zondag 28 juni 2015

5 Concerts Chronicle the Story of The Grateful Dead

5 Concerts Chronicle the Story of The Grateful Dead Associated Press June 26, 2015 5 Concerts Chronicle the Story of The Grateful Dead by Dave Clark Let the countdown begin: The Grateful Dead’s final five shows have arrived. With shows Saturday and Sunday in Santa Clara, California, and another three at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 3-5, the five shows cap roughly 2,300 concerts over 30 years. Pioneers of psychedelic music in the 1960s, the Dead brought jazz-style improvisation to rock music. No two Dead shows were the same — not just the performances but the setlists were made up on the spot. Each show had a seat-of-the-pants quality that meant things could go wrong, but also that great heights could be reached. The band’s run came to an end with the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995. This summer, the four surviving members of the band — guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann — are performing. Here is a look back at five shows that capture the band at key moments along their long and, yes, strange trip. ___ FEB. 14, 1969 CAROUSEL BALLROOM, SAN FRANCISCO Garcia, the lead guitarist with the bushy black (later gray) beard and impish smile, was probably the best-known member of the Grateful Dead. But he was not its leader; that was a role he never wanted. If the band did have a leader in its early days, it was keyboard player Ron McKernan. Affectionately nicknamed Pigpen for his unkempt look, McKernan also played harmonica and was more comfortable singing lead at first than Garcia or Weir. Pigpen both did and didn’t fit with the Dead. He didn’t share the musical adventurism of his bandmates, and he preferred alcohol to LSD. But the blues and R&B tunes he sang served as an anchor to keep the band’s more experimental work from spiraling out of the stratosphere. Pigpen’s drinking eventually caught up to him, and he died in 1973 at age 27. ___ APRIL 8, 1972 APRIL 8, 1972 WEMBLEY EMPIRE POOL, LONDON The Europe ‘72 tour — 22 shows in April and May — is considered by many fans to the Dead’s best. The band was still playing the exploratory jams they became famous for in the 1960s, like the 30-minute version of “Dark Star” that highlighted this show, the second of the tour. But a songwriting partnership of Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter that was just beginning in the late '60s had matured. Hunter’s lyrics pulled from a wide variety of sources, from blues standards to nursery rhymes. He took an old folk tune based on a real-life train wreck and turned it into “Casey Jones.” And he wrote the instantly iconic line in “Truckin,’” the band’s 1970 chronicle of life on the road, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” “His lyrics worked on a much more elevated level than your typical love ballad or rock anthem — they belonged to literature.” Kreutzmann wrote in his 2015 autobiography “Deal” — which borrows its title from a Hunter-Garcia song. ___ MAY 8, 1977 CORNELL UNIVERSITY, ITHACA, NEW YORK Spring 1977 was another peak for the Dead, and many fans consider this show to be the best they ever played. In the mid-1980s, tapes of the Cornell show became highly sought after in the Deadhead taping community. The band for years had turned a blind eye to fans making bootleg tapes of their concerts. In 1984, they began to actively encourage it, setting aside a section for tapers at their shows. David Letterman asked Garcia during a 1982 interview about the philosophy behind giving the music away. “When we’re done with it, they can have it,” Garcia said. ___ OCT. 16, 1989 EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY It was a rejuvenated Grateful Dead that took the stage at the Brendan Byrne Arena on this night — Weir’s 42nd birthday. By the early 1980s, Garcia had become addicted to heroin and had put on weight. His bandmates, setting aside their strong inclination toward personal freedom, staged several interventions. They felt the music was suffering, and many fans agreed. Garcia cleaned up in the mid '80s, but he slipped into a diabetic coma in 1986 and nearly died. Once he recovered, the band recorded their first studio album in seven years. And “Touch of Grey” — a song they’d been playing in concert for five years — became an unexpected hit single in 1987. It was the band’s only Top 40 song. The Dead were riding high for the rest of the decade. Brent Mydland had joined on keyboards in 1979 and added energy to a band of aging hippies. But he died of a drug overdose in July 1990. The band quickly found a replacement in Vince Welnick, but the pressure of touring, the burden of increased fame and Garcia’s return to heroin use conspired to make the band’s last five years on the road largely forgettable. ___ JULY 9, 1995 SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO You’d be hard pressed to find a Deadhead who thinks that this — the band’s final concert before Garcia’s death — was a good one. Things had gone sour in the band’s world. Several gate-crashing incidents marred their summer tour, and some venues and cities were refusing to host the Dead. Things weren’t much better on stage. Garcia was using again. He would forget not just lyrics but even what song he was playing. Kreutzmann claims that Garcia occasionally nodded off during concerts. “I’d hit my crash cymbals as hard as I could, just to wake him up,” the drummer wrote in his autobiography. The band members have since admitted that by this point, they had stopped listening to each other while they were playing. The Dead was scheduled to have a few months off after this show, and Garcia sought help. After a short stay at the Betty Ford Clinic, he checked himself into Serenity Knolls, a substance-abuse clinic in northern California, where he died of a heart attack on Aug. 9, 1995, at age 53. A few months later, the surviving band members decided to retire the name Grateful Dead. The long strange trip was over. Weir, Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann have toured periodically in various formations in the 20 years since Garcia’s death. They have billed these five concerts in 2015 as the last they will perform together. ___

Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs

Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs Start 1 OF 22 With some of indie-rock's brightest stars touring in his honor, we pick the former Byrds frontman's essential tracks January 22, 2014 Beginning January 22nd in Philadelphia, members of Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Beach House, the Walkmen and Wye Oak are joining forces to play a series of concerts during which they'll cover Gene Clark's 1974 cult classic solo album No Other in its entirety. Not familiar? You should be. Forty years after the album was released it remains an awe-inspiringly majestic and moving listen. Beach House and Friends Plan Gene Clark Tribute Tour But it also represents only a small sampling of Clark's immense skills. Born in the small town of Tipton, Missouri, in 1944, Clark was a founding member of folk-rock pioneers the Byrds, penning original material for the group before embarking on a solo career that encompassed heavily orchestrated, sadly underappreciated treasures like No Other and sparser, also underappreciated affairs like 1971's folk-focused White Light. Exclusive Listen: Lost Gene Clark Album Classic "Kansas City Southern" For all Clark's songwriting gifts – his music managed the feat of feeling both metaphysical and homespun – the singer-guitarist never found much in the way of solo success, and he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, dying in 1991 at 46 years old. But his body of work has long found favor among those music fans and musicians who count themselves as seekers. Years before the No Other tour, Clark's songs were covered by Tom Petty, the Eagles, Yo La Tengo and Robert Plant, to name a few. So to celebrate this latest Gene Clark renaissance (a new documentary, The Byrd Who Flew Alone, is also making the festival rounds), we've chosen his 21 finest songs, taken from all eras of his career. "The World Turns All Around Her" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 3 OF 22 Turn! Turn! Turn!, 1965 While the title track/hit single "Turn! Turn! Turn!" found the Byrds interpolating Pete Seeger and the Book of Ecclesiastes, Clark's "The World Turns All Around Her," from that same album, pivoted on the same verb, using it to convey the tumultuous emotions brought on by being on the wrong side of a breakup. Here, in just over two minutes, love functions as an obsessive, inescapable orbit. "Eight Miles High" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 4 OF 22 Fifth Dimension, 1966 The last Byrds song Clark had a hand in writing, and also the band's last Top 20 hit, this Clark/Crosby/McGuinn co-write was the group's most ambitious single, with the latter's Rickenbacker 12-string guitar tuned to a higher plane of Ravi Shankar-inspired raga drones and Coltrane-esque modal fire. The wry lyrics, though, are primarily Clark's, and they're appropriately soaring, psychedelic and impressionistic. He left the band the same month as the single was released, citing, somewhat ironically, a fear of flying. Echoes" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 5 OF 22 Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, 1967 With help from what might scan as the incoherent assemblage of bluegrass musician Doug Dillard (a future collaborator), country singing duo the Gosdin Brothers, ex-Byrd bandmates and members of the famed Wrecking Crew studio outfit, Gene Clark's debut album somehow managed to finesse a sound that veered from baroque pop to garage rock, country to psychedelia. Sideman extraordinaire Leon Russell added orchestra, woodwinds and harpsichord to "Echoes," and Clark's lyrics attained a Dylan-esque level of abstract romance. Gorgeously enigmatic and musically detailed, the song is a precursor to the grandiose vision Clark later achieved on No Other. Tried So Hard" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 6 OF 22 Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, 1967 With future Byrd guitar ace Clarence White providing stinging country licks against a terse garage shuffle, Clark details more heartbreak, his voice breaking just so at the word "tried," even though he also admits "it's not the first break I had." The song was later covered by Fairport Convention, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Yo La Tengo. "So You Say You Lost Your Baby" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 7 OF 22 Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, 1967 A Nuggets-worthy slice of jangle, Clark and the Gosdin Brothers harmonize on this gnomic rocker adorned with lyrics of poetic whimsy (see mentions of "moon trolls" and "tabernacle hillsides.") The guitars blare like sirens as strings swoop in from all sides and the drums sound out rifle shots. "With Care From Someone" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 8 OF 22 The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark, 1968 Clark had already helped found folk-rock with the Byrds when, in 1968, he teamed with fierce banjo picker Doug Dillard to create another genre: newgrass. The two hit upon a glistening formula that melded traditional bluegrass instrumentation and melodic approach with rock amplification and attitude. Musically and harmonically-rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Kentucky, Clark and Dillard sing nevertheless of the cosmic on this rollicking number about new love: "Maybe we'll find/ this time is designed/ for finding the meaning of one." "Why Not Your Baby" Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs 9 OF 22 Non-LP single, 1969 Released only as a 45 (later included on the CD reissue of The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark), this single may have stalled on the charts, but it showed Clark at his emotive best, with elements of folk, folk-rock and bluegrass mingling with stunning symphonic strings. "Is this the change of mind that I've been designed for?" he asks, looking for consolation in a heartbreak, which may very well be his own.

