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THE BYRDS – PREFLYTE columbia KC 32183 LP 1973 USA

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PREMESSA: LA SUPERIORITA’ DELLA MUSICA SU VINILE E’ ANCOR OGGI SANCITA, NOTORIA ED EVIDENTE. NON TANTO DA UN PUNTO DI VISTA DI RESA, QUALITA’ E PULIZIA DEL SUONO, TANTOMENO DA QUELLO DEL RIMPIANTO RETROSPETTIVO E NOSTALGICO , MA SOPRATTUTTO DA QUELLO PIU’ PALPABILE ED INOPPUGNABILE DELL’ ESSENZA, DELL’ ANIMA E DELLA SUBLIMAZIONE CREATIVA. IL DISCO IN VINILE HA PULSAZIONE ARTISTICA, PASSIONE ARMONICA E SPLENDORE GRAFICO , E’ PIACEVOLE DA OSSERVARE E DA TENERE IN MANO, RISPLENDE, PROFUMA E VIBRA DI VITA, DI EMOZIONE E  DI SENSIBILITA’. E’ TUTTO QUELLO CHE NON E’ E NON POTRA’ MAI ESSERE IL CD, CHE AL CONTRARIO E’ SOLO UN OGGETTO MERAMENTE COMMERCIALE, POVERO, ARIDO, CINICO, STERILE ED ORWELLIANO,  UNA DEGENERAZIONE INDUSTRIALE SCHIZOFRENICA E NECROFILA, LA DESOLANTE SOLUZIONE FINALE DELL’ AVIDITA’ DEL MERCATO E DELL’ ARROGANZA DEI DISCOGRAFICI .

THE BYRDS
preflyte

Disco LP 33 giri , columbia , KC 32183 , 1973   u.s.a.

ECCELLENTI CONDIZIONI, vinyl ex++/NM , cover ex++/NM.

The Byrds sono stati un gruppo musicale pop-rock californiano in auge particolarmente nella seconda metà degli anni sessanta. Mossero i primi passi suonando in piccoli locali della costa occidentale degli Stati Uniti raggiungendo presto una certa notorietà. Sono stati a lungo considerati «la risposta americana al “fenomeno” Beatles», dai quali mutuarono talune sonorità poi personalizzate attraverso riff di stile inconfondibile diventati quasi un “marchio di fabbrica” del loro particolare stile sonoro.
 
                                                               

The Byrds (formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1964) were an American rock band.

The Byrds were popular and influential through the latter part of
the 1960s and early 1970s. Critic Richie Unterberger declares The
Byrds’ most enduring contribution was “melding the innovations and
energy of the British Invasion with the best lyrical and musical elements of contemporary folk music,” but they also helped forge such subgenres as folk rock, space rock, raga rock, psychedelic rock, jangle pop, and –- on their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo –- country rock. After several line-up changes (with lead singer/guitarist Roger McGuinn as the only consistent member), they broke up in 1973.

Their trademark songs include pop covers of Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!“, and the originals “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better“, and “Eight Miles High“.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and several band members have launched successful solo careers after leaving the group. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked them #45 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

http://www.maggiesfarm.eu/rogermcguinn/Byrds1.jpg


In 1973, Columbia issued Preflyte, a collection of raw demo recordings from the Byrds’ earliest days in 1964. Some of these recordings were later reissued on In The Beginning (Rhino R4 70244, 1988), but different takes were utilized for six of the songs, marked with an asterisk (*) below. The Preflyte
versions of “You Showed Me” (the McGuinn/Clark composition that was
later a 1969 top ten hit for the Turtles) and “She Has A Way” are
arguably better than the versions used on In The Beginning.

For an album of rough-cut demos, Preflyte
is a surprisingly enjoyable listen. Although the songs here sound
similar to the early Beatles, they still sound somewhat individual.
McGuinn’s Rickenbacker doesn’t ring as loudly here as on the Byrds’
proper polished records; instead, Preflyte serves as an
effective showcase for the vocal talents of Gene Clark (“You Showed
Me”, “You Won’t Have To Cry”), who wrote most of these songs, and David
Crosby (“She Has A Way”, “The Airport Song”). Preflyte is a remarkable glimpse of a great band in its infancy. Notes: Preflyte
had previously been released in 1969 on the Together label; this review
applies to the 1973 Columbia reissue.

