Posts Tagged ‘Roger McGuinn’

Californian folk-rock band The Byrds enjoyed immediate success in 1965 with their first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. The song was a watershed moment in pop music – combining Dylan’s poetic, creative lyrics with Roger McGuinn’s chiming twelve string electric guitar. The song launched the genre of folk-rock, influencing acts like Tom Petty and R.E.M..

By the time of their fifth album, 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers, The Byrds were in turmoil, released in January 1968, on Columbia Records With three talented singer-guitarists competing for attention in their original lineup, band relationships were competitive and strained. Ace songwriter Gene Clark had already left the band, and David Crosby was fired in October 1967, during the sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The breaking point was the song ‘Triad’, about a ménage à trois, a song that the other members considered too risque at the time. Drummer Michael Clarke also left the band during the recording sessions, and much of the drumming on the album is from studio players Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers was completed by the two remaining Byrds; McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman, using studio musicians to fill out the sound. The Byrds had often recorded songs from outside songwriters, famously Bob Dylan, and this time two songs from the pen of Carole King and Gerry Goffin are covered. Even though he was fired during the sessions, David Crosby’s also influential on the record – as well as contributing three songs, his rhythm guitar and vocals are on half of the songs. He also plays bass on ‘Old John Robertson’.

1967 was the year of psychedelia, but albums like Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and The Band’s 1968 debut swung the pendulum back to an earthy, homespun feel. The Notorious Byrd Brothers splits the difference – psychedelia mingles with country touches like pedal steel. There’s also the band’s usual folk-rock, and other styles are explored – ‘Old John Robertson’ starts as jaunty country, but detours into a baroque string quartet. Closer ‘Space Odyssey’ is the most disparate. a Moog coloured sci-fi experiment.

It’s these experiments in texture that make The Notorious Byrd Brothers  among The Byrds’ best album. There’s enough of the Byrds’ usual folk-rock to make Notorious a representative album but every track has a different sonic palette, lovingly thought out and distinct.

1960s themes of love and unity are prominent in songs like ‘Natural Harmony’, but there are also hints of darkness in the drug song ‘Artificial Energy’ and the anti-Vietnam war ‘Draft Morning’.

The Byrds’ first six albums are all strong, and 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday is a strong contender as the band’s best album. In the aftermath of their sixth album, 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Hillman quit the band leaving McGuinn as the only original Byrd. Later Byrds albums are more like McGuinn solo records, excepting the 1973 reunion of the original lineup on The Byrds.

The album’s opening track, “Artificial Energy”, features a prominent horn section and as such, can be seen as a stylistic relative of “Lady Friend” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, two earlier Byrds’ songs that made use of brass.  The song deals with the dark side of amphetamine use and it was Chris Hillman who initially suggested that the band should “write a song about speed”. The title was suggested by drummer Michael Clarke, and his input in the creation of the song was sufficient to afford him a rare writing credit Although the song’s lyrics initially seem to be extolling the virtues of amphetamines, the tale turns darker in the final verse when it becomes apparent that the drug taker has been imprisoned for murdering a homosexual man, as evidenced by the song’s final couplet: “I’m coming down off amphetamine/And I’m in jail ’cause I killed a queen. Although the press had accused the Byrds of writing songs about drugs in the past, specifically with “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, when the band finally did record a song unequivocally dealing with drugs it was largely ignored by journalists.

“Artificial Energy” is followed on the album by the poignant and nostalgic Goffin–King song “Goin’ Back”.With its chiming 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and polished harmony singing, band biographer Johnny Rogan has described the song as providing a sharp contrast to the negativity and violence of the opening track The song’s lyrics describe an attempt on the part of the singer to reject the cynicism that comes with being an adult in favor of the innocence of childhood.Thematically, the song recalled the title of the Byrds‘ previous album, Younger Than Yesterday, and the understated pedal steel guitar playing of Red Rhodes gives the track a subtle country flavor.

“Goin’ Back” Each of the previous Byrds albums features a iconic lead single; ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Turn Turn Turn’, ‘Eight Miles High’,and ‘So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star’are arguably their four best known songs. The nostalgia of ‘Goin’ Back’, written by King and Goffin, has flown under the radar a little, but it’s a lovely song, wistful and nostalgic.