vrijdag 26 juni 2015

Gram Parsons’ 20 Best Songs Tom Pinnock

Gram Parsons’ 20 Best Songs Tom Pinnock June 26, 2015 The country-rock pioneer's greatest tracks… image: http://keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2015/06/gramparsonssongs.jpg gramparsonssongs Though he passed away aged just 26, Gram Parsons didn’t mess around while he was here – a member of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The International Submarine Band, he also found time to make two sublime solo albums and partly invent country-rock as we know it. Here, Uncut present 20 of his best songs… Originally published in our February 2013 issue (Take 189). Words: Graeme Thomson ________________________ 1 HICKORY WIND The Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, 1969/Grievous Angel, 1974 Written with former ISB bandmate Bob Buchanan and debuted by The Byrds at the Grand Ole Opry on March 15, 1968, the beauty of Parsons’ signature song lies in its simple sincerity. The poignancy in the words, voice, aching steel guitar and fiddle – by sessioneers Lloyd Green and John Hartford – evoke almost unbearable nostalgia for a time of remembered innocence. “A lonely song”, said Chris Hillman. “He was a lonely kid.” ________________________ 2 BRASS BUTTONS Grievous Angel, 1974 Constructed with the precision of a Tin Pan Alley standard and sung almost to himself, “Brass Buttons” was written in the mid-’60s but not recorded until 1973. James Burton weaves empathetic guitar lines over a painfully intimate portrait of Parsons’ mother Avis, an alcoholic who died from cirrhosis in 1965. Is there a more devastating line in his songbook than: “And the sun comes up without her/It just doesn’t know she’s gone”? ________________________ 3 $1000 WEDDING Grievous Angel, 1974 The sorry tale of a groom left waiting at the altar, the nine-minute original version – rejected by the Burritos in 1969 – made it explicit that the bride had “passed away”. The released version is more ambiguous. The opening piano figure is deceptively lush, the mood stately, the structure unconventional. And while Parsons’ voice ripples with emotion his writing possesses the cool clarity of a classic American short story. 4 HOT BURRITO #1 The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 1969 Perhaps his greatest ever vocal (wobbly but devastating), married to a supple melody and lyrics that tread a convincingly torturous path between bravado, bitterness and naked need. Parsons’ organ and “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel, meanwhile, fleetingly recall the grandeur of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. This lacerating account of emotional surrender was retitled “I’m Your Toy” in Elvis Costello’s 1981 version. ________________________ 5 SHE GP, 1973 Written with Chris Ethridge, the jazzy, laidback and somewhat hesitant structure is lifted by a honky-tonkin’ middle eight anchored by Ric Grech’s thudding bass. An evocative, impressionistic story of an unconventional, possibly inter-racial love affair down in the Delta, it’s a sweet love letter to a woman who, over and above all her other talents and woes, “sure could sing”. ________________________ 6 WILD HORSES Burrito Deluxe, 1970 Debate rumbles on regarding the extent of Parsons’ contribution to Jagger & Richards’ country ballad. Mick recalls that “we sat around originally doing this with Gram”, while his brother Chris reckons, “it’s basically Gram’s composition, not that he got any credit for it.” Although already recorded by the Stones, the Burritos were allowed to release their faithful, fragile version first. Leon Russell contributes a barnstorming piano solo. 7 THE NEW SOFT SHOE GP, 1973 A smoother, somewhat more contemporary take on the country-rock theme – you could easily imagine the Eagles covering this on their early albums – “The New Soft Shoe” marries a lovely unhurried melody to a pleasingly evasive lyric which seems to portray a lifetime’s worth of labours of love, cherished memories and missed chances. Al Perkins’ steel guitar solo is like sunlight skipping on water. ________________________ 8 HOW MUCH I’VE LIED GP, 1973 A rogue’s mea culpa, also later recorded by Costello on Almost Blue. A spry little number which would have suited George Jones to a T, James Burton’s twanging dobro and Buddy Emmons’ steel guitar do most of the heavy lifting before the chorus explodes in a sunburst of gilded harmony, a sound thrillingly at odds with the lyric’s deep shade of “burning blue”. ________________________ 9 LUXURY LINER Safe At Home, 1968 An upbeat, frill-free slice of chicka-boom rhythm, close-knit harmony and sing-song pedal steel, the symbolic train of American music folklore here becomes “40 tons of steel”, the opulence only highlighting the predicament of a fellow who made “a living running round”. His baby’s gone, but there’ll be another waiting in the next port. Later the title track of Emmylou Harris’ 1977 album. 10 ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, 1968 Truly, the promise of Cosmic American Music realised: the mood is country, the bottom end is pulsing rock, the harmonies are classic Byrds, and the lyrics hint at satisfyingly vague profundity. Parsons’ original lead vocal was removed by Roger McGuinn before Sweetheart was released, and only reinstated on the 1990 Byrds boxset. ________________________ 11 WHEELS The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 1969 Lazy roadhouse piano and campfire harmonies dominate on a Hillman-Parsons number that manages to be both an ode to the uncomplicated joys of the open road (“We’re not afraid to ride”) and a reaffirmation of Parsons’ religious faith. Notable for its easy slide into the mid section and a great fuzzbox guitar, like a truck steaming around the bend. ________________________ 12 STILL FEELING BLUE GP, 1973 The opening song on GP pulls off that country trick of making heartache sound like the greatest thing in the world, driven by Byron Berline’s fiddle, Ronnie Tutt’s rattling brushwork and jaunty banjo. In her first recorded Gram outing, Emmylou Harris simply soars on her chorus parts. 13 RETURN OF THE GRIEVOUS ANGEL Grievous Angel, 1974 A wonderfully vivid song of experience which is almost Whitmanesque. Parsons’ dusty prodigal returns to his woman filled with memories of “the truckers… the kickers and the cowboy angels”. A free-flowing torrent of a song, lit up by Glen D Hardin’s gorgeous piano. ________________________ 14 IN MY HOUR OF DARKNESS Grievous Angel, 1974 A premonition in song? The verse about a young country singer with a “silver-string guitar” creeps ominously close to self-mythology. Future Eagle Bernie Leadon contributes dobro on this rousing hymn to those who have passed, and Linda Ronstadt adds vocals. ________________________ 15 OOH LAS VEGAS Grievous Angel, 1974 The flipside of Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas”, which seems entirely apt. Elvis’ TCB band played on GP and Grievous Angel, and here it really shows: there’s a touch of “Guitar Man” in the good-time groove and James Burton’s scorching licks. It’s a losing-streak lament (“crystal city…gonna make a wreck out of me”) from a gambler who sounds like he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. 