R/H Publishing, 2017, 1248 pages

When my oldest sister came back home from college for the “holidays” in 1969, she brought her small LP collection with her. I took a listen to one of the albums, the one with three hippies sitting on a dilapidated couch on the cover, and became an instant fan of “Crosby, Stills, and Nash.” Being the Asperger’s nerd that I am, I wasn’t content with just casually enjoying the group’s music, I had to immerse myself in it, which meant delving into two of the trio’s previous bands; Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds.

The Byrds came to be in 1964 when young folk musicians, Jim McGuinn (lead guitar and vocals), Gene Clark (vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar and vocals), Chris Hillman (bass), and Michael Clarke (drums) caught the excitement of Beatlemania and charted a new course somewhere between Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Folk rock was born. This was significant because, up to that time, rock and roll music was considered to be strictly for teeny-boppers and beneath the dignity of “intellectual” college students. By adding a rock beat to folk sensibilities, the Byrds bridged the gap between rock and folk (strongly influencing both Dylan and the Beatles) and ensured rock music would be the soundtrack of the growing youth counter culture movement.

The Byrds peaked in 1965-1966 with two number-one singles, “Mr. Tamborine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” but the group actually enjoyed a long (1965-1973) and prolific (twelve albums) run. Although they’d become largely passé in the minds of fickle audiences by 1967, the Byrds continued to blaze trails by introducing different musical genres into rock, including jazz, Indian raga, psychedelia, and country. That kind of pioneering legacy encouraged a solid following that continues today.

By 1968, Jim/Roger McGuinn was the only remaining original member. Hired hands came and went. The band continued to tour and record albums, but the output was incomparable to that of the original line-up.

Byrds aficionado, Johnny Rogan, detailed much of the Byrds’ history in the 1200-page tome, “Byrds: Requiem For The Timeless: Volume 1, which was published in 2012. A 1200-page book about a rock-and-roll band, you ask incredulously? Ah, it was a feast for fans, but quite a bit of emphasis was given to best-known members, Messrs. McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman as might be expected.

In this 1248-page follow-up, Rogan devotes individual chapters to the remaining charter members, Gene Clark (d. 1991) and Michael Clarke (d. 1993), as well as to hired-hands, Kevin Kelley (d. 2002), Gram Parsons (d. 1973), Clarence White (d. 1973), and Skip Battin (d. 2003). All six of these men are deceased; the deaths of the first four were directly attributable to drug and alcohol abuse while White was killed in an accident and Battin succumbed to Alzheimer’s, but those two were also more-than-casual users.

Because the abuse of drugs and alcohol was a common theme among all six men, their stories are similar in many respects. Their professional and personal lives suffered dearly. Relationships with their wives and children were sadly broken. These men were talented musicians and Clark, Parsons, and White especially still have enthusiastic followers, but much of their talent went unfulfilled.

Rogan regrets that he was not able to devote chapters to the two surviving hired-hands, John York and Gene Parsons, so this book unfortunately has a glaring deficiency. Maybe Rogan should have trimmed some of the excessively detailed descriptions of the drug habits of the six and squeezed in York and Parsons? Just sayin’.

Nobody but a true Byrds fan would enjoy this gigantic opus so you may want to think twice before you head over to Amazon.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The Byrds included many Gospel-themed songs in their recorded repertoire and that had an unsettling effect on me as an unbeliever. Band leader, Roger McGuinn, hit rock bottom with his drug use in 1977 and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. “Oh, no,” I thought. “McGuinn has become one of those born-agains.” I accepted Christ six years later.

Tom Petty and “Playing Dumb” in the Catholic church


Overshadowed by the horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas last Sunday evening was the news of the death of popular rock and roller, Tom Petty, on Monday.

Petty started out as a big fan of The Byrds. His second single, “American Girl,” sounded so Byrds-ish that when it hit the airwaves in 1977, Roger McGuinn, former leader of the Byrds, scratched his head and wondered when HE had recorded the song. Petty would go on to record a total of 16 albums (with the Heartbreakers and solo) that sold over 20 million total copies.

From all that I can tell, Tom Petty was an atheist. But on his 2014 album, “Hypnotic Eye,” he included a song called “Playing Dumb,” a scathing indictment of the Catholic church and it’s “handling” of the pedophile priest scandal and hierarchical cover-up. The video is actually worth a listen and a watch (lyrics and graphics included). If nothing else, it’s a good example of how an atheist views corrupt, institutional (c)hristianity.

Yup, man-made religion will ALWAYS let people down. It’s not the way to salvation. People need to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior! He will NEVER let you down.

♫ “When I walk through the storm, You’ll be my guide” ♫


One of my favorite songs growing up in the 1960s was “I’ll Never Find Another You” by Australian folk quartet, The Seekers, which was released at the end of 1964 and peaked at #4 on the U.S. singles charts. Lead singer, Judith Durham, could really belt out a tune. I know I sound like an old coot when I say this, but they just don’t make music like this anymore.

At first take, most would interpret the tune strictly as a romantic love song, but there’s also a spiritual dimension and I now like to think of this as a song of love for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The only qualifier is, I know I will never lose His love. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean. It really tugs at my heartstrings. Thank you, Jesus.

I’ll Never Find Another You
Written by Tom Springfield

There’s a new world somewhere
They call the promised land
And I’ll be there someday
If you could hold my hand
I still need you there beside me
No matter what I do
For I know I’ll never find another you

There is always someone
For each of us, they say
And you’ll be my someone
Forever and a day
I could search the whole world over
Until my life is through
But I know I’ll never find another you

It’s a long, long journey
So stay by my side
When I walk through the storm
You’ll be my guide, be my guide
If they gave me a fortune
My pleasure would be small
I could lose it all tomorrow
And never mind at all
But if I should lose your love, dear
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you

But if I should lose your love, dear
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you
Another you, another you

Question: When George Harrison was singing, “My Sweet Lord,” who was he singing to?