Another song on the album that deals with the need to escape the confines of society is David Crosby’s “Dolphin’s Smile”.The song was an early example of Crosby’s penchant for using nautical imagery in his songs, a thematic trait he would utilize in future compositions, including “Wooden Ships” and “The Lee Shore”.The theme of unfettered idyllic bliss is further explored in the Hillman-penned “Natural Harmony”.Like “Goin’ Back”, “Natural Harmony” conveys a sense of longing for the innocence of youth, albeit filtered through the awareness-raising properties of psychedelic drugs. It has been suggested by some commentators that the song exhibits the strong influence of Crosby’s writing style, with its laid-back, jazzy feel and dreamy, high tenor vocal part.A second Goffin–King composition, “Wasn’t Born to Follow”, also displays country and western influences, albeit filtered through the band’s psychedelic and garage rock tendencies. The song’s country leanings are underscored by the criss-crossing musical dialogue between the electric guitar and pedal steel.The rural ambiance is further heightened by the striking imagery of the lyrics which outline the need for escape and independence: a subject perfectly in keeping with the hippie ethos of the day.

The McGuinn and Hillman composition “Change Is Now”, with its lyrics advising the listener to live life to the full, represents a celebration of the philosophy of carpe diem (popularly translated as “seize the day”).Within this context, the song’s lyrics explored a number of other themes, including epiphenomenalism, communalism and human ecology.The quasi-philosophical nature of the song prompted McGuinn to flippantly describe it in a 1969 interview as “another one of those guru-spiritual-mystic songs that no-one understood. An early instrumental recording of the song, listed under its original working title of “Universal Mind Decoder”, was included as a bonus track on the 1997 reissue of The Notorious Byrd Brothers“Change Is Now” is notable for being the only song on the album to feature both Crosby and future Byrd Clarence White together on the same track.

“Draft Morning” was one of the three songs that Crosby had contributed before he was forced from the band. McGuinn and Hillman had forgotten some of Crosby’s lyrics, so made up their own to fill in the blanks, much to Crosby’s displeasure. Despite the confused circumstances, ‘Draft Morning’ is beautiful – Hillman’s bass is loud in the mix, providing much of the melodic interest, while McGuinn’s exploratory solo temporarily upsets the serene atmosphere.

“Draft Morning” is a song about the horrors of the Vietnam War, as well as a protest against the conscription of men into the military during the conflict. The song was initially written by Crosby, but he was fired from the Byrds shortly after he had introduced it to the rest of the band. However, work had already begun on the song’s instrumental backing track by the time of Crosby’s departure. Controversially, McGuinn and Hillman decided to continue working on the song, despite its author no longer being a member of the band Having only heard the song’s lyrics in their original incarnation a few times, McGuinn and Hillman couldn’t remember all of the words when they came to record the vocals and so decided to rewrite the song with their own lyrical additions, giving themselves a co-writing credit in the process. This angered Crosby considerably, since he felt, with some justification, that McGuinn and Hillman had stolen his song. Despite its troubled evolution, “Draft Morning” is often considered one of Crosby’s best songs from his tenure with the Byrds. Lyrically, it follows a newly recruited soldier from the morning of his induction into the military through to his experiences of combat and as such, illustrates the predicament faced by many young American men during the 1960s. The song also makes extensive use of battlefield sound effects, provided for the band by the Los Angeles comedy troupe the Firesign Theatre.

Another of Crosby’s songwriting contributions to the album, “Tribal Gathering”, was, for many years, assumed to have been inspired by the Human Be-In: A Gathering Of Tribes, a counter-culture happening held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on January 12, 1967. However, in recent years, Crosby has revealed that the song was actually inspired by another hippie gathering held at Elysian Park near Los Angeles on March 26, 1967. Played in a jazzy, 5/4 time signature, the song’s vocal arrangement was greatly influenced by the music of the Four Freshmen, a vocal group that Crosby had admired as a youngster.

Another song on the album that uses a 5/4 time signature, albeit with occasional shifts into 3/4 time, is the McGuinn and Clark composition “Get to You”.The song recounts a plane trip to London, England, just prior to the advent of autumn, but the identity of the enigmatic “you” mentioned in the song’s title is not specified in the lyrics and thus, can be interpreted as either a waiting lover or as the city of London itself. Although Clark helped to co-write the song, he had left the Byrds by the time it was recorded and therefore does not appear on the track.