Etichetta:  COLUMBIA
Catalogo: KC 32183
Data di pubblicazione: 1973
Matrici: PAL 32183 1B/ PBL 32183 1AE

  • Supporto:vinile 33 giri
  • Tipo audio: stereo
  • Dimensioni: 30 cm.
  • Facciate: 2
  • Cover art : Barry Smith
  • red label, white paper inner sleeve
Track listing:

1.You Showed Me

2.Here Without You

3.She Has A Way

4.The Reason Why

5.For Me Again

6.Boston

7.You Movin'

8.The Airport Song

9.You Won't Have To Cry

10.I Knew I'd Want You

11.Mr Tambourine Man

http://www.maggiesfarm.eu/rogermcguinn/byrds3.jpg

Personnel:

  • Gene Clark – guitar, vocals, harmonica
  • Roger McGuinn – guitar, vocals
  • Chris Hillman – bass, vocals
  • Michael Clarke – drums
  • David Crosby – guitar, vocals

Il gruppo è stato fra i fondatori del folk-rock e del country-rock, generi musicali che, sull’onda dei molti mutamenti del XX secolo, coniugavano la musica popolare di stampo anglosassone alle moderne sonorità del rock and roll.
Nati originariamente come trio con il nome di “Jet Set” – con Jim
McGuinn (che poi assumerà il nome di Roger) e David Crosby alla
chitarra e Gene al tamburino – si sciolsero ufficialmente nei primi anni settanta. Il loro nome figura dal 1991 nella Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. La rivista Rolling Stone li ha classificati fra i cinquanta migliori artisti rock di sempre.

La
musica dei Byrds è stata apprezzata – e considerata per molti versi
innovativa – per la leggerezza dell'”impasto” sonoro e per la
suggestione restituita dalla parte vocale
, improntata su cori in falsetto (tutti i componenti erano, oltre che capaci musicisti, anche validi vocalist). I loro brani – specialmente quelli riferiti alla prima produzione – davano la sensazione di volare in alto, come gli uccelli da cui avevano preso a prestito, storpiandolo, il nome (in inglese bird significa infatti “uccello”). Infine però le “otto miglia più in alto” (il brano Eight Miles High è uno dei loro più conosciuti) presero il sopravvento segnando, con lo scioglimento della formazione originale, la fine di un volo tanto intenso quanto breve.

Storia

I primi anni 

Il loro primo LP – In the Beginning – lo avevano inciso nel 1964
negli World Pacific Studios, allora all’avanguardia, e molto del
materiale registrato durante quelle sessioni di lavoro verrà pubblicato
solo successivamente nell’album Pre-Flyte (Prima del volo, 1969).

Il successo con Mr. Tambourine Man e Turn! Turn! Turn! [

Dopo lo sfolgorante successo ottenuto nel 1965 con il disco singolo Mr. Tambourine Man (versione in chiave rock di un’allora sconosciuta canzone di Bob Dylan in cui era messo in evidenza un uso inconsueto del basso elettrico), l’organico originale andò avanti nel suo ruolo di “risposta americana” al pop dei Beatles con il seguente Turn! Turn! Turn!. Durante la lavorazione di 5th Dimension Gene Clark, fino a quel momento il compositore più prolifico del gruppo, lascia per cominciare una difficile e sottovalutata carriera solista.

5th Dimension: il “raga rock” e la musica psichedelica

Per loro furono coniate varie etichette: ad esempio, quella di ideatori del raga-rock, il “rock orientaleggiante” il cui suono era prodotto specialmente dalla chitarra modello Rickenbacker a dodici corde elettrificata suonata come fosse un sitar dal leader del gruppo Roger McGuinn[2]. Sull’onda delle esperienze psichedeliche composero quello che è forse il loro album più noto, 5th Dimension (e la suggestiva copertina li vedrà veleggiare su un sontuoso e variopinto tappeto di foggia orientale).

Easy Rider: il country-rock

Sono stati poi “padri” del country-rock (con l’album-manifesto Easy Rider, ispirato alle vicende dell’omonimo film di Dennis Hopper). Si sentivano «più giovani di ieri» (mutuando un verso di Bob Dylan per il titolo di un loro album), e il loro solo desiderio era quello – come cantavano in una canzone – di essere delle “star” in una “Rock’n’Roll Band”.

I favori di critica e pubblico

Il viaggio era iniziato, ma non si rivelerà per nulla confortevole:
ad attenderli li aspetteranno vicissitudini esistenziali non sempre
felici, affari di droga e guai con la giustizia; anche lutti.