16 A SONG FOR YOU GP, 1973 Several of Parsons’ greatest songs echo the age-old gospel plea to “sing me back home”, few more movingly than this searching, spiritual love letter to God, a woman and America itself. It is a delicate creation: Harris is a distant, almost ghostly voice, Glen D Hardin’s organ bubbles warmly in the background, and Parsons seems heartbreakingly lost. ________________________ 17 THE DARK END OF THE STREET The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 1969 A crackling version of Dan Penn’s dark Southern Soul staple: loose, funky, racked and slightly raucous. Between hot-wire guitar licks and a Byrdsy solo, Parsons and Hillman channel The Everly Brothers, throwing the words “you and me” back and forth in a soulful game of pass the parcel. ________________________ 18 BLUE EYES Safe At Home, 1968 The blissfully old-fashioned opening track on ISB’s only album pivots on a classic Parsons conceit: the indignities of life leavened by the simple pleasures of having “a pretty girl to love me with the same last name as mine”. Sailing happily above the counter-culture, it may be the most carefree song he ever wrote, with its catchy chorus and almost indecently busy steel guitar. 19 WE’LL SWEEP OUT THE ASHES IN THE MORNING GP, 1973 Written by Joyce Allsup, this 1969 almost-hit for Carl & Pearl Butler is faithfully revisited as a duet by Parsons and Emmylou Harris, her crystalline certainty anchoring his more wayward vocals. A song about battling the illicit thrill of “stolen love” and “wild desire”, it almost certainly carried personal resonance for the pair. ________________________ 20 SIN CITY The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 1969 This superb Hillman-Parsons country-gospel ballad features Gram as Travis Bickle in a Nudie suit, toting a guitar rather than a gun and painting a ravaged portrait of a decaying LA. Though heavy with the old-time religious doomsaying of The Louvin Brothers, it also takes very modern sideswipes at consumerism and the record business. The man come to “clean up this town” is Bobby Kennedy, assassinated not long before. Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/gram-parsons-20-best-songs-69257/2#8RhyDRchLqbcTbfm.99 Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/gram-parsons-20-best-songs-69257/2#8RhyDRchLqbcTbfm.99 Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/gram-parsons-20-best-songs-69257#PxOGQDzbYqr1EASd.99

zondag 21 juni 2015

Walter Cronkite introduces America to the Velvet Underground on national TV, 1965

Walter Cronkite introduces America to the Velvet Underground on national TV, 1965 06.18.2015 Tags: Andy Warhol The Velvet Underground Edie Sedgwick Walter Cronkite On the last day of 1965, viewers tuning into CBS were treated to a 6-minute report presented by Walter Cronkite himself called “The Making of an Underground Film”; DM’s Richard Metzger wrote about it last year. CBS’ news story prominently mentioned and showed a new band named the Velvet Underground—their first time on TV, ever. The actual focus of the story was the underground movie scene, in particular an experimental filmmaker named Piero Heliczer. When CBS came a-callin’ to do its story, Heliczer was shooting a 12-minute short called Dirt, featuring the Velvet Underground, and that was the scene Heliczer happened to be shooting that day. (For some reason none of the fellows in the band are wearing a shirt.) Heliczer was actually an important figure in the development in VU’s sound, as we shall see below. Reporter Peter Beard begins his report standing outside the Bridge, a theater located on 4 St. Marks Place in the East Village, an early center for alternative arts. In fact you can plainly see the word “FUGS” next to Beard on the facade of the Bridge. Remarkably, Cronkite interviews “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema,” Jonas Mekas and the undisputed king of ├╝ber-experimental abstract movies, Stan Brakhage. CBS even shows more than 30 seconds of a Brakhage movie, presumably part of Two: Creeley/McClure, which is predictably a rapid-fire montage of stutter-y and blurry images—it almost feels like CBS’ little joke on the underground scene. Naturally, CBS also looks at Warhol’s Sleep and documents Warhol filming one of his own parties, at which Edie Sedgwick is joyousy bopping away. One impetus for the CBS story was an interest in this new phenomenon, “underground” art. In Victor Bockris’ Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story, Sterling Morrison explains: ADVERTISING Whenever I hear the word “underground,” I am reminded of when the word first acquired a specific meaning for me and for many others in NYC in the early Sixties. It referred to underground cinema and the people and lifestyle that created and supported this art form. And the person who first introduced me to this scene was Piero Heliczer, a bona fide “underground film-maker”—the first one I had ever met. On an early spring day John [Cale] and I were strolling through the Eastside slums and ran into Angus [MacLise] on the corner of Essex and Delancey. Angus said, “Let’s go over to Piero’s,” and we agreed. It seems that Piero and Angus were organizing a “ritual happening” at the time—a mixed-media stage presentation to appear in the old Cinematheque. … It was to be entitled “Launching the Dream Weapon,” and it got launched tumultuously. In the center of the stage there was a movie screen, and between the screen and the audience a number of veils were spread out in different places. These veils were lit variously by lights and slide projectors, as Piero’s films shone through them onto the screen. Dancers swirled around, and poetry and song occasionally rose up, while from behind the screen a strange music was being generated by Lou, John, Angus, and me. For me the path ahead became suddenly clear—I could work on music that was different from ordinary rock & roll since Piero had given us a context to perform it in. In the summer of 1965 we were the anonymous musicians who played at some screenings of “underground films,” and at other theatrical events, the first of which was for Piero’s films (I think that Barbara Rubin showed “Christmas on Earth” and Kenneth Anger showed a film also). -snip- Around this time, somehow, CBS News decided that Walter Cronkite should have a feature on an “underground” film being made. By whatever selection process, Piero was able to be the “underground film-maker”; since he had already decided to film us playing anyway, we got into the act (and besides, we had “underground” in our name, didn’t we? Maybe someone at CBS reads Pirandello). ADVERTISEMENT Posted by Martin Schneider