“Get To You” Gene Clark was bought band into The Byrds to replace Crosby. He only lasted three weeks, but was around for long enough to write ‘Get To You’ with McGuinn. ‘Get To You’ has a tension between McGuinn’s folk roots and psychedelia, and the time signature shifts between 5/4 and 3/4.

“Old John Robertson”, which had already been issued some six months earlier as the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single, was another country-tinged song that looked forward to the band’s future country rock experimentation. The song was inspired by a retired film director who lived in the small town near San Diego where Hillman grew up. John S. Robertson was something of an eccentric figure around the town, regularly wearing a Stetson hat and sporting a white handlebar moustache, which gave him the appearance of a character out of the old American West. In the song, Hillman tells the children of the town and their cruel laughter at this colorful figure, as well as the combination of awe and fear that he elicited in the townsfolk. During the recording of the song, Crosby switched instruments with Hillman to play bass instead of his usual rhythm guitar. The track also makes liberal use of the studio effects known as phasing and flanging, particularly during the song’s orchestral middle section and subsequent verse. The version of “Old John Robertson” found on the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single is a substantially different mix from the version that appears on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album.

The final track on the album, “Space Odyssey”, is a musical retelling of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”, which was also the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.The song makes extensive use of the Moog modular synthesizer and features a droning, dirge-like melody reminiscent of a sea shanty. Since “Space Odyssey” predates the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, McGuinn and his co-writer, Robert J. Hippard, composed lyrics that referred to a pyramid being found on the Moon, as was the case in “The Sentinel”. However, the pyramid was replaced by a rectangular monolith in both the film and the accompanying novelization.

At the time of release The Notorious Byrd Brothers wasn’t a big hit album – it barely cracked the top 50 in the US,

In 1973, Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone: “Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers stand with Mr. Tambourine Man as their greatest albums and I used to have a hell of a time choosing between them.”

On the website Rate Your Music, The Notorious Byrds Brothers is tied with Younger Than Yesterday on 3.87/5 as The Byrds’ best album.

On the website Acclaimed Music, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is ranked as the #294 best album of all time. It’s ranked as The Byrds’ fourth best album, behind 1968’s country record Sweetheart of the Rodeo at #192, Younger Than Yesterday, and Mr. Tambourine Man.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers is included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, along with four other Byrds’ albums. The book also quotes Chris Hillman, who says “I’ve talked to more people over the years who’ve said that’s their favourite Byrds album”.

thanks to Aphoristic Album Reviews for the words

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Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

On this day August. 30th in 1968: The Byrds released their 6th studio album, ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’, on Columbia Records; it was the sixth album to be released by the band The Byrds , recorded with the addition of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, it was influential as the first major country rock album by an established act and represented a stylistic move away from the psychedelic rock of the band’s previous album ,The Notorious Byrd Brotherssteered by the passion of the little-known Parsons, who had only joined The Byrds in February 1968, by the time the album was released in August, Parsons had left the band

It was massively influential as the first major country-rock album by an established act; the group had occasionally experimented with country music on their four previous albums, but ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’ represented their fullest immersion into the genre; the album elicited a great deal of resistance & hostility from the ultra-conservative Nashville country music establishment, who viewed The Byrds as a group of long-haired hippies attempting to subvert country music – making “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”, arguably, the first true ‘alt country’ record…

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
2:41 I Am A Pilgrim
6:27 The Christian Life
9:01 You Don’t Miss Your Water
12:56 You’re Still On My Mind
15:26 Pretty Boy Floyd
18:06 Hickory Wind
21:44 One Hundred Years From Now
24:46 Blue Canadian Rockies
26:54 Life In Prison
29:45 Nothing Was Delivered

On the original album, Gram Parsons is featured singing lead vocals on the songs “Hickory Wind”, “You’re Still on My Mind”, and “Life in Prison”. Due to legal threat from Lee Hazlewood (who contended that the singer was still under contract to his LHI record label), Gram’s vocals on the three songs “The Christian Life”, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, and “One Hundred Years from Now” were replaced by Roger McGuinn. Parsons’ original vocals were finally released on The Byrds box set in 1990 (as well as Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology in 2001).

Let’s not forget Chris Hillmans contributions, when we think of the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers..Parsons and Hillman were a formidable writing team, and contributed to the sounds of American music just as much as any thing Lieber and Stoler contributed. And when we’re grovin on Gram’s stuff , let’s also remember, Sneaky Pete Klienow the incredible steel pedal player who gave the burritos that, what I would call hippie trippie country sound.