Forti di notevoli qualità vocali (ogni membro del gruppo dava un
proprio contributo in questo senso) basavano il loro suono sul basso
elettrico – usato come mai prima di allora – e sulla chitarra elettrica
a dodici corde capace di coniugare le sonorità della tradizione folk
americana con il sound allora imperante dei Beatles.

Si guadagnarono così in breve tempo simpatia da parte di critica e
pubblico. Bob Dylan – ormai lanciato verso il successo – affidò loro
diverse sue composizioni fra cui, oltre Mr. Tambourine Man, All I Really Want To Do, Chimes of Freedom, My Back Pages, solo per citarne alcune.

Lo smembramento del gruppo: una “band”, mille rivoli

Supergruppi & Derivati
Questi
i gruppi derivati dall’originale formazione dei Byrds. Talvolta si
tratta di semplici duo o trio. La data si riferisce alla pubblicazione
del primo disco:

  • The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1968 (Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge, Pete Kleinow, Jon Corneal, Eddie Hoh, Sam Goldstein e Popeye Philips)
  • Dillard & Clark, 1968 (Doug Dillard e Gene Clark)
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1969 (David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash e Neil Young)
  • Manassas, 1972 (Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman, Paul Harris, Joe Lala, Dallas Taylor, Al Perkins e Fuzzy Samuels)
  • Souther, Hillman & Furay Band, 1974 (John David Souther, Chris Hillman, Richie Furay, Paul Harris, Al Perkins, Jim Gordon e Joe Lala)
  • Firefall, 1976 (Rick Roberts, Michael Clarke, Mark Andes, Larry Burnett, David Muse e Jock Bartley)
  • McGuinn & Thunderbyrd, 1976 (Roger McGuinn, James Q. Smith, Bruce Barlow, Lance Dickerson; poi, Rick Vito, Greg Thomas)
  • McGuinn, Clark & Hillman, 1977 (Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark e Chris Hillman)
  • Ever Call Ready, 1984 (Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, Al Perkins, David Mansfield e Jerry Scheff)
  • CRY, 1985 (Gene Clark, Patrick Gerald Robinson, John York)
  • The Desert Rose Band, 1987 (Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, Jay Dee Maness, John Jorgenson, Bill Bryson e Steve Duncan)
  • Gene Clark & Carla Olson, 1987
  • Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen, 1996
  • CPR, 1998 (David Crosby, James Raymond e Jeff Pevar)
  • Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen, 1999 (Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, Larry Rice e Tony Rice)

Del gruppo dei Byrds hanno fatto parte musicisti che, nel corso
degli anni, avrebbero goduto di un grande successo anche come solisti o
in altri complessi rock. Fra essi, i cinque “Byrds” co-fondatori del
gruppo: oltre al leader Jim McGuinn – che nel 1966 prese il nome di Roger McGuinn (chitarra Rickenbacker a dodici corde e voce) – il cantante e chitarrista David Crosby, Gene Clark (autore di molti brani, voce, chitarra, tamburello e percussioni, morto nel 1991), Chris Hillman (basso, chitarra, mandolino) e Michael Clarke (batteria, percussioni, deceduto nel 1992).

Successivamente subentrarono: Gram Parsons (voce, chitarra e tastiere), Clarence White (chitarra solista, anch’egli morto tragicamente, nel 1973, travolto da una ubriaca alla guida di un’auto in un parcheggio), Gene Parsons (voce, batteria e banjo, e nessuna parentela con Gram), Skip Battin (voce e basso, morto nel 2003).

La formazione originaria dei Byrds non ha avuto vita lunga, a
differenza della fama che li avrebbe seguiti nel tempo – nella
rispettiva produzione da solisti o in coppie ricomposte – fino alla
metà degli anni novanta.

Dissapori e incomprensioni – specialmente tra Roger McGuinn e David Crosby (i due leader carismatici del gruppo – e la presunta paura di volare da parte di Gene Clark
hanno fatto sì che i Byrds si smembrassero ben presto in più organici
musicali, dando vita a gruppi differenti rispetto a quello iniziale (i
più noti dei quali sono stati Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young e Dillard & Clark, duo nato dopo lo scioglimento della Doug Dillard Band), e Manassas di Stephen Stills).

