Crosby-Nash: In Concert

Crosby-Nash: In Concert (video)
Directed by Hal Lena
Blue Castle Records, 2011, 2h 35m.
Recorded at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, Connecticut, May 22, 2011

4 Stars

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash (and sometimes Neil Young) had a 46-year musical partnership – from 1969 until 2015 – that was marked more by bickering and acrimonious breakups than by harmonious productivity. Crosby and Nash often found themselves at odds with the domineering Stills and recorded four albums separately as a duo (1972, 1975, 1976, and 2004). The pair often toured together as well and this video (available via Amazon Prime) records their May 22, 2011 concert in Stamford, Connecticut.

I’d been meaning to watch this concert for many years and finally got around to sitting down and filling up a couple of my retirement evenings. I never was a big fan of Nash’s music, but enjoyed some of his offerings in this concert and especially enjoyed Croz’s tunes. The pair was in decent form given the fact that Croz was already a health-compromised and prematurely-aged 69YO at the time this concert was recorded. The very capable back-up band includes keyboardist James Raymond (Crosby’s biological son raised by adoptive parents), legendary session guitarist, Dean Parks, bassist Kevin McCormick, and drummer Steve DiStanislao. It was a treat listening to Parks deliver some great licks.

Although I did enjoy watching this 2011 concert, it also reminded me of why I stopped following Crosby, Stills, and Nash after their 1977 CSN LP release. A person can only take so much of the Leftist political ranting. CS&N preached peace, love, and global brotherhood, but famously couldn’t get along themselves. In addition to the acrimony with Stills, Crosby and Nash would bitterly end their tight, 47-year friendship four years after this concert, in 2015, after Nash separated from his wife of 38-years for a woman half his age and was rightly scolded by Croz. People muse about peace and love, but there is no true peace/redemption from sin outside of Jesus Christ.

David Crosby died on January 18th, 2023 of COVID-19.

First Set

Eight Miles High (Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, Crosby)
I Used to Be a King (Nash)
Wasted on the Way (Nash)
Long Time Gone (Crosby)
Lay Me Down (James Raymond)
The Lee Shore (Crosby)
Just a Song Before I Go (Nash)
Slice of Time (Crosby)
Don’t Dig Here (James Raymond, Nash, Russ Kunkel) To the Last Whale…A. Critical Mass B. Wind on the Water (Crosby, Nash)
Cowboy Movie (Crosby)
Marrakesh Express (Nash)
Déjà Vu (Crosby)

Second Set

Simple Man (Nash)
Guinnevere (Crosby)
In Your Name (Nash)
What Are Their Names (Crosby)
They Want It All (Crosby)
Jesus of Rio (Nash, Jeff Pevar)
Camera (Crosby, Stephen Stills)
Orleans (Crosby)
Cathedral (Nash)
Our House (Nash)
Military Madness (Nash)
Almost Cut My Hair (Crosby)
Wooden Ships (Crosby, Paul Kantner, Stephen Stills)


Teach Your Children (Nash)
Chicago (Nash)

David Crosby – 1941-2023

My original intent in creating this post was to briefly review all of singer-songwriter, David Crosby’s solo albums, but the 81YO died on January 18th while I was still working on some of the details. We’ll get to the reviews, but first a short intro and some important opening thoughts.

In spite of his highly-publicized, self-destructive behaviors, David Crosby had been a fixture in the American music scene for 57 years, first as a founding member of the legendary Byrds, then as a member of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young) super-group, and finally in a remarkable late-life musical surge.

I’ve enjoyed Crosby’s music since I was 13YO, with his distinctive, velvety baritone and impeccable vocal harmonies (one of the very best harmonists in rock ‘n’ roll history), his funky open guitar tunings, and his unconventional songs. In many of his tunes, Crosby asked serious questions about life, society, and the Universe. He didn’t have any answers, but his ponderings were one of the things the Lord used to get me thinking about my own mortality and spiritual circumstances. Ex-Byrd, Roger McGuinn, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone in 1977 and witnessed to his former bandmate several times, like in his 2019 tweet below.

Wow. That was quite a tweet. But Croz would have none of it. Several months following McGuinn’s tweet, Crosby blocked his old bandmate from his Twitter account. On the very last day of his life, January 18th, Crosby was on Twitter scoffing about Heaven (see graphic at far bottom).