zaterdag 20 juni 2015

The Byrds’ 20 best songs

The Byrds’ 20 best songs Tom Pinnock June 19, 2015 Famous fans and The Byrds themselves choose their greatest tracks image: http://keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2015/06/byrdssongs.jpg byrdssongs From “So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star” to “Mr Tambourine Man”, here are the greatest Byrds tracks, as chosen by famous fans, and introduced by Roger McGuinn himself. Originally published in Uncut’s November 2012 issue (Take 186). Interviews: Rob Hughes, Tom Pinnock and Graeme Thomson _______________________ Roger McGuinn: “Looking back, you can see there were several main stages of Byrds music. We started out with the folky thing, mixing Dylan and Pete Seeger with The Beatles, then we dabbled in a bit of jazz fusion with “Eight Miles High”, which was misconstrued as psychedelic. It wasn’t meant to be, but it was branded that way. Then we did things that were purposefully psychedelic, like “Artificial Energy”, and then we got into country with Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. “It was always organic, it wasn’t a conscious effort at any point. The only conscious effort was to get away from the labels the press kept putting on us. Like, ‘Let’s get out of folk-rock and do something else’, which is why we got into John Coltrane. We wanted to extend our territory. “Having said that, that early folk-rock sound is very pleasant, with the harmonies and jangling guitars. I was already a 12-string player, I’d been playing it since the late ’50s, and then we saw The Beatles with a Rickenbacker in A Hard Day’s Night. It was a different sound than you could get with an acoustic, so I had to get one of those! In the studio we put compression on it and it stretched out the sound, it made it sustain a good long time. Suddenly it really stuck out in the mix. “It’s a good sound. I still like to listen to it, and it caught on! Many other people have used it in their work. We got a hit with ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and we thought, ‘Why mess with success?’, but by the third album it was getting tired and we wanted to stretch out and see what else we could do. We decided to do more of our own material. It was always a little difficult politically because we could never do it quite evenly, and it was usually the producer who decided which songs ended up on the record. David Crosby always felt he was unfairly treated, that he didn’t get enough songs on the albums. “It was hard to get an even share but the mixture worked. Crosby brought the jazz influence, Chris Hillman and later Gram Parsons brought the country, and I was coming from folk, as was Gene Clark. Michael Clarke didn’t have that much influence on the direction, though at one point he declared we should be a blues band like The Rolling Stones! Gram was the main influence on doing an entire album of country on Sweetheart…. I wanted to do some country but not all of it. I wanted to make a two-record chronology of the history of music. “I’m grateful we decided to do the songs we did instead of bubblegum pop hits. We went for album-orientated quality. We had The Beatles as a benchmark, which made us very productive. I love all the stages of The Byrds. I can’t say I have a favourite. I love them all for different reasons.” 20 BALLAD OF EASY RIDER From Ballad Of Easy Rider (November 1969). Released on Easy Rider soundtrack, August 1969. Single October 1969. Highest US chart position: 65 Gifted the opening couplet by Dylan, McGuinn pens a brief, beautiful sundown song for the hippy idyll. His solo version played over the film credits, but the full Byrds recording is the classic. IAN McNABB: When I first got into The Byrds in the early ’80s, the consensus was that they were cool until the original lineup dissipated, and then they became less relevant. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo was seen as a complete left turn. They’d turned into a country band, and in the early ’80s that was a lot less cool than it is now! After that, it was like they were dismissed as boring old hippies. It was also hard to get all their albums. So I didn’t hear “Ballad Of Easy Rider” until much later, and I was also quite late coming to the film. I eventually tracked it down on VHS, it cost about 20 quid. Then I heard that song. It plays right at the end of the film but it’s not the final recorded Byrds version. It’s just McGuinn with Gene Parsons on harmonica. Hearing it on the film put the hook in me to check out the album, and that was the first time I heard the song in its full form. It’s really only a minute and a half long, they edited it to make it longer. They stuck the first verse on again at the end and you really can hear it! It has McGuinn’s finger-picking, beautiful strings, and no bass. It also sounds like they’ve looped the drum track by sticking various pieces of tape together. It’s a great lyric. To me, it seems to sum up the whole ethos of the late ’60s hippy dream in so few words and such a small, perfect package. It’s a call to simpler things. _______________________ 19 IF YOU’RE GONE From the album Turn! Turn! Turn! (December 1965) A lovelorn missive from master songwriter Gene Clark, with McGuinn’s pipe-like drone adding to the air of rich melancholy. J MASCIS, Dinosaur Jr: I come back to this a lot. I love the way Gene Clark’s singing is really heartfelt. When I was younger, I thought The Byrds were too wimpy for me, but I got into them in my late twenties. Maybe I got into them through the back door via Gram Parsons, who I was really into, first of all. Dinosaur Jr even did a cover of “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” on an early Byrds tribute record, though I still wasn’t that into them then. I went to see the reformed Buffalo Springfield last year and they reminded me of the fact that The Byrds were kings of the hill and the Springfield always seemed to be trying to push them out of the way. The whole song is pretty cool. It’s got a great guitar line from McGuinn and the backing vocals are fantastic. Most of all, it shows Gene Clark at his best. I really appreciate his skill as a singer. The Byrds are what got me into Rickenbackers. It’s the only 12-string sound to aim for. If it doesn’t sound like The Byrds… all other electric 12-strings sound wrong. _______________________ 18 WILD MOUNTAIN THYME From Fifth Dimension (July 