The Kings Of Hollywood
Here are some of my random thoughts and words about The Byrds over the years. All of the original Byrds blog posts on my old website have since been deleted so no label scans or picture sleeves are available. Instead, I’ve used a splendid colour Byrds poster from ’60s music magazine ‘Muziek Expres’.
THE BYRDS – ’Wait And See’ (Columbia 9254) 1965
Continuing my folk rock entries this past week or so are the legendary Byrds. This song was recorded in October ’65 and is credited to McGuinn/Crosby, although Roger sings lead vocals.
’Wait And See’ was included on Side 2 of the album ’Turn Turn Turn’. It’s not a song that gets any exposure on Byrds ’Best ‘Of’ compilations but I dig it all the same. Magical 12 string jangle makes this tune a winner.
It’s been almost two years since I wrote about The Byrds on ’Flower Bomb Songs’ which is quite a long time not to mention my favourite group of all time. I recently remastered my original mono copy of their debut album on CBS. The sleeve is thick, folded and laminated. They just don’t or can’t manufacture record sleeves like they did in the 60s. Accept no substitute!
Leader McGuinn says:
”What I’m doing now is a continuation of my love for music. Superficially, the form may have changed slightly, but the essence is the same. In other words, the harmonies-fourths, fifths-are the same, as well as the kinds of rhythms that are used and the chord changes.
The instrumentation is changing somewhat to meet the nuclear expansion and the jet age. I used to like folk music, just straight folk music without electric guitar, drums and bass. I think that although the folk instruments are changing, it’s still folk music. Actually, you can call it whatever you like.”
Besides ’Mr Tambourine Man’, the other Dylan tunes they do are ’All I Really Want To Do’, ’Chimes Of Freedom’ and ’Spanish Harlem Incident’. Lately, when they do ’Chimes’ in a club, McGuinn announces ”We’d like to dedicate this next song to Donovan.”
’We’ll Meet Again’ they dedicate to Peter Sellers, Slim Pickens and Stanley Kubrick. ’The Bells Of Rhymney’ is dedicated to Pete Seeger. Initially, you get a great shock hearing this song about a Welsh mine disaster being sung this way, as you watch a few dozen people doing the twistfrugwatusijerk and the endless nameless variations. But as soon as you see how right it is you see the words become the thoughts of people who would never have heard those words from any other source.
Jackie De Shannon wrote ’Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe’. Tunes on the album written by Gene Clark: ’I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’, ’Here Without You’, ’I Knew I’d Want You’ and in collaboration with Jim McGuinn: ’You Won’t Have To Cry’ and ’It’s No Use’.
The Byrds – ‘All I Really Want To Do’ / ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ (CBS 201796) 1965
Not much more can be said about The Byrds right? After all they were perhaps America’s finest ever group during 1965 to 1967.
Their early 45s are timeless classics and do not sound dated at all. Every year there seems to be a band emerge on the scene with the jangly guitar, mop tops and Byrds swagger.
The 45 pictured is the mono UK release on CBS and boy does it play loud. In those days they really knew how to master records to vinyl!
’All I Really Want To Do’ was the top side of the record and was of course the follow up to ’Mr Tambourine Man’.
Sales were disappointing and the record stumbled into the top half of the thirties in the UK charts.
It’s a shame because it’s a cool cover of Dylan’s song. Maybe the bad press on the English tour halted it’s progress up the charts.
Flip the record over and you get Gene Clark’s masterpiece. What a killer performance ’Feel A Whole Lot Better’ is. Well, I guess you all know that anyway. This could possibly be my most played 45 of all time.
THE BYRDS – ’Mr Tambourine Man’ /’I Knew I’d Want You’ (CBS 1.922) 1965
The Byrds seminal debut record introduced folk rock as a musical genre to not only the Sunset Strip but to the world, as seen by this Dutch release in a smart picture sleeve. The promo shot of The Byrds used for the cover was taken on the same cold rainy day as the pic of the band below.
It’s one of the rare Byrds pics in which David Crosby is not wearing that awful green cape thing.