Reviews: David Crosby’s Solo Albums

Crosby had a well-publicized falling-out with his CSN&Y bandmates (particularly Neil Young and Graham Nash) in 2016 and had been concentrating on his solo work in recent years. In fact, one could say Croz had something of a career renaissance in his old age, recording five very good solo studio albums in a span of only seven years.

It’s understandable that only serious Crosby fans would willingly endure detailed individual reviews of his 8 studio and 2 live solo albums, so I’ve put together very short summaries for all ten of the albums below. Fasten your seatbelts, friends! We’re going to do 52 years in 7 minutes!

If I Could Only Remember My Name
Atlantic, 1971

4 Stars

Crosby’s 1971 debut solo album reached the #12 spot on the Billboard Top LPs chart based solely upon the enormous popularity of CSN&Y at the time, but when fans gave the LP a spin on the turntable they were perplexed. What was this? Crosby had holed-up in the studio with his pals from San Francisco’s premier hippie bands – Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana – and created this weird collection of spacey tunes. Critics panned it at the time, but it’s garnered increasing respect over the decades. Atlantic-Rhino’s 50th Anniversary Edition released in 2021 has an hour of outtakes. Most noteworthy song: Laughing (with Jerry Garcia adding the stunning pedal steel guitar licks).

Oh Yes I Can
A&M, 1989

2 Stars

Eighteen years after his solo debut and four years after his incarceration, Croz released this mediocre solo LP, which is overwhelmed by co-producer, Craig Doerge’s 80s-style keyboards (including overdone 80s synthesizers). Strictly for the obsessive completist. Only noteworthy song: Tracks in the Dust

Thousand Roads
Atlantic, 1993

3 Stars

The best I can say about this album is it’s “mildly pleasant” to listen to. The songs are mostly covers with Croz claiming songwriting credit on just three of the ten tracks. The first five tunes outshine the remainder. Notable songs: First track, Hero (the Crosby and Phil Collins-penned song was actually a modest hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard US Adult Contemporary chart, listen here), and Through Your Hands.

It’s All Coming Back to Me Now…
Atlantic, 1995

5 Stars

Croz and his excellent back-up band give a fantastic live performance. The first five tunes are “newer” songs while the last five are from the CS&N and CSN&Y 1969-1970 glory days. Jeff Pevar plays some stirring electric lead guitar throughout. I played this album a lot back in the day. Notable songs: Rusty and Blue (listen here).

Blue Castle, 2014

5 Stars

Wow! Crosby recorded this mellow, jazz-rock fusion album twenty-one years after his last solo studio project and it’s a solid five-star gem. Crosby’s talented son, James Raymond, had a significant role in writing, arranging, and recording the tunes. Raymond’s keyboards tastefully complement the songs rather than taking center stage. Croz was released two years before the permanent breakup of CS&N and with this album Crosby was putting his old bandmates on notice that he was ready, willing, and able to go it alone. There’s an air of melancholy throughout as an aging Crosby wrestles with mortality and some of the other big questions of life. Crosby needed to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Notable song: It’s difficult to pick out one track because they’re all good, but I’ll go with Radio (listen here).

GroundUP Music, 2016

5 Stars

75YO David Crosby made the acquaintance of 32YO multi-instrumentalist and jazz-rock band leader, Michael League, and the two closely collaborated to create this wonderful album. No drums, just soothing melodies. Once again, Crosby inquires about “life’s big questions” and even gets close to the answer in “What Makes It So.” You should have picked up a Bible, David! Notable song: The album’s finale, By The Light of Common Day (listen here), was written and performed by Crosby and multi-talented Becca Stevens, who travels in League’s jazz-rock circles. Michelle Willis, another of League’s friends, adds back-up vocals. Both women will be heard from again as we continue this multi-review. Crosby no doubt wrote Things We Do For Love (listen here) for his wife, Jan, but also as a reprimand to his once-very close friend and colleague of 48 years, Graham Nash, for leaving his wife of 38-years for a young woman half his age. Croz and Nash never reconciled.

Sky Trails
BMG, 2017

5 Stars

After his delightful excursion with what will later be referred to as the Lighthouse Band (League, Stevens, Willis), Crosby shifted back to collaborating with his son, James Raymond, on this fusion of jazz and rock. Once again we get lots of Raymond’s melodic arrangements and Croz pondering life’s mysteries. Excellent. Notable song: Becca Stevens guests on the beautiful Sky Trails (listen here).