Dopo essere rimasto per qualche tempo saldamente nelle mani di Roger McGuinn, il marchio Byrds è infine passato, dopo una lunga vertenza giudiziaria, nelle mani di Michael Clarke, uno dei co-fondatori, ed infine al trio McGuinn, Crosby & Hillman.

There Is A Season e gli anni recenti

Nell’autunno del 2006 l’etichetta discografica Columbia Records ha pubblicato per la serie Legacy un box – dal titolo There Is A Season (frase che compare in un verso della loro canzone Turn! Turn! Turn!, il cui testo è ispirato al libro dell’Ecclesiaste) – composto da quattro CD ed un DVD che racchiude l’intera loro storia musicale.

Nella collezione vengono ripercorse le tappe della loro carriera, dagli esordi nei primi anni sessanta – come Jet Set e poi come Beefeaters – fino alle reunion (solo estemporanee) degli anni ottanta, spesso avvenute tuttavia con formazioni rimaneggiate rispetto all’organico originale.

I brani inclusi nei CD sono novantanove e comprendono cinque inediti
da esibizioni in concerto; costituiscono una documentazione esaustiva
di ciò che la musica degli interpreti di Mr. Tambourine Man ha rappresentato nella storia del rock.

Nella primavera del 2008 la vicenda Byrds
si è arricchita di un nuovo capitolo con il rinvenimento, in casa di
Roger McGuinn, della registrazione del concerto che i Byrds, in una
delle ultime formazioni storiche, tennero nel 1971 alla Royal Albert Hall di Londra.
Sul palco, in quella circostanza, suonavano oltre a McGuinn i
chitarristi Clarence White, Skip Battin e il batterista Gene Parsons. I
nastri, riposti in uno scatolone e quindi dimenticati per anni, sono
stati affidati da McGuinn a Bob Irwin dell’etichetta Sundazed per essere commercializzati su CD nel giugno dello stesso anno dopo un’adeguata opera di rimasterizzazione.

http://nofearofpop.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/byrds65.jpeg

Origins

The Byrds were founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1964 by
singers and guitarists Jim McGuinn (born James McGuinn III; he changed
his name to Roger McGuinn in 1967, after joining the spiritual movement Subud), Gene Clark, and David Crosby. Bass guitarist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke joined soon after.

McGuinn had been in a series of folk outfits including The Limeliters and the Chad Mitchell Trio before working in New York in 1962–1963 as a songwriter for Bobby Darin. He moved to L.A. in late 1963 and began gigging at clubs such as the Troubadour but, after hearing The Beatles
for the first time, saw what he later called “a gap in the market”, and
resolved to take “Lennon and Dylan and mix them together.”

Gene Clark, who had been in the New Christy Minstrels,
briefly joined McGuinn in a duo playing at The Folk Den before Crosby,
who had performed with Les Baxter’s Balladeers, persuaded them to let
him join. The newly formed trio recorded a song, “The Only Girl I
Adore”, soon after naming themselves “The Jet Set” (McGuinn and Crosby
were aviation buffs). As such they cut a couple of numbers, “You
Movin'” and “The Only Girl”. They then hired Michael Clarke (who had
the right look for the part) to join on drums. Former bluegrass mandolin
player Hillman, who had played with the Scotsville Squirrel Barkers,
the Golden State Boys, and the Hillmen, completed the quintet.
(Overall, it can be said the members were markedly influenced by the American folk music revival.)

They rehearsed and recorded extensively at the World Pacific Studios
in Los Angeles under the guidance of manager Jim Dickson. This period
culminated with Elektra Records
releasing a single, “Please Let Me Love You” b/w “Don’t Be Long”, under
the name “The Beefeaters”. Years later, these World Pacific demos were
released as the Preflyte album and even made the lower reaches
of the album charts. There have since been two further archive albums
culled from the World Pacific sessions, In The Beginning (1988) and The Preflyte Sessions (2001).

Folk rock

In November 1964, the band signed to Columbia Records and a few days later renamed themselves The Byrds. On January 20, 1965, they recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man“,
a Bob Dylan song given a full electric treatment, and effectively
created folk rock. McGuinn’s jangling, highly melodic guitar playing
(using a 12-string, heavily compressed Rickenbacker
for its extremely bright tone) was immediately influential, and has
remained so to the present day. The group’s complex harmony work became
the other major characteristic of their sound (McGuinn and Clark
alternating between unison
singing and harmony, with Crosby providing the high harmony). Released
in June 1965 after a long delay, this debut single reached #1 on the US
charts and, a month later, repeated the feat in the UK. At the same
time, their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man was released, also topping the charts. The album mixed reworkings of folk songs (most notably Pete Seeger‘s
“The Bells Of Rhymney”) with several more Dylan covers, as well as a
number of the band’s own compositions, mainly written by Gene Clark.