Anyway back to the songs on the disc. ’Mr Tambourine Man’, as everyone knows started the whole ball rolling for my favourite band but flip the 45 over to listen to a rather cool Gene Clark original.
’I Knew I’d Want To’ displays the trademark 12 string jangle and perfect harmonies.
Only Roger McGuinn from the band played on both tracks. All other instruments were handled by session men Jerry Cole (rhythm guitar), Larry Knetchel (bass), Leon Russell (electric piano) and Hal Blaine (drums).
Recordings took place in January 1965 with a release in the USA on April 12, 1965 – a wondrous moment in the history of music.
I’m kind of at the stage where I rarely listen to Mr Tambourine Man now, because being a longtime Byrds fan I’ve heard it rather a few times. It is remarkable though. I Knew I’d Want You is completely fab, those harmonies are indeed pretty amazing. I think Crosby bought the cape after the success of Tambourine Man.
Someone (maybe Cass Elliot?) commented that it was really expensive and everyone was super-impressed, so he probably wanted to get some wear out of it, hence sporting it on not one but two album covers. Once he got past the cape phase though, he had some excellent fashion moments; the Montery Pop hats for instance.
Not that I mind the cape-look, per se, but he probably had a lot more to give, fashion-wise, before he settled on the familiar Crosby-look for the next four decades. Anyway, yes, a wondrous musical moment!
THE BYRDS – ’The Times They Are A’Changin’ (CBS EP 6069) Feb 1966
As my blog registers it’s 100,000 hit (not bad for a site linked virtually nowhere) and as we enter a new month and another Spring, I’ve decided to go all Byrds crazy and post nothing but Byrds until April is out.
This four song EP was released in England mid February 1966, although The Byrds recorded the highlighted song ’It’s No Use’ way back on the 14th April, 1965 (that’s 44 years ago! How scary is that!)
’It’s No Use’ is a Gene Clark/Roger McGuinn composition and perfectly encapsulates a Merseybeat/Sunset Strip musical miasma that my heroes were the masters at. PERFECTION.
THE BYRDS – ’Eight Miles High’ (CBS EP 6077) Oct 1966
The second Byrds EP released in Britain was just after the album ’Fifth Dimension’. This EP rounded up the previous hit singles in one neat package.
The pic sleeve is a lovely op art affair and uses an early photo of The Byrds. Indeed it was from the same photo shoot in a Los Angeles park where the fish-eye lens was used to such marvellous effect.
The only difference from this Byrds picture from the one used for the previous EP was that David Crosby and Chris Hillman had changed positions!
THE BYRDS – ’Turn Turn Turn’ / ’She Don’t Care About Time’ (CBS 1.897) 1965
By now The Byrds were well and truely Global Superstars and all European singles seemed to come housed in a picture sleeve. This release of ’Turn Turn Turn’ was the Dutch issue, probably sometime in October, 1965.
’She Don’t Care About Time’ was recorded in August, ’65 and is one of Gene Clark’s most reflective songs.
THE BYRDS – ’My Back Pages’ / ’It Happens Each Day’ (Cancelled Flytes Box)
I don’t know if any of the Sundazed Byrds box of singles called ’Cancelled Flytes’ are still for sale but if you ever see one my advice would be to purchase. The box was released in 2004 and brings together proposed Byrds songs that were produced in the studio by Terry Melcher, Alan Stanton or Gary Usher but for one reason or another each track would languish in the Columbia Records vaults for years and in some cases decades.
’It Happens Each Day’ is a David Crosby trip, recorded on the 7th December, 1966. It was left off the album ’Younger Than Yesterday’ in favour of lesser tracks IMO and was then slated for a possible B-Side to ’So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star’. But it was amazingly never issued at all until the late 80s on ’Never Before’.
No wonder Crosby would flip out at the way his songs were treated. This stress may have resulted in his rigorous walrus tash growth in the years that followed ’66.
THE BYRDS – ’Eight Miles High’ / ’Why’ (Columbia 4-43578) March 1966
Both songs on this 45 were recorded in January 1966 and go a long way in showing that The Byrds were innovators and probably the most important band in America.