Here If You Listen
BMG, 2018

5 Stars

Michael League returns along with Becca Stevens and Michele Willis to complement Croz on this exceptional album. Once again, no drums, just delightful, jazzy melodies and soaring vocal harmonies. Yup, you guessed it: as with previous albums, there’s lots of surmising about life’s big questions. Notable song: They’re all good, but check out Vagrants of Venice (listen here). Touring in support of “Here If You Listen” in 2018, the “Lighthouse Band” performed Becca Stevens’ Lean On, which isn’t included on this album, but is very enjoyable (here) if you listen.

For Free
BMG, 2021

4 Stars

Like back-and-forth tennis volleys, Croz rejoins his son, James Raymond, again for a good, but not outstanding album. Notable song: Lots of good tracks within, but nothing that really stands out for me.

David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band Live at the Capitol Theatre
BMG, 2022

5 Stars

This CD/DVD combo captures Croz and the Lighthouse Band (Michael League, Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis) at the historic Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on December 8, 2018. The performance was the last tour date in support of the band’s “Here If You Listen” album reviewed above. Good stuff. Great to see 77YO (at the time) Crosby having a wonderful time with three young, talented musicians and singer-songwriters. As with the other Lighthouse Band projects, there are lots of guitars and keyboards, but no drums.

Crosby was a scoffer when it came to God and Heaven, as evidenced by the message above that he re-tweeted the very day he died. It was obvious he was “whistling past the graveyard.” Crosby recorded many introspective and melancholy songs in recent years in which he was honest about his fear of his impending death. Jesus Christ was the answer to Crosby’s big questions.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5:24

The Byrds’ Photo Opus: Strictly for the Byrds Nyrds

Today, we’re taking a break from theological discussions with some 1960’s frivolity.

The Byrds: 1964-1967
By Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, and Scott Bomar
BMG Books, 2022, 396 pp.

5 Stars

When most people think of the Byrds, they generally think about those two great #1 hit singles from 1965, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” but the band had a nine-year, twelve-album run in which they pioneered folk-rock, jazz-rock, raga-rock, psychedelic-rock, and country-rock. Fifty-seven years later, rock ‘n’ roll historians and musicologists are still discussing the Byrds and their influential legacy.

BMG Publishing had amassed a large collection of Byrds photographs for ex-Byrd, Chris Hillman’s 2020 autobiography (see my review here). Someone at BMG got the bright idea of compiling the unused photos for this much-anticipated, massive, nine-pound, 13″x11,” 400-page, coffee table, photo-history, primarily of the band’s early years, 1964-1967.

Jim (later Roger) McGuinn (lead guitar), Gene Clark, and David Crosby (rhythm guitar) were folk singers and musicians who enviably observed the meteoric rise of the Beatles in 1964 and banded together to form their own rock ‘n’ roll band, also adding Chris Hillman (bass) and Michael Clarke (drums). But their folk sensibilities couldn’t be entirely suppressed and a syncretization of folk and rock ‘n’ roll was born. Both the Beatles and Dylan took notice and changed their styles (see “Rubber Soul” and “Like a Rolling Stone”) and a multitude of copy-cat bands jumped on the folk-rock bandwagon.

There’s 500 photos in this behemoth publication, mostly taken during the band’s early years, 1964-1967, as the title indicates, along with some pics at the end documenting the ill-fated 1973 reunion album sessions, the 1990 Roy Orbison Tribute and recording sessions for the first Byrds box set, and the band’s induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Interspersed among all of the photos is limited commentary from surviving members McGuinn, Hillman, and Crosby.*

I’ve been a Byrds fan for fifty years and most of the photos were new to me. As I journeyed through this photo-tribute, I noticed how the members’ demeanors noticeably changed from initial happiness and exuberance to frustration, drudgery, and weariness. As the years passed, these guys liked each other less and less. Clark quit in early-1966. Crosby was fired in October of 1967, with Clarke departing a few weeks after him. Hillman quit in 1968, leaving McGuinn as the only founding member until he folded the band in 1973.

Some photos are great, others are “meh” (including a few that are out-of-focus), but this monster is a must-have for Byrds nyrds. Casual fans, save your money. You’ll be bored after a few pages.