1966) A simple, harmony-rich reading of the British trad standard, based on Robert Tannahill’s 18th-Century Scottish folk ballad, “The Braes Of Balquhidder”. SIMONE FELICE: My initiation to this treasure came not first from The Byrds, but from Sandy Denny, rest her soul. Though, like any true folk tune, it lives on the wind, for all to own, for all to whistle. What I find unique about The Byrds’ rendition is the way they so naturally infuse their signature California harmonies and upbeat drum feel, offering a slightly joyous, dreamy take on such an old, sad, weather-beaten song. One of my favourite bits about their version is the instrumental break where they all hum the vocal line, driving it home, seducing us to hum along, know the melody, share the melody. It is this sense of reverence for 17 WHY? From Younger Than Yesterday (February 1967). B-side of “Eight Miles High”, March 1966. UK chart: 24. US chart: 14 Driven by Crosby’s growing fascination with the music of Ravi Shankar, and propelled by McGuinn’s sitar-like drone, this is a landmark of psychedelic raga-rock. BOBBY GILLESPIE: There are three different versions of this song. I love the version that’s on the B-side of “Eight Miles High”. That version is raga-rock at his best, with McGuinn’s guitar sounding like pure “White Light/White Heat”. It’s a scorching solo, totally out there. I think it’s only about three chords, but it’s always been a favourite of mine. The whole sound of The Byrds is what made them special. Yes, the 12-string is incredible, but the harmonies are out of this world. Earlier today I was listening to Preflyte, which is the album of demos, and even on there the harmonies are amazing. Listen to what Crosby and Clark are doing and it’s so beautiful. You can hear what their influences are – but at the same time it’s something completely new. I’m a Byrds fanatic, really. I love the sound; it’s really joyous, euphoric music, and the whole attitude of the band. Everyone always goes on about Sgt Pepper, but Notorious… destroys it. And the performances on Fifth Dimension, especially, are outstanding. It’s a very intense record, almost like The Velvet Underground with songs like “I See You” and “Eight Miles High”. It’s pretty primitive, as well. _______________________ 16 DOLPHIN’S SMILE From The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Jan 1968) A calm, blissed-out, hugely inventive marriage of Crosby’s timeless natural imagery and McGuinn’s modern palette of psychedelic guitar sounds. NICK POWER, The Coral: “Dolphin’s Smile” sounds like music no one had ever heard before. It’s complex, I don’t even know what the timing is, but like a lot of my favourite Byrds tunes you don’t notice how it moves. It just sort of… glides. Everything they do seems effortless. You listen and think, I could do that – and you can’t! I love the imagery on this song. It’s pure. It never comes across as the bad, naff side of hippy-dom. I don’t even think it’s an idealistic thing, it just feeds your imagination. As soon as you hear that tune – or pretty much anything off the Notorious Byrd Brothers album – it conjures up so many colours and images. It’s just unbelievable, and the vocals are stunning. They are still underrated, I think. Going from “Mr Tambourine Man” to Sweetheart Of The Rodeo in four years is just astonishing. _______________________ 15 EVERYBODY’S BEEN BURNED From Younger Than Yesterday (February 1967) B-side of “So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star”, January 1967. US chart: 29 Crosby’s jazz-scented rumination on a failed love affair actually dated from his early days on the LA folk circuit, before finally making it onto The Byrds’ fourth album in electrified form. LOU BARLOW, Dinosaur Jr/Sebadoh: I’d always known about The Byrds, but when my wife and I met they became the soundtrack for our young love. “Everybody’s Been Burned” is one of those songs that made my cry, which I can’t say about many songs. We split up for a while and she became engaged to somebody else. There was this huge upheaval and I was writing all these songs on my own, and I started playing that song because it was so important to she and I. It had a very calming effect for me, just playing it. Then, when we got back together again, I was working on a record and recorded it for that. Every single word in the song meant something to me, so I thought it was ideal. The original is so incredible musically, you can’t imitate it. It’s impossible to describe that loose sound the early Byrds had. They were just coming out of this period at the Beatlesque pop end of things and were incorporating this undercurrent of jazz into the music. I thought, “Yeah, I’m gonna butcher it, musically, because lyrically I believe in it so much.” When I was in Dinosaur Jr, J [Mascis] was always bad-mouthing The Byrds: “They’re the worst, they’re so wimpy.” But I’d be defending them: “No, they’re so beautiful!” The Byrds’ 20 best songs Tom Pinnock June 19, 2015 2 Comments Share 591 Tweet 17 0 0 Share 613 14 TRIAD From the compilation Never Before (December 1987) “Why can’t we go on as three?” asks Crosby in this gorgeous ode to the inclusive pleasures of ’60s free love. Written in 1967 during the sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, the song, amazingly, failed to make the final cut. DAVID CROSBY: “Triad” was just a hippy dream kind of thing. The time around “Triad” was a great time to be alive. You have to remember that this was after the invention of birth control and before the onslaught of AIDS. So we were in this pocket in history where we could just ‘do it’ a lot. A situation like “Triad” was what it was. It happened and it was a great pleasure. I know a lot of people it happened to and I had it happen to me several times. Some of those relationships were almost stable, lasted quite a while and were really wonderful. I don’t think there are any rules about how you can love somebody. There are lots of possibilities. We knew it wasn’t a stable, let’s-have-kids kind of relationship, but it was fun. At that point we were starting to explore all kinds of answers. There were people living in different groups: threes, fours, tens, twenties. As time passes, stuff gets aggrandised and takes on a kind of legendary status. But those of us who were there know it for what it was. _______________________ 13 TRIBAL GATHERING From The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Jan 1968) Written by David Crosby and Chris Hillman, this feverish jazz-rock trip captures the communal hippy ideal at its Utopian peak. MARK GARDENER, Ride: I’m a bit of a Byrds freak. My uncle turned me on to them when I was about nine years old. I got into the hits and then slowly I found my way into Notorious Byrd Brothers, which is my favourite album. In