Since the band had not yet completely gelled in January, McGuinn had been the only Byrd to play on “Mr. Tambourine Man” and its B-side, “I Knew I’d Want You”. Instead, producer Terry Melcher hired “The Wrecking Crew“, a collection of top session men including Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel and Leon Russell,
who provided the backing track over which McGuinn added lead guitar and
lead vocal, while Crosby and Clark sang harmony. By the time the album
was recorded, Melcher was satisfied that the band were up to scratch,
and they were to play on all the remaining tracks.

The group’s follow-up single was another interpretation of a Dylan
song, “All I Really Want To Do”. Unfortunately for The Byrds, Cher
simultaneously released her own version of the song with greater
commercial success. Even though they had recorded Dylan’s “It’s All
Over Now, Baby Blue” as their third single (it was played on the
California radio station KFWB), The Byrds instead quickly recorded “Turn! Turn! Turn!“, a Pete Seeger adaptation of a traditional melody, with some lyrics taken directly from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and the song became the group’s second US #1 single, also headlining their second album (also titled Turn! Turn! Turn!).

Like their debut, the album was characterised by harmony vocal and
McGuinn’s distinctive guitar sound, highlighted by the bright-sounding
production of Terry Melcher. This time they featured more of their own
compositions and now had, in Gene Clark, a major songwriter; his songs
from this period, including “The World Turns All Around Her”, “She
Don’t Care About Time”, “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” and “Set You
Free This Time”, are widely regarded as amongst the best of the genre.

Psychedelia

By the end of 1965, the band had exhausted the folk rock sound, and began to experiment. On December 22, 1965, they recorded “Eight Miles High“, generally considered the first full-blown psychedelic recording (although many contemporaneous groups, notably The Yardbirds,
were moving in a similar direction). It was widely regarded as a “drug”
song (despite its lyrics being about an airplane flight and a concert
tour of England), and its relatively modest success when it was
released as a single (US #14, UK #24) has been attributed to the
resulting airplay bans on some radio stations (though the unfamiliar
and slightly uncommercial sound of the track is another possible
factor). While the groundbreaking lead guitar work was actually an
attempt by McGuinn to replicate the free jazz saxophone style of John Coltrane, the record was often referred to as “raga rock” – in fact, it was the B-side “Why?” which drew on Indian raga influences.

Gene Clark left the band in March 1966, partly due to a fear of
flying which made it impossible to keep up with the band’s itinerary.
He had witnessed a fatal airplane crash as a youth and had never gotten
over it. He had a panic attack on a plane in L.A. bound for New York
and had to get off. McGuinn told him, “You can’t be a Byrd, Gene, if
you can’t fly.” He was signed by Columbia as a solo artist and went on
to forge a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful body of
work.

The Byrds’ third album, Fifth Dimension
(5D), released in July 1966, built on the new sound the band had
created for “Eight Miles High”, McGuinn extending his exploration of
jazz and raga styles on tracks such as “I See You” and Crosby’s “What’s
Happening?!?!” respectively. The campaign in US radio to clamp down on
“drug songs” affected several of the tracks, such as “Eight Miles High”
and “5D,” and limited the album’s commercial success (#24 US).

Allegedly irritated by the overnight success of manufactured groups such as The Monkees, the group next recorded the satirical and slightly bitter dig at the music business, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star“, which again broke new ground musically, featuring a brass part played by the South African musician Hugh Masekela. The song achieved modest success as a single and also kicked off their fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday.
The LP was more varied than its predecessor, and has been widely
praised for tracks such as Crosby’s sinister ballad “Everybody’s Been
Burned”, a cover of Dylan’s My Back Pages
(later released as a single), and a quartet of Chris Hillman numbers
which showed the bassist emerging fully formed as a country-oriented
songwriter (“Have You Seen Her Face”, “Time Between”, “Thoughts And
Words”, “The Girl With No Name”). However, many critics feel that the
album suffers in parts from (possibly drug-induced) self-indulgence,
especially on tracks such as “CTA-102”, a McGuinn novelty song about
alien life, and Crosby’s lengthy recitation “Mind Gardens.”