Some observations:

  • I would have included the band’s pivotal “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (1968) period as part of this photo collection, with the introduction of Gram Parsons and the band’s total immersion into country-rock. That said, the publisher did well by avoiding the 1969-1973 McGuinn-White ersatz Byrds altogether.
  • Chris Hillman repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly complains about having to straighten his naturally kinky hair to emulate the Beatles’ Prince Valiant mop-top look. One comment would have been more than enough. Where was the editor???
  • I would have liked to have seen a few photos acknowledging the ill-fated 1979-1980 McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman project.
  • The boys generally avoid taking cheap shots at each other, although there are a few slights tucked in here and there.
  • There are no photographs of the members with their former-girlfriends or ex-wives, no doubt a pragmatic concession to current marital practicalities (McGuinn, Hillman, and Crosby collectively selected/curated which photos would be included).
  • It would have been nice if BMG had used the Byrds’ paisley logo from their “Fifth Dimension” and “Younger Than Yesterday” albums for the book’s cover instead of the non-descript, “THE BYRDS.”
  • On page 327, Hillman states the band fired their manager, Jim Dickson, following their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17, 1967. That had me confused because McGuinn has repeatedly claimed the band fired Dickson shortly before or during the “Younger Than Yesterday” sessions in late-1966. See here. McGuinn alleges he was driving along La Cienaga Boulevard in Los Angeles and, while stopped at a traffic light, ex-manager Dickson pulled up alongside and suggested the band cover Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” The band actually did record that song in studio on December 5–8, 1966. I did some googling and subsequently found an article in which Dickson confirmed he was in fact fired following Monterey in June of 1967.

*The Byrds’ surviving founding members, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and David Crosby, did not reunite in 2015 for the band’s 50th anniversary as many fans had hoped for. McGuinn and Hillman could not be persuaded to perform again with the irascible Crosby.

L to R: Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, David Crosby, and Michael Clarke posing for a photographer in 1965.
Above: That’s me doing some very heavy lifting. Byrds Nyrds Unite!

🎼 History of the Byrds

Our ” The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs” countdown series ran from September 29, 2021 until March 23rd of this year and over that six-month span we had a lot of fun delving into the music of the Byrds and some of the history of the band (see the index here). Several weeks ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube video compilation that ties in nicely with our previous Byrds series.

Musicologist, Matt Williamson, maintains a YouTube channel, “Pop Goes the 60s,” in which he examines the history of 1960s rock ‘n’ roll. Williamson usually devotes one or possibly two videos to the history of a particular 60s band, but he recently released four videos that document the history of the very influential Byrds, from the band’s founding in 1965 to its demise in 1973.

I enjoyed this series quite a bit. Each video is 26-27 minutes long. Williamson did his homework and presents a lot of information, and while he doesn’t get all of the facts 100% correct, I give him an A for effort. Enjoy!

History of the Byrds – Part One

History of the Byrds – Part Two

History of the Byrds – Part Three

History of the Byrds – Part Four

The Flying Burrito Brothers’ excellent final studio album

I’ve already reviewed two of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ albums and continue the four-part project with this review of…

The Flying Burrito Bros
The Flying Burrito Brothers
Produced by Jim Dickson, A&M Records, Released June 1971, Length 36:15

5 Stars

Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left the legendary Byrds in 1968 to form the pioneering country-rock band, the Flying Burrito Brothers. The FBBs’ first album, “The Gilded Palace of Sin” (1969), is still beloved as one of the seminal, pioneering country-rock records (see my review here). As Parsons stumbled deeper and deeper into drug and alcohol addiction, the quality of the band’s music suffered. The FBBs’ second LP, “Burrito Deluxe” (1970), had its moments, but couldn’t compare with the band’s debut.

Hillman reluctantly fired the increasingly unreliable Parsons, replacing him with talented 21-year-old singer and songwriter, Rick Roberts (rhythm guitar). Along with Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar, Bernie Leadon (future Eagle) on lead guitar, and Michael Clarke on drums, Hillman (bass) and the FBBs recorded their third album, the eponymous “The Flying Burrito Bros,” affectionately dubbed “the blue album” by FBBs fans.