my darker, more tripped-out days, I remember coming home with a mate, hallucinating, and listening to that album from start to finish. “Tribal Gathering” is amazing. Where is that coming from? It’s so hard to place, it’s such a strange track. What were they on when they wrote it? How do you get a time signature like that? They were such a strong writing force, individually and collectively, and there was always something explorative about what they were doing as a unit. The Byrds were on that tightrope, they could have fallen to one side and been a bit fey, but they never did. They always kept it cool and interesting. You felt they were on the inside of the counter-culture, they were qualified to write and sing about it. Much more than The Beatles, in a way. I would definitely have enjoyed myself at some of Crosby’s parties! Hallucinogenics and lots of beautiful girls with flowers dancing around? I could definitely have had a piece of that. In fact, I think I tried to do my own version of a Tribal Gathering in my early Glastonburys… This song didn’t just influence my ears – it influenced my philosophy on life for a while. I’m a hippy at heart, and I guess that comes from their music. _______________________ 12 LADY FRIEND Single July, 1967. US chart: 82 The only Byrds’ A-side to be written solely by Crosby, who also oversaw the lengthy recording of the song and replaced his bandmates’ backing vocals with his own. BRENT RADEMAKER, Beachwood Sparks: I think it’s so ahead of its time with the horns. Think of all the stuff that came after, Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, white rock psychedelia, that uses horns. That song was all Crosby – he was fighting for that song to be big and it didn’t even make it on an album. It was on a single but it was a flop. That says a lot about a song as well, the circumstances in which it was written. Because when you’re in a band that has such different writers, if you ever thought enough of a song to fight for it knowing that you’re gonna get totally ridiculed by the other guys – not because the song’s bad, but just because of how passionate you might be about a song – that says a lot about it. My God, the original mix is crazy sounding. There’s so much reverb – it’s sounds like Flying Saucer Attack or something! It’s pretty heavy for The Byrds, too. And it’s so beautiful – the words… if you use words in a song to equate a girl or love or a feeling or emotion, but you’re using the waves of the ocean, it’s killer – but it doesn’t sound anything like what you think surf rock is. I could talk forever about this. 8 DRAFT MORNING From The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Jan 1968) Hillman’s undulating bass and Crosby’s carefree lyric illustrate the divide between the hippydom of California and the escalating war in Vietnam. JONATHAN WILSON: I have always loved “Draft Morning”: the production, the groove, the dulcet-toned vocals. The melody is gorgeous, but it’s the irreverent attitude and anti-war sentiment that holds your interest. The message is being wrapped in this mellow beauty. I first heard them when I was very young. My dad’s band played a few Byrds covers I heard growing up, so I probably knew who Roger McGuinn and David Crosby were before I could speak. When I listen to them, I hear the gap between The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys, great harmony groups, and the psychedelic era of California bands like Love. I met David Crosby at his 70th birthday party and we sang together for the first time at the No Nukes concert in 2011. There’s just something larger than life about David – he lights up a room with his energy. I sang high harmony above Graham Nash on a folk song while Croz was in the wings. I said: “Jesus, man, I can’t believe I have to go out in front of 10,000 people and sing above Graham Nash, the greatest high harmony singer in the world.” Croz looked at me and said: “I used to, you can fucking do it!” I hit the parts, thank God – he yelled [encouragement] from the side stage. He’s a brilliant man and one of the coolest motherfuckers there’s ever been in the rock’n’roll game. _______________________ 7 I’LL FEEL A WHOLE LOT BETTER From Mr Tambourine Man (June 1965). B-side of “All I Really Want To Do”, June 1965. UK chart: 4. US chart: 40 A classic that embodies the early Byrds sound: ringing Rickenbacker, tambourine and heady harmonies, with Gene Clark in his imperious pomp. MIKAL CRONIN: The Byrds are one of those bands that just always seemed to be around. You’d hear their songs all the time and find out who performed them later. I really love “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”. It’s simple but has some interesting chord changes and vocal harmonies. I like how the harmonies build as the song progresses. They come in for the first time in the first chorus then continue. That’s a technique I’ve tried to incorporate in my own music. It’s a good trick to keep structurally simple songs interesting all the way through. The bassline is great in this track, too. In the third verse it seems that Hillman flubs a little bit. He hangs too long on the A before dropping down to the E with the rest of the band. I love it when bands leave in little ‘mistakes’ like this in recordings. I imagine them recording it live, the bass flubs in an otherwise great take, they look at each other, smile and keep jammin’. _______________________ 6 HICKORY WIND From Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (August 1968) Gram Parsons’ signature tune, with country greats Lloyd Green on pedal steel and John Hartford on fiddle, was a vivid evocation of Southern life, juxtaposed with the spiritual bankruptcy of wealth. EMMYLOU HARRIS: Working with Gram Parsons made me stop wanting to be a folk singer and get into country music. I suppose I was moving toward that when we were working together. But with his death, I just felt I needed to continue doing whatever it was we were doing. It was still early on and I was finding my way. Fortunately, I hooked up with some great people who shepherded me through it. “Hickory Wind” is one of Gram’s most important songs, certainly one of the saddest and most beautiful. He was a country boy and that longing was a real deep part of that. You can hear it in even his most cryptic writing. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo is very important. Unfortunately, you don’t hear him on it unless you get the versions on the boxset, but he’s all over that record. He and Chris [Hillman] are the reasons that record happened. I came to an appreciation of that album late – because I’d been right to the well with Gram – but it changed a lot of things. So much came as a result of that record. And the songs are stunning. It was so far ahead of its time. 2 MR TAMBOURINE MAN From Mr Tambourine Man (June 1965). Single April 1965. UK chart: 1. US chart: 1 Folk-rock goes boom in a 140-second starburst blending Dylan’s poetry, The Beatles’ pop jangle and heavenly harmonies. ROGER McGUINN: Dylan wasn’t able to use his original recording of “Mr Tambourine Man” because Ramblin’ Jack Elliott was singing on it, and he was a little tipsy and off key. The way Dylan worked was that whatever happened happened, he wouldn’t go back and fix it. So we heard this recording of the song that wasn’t commercially viable but was a great demo. Our manager, Jim Dickson, was convinced it was a hit record. His job was to convince The Byrds of that fact! Crosby hated it. He didn’t like Dylan’s voice, he didn’t like the 2/4 time signature and he didn’t like its length. So we pared it down to AM radio time, put on the Rickenbacker intro and outro, added the harmonies, and basically conditioned it for radio while still maintaining some of the original folk integrity. Finally, David got behind it. I remember us having to audition for Dickson about who would get the lead vocal. We all tried singing it and for some reason, I won. When it came to recording we were all shocked that the band wasn’t going to be allowed to do the backing track. The label had hired the Wrecking Crew. The only reason I was allowed to play was that I had a few years of session experience behind me in New York working for Bobby Darin. Understandably, the rest of the guys were quite upset, and campaigned to be able to play on all our tracks after that. But the Wrecking Crew were really tight. We knocked out “Mr Tambourine Man” and the flipside “I Knew I’d Want You” in one three-hour session, whereas it took The Byrds 77 takes to nail the “Turn! Turn! Turn!” backing track! Dylan and Bobby Neuwirth came to rehearsals to hear us do it, and their comment was, “Wow, you can dance to it!” Dylan wasn’t a pop star at that point, he was a folk hero. So it was probably an eye opener for him that he could do his songs in that 1 EIGHT MILES HIGH From Fifth Dimension (July 1966). Single March 1966. UK chart: 24. US chart: 14 A daring ascent into raga-rock, fusing modal jazz, Indian music and nascent psychedelia. Sounds as timeless and progressive today as it did in 1966. ROGER McGUINN: We were on tour in the United States. We were always on tour! We were in the Midwest and we stopped at some town to visit a friend of David Crosby. David’s friend had copies of John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass and Impressions, which had the track “India” on it. I had a cassette recorder and recorded both Coltrane albums on one side of a blank cassette and some Ravi Shankar on the other. We strapped the cassette deck to the Fender amp on the bus and listened to both sides of that tape over and over again on that tour. This went on for a month, and we were so steeped in this music that by the time we got back to LA it all just spilled out, almost like we’d been brainwashed by Coltrane and Shankar. “Eight Miles High” is out there. It’s spatial. I was trying to emulate Coltrane’s saxophone with my Rickenbacker. It’s got a lot of what Coltrane was going for on “India”, which was to capture the elephants in India with his wails, and there’s that tabla beat. He was trying to incorporate Indian music into jazz, and we were trying to incorporate his attempts to do that into a rock’n’roll song. So there’s a lot of things going on. Gene Clark came up with a lot of it, but he didn’t write the whole song. The airplane thing was my idea, I was always into planes and spaceships. Gene and I were talking about the trip we’d taken when we’d gone to England on tour, and the fact that the altitude was 37,000 ft, which is seven miles high. He didn’t like the number seven, because the Beatles had “Eight Days A Week” out and he thought that was much cooler. So we changed it to “Eight Miles High”, even though commercial airliners didn’t go to 42,000 ft. They do now, some of them. When radio stations heard it they thought, ‘Wait a minute, they can’t be talking about planes because they don’t fly that high. They must be talking about some other kind of high!’ Then the Gavin Report came out with a tip sheet for radio and they banned the record because they thought it was a flagrant drug ad. Some of the band still like to pretend that it is. Crosby will always say, ‘Yeah, it’s about drugs, man!’ But it’s not. It’s about touring the UK: the British press, the cars, the girls in the crowds, the weather, the street signs on the side of the buildings which we weren’t used to and couldn’t find. It’s about cultural shock. CHRIS HILLMAN: What I’m most proud of about The Byrds is that within 18 months we went from covering Bob Dylan to making “Eight Miles High”. We had grown as musicians. We stumbled into something without really thinking, which is how you should make music. It was so creative. It was a truly exciting time. People talk about the guitars and the lyrics on “Eight Miles High”, but Michael Clarke played brilliantly on that, and what about the singing? David was just a beautiful vocalist, as were Gene and Roger. They would double the lead and David would come in with a vocal that was just beautiful. It would have been interesting to have seen where we would have gone had we all stayed together, taking “Eight Miles High” as a launching point. Where would we have gone? It wouldn’t necessarily have ended up at Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. I have to pay credit to Columbia, they really didn’t put a lot of pressure on us over what we recorded. The only pressure was that we had to do two albums a year no matter what, but they weren’t too strict about content. The business was still pretty artistically orientated. The label supported “Eight Miles High” until it stopped getting played on the radio, which really killed it. That meant it fell off the charts. It’s amazing to think that it didn’t make the Top 10, but I felt so lucky to be in that band at that time. From ’65 to ’67, I think, was the best of The Byrds. Magic. And “Eight Miles High” might just be the best of the best. The History Of Rock – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – goes on sale in the UK on July 9. Click here for more details. Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-byrds-20-best-songs-69126#dYcE1DuoSJJDgIGi.99Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-byrds-20-best-songs-69126#dYcE1DuoSJJDgIGi.99 Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-byrds-20-best-songs-69126#dYcE1DuoSJJDgIGi.99 Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-byrds-20-best-songs-69126#dYcE1DuoSJJDgIGi.99 Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/the-byrds-20-best-songs-69126#dYcE1DuoSJJDgIGi.99