Line-up changes

By 1967 there was increasing tension between the band members,
McGuinn and Hillman becoming irritated by what they saw as Crosby’s
overbearing egotism, and his attempts to jockey for control of the
band. In June, when the Byrds performed at the Monterey Pop Festival,
Crosby sang the majority of lead vocals, and to the intense annoyance
of the other members gave lengthy speeches between every song, on
subjects such as the JFK assassination and the benefits of giving LSD to “every man, woman and child in the country”. He then added insult to injury by performing later with rival band Buffalo Springfield (filling in for Neil Young).
His stock within the band dropped further following the commercial
failure of his first A-side, “Lady Friend”, released in July (US #82).
In October, during the recording of the fifth Byrds album, Crosby
refused to participate in taping the Goffin-King number “Goin’ Back” in
preference to his more controversial “Triad”, a song about a ménage à trois.
The simmering tensions within the band finally erupted and in 1967 the
other group members fired Crosby, who subsequently received a
considerable cash settlement, and soon after began working with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, forming the hugely successful supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Gene Clark briefly rejoined The Byrds to take his place, but left three
weeks later, after again refusing to board an aircraft while on tour.
Michael Clarke also quit during these sessions, partly due to disputes
with Crosby during the recording of “Dolphin’s Smile”. Studio drummer
Jim Gordon was drafted in to complete his parts. The bluegrass
guitarist Clarence White contributed significantly on several tracks,
later becoming a permanent band member in 1968.

The resulting album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers,
was released in January 1968, and despite its troubled genesis,
contains some of the band’s gentlest, most ethereal music. The record
mixed folk rock, country, psychedelia and jazz, often within a single
song, and attempted to deal with many contemporary themes such as
peace, ecology, freedom, drug use, alienation and mankind’s place in
the Universe. It included the song “Wasn’t Born to Follow“, which featured on the Easy Rider Soundtrack. Over the years, The Notorious Byrd Brothers
has gained in reputation, and is often considered the group’s best
work, while the contentious incidents surrounding its making have
largely been forgotten.

Now reduced to a duo, The Byrds quickly recruited Hillman’s cousin
Kevin Kelley as drummer and the band went out on tour in support of The Notorious Byrd Brothers
as a trio. After realizing that the trio arrangement wasn’t going to
work, McGuinn and Hillman, in a fateful decision for their future
career-direction, hired Gram Parsons,
originally to play keyboards (he later moved to guitar). With the aid
of Hillman, Parsons persuaded McGuinn to change direction again, and
take up a style with which they had previously only dabbled – country
music.

Country rock

On February 15, 1968, they played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,
the first group of longhairs ever to do so, and immediately started
recording their next album in a wholly country style, with Parsons
choosing and singing many of the songs. However, on July 29,
Parsons quit the band just before they flew to South Africa because he
refused to play to segregated audiences. At the same time, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
was released, most of Parsons’ vocals being replaced by either McGuinn
or Hillman due to legal problems with Parsons’ previous record company.
The album was commercially unsuccessful on its release (US # 77), but
contains the yearning Parsons song which has become a standard,
“Hickory Wind”, as well as a couple of Dylan tunes from his
then-unreleased Basement Tapes
collection, and more traditional songs from such unlikely sources as
The Louvin Brothers (“The Christian Life”). It is the first
country-rock album to be released by an established rock band, coming
six months before Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline“. (The first country rock album was arguably released by Gram’s International Submarine Band on the indie record label that later created legal problems for Gram with the Byrds.)

Kevin Kelley left not long after Gram Parsons and in their places, McGuinn and Hillman hired drummer Gene Parsons and guitarist Clarence White, who had both played in Nashville West. This new lineup played two shows together[3] in October before Hillman quit to join Gram Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers. McGuinn, now the only original member left, hired bassist John York (who had been working in the Sir Douglas Quintet) to replace Hillman, and the resulting quartet recorded the Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde album and released it in February 1969 to poor US sales and moderate UK success.

In July 1969 The Byrds were the headliner of the Schaefer Music Festival in New York City‘s Central Park, along with Miles Davis, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and Patti LaBelle. They re-appeared at the festival in 1970 and 1971.