This album is one of my all-time favorites, but rock ‘n’ roll audiences still weren’t hip to country rock. The Eagles would change that with their debut album the following year in 1972.

Let’s take a look at the excellent “The Flying Burrito Bros” album, track by track:

  • “White Line Fever” (Merle Haggard) – 3:16 – Hillman sings Haggard’s 1969 hit about the truckin’ life. Lots of tasty licks from Sneaky Pete.
  • “Colorado” (Rick Roberts) – 4:52 – I heard Roberts sing this great tune in concert in 1974 when he was backing a solo Stephen Stills. Video below.
  • “Hand to Mouth” (Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman) – 3:44 – A nice Roberts-Hillman collaboration with rollicking piano from guest Earl P. Ball. Folk legend, Bob Gibson, lends some twelve-string acoustic guitar.
  • “Tried So Hard” (Gene Clark) – 3:08 – Hillman and Co. do an excellent cover of this 1967 Gene Clark tune.
  • “Just Can’t Be” (Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman) – 4:58 – Another nice and easy Roberts-Hillman composition. Leadon provides some tasty licks on lead guitar.
  • “To Ramona” (Bob Dylan) – 3:40 – Hillman continues the Byrds’ legacy of paying tribute to Dylan with this cover. Guest guitarist Mike Deasy contributes the fuzz. Hillman still wasn’t confident in his lead vocals at this point and producer Jim Dickson took extraordinary measures to coax a pleasing performance from the band leader.
  • “Four Days of Rain” (Rick Roberts) – 3:39 – Roberts’ very enjoyable brand of country-rock lite portends his future stint with Firefall. Gotta love Sneaky Pete’s tasteful pedal steel fills here.
  • “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” (Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman) – 2:23 – The band pulls out all the stops on this rockin’ tune.
  • “All Alone” (Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman) – 3:33 – A slow, sad number with a very catchy chorus.
  • “Why Are You Crying” (Rick Roberts) – 3:02 – An excellent song by Roberts. I love Leadon’s banjo. Listen here.

Some critics of this album complain that the songs are slow and on the understated side, but I appreciate the easy-going feel of this excellent LP. There’s simply not one dog on the entire disc. Rick Roberts was not a country music player when Hillman hired him, so the FBBs had to accommodate Roberts’ more poppish style just as he had to bend to the FBBs’ country-rock style. The result was a more commercial album than the band’s two previous LPs. The problem was few people bought it. I can understand why Hillman disbanded the FBBs in frustration after the anemic sales for the blue album. Said Hillman, “I hold this one high, way over ‘Burrito Deluxe.’ But it didn’t sell. We were done then. There was nothing we could do” (“Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers,” p. 249). The Flying Burritos Brothers and this LP, “The Flying Burrito Bros,” were ahead of their time. Make no mistake, Glenn Frey and Don Henley were watching and listening intently and taking notes. They subsequently took the country-rock baton from the FBBs and ran with it.

One more album was released under the FBBs banner to fulfill the band’s contractual obligations with A&M, the excellent live LP, “Last of the Red Hot Burritos” (see my review here). Chris Hillman would continue his music career for another 46 years, most notably as leader of the Desert Rose Band from 1987 to 1993. Rick Roberts and Michael Clarke went on to form Firefall with Jock Bartley. Roberts wrote and sang lead vocals on Firefall’s three big hits, “You Are The Woman,” “Just Remember I Love You,” and “Strange Way.” Bernie Leadon co-founded the Eagle’s with Frey and Henley as the band’s lead guitarist. He was replaced by Joe Walsh in 1975. Sneaky Pete Kleinow would participate in the various ersatz-FBBs reincarnations that followed.

Someday soon, I’ll review the FBBs’ semi-disappointing second album.

Above from left to right: Bernie Leadon, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke.

The Byrds: The Ultimate Music Guide

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

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

5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs – Index

As the final dotting of all of the i’s and the crossing of all of the t’s in our six-month-long Byrds’ Top 25 Songs series, I present the index below, with the interlude and books resources posts also included. Thanks for reading, listening, and commenting!