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The fifth album from the grandfathers of American jangle guitar doesn’t have the notoriety or hits of Mr. Tambourine Man or Turn! Turn! Turn! Still, it may be the light heavyweight champion of their catalog, pound for pound the strongest punch of the bunch. That’s an especially impressive claim if you know the band’s chaos of the day. Notorious, indeed: Founding guitarist David Crosby was fired over their recording of Carole King’s “Goin’ Back” (ironically, this album’s only single), and Michael Clarke and Gene Clark eventually ping-ponged their way out the door too. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman managed to expertly fill in the gaps with session musicians and production wizardry, outfitting their folk rock with trappings of the baroque and psychedelia—found and generated noises, poppy saxophone, the occasional sludgy riff, even early adoption of the Moog synthesizer.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers saw the band and producer Gary Usher making extensive use of a number of studio effects and production techniques, including Phasing, flanging and the introduction the sound of the pedal steel guitar into their music for the first time on the album, making it  alsoone of the first album releases on which the Moog appears.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers rings out like a glorious chiming bell and remains one of the band’s most loved albums. Its consistency is amazing, with one song after another bending one’s mind and inducing a smile. “Artificial Energy” kicks things off in fine style. Co-written by McGuinn, Hillman and Clarke, it’s a perfect album opener. The last song recorded for the album, it bursts forth with punchy horns and driving drums. Yes, it’s about speed, and it’s safe to say the lyrics probably wouldn’t fly today: “I’m coming down off amphetamine, and I’m in jail cause I killed a queen.”

The band’s take on Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Goin’ Back” is perhaps the definitive version of the song. Elsewhere, “Natural Harmony” and “Draft Morning” bask in pure beauty. (Chris Hillman’s role as composer really began to expand on Notorious, as he co-wrote eight of this LP’s 11 tracks.) Another Goffin/King song, “Wasn’t Born To Follow” offered here in all of its countrified glory – would later feature in the movie Easy Rider.

“Get to You” and “Old John Robertson” are both country-tinged numbers that glow of the era they sprang from, while “Change Is Now” is one of the band’s most beautiful songs without question, and its jingle-jangle guitars resonate for the ages.

“Tribal Gathering” has David Crosby written all over it. He and Hillman worked up this two-minute gem in homage to the “Gathering of the Tribes” festival held earlier that year in San Francisco. “Dolphin’s Smile” conjures up its own psychedelic aquatic adventure over just two minutes, before the album ends on an eerie note with “Space Odyssey.” A otherworldly drone set to a sea shanty waltz, the track is driven by a swirling wash of keyboards and guitars.

David Crosby was fired by McGuinn and Hillman in October 1967, as a result of friction arising from, among other things, Crosby’s displeasure at the band’s wish to record the song “Goin’ Back”. David Crosby felt that recording the song was a step backwards artistically, especially when the band contained three active songwriters. Another factor that contributed to Crosby’s dismissal was his controversial song “Triad”, a risqué composition about a menage a trois , The song was in direct competition with “Goin’ Back” for a place on the album.  Crosby eventually gave the tune to the Jefferson Airplane , who included a version of the song on “Crown Of Creation” Although the Byrds did record “Triad”, the song’s daring subject matter compelled McGuinn and Hillman to prevent it from being released at the time.

The results feel particularly transfused into the body of R.E.M.’s Document, and suggest multiple points in the soundtracks of Wes Anderson’s filmography.

The Byrds have had bigger hit songs like their recording of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man which reached number one, as did their cover of Pete Seger’s Turn! Turn! Turn! but among the band’s self-penned tunes, none are more enduring, or as misunderstood, as Eight Miles High.

Released in 1966, “Eight Miles High” has been called the first psychedelic rock song. However, Roger McGuinn, who wrote the track with fellow Byrds members Gene Clark and David Crosby, disagrees. “It’s a unique song, sure,” he says, “but psychedelic wasn’t something we were trying for. It’s a big misunderstanding. If anything, I consider it to be the first jazz-rock song, or even jazz-fusion. But psychedelic? No, I wouldn’t call it that.”