The flip ’Why’ is a co-written song by McGuinn/Crosby and would have been good enough to be issued as a single in it’s own right. An earlier take of ’Why’ was recorded in December 1965 at RCA studios but this version was shelved and unavailable until the ’Never Before’ release in the late 80s.
The song was recorded a third time for inclusion on the album ’Younger Than Yesterday’. This album version is a lot tamer than the 45 recording.
THE BYRDS – ’I Wasn’t Born To Follow’ / ’Child Of The Universe’ (CBS 4572) Sept 1969
The first time I heard the song ’I Wasn’t Born To Follow’ was while watching the counter-culture film ’Easy Rider’. To say this tune blew my mind is an understatement. The prominent phazing in particular was a revelation to me.
It took me a long and hard search to track the song down but I eventually found it on the ’Notorious Byrd Brothers’ album. Remember this was the early 80s before any Byrds material had been re-issued and CDs where years away and Byrds information was at a premium.
The flip on the UK release is ’Child Of The Universe’ and again this song was featured on a film, this time ’Candy’. I’ve still not seen this movie but have the soundtrack LP.
Anyway, for Byrds completists this UK 45 is worth tracking down because the USA release went for ’Ballad Of Easy Rider’ instead.
THE BYRDS – ’It Won’t Be Wrong’ (CBS EP 5668) 1965
Four song EP released in France in ’65 just as The Byrds were starting to make an impression in Europe, despite lukewarm gigs in England. The songs on this EP are hardly essential but the cover makes up for this.
It’s a rare moment indeed to have David Crosby pictured without that horrible green cape, McGuinn is holding a rifle for some reason and Gene Clark is grinning like a Cheshire cat. Or should I say gurning. Maybe he’s just been told he’ll not need to board a plane for the next fortnight or something?
McGuinn’s original ’It Won’t Be Wrong’ is the pick of the bunch.
THE BYRDS – ’Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe (CBS EP 6251) 1965
Neat four song EP released in France in late ’65 showing The Byrds in all their folk rock glory (ie) tight Levi jeans, beatle boots and bowl haircuts.
I’ve always had a liking for the ’Mr Tambourine Man’ LP cut ’Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe’ written by Jackie DeShannon. According to Byrds Manager Jim Dickson this song was covered as a thank you to her because she was one of the very first professional songwriters to risk credibility by saying The Byrds were great and helped the band to get work.
It’s also one of the first Byrds recordings from April, 1965.
THE BYRDS – ’You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ / ’Artificial Energy’ (CBS 3411) 1968
Continuing my month long Byrds feature brings me to a song recorded in December 1967 but not released until April ’68 as both a single B-Side and the lead off track on the album ’The Notorious Byrd Brothers’.
’Artificial Energy’ is a song about speed and is notable for the phased brass and distorted vocals. Chartwise it flopped and McGuinn (according to the CD liners of ’Notorious’) didn’t rate the song very highly, especially the vocals.
It’s certainly one of the strangest Byrds recordings in their repertoire and a sound they never touched on again.
The sleeve pictured is the cover of the 45 released in The Netherlands.
THE JET SET – The Reason Why (Columbia KC 32183) 1973
Before The Byrds became The Byrds they had rehearsed and recorded demos at World Pacific studios as The Jet Set. This would have been sometime in late 1964.
Eventually these rehearsal tapes were released as ’Preflyte’ in 1969, then reissued four years later.
Any Byrds fan needs to hear these ’work in progress’ recordings especially for the many Gene Clark jewels. All of these performances sound like young teenagers mixing folk with beat and coming up with a sound that would dominate Los Angeles for the next couple of years.
THE BYRDS – Turn! Turn! Turn! LP (Columbia CL 2454) December 1965
Well, here it is. And about time, too.
Didn’t our old grannies wag their wise and withered heads and tell us that good things are worth waiting for?