#25 “Gunga Din” by Gene Parsons from “Ballad of Easy Rider”

#24 “Bad Night at the Whiskey” by Roger McGuinn and Joey Richards from “Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde”

#23 “Changing Heart” by Gene Clark from “Byrds”

#22 “Lover of the Bayou” by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy from “Untitled”

#21 “Jamaica Say You Will” by Jackson Browne from “Byrdmaniax”

#20 “She Don’t Care About Time” by Gene Clark released only as a single

#19 “Bugler” by Larry Murray from “Farther Along”

#18 “The Bells of Rhymney” by Idris Davies and Pete Seeger from “Mr. Tambourine Man”

#17 “Natural Harmony” by Chris Hillman from “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”

#16 “If You’re Gone” by Gene Clark from “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

#15 “My Back Pages” by Bob Dylan from “Younger Than Yesterday”

#14 “Time Between” by Chris Hillman from “Younger Than Yesterday”

#13 “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Bob Dylan from “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”

#12 “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” by Gene Clark from “Mr. Tambourine Man”

#11 “What’s Happening?!?!” by David Crosby from “Fifth Dimension”

The Byrds Top 25 Songs – Interlude

#10 “Chestnut Mare” by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy from “Untitled”

#9 “Everybody’s Been Burned” by David Crosby from “Younger Than Yesterday”

#8 “Tribal Gathering” by David Crosby and Chris Hillman from “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”

#7 “5D (Fifth Dimension)” by Jim McGuinn from “Fifth Dimension”

#6 “Renaissance Fair” by David Crosby and Jim McGuinn from “Younger Than Yesterday”

#5 “Change Is Now” by Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn from “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”

#4 “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan from “Mr. Tambourine Man”

#3 “Turn! Turn! Turn! adapted by Pete Seeger from “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

#2 “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman from “Younger Than Yesterday”

#1 “Eight Miles High” by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby from “Fifth Dimension”

Books for Byrds Nerds

Below is a link to the index of my reviews of all of the Byrds’ twelve albums that I published back in 2018:

The Byrds’ Albums: 1965-1973

Books for Byrds Nyrds

Last week, we finished counting down the Byrds’ Top 25 Songs, but we’re not completely done with this series. A couple of more Byrds-related posts came to mind, including this listing of books about the Byrds below. Most people play a music album (via streaming, CD, or vinyl) and just listen and enjoy. But some people, such as Byrds nyrds like myself, have to turn it into rocket science. Below are some print resources for serious Byrds aficionados.

Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1
By Johnny Rogan
Rogan House, 2011, 1216 pp.

5 Stars

Nope, that’s not a typo folks. This formidable tome actually contains 1216 pages. British music writer extraordinaire, Johnny Rogan, covers the entire history of the Byrds, from the origins of the band in 1964 to its dissolution in 1973, and the subsequent exploits of the eleven former members until 2011. The book is full of information and data culled from personal interviews with the primaries and the secondaries. Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1 is an essential for every serious Byrds fan.

Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 2
By Johnny Rogan
Rogan House, 2017, 1248 pp.

4 Stars

Rogan got the notion of following up his excellent general history of the Byrds (Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1) with this same-sized complementary tome in which he scrupulously examines the lives of all of the deceased former band members: Clarence White (d. 1973), Gram Parsons (1973), Gene Clark (1991), Michael Clarke (1993), Kevin Kelley (2002), and Skip Battin (2003). This book is strictly for the extremely serious Byrds nyrd. I’m assuming that Rogan also had in mind a third volume, detailing the lives of the surviving members – Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Parsons, and John York – but ran out of time. Rogan died in 2021 at the age of 67.

So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star: The Byrds Day-by-Day, 1965-1973
By Christopher Hjort
Jawbone Press, 2008, 336 pp.

5 Stars

If you thought the first two offerings might be tedious reading, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In dry-as-a-bone encyclopedic fashion, British author, Chris Hjort examines every Byrds recording session and concert from 1965 to 1973 (along with preliminary information from 1960-1964). This is definitely a “must have” for serious Byrds fans, but a casual fan wouldn’t make it past the first chapter. Besides being a rock historian, Hjort is a graphic designer and this is a handsomely constructed volume with plenty of graphics. It’s puzzling that Hjort put such great care into designing this book, but opted for an annoyingly small font size.

Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds’ Gene Clark
By John Einarson
Backbeat, 2005, 352 pp.

5 Stars

This book tells the fascinatingly sad story of Gene Clark, one of the founding members of the Byrds and the band’s most prolific early-songwriter. Clark quit the group in early-1966, but never achieved the solo success people expected. Most of his career (and personal) problems stemmed from mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

Time Between: My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother, and Beyond
By Chris Hillman
BMG, 2021, 238 pp.