In October 1969 came the Ballad Of Easy Rider album. “Jesus Is Just Alright” from that album was issued as a single, which, in a similar arrangement, became a hit for The Doobie Brothers, four years later. The group also recorded a version of Jackson Browne‘s
“Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood” during the recording sessions, but it
remained unreleased for some twenty years. The title track was composed
by McGuinn (expanding on a verse line written by Bob Dylan) as the
music theme for the 1969 hippie movie Easy Rider,
and the album sold well off the back of the movie’s huge success. By
the time this album was released, John York had left the band because
his girlfriend objected to his going out on the road.[4] He was replaced by bassist Skip Battin, who had some chart success in 1959 as half of the duo Skip & Flip.

In 1970, The Byrds released the double album (Untitled), which charted well in the UK and acceptably in the US. (Untitled)
featured one disc of live recordings and one of studio performances
such as “Chestnut Mare”, “All The Things” and “Lover of the Bayou”. It
also included a 16-minute live version of “Eight Miles High“.

In 1971 they released the Byrdmaniax
album, which was a commercial and critical disappointment, largely due
to inappropriate orchestration which was added to many tracks without
the band’s approval by producer Terry Melcher. Also in 1971 came the
release of the Farther Along
album. The title track of that album, sung by Clarence White (with the
rest of the group harmonizing), would became a prophetic epitaph for
both White and Gram Parsons. (In July 1973, White was killed by a motor
vehicle while he was loading equipment after a gig in Palmdale,
California. Soon afterwards, Gram Parsons died, as a result of an
overdose of morphine and alcohol, in the Joshua Tree Motel, California.)

McGuinn toured with the Byrds through 1972, with LA session man John Guerin
replacing Gene Parsons. Two Byrds recordings exist with this lineup,
live versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Roll Over Beethoven”,
recorded for the soundtrack to the movie Banjoman. The final recording sessions involving all four of the latter-day Columbia Byrds were for Skip Battin‘s 1972 album, Skip;
Guerin was on drums. McGuinn appeared on only one track, though,
“Captain Video” – evidently Battin’s tribute to his erstwhile employer.

Skip Battin and John Guerin either quit or were fired after the February 10, 1973 show in Ithaca, New York, and were replaced by Chris Hillman and Joe Lala, respectively, for the Byrds’ final two shows on February 23 (Burlington, Vermont) and 24 (Passaic, New Jersey).

Reunions (1973–1990)

The five original Byrds all briefly reunited in late 1972 (while
McGuinn was still on tour with the CBS version of the Byrds) to cut the
reunion album Byrds.
The album came out in March 1973, less than a month after the Columbia
version of the Byrds played their final show. The album garnered mixed
reviews, and a planned tour of the original five Byrds to support it
never materialized.

In the late ’70s, McGuinn, Clark and Hillman worked on and off as a trio (modelled on CSNY and, to a lesser extent, The Eagles),
touring and recording two albums, and scoring a top 40 hit (“Don’t You
Write Her Off”) in 1978. Some of the earlier and later live shows were
advertised by unscrupulous promoters as Byrds reunions. By 1979 Clark
had departed and the two others recorded an album as McGuinn-Hillman.

Subsequently, there were disputes over which members owned the
rights to the “Byrds” name in the late 1980s. Clarke and Clark toured
separately under The Byrds name at that time, and from 1989 through
most of 1993 Michael Clarke toured occasionally as “The Byrds Featuring
Michael Clarke” with former Byrd Skip Battin along with newcomers Terry
Jones Rogers and Jerry Sorn. To solidify their claim to the name and
prevent any non-original members from using the name, McGuinn, Hillman,
and Crosby staged a series of Byrds reunion concerts in 1989 and 1990,
including a famous performance at a Roy Orbison tribute concert where they were joined by Bob Dylan for Mr. Tambourine Man. These shows led to McGuinn, Hillman, and Crosby recording four new studio tracks for the boxed set The Byrds
in 1990. During that year, a legal action against Clarke and his
booking agent failed, the judge ruling that Clarke’s group had toured
successfully. Eventually, a settlement was reached, preventing any
entity not including McGuinn, Hillman and Crosby from using the name
“Byrds”.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in 1991. The original line-up of Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David
Crosby, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn was honored at this induction.
Gene Clark died later that year and, two years later, Michael Clarke
succumbed to liver disease brought on by alcoholism.

Though both Hillman and Crosby have expressed an interest in working
with McGuinn again on future Byrds projects, McGuinn is currently
committed to his folk music career.

 
 

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