A couple of weeks ago I heard a song by The Byrds on the car radio. Can’t remember where I was, maybe cruising on Woodstock heading up to the coffee shop, or down Cesar Chavez. The sun was shining at the time, a gentle breeze flowing in through the open windows. It wasn’t 1965, but it almost could have been, as I bought my first ever car in October of ’65, a
1955 Plymouth from a guy named George in New Bedford. It could have been, other than the car ownership thing, because The Byrds were – and remain – all about 1965. And ’66.
The Byrds had burst on the Los Angeles music scene in the Spring of ’65 with their jingly jangly psychedelia cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swqw5a8I4b4 . I suppose a Dylan purist might like the original better, but I can’t say I do. There was something mesmerizing and soothing and clearly peace and loving with the harmonies and the arrangement and the chimey, chords and individual notes from Roger McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker guitar.
If you consider The Beach Boys a milieu of their own, a milieu of surf, The Byrds were America’s answer to The Beatles. Following in their footsteps, growing the LA Sound, would come Buffalo Springfield and The Doors and Arthur Lee and Love, and that’s just LA. But it was The Byrds that brought forth a new sound, and gave a 16 year old dreamer like me something more to dream on.
We know the hits — “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn Turn Turn”, “Eight Miles High”, “Mr. Spaceman”, “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, later on the wonderfully amazing cover versions of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Going Back”. If you don’t know those songs, if you haven’t been buzzed and jingled and etherealized by those songs, well, a wicked big Duuuuh. Rush to your laptop or desktop and spend the next half hour under their 60s spell.
For this post I’m interested in the B sides, the album cuts, some other tunes from McGuinn and band-mates Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Like these that follow, all songs that helped me along my way, all favorites, all gifts.
“The Bells of Rhymney”, a Pete Seeger song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6JhTSzZXzg
“I’ll Fell a Whole Lot Better” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=to-RVV_3anw
“Set You Free This Time” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QSTy3fkWSA
“Have You Seen Her Face” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHOgkj7OuvQ If you’d never heard this one before, now doesn’t your life feel bigger, and better? Doesn’t it?
“I Knew I’d Want You’ : www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGLRV887bHE
and the aforementioned “Goin’ Back” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqHb7RFpoxU Such an LA breezy, warm, canyon sound. With a later Byrds lineup.
“A little bit of courage is all we lack. So catch me if you can I’m going back.” Goffin/King
People are always putting down the 60s now. It’s de rigueur. Oh well. You know what they say:
“No, and I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you
Frighten you or uptighten you
Drag you down or drain you down
Chain you down or bring you down
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you ” www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIEV1OanDGY