4 Stars

I enjoyed bassist Chris Hillman’s recent autobiography, but he’s so guarded about what he’s willing to divulge that he brings very little new information about the Byrds to the table. Somewhat vapid. A missed opportunity. Read Rogan’s “Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, Vol. 1” instead.

In the Wings: My Life with Roger McGuinn and The Byrds
By Ianthe McGuinn
New Haven Publishing, 2017, 236 pp.

3 Stars

Ianthe and Roger McGuinn met in 1964, before the Byrds achieved success with “Mr. Tambourine Man.” They were married from 1966 until their divorce in 1971. Ianthe seeks to capitalize on that relationship with this tell-all book. There’s some interesting insights into McGuinn and the band not found elsewhere, but the author also resorts to a few salacious tales. We read that McGuinn was so wrapped up in the hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that he predictably had little energy left for being a husband or a father. Following their 1971 divorce, alimony and child-support weren’t forthcoming as McGuinn’s career steadily declined following the breakup of the Byrds. Ianthe is clearly still bitter after all of these years. The most interesting passage in the book describes how Ianthe confronted Roger about why he voluntarily subordinated his signature 12-string Rickenbacker to Clarence White and his B-bender Telecaster after the latter was hired into the band in 1968.

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

5 Stars

A well-designed special-edition magazine commemorating the Byrds via NME archived articles and new material. Great graphics and 100 photos.

The Byrds
By Bud Scoppa
Scholastic Book Services, 1971, 175 pp.

2 Stars

This book was written in 1971, but is still available via Kindle. It was written for middle school and high school rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts, so the information is very basic. Not recommended. Strictly for Byrds completists.

David Crosby provided only scant information about his tenure in the Byrds in his 1988 pseudo-autobiography, “Long Time Gone.” He was still coming to terms with being fired by McGuinn and Hillman 20-years after the fact. Most of the material in this book was culled word-for-word from interviews with Crosby’s former and then-current associates rather than being written by himself.

Byrds fans would love to see an autobiography from Roger McGuinn. One was once in the works, alternately titled “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” and “A Byrd’s Eye View,” but McGuinn regrettably gave up on it.

Watch for a coffee table photo book, “The Byrds: 1964-1967,” scheduled to be released by BMG Publishing in October.

The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #1, “Eight Miles High”

The Byrds recorded many outstanding tunes in their nine-year history (1965-1973) as we’ve witnessed each week in our countdown of the Byrd’s Top 25 Songs, but only one song sits atop them all at #1, and that song is…


“Eight Miles High” (3:34)
Written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby
Produced by Allen Stanton
From “Fifth Dimension,” Columbia Records, July 18, 1966. Previously released as a single on March 14, 1966.

Following the great success of their debut #1 single, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and the same-titled follow-up LP, the Byrds embarked on a tour of England, August 2-19, 1965. Promoters fueled unreasonable expectations by touting the band as “the American Beatles.” Skeptical British audiences were taken aback by the Byrds’ standoffishly-cool stage persona and unpolished performances and they responded coldly in turn. The British music press reviews were downright scathing.

Back in the States several months later, the Byrds opened for the Rolling Stones on a few tour dates in November, 1965. Hanging out with Brian Jones in a Pittsburgh hotel room between gigs, Gene Clark recalled the Byrds’ disastrous trip to England and wrote the basic structure of “Eight Miles High.” The tune takes some veiled shots at the unappreciative Brits, although a listener would have to know the backstory to decipher the cryptic lyrics.

I mentioned in my review of song #11, “What’s Happening?!?!” (see here), that David Crosby was at that time inundating his fellow Byrds with the music of John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar as the band traveled cross-country as part of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars. Lead guitarist, Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, took Clark’s very basic acoustic draft and added electric guitar riffs that uncannily mimicked Coltrane’s frenetic saxophone notes and Shankar’s sitar drones. McGuinn even “borrowed” the four-note signature bridge from “India” from Coltrane’s “Impressions” album. The result: an otherworldly gumbo of jazz-rock and raga-rock. What sounds like backward guitar (a popular studio technique later used by many bands) is actually McGuinn’s heavily-compressed Rickenbacker 12-string.