This album was as long in the making as a President. But, as Jim McGuinn trusted it would, everything’s worked out all right. Personally, I think it’s a beautiful piece of work, and maybe The Byrds were right to linger over it. After all, a great album is to the 1960s what a piece of sculpture was to the Middle Ages. Isn’t it?
The Byrds think it should be, and I agree with them because I agree with them on most things. So do The Beatles, by the way. Two of the Fab Four came to the recording sessions at Columbia’s Hollywood studios when they could have been sprawling beside their Bel Air pool gazing at Joan Baez. Some choice.
Anyway, down from the hills rode George and Paul because they’d liked The Byrds’ ”Mr Tambourine Man,” and they know that a record like that doesn’t happen by accident, (”Ho,” John had said, ”The Byrds have something.” and the others nodded.) So there they were, At Columbia – bachelor Beatle two-some, denims and fringes and so much experience, heads bent up to pick up the sound-subtleties of the Los Angeles Byrds, whom The Beatles publicly named as their fave rave American group.
THE BYRDS – ”Younger Than Yesterday” LP (Columbia CL 2642) February 1967
”Thoughts And Words” is arguably Chris Hillman’s finest solo composition and I would even say that (in my opinion) it is a sonic art masterpiece. The melody and harmonies are wondrous then there are those interludes of eerie sitar-like sounds of backwards guitars. Sublime.
recorded: 6th December 1966
THE BYRDS – ”Fifth Dimension” LP (Columbia CL 2549) July 1966
The Byrds’ first instrumental “Captain Soul” emerged during a break between recording sessions when they were riffing on Lee Dorsey’s ”Get Out Of My Life Woman”.
recorded: 18th May, 1966
THE BYRDS – ”She Has A Way” (Murray Hill Records MH-70318) 1987
It seems a very long time ago since I wrote about The Byrds on my blog so that’s about to change today. Last week I bought ”Never Before” for the third time. I bought a vinyl copy in 1987 followed by the CD version a few years later when they were all the rage.
Foolishly sold my vinyl copy in the 90s and suffered BAD Byrds karma ever since – so bought another LP and now I feel so cleansed and refreshed. Back in the late 80s it was a revelation hearing previously unheard Byrds music from 1965/67. This was all pre-Sundazed of course and their constant re-issues etc.
I couldn’t believe just how killer ”It Happens Each Day”, ”She Has A Way” ”It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” ”Triad” – true stereo ”Mr Tambourine Man” earlier version of ”Eight Miles High”
The booklet is fab too, lots of pics.
I’ll focus on the sublime ”She Has A Way” – Like a number of songs from the ’Preflyte’ album of 1964 Byrds demos, this Gene Clark composition was re-cut for Columbia for inclusion on the ’Mr Tambourine Man’ album. It was left off to make room for outside material (see Dylan, DeShannon, Seeger).
THE BYRDS – ”Goin’ Back” / ”Change Is Now” (CBS 5300) 1977
I started day dreaming at work today and my thoughts drifted to the music of the Byrds. They’re my favourite group of all time you see. Only the Beatles and Love are at the same level. BUT that’s just my opinion of course. Anyway, I longed to play ”Change Is Now” when I got home and back to my beloved Technics SL-1200G
This song is a fine example of their magic. Moving through a country chorus it becomes a droning masterpiece with a way-out acid lift off to third eye territory with mystical mind explosions, backwards guitar, pumping bass, the harmonies, psychedelic bewilderment.
I was sure I had an original UK release on CBS but it’s gone! Or I never had it – that is the trouble when you’ve got an archive of about 8,000+ 45s!!! Hard to keep up with my collection. I only have this 1977 stereo re-press with ”Goin’ Back” as the plug side. Must change that soon with an original MONO copy
The Byrds are a creative zenith. They sit on thrones above the celestial sphere.
Four days after realizing that I did not have a ”Lady Friend” / ”Change Is Now” CBS mono 45 a copy arrived @ EXPO67 HQ this morning. I found this online at a record shop in Plymouth. Looks and plays GREAT. Sound is loud and dynamic. You just can’t beat 1960s mono 45s.
”Truth is real, truth is real
That which is not real does not exist.”