McGuinn also dispels the widely held notion that “Eight Miles High” refers to drugs, the idea of which got the song banned on radio stations. In addition, he talks about the influence that Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane had on him during the writing of the track, along with how the version of the song that millions of listeners have heard over the years isn’t really the one the band intended to release. We Recorded it at RCA with Dave Hassinger as the engineer, but Columbia Records had a strict policy that they only used their house engineers, so we had to re-record it. It became a real sticking point between us and the label. So, in fact, we really did have kind of a demo—the RCA version is the demo. We went to the Columbia studios and redid it. Both versions are pretty good. I think the first one has more spontaneity, and the second one is better rehearsed.

We’d been doing pot and LSD at that point—everybody was experimenting with things. There wasn’t anything deliberate or intentional about that in the title. I didn’t really mean anything by it, except for the airplane trip to England that we’d been on. It was more about the trip than the drugs. The only drug reference is the word “high.”

We flew over to England—it was our first time there, our first concert tour—and a promoter had called us “America’s answer to the Beatles.” That’s a hard label to live up to. It’s all right for the studio, but it’s not so great on stage. The press was already out to get us, and we got bad reviews for the tour.

We did get to meet the Beatles—George, John and Paul. I don’t remember Ringo being around. Paul even drove us around to different gigs. I got to ride in his Aston Martin DB5, which was a thrill. Lennon asked me about my little glasses. He was interested in them because he wore prescription glasses, but he didn’t want to wear them on stage like Buddy Holly. From that standpoint, it was a great tour—well, except for myself getting the flu.

After coming home, Gene had some chord changes—the E minor, the G and the D. We started to write a song about the tour, but then I said, “Let’s make it about the airplane ride.” I’ve always been into airplanes and technology. Gene was kind of afraid of planes, but we decided to do that—make it about the plane ride. He asked me, “How high do you thing this plane flies?” And I said, “Maybe 39,000 feet”—that would be seven miles high.

At the time, the Beatles had a song called Eight Days a Week, so Gene thought eight was a cooler number than seven. I said, “Sure, let’s change it. Poetic license—who’s gonna care?” I didn’t think that the radio stations would do the math. The DJs said, “Commercial airlines don’t fly eight miles high. They must be talking about some other kind of high.”

Gene Clark & Roger McGuinn – Full Concert Recorded Live: 3/4/1978 – Capitol Theatre (Passaic, NJ) This is a very fine set, good songs from Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn who also played together in The Byrds and some very fine covers, among them three Bob Dylan songs are included.

Setlist:
1 – Release Me Girl
2 – Silver Raven
3 – Don’t You Write Her Off
4 – Jolly Roger
5 – Chestnut Mare
6 – Crazy Ladies
7 – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
8 – Lover Of The Bayou
9 – Train Leaves Here This Morning
10 – Mr. Tambourine Man
11 – Bag Full Of Money
12 – Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)
13 – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
14 – So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star
15 – Eight Miles High
16 – Band Exit

thanks to alldylan.com

“Fifth Dimension” is the third album by the American folk rock band The Byrds and was released in July 1966 on Columbia Records .On December 22, 1965, shortly after the release of their second album Turn! Turn! Turn!, The Byrds entered RCA Studios in Los Angeles to record “Eight Miles High” and Why, the two new songs that they had recently composed. Both songs represented a creative leap forward for the band and were instrumental in developing the musical styles of psychedelic rock and raga rock. However, the band ran into trouble with their record company, Columbia Records, who refused to release either song because they had not been recorded at a Columbia owned studio. As a result, the band were forced to re-record both songs in their entirety at Columbia Studios, Hollywood and it was these re-recordings that would see release on the “Eight Miles High” single and the Fifth Dimension album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice in depth profile of Gene Clark the original Byrd and songwriter of “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “Eight Miles High” .He was only in the Byrds for a short period between 1964-66 after a short spell in the New Christy minstrels he heard the Beatles and wanted to form a rock band heading to Los Angeles he met folk singer Jim McGuinn assembled the Byrds and became the first of the country rock bands, He was the main songwriter and vocalist but a fear of flying and touring meant he left the band in 1966.  He suffered bouts of heavy drinking and this led to stomach ulcers which after surgery they removed most of his stomach and intestines which would lead later to his death in 1991.

Byrds_MrTambourineMan_ColumbiaTheByrds_FifthDimension_Columbia

TheByrds_SelfTitled_Asylum

 

 

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