“Eight Miles High” was released as a single on March 14, 1966, and from Chris Hillman’s ominous opening bassline (borrowed from Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”) to the ending, AM radio audiences were stunned. Even fellow rock musicians were flabbergasted. No one had ever heard a rock ‘n’ roll song like THAT before (the Beatles’ avante garde “Revolver” LP was still five months away). The song quickly climbed to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, but fell just as quickly after a radio industry watchdog accused the song of promoting drug use. It was subsequently banned by many AM stations. The Byrds denied the accusations, but the word “high” in the title and lyrics was problematic. The ban was a crippling blow to the Byrds’ status in the competitive recording industry. The band never again had a single that reached the Top 20.

“Eight Miles High” is credited as being the very first psychedelic song, but McGuinn insists to this day that the song was not a drug tune and that the “eight miles high” referred only to the band’s transatlantic journey to London aboard a jetliner. Clark had originally penned the lyrics as “six miles high,” the standard altitude of commercial transcontinental flying routes, but eventually changed it to “eight” because of its more phonetically-appealing sound.

It’s my pleasure to present song #1 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “Eight Miles High.”

Wow! Time is fleeting. We began this Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown way back in September. Thanks for reading, listening, and for commenting over the last six months! I’ll be following-up the next couple of Wednesdays with some final Byrds-related posts.

The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #2, “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”

Well, here we are, down to the final two songs in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown. Song #2 was a hastily-written, cynical retort to rock ‘n’ roll phoniness and has become a much-appreciated classic.

“So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” (2:05)
Written by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman
Produced by Gary Usher
From “Younger Than Yesterday,”* Columbia Records, February 6, 1967. Also released as a single, January 9, 1967

The Byrds had scored two #1 singles in 1965 with “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” but as the band shifted away from folk-rock to explore other musical forms, their popularity declined. “The Monkees,” a television comedy show about a fictional rock band, debuted on NBC in September 1966, and took the teenager audience demographic by storm. A best-selling single (“Last Train to Clarksville”) and album quickly followed even though the faux band was strictly the figment of some Hollywood producer’s imagination. The ersatz Monkees had done none of the grinding work (write, practice, play – repeat), but were being recognized and rewarded as if they were an actual band. The road-weary Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman of the Byrds noted the meteoric success of the “pre-fab four” Monkees and penned “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” in response, a cynical and sarcastic look at the calculated, business side of rock ‘n’ roll.**

Bandmates, David Crosby and Hillman, had previously been invited to sit in on a recording session featuring South African jazz artists, Letta Mbula and Hugh Masekela. With African jazz rhythms still swirling in his head, Hillman weaved them into the melody for “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” McGuinn recalled a ditty he had once worked on with South African singer, Miriam Makeba, during his pre-Byrds days that he developed into the song’s bridge. Hillman later recalled that he and McGuinn amazingly finished writing the song in only 30-40 minutes (Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless, p. 313).

This is a thoroughly delightful tune. The lively melody contrasts with the cynically biting lyrics. That’s previously-mentioned Masekela on trumpet, the first time brass was used on a Byrds recording. Percussionist, Danny “Big Black” Rey, is also credited as a guest artist and I assume he’s providing the distinctive scratching sound playing the güiro. The bobby-soxer screams were recorded at an actual Byrds concert during the band’s otherwise disappointing tour of England in August, 1965. The song inexplicably peaked at only #29 on the singles charts at the time, but has been covered by many, many appreciative artists and bands over the years.

It’s my pleasure to present song #2 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star.”

*I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that five of the tunes in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown are from the excellent “Younger Than Yesterday” album, the most from any of the band’s 12 LPs.

**The Byrds were not without their own “manufactured” aspects. Michael Clarke was chosen to be the drummer of the band based solely on his looks. He had no previous experience sitting behind a drum kit. Also, except for lead guitarist, Jim McGuinn, the Byrds were not allowed to play their instruments on the band’s first single, “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

I toyed with writing a version of this song for aspiring Steven Furtick-wanna-be, hipster, mega-church pastors, but could only come up with a single line:

🎼 …Just get a swag hairdoo, some skinny jeans, and a Jesus tattoo.

Next week, after six months of anticipation, we’ll finally reveal song #1 in our countdown of the Byrds’ Top 25 Songs.