Answer: No one

Yesterday, I wrote about the Hindu god, Ganesha, being worshiped in a Roman Catholic church. See here. Really strange stuff. That got me to thinking a bit more about Hinduism.

Readers of this blog know I was a big fan of The Byrds rock and roll band way back in the day. They were a pretty innovative bunch and explored many musical styles. One of the band’s members, David Crosby, was a big fan of Indian sitar player, Ravi Shankar. This was before Shankar got a lot of recognition at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Crosby would constantly play Shankar’s albums to bandmate, Roger McGuinn, which influenced the lead guitarist to attempt to mimic the drone of the sitar on his twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar on several songs featured on the band’s third album, “Fifth Dimension” (1966).

Crosby had also shared his enthusiasm for Shankar with Beatles guitarist, George Harrison. To say Harrison became infatuated with the sitar and Hinduism would be an understatement. Harrison introduced the sitar to rock and roll audiences with “Norwegian Wood” (from “Rubber Soul,” 1965), “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” (from “Revolver,” 1966), and “Within You, Without You” (from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 1967). Harrison was indoctrinated deeply into Hinduism by Maharishi (“great seer”) Mahesh Yogi and subsequently embraced the Hare Krishna sect. Literally hundreds of millions of Westerners were introduced to Hinduism and Eastern religions through the music of one person, George Harrison.

Perhaps Harrison’s most famous ode to his new religion was the song, “My Sweet Lord” (from “All Things Must Pass,” 1970). If you’re a Baby Boomer then you know the melody and words of this one pretty well, but I’m guessing many of the lyrics sung in the background went right over your head as they did mine.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics of the last half of the song, with the backing vocals in commas, accompanied by reference numbers that link to notes further below. Got all that? It’s actually pretty simple once you see how I have it laid out. Okay, here we go…

Hm, my lord (hare Krishna) – 1
My, my, my lord (hare Krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet lord (Krishna, Krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (hare, hare)

Now, I really want to see you (hare Rama) – 2
Really want to be with you (hare Rama)
Really want to see you lord (aaah)
But it takes so long, my lord (hallelujah)

Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
My, my, my lord (hare Krishna)
My sweet lord (hare Krishna)
My sweet lord (Krishna, Krishna)
My lord (hare, hare)
Hm, hm (Guru Brahman) – 3
Hm, hm (Guru Vishnu) – 4
Hm, hm (Guru Devo) – 5
Hm, hm (Maheshwara) – 5
My sweet lord (Guru Saakshaat) – 6
My sweet lord (Parabrahma) – 6
My, my, my lord (Tasmai Sri) – 7
My, my, my, my lord (Gurave Namah) – 7
My sweet lord (hare Rama)

Those are a lot of really strange words you’ve been humming along to all these years, right? But guess what? You’re about to find out what all those strange words mean, thanks to the internet and a little perseverance!

  1. Hare Krishna – Is an appeal/prayer to the supreme energy (hare) of the Hindu god, Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the god, Vishnu, and also a supreme god in his own right.
  2. Hare Rama – Is an appeal/prayer to the supreme energy (hare) of the god, Rama, the seventh incarnation of the same Vishnu mentioned above. My, so many different incarnations to keep track of!
  3. Guru Brahman – (gu-ru, literally means “darkness remover,” i.e., teacher) – the teacher/creator god.
  4. Guru Vishnu – the teacher/preserver god.
  5. Guru Devo Maheshwara (also known as Shiva) – the teacher/force of destruction or transformation god. Brahman, Vishnu, and Devo (Shiva) mentioned above are the “Trimurti” or triad of Hinduism’s major gods.
  6. Guru Saakshaat Parabrahma – the incarnation of the supreme god.
  7. Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah – means, “Teacher god, I bow to you from my soul.”

Notice that Harrison alternated the “hallelujah” familiar to Christians and “hare Krishna” throughout the song. That was no accident. In his autobiography, Harrison stated that his intention was to convey to the listeners that the two terms meant “quite the same thing,” as well as prompting them to chant the Hindu mantra “before they knew what was going on!” “My Sweet Lord” climbed to #1 on the U.S. singles charts in December 1970 and remained there for four weeks. Millions of teeny boppers and young adults all over the world were moved to chant “Hare Krishna” over and over again along with the song.

Anybody remember all those bald-headed Hare Krishna dudes in saffron robes who used to hang out at airports asking for money? One evening back in the late 70s, I was coming out of a Lum’s restaurant (remember the Ollie Burger?) and a young Hare Krishna member wearing a woman’s wig and an army surplus jacket tried to recruit me. He kept bringing up George Harrison’s connection to the sect as a selling point, but I didn’t want anything to do with shaving my head and wearing those saffron robes. I’m glad I didn’t fall for that stuff, but I was already on my journey to accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior a few years later.

Hinduism has certainly gone mainstream with all those Deepak Chopra books, yoga, transcendental meditation, the growing popularity of reincarnation, and the belief in karma. Can you think of any other examples?

They say there’s 300 million Hindu gods so you would need a computer to keep track of them all. But the bottom line for Hinduism is it’s another works religion just like all the rest of them (including apostate Roman Catholicism). Only Biblical Christianity proclaims the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Salvation is found in no one else (besides Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

What are the beliefs of Hinduism?