Saturday, 3 October 2009

He had a way

I bought this book the other day. I wasn't going to, I was just browsing but then the inclusion of a particular album caught my eye so I had it. For the record I own 204 of the recommended albums and plan at some point to pick up about another hundred. Of the remainder I've probably heard at least fifty that I like but which I've no intention of buying for whatever reason ("Nevermind" by Nirvana for instance, because I've heard it too many times).

Anyway the album that snagged me was "White Light" by Gene Clark. I've liked the Byrds since time immemorial but it was only quite recently that I bought up a load of their albums in an HMV sale and, looking at the songwriting credits in those nice little booklets, realised it was Gene Clark who had written all my favourite Byrds songs.

After this revelation I did some research and ordered "White Light" and "No Other" from Selectadisc. "White Light" I got into pretty quick but "No Other", his so called masterpiece, I find hard to digest, smothered as it is in 1974 style west coast widdliness. There are good tunes underneath it all though as the fortunate inclusion of a load of demo versions proves. The album sleeve provides graphic evidence of how badly Gene lost it in the dress sense department too, he's shown posing in what can only be described as monstrously flared silken pantaloons and with his shirt knotted at the waist (all the better to show off his medallions). He didn't have the best bowlcut in the Byrds but I don't know what you'd call his haircut on the sleeve here, or why anybody would do that to their hair. Too much cocaine?

However, he wrote the tunes so all is forgiven. My all time favourites have to be "Feel a Whole Lot Better" and "Eight Miles High" but for a bit of a change:

Gene Clark: So You Say You Lost Your Baby

I only discovered this one a few days ago. From "Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers", an album I tried to get when I first twigged but I kept getting outbid on ebay.

The Turtles: You Showed Me

Co-written with Roger McGuinn (I'll bet anything Clark was responsible for the bit starting at 1' 00", "And when I try-eye-eye-eyed it..." ) and performed here by the Turtles. I didn't know it but I've loved this since De La Soul sampled it for "Transmitting Live From Mars", which I think I'd always lazily assumed was sampling "Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus)".


  1. I really like the album Notorious Byrd Brothers, not only because they have omitted the most important member of the group for a horse on the album cover, but also because its a rely inventive album. However, the track Goin' Back had a bad influence of me. I felt all my energy being drained from me every time I listened to it and somehow, I stopped listen to the Byrds all together. Quite a change, I loved them before.
    Oh well, perhaps I will get back to them. It's funny, in a way, how Englishmen in general has much better knowledge of the best bands from the American 60s than some Americans I've met.
    Or am I wrong?

  2. I've got "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" but it's far from my favourite - I was going to buy it online a while back but I had a vague feeling I already had it and sure enough when I checked my collection there it was. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I do like the track "Change is Now" though.

    The horse story tickled me when I first heard it, but I'm not sure I'd call Crosby the most important Byrd. I like the first CSN album a lot but have you ever tried to listen to "If Only I Could Remember My Name"? God, it's terrible. As for who might be, I dunno. When you get down to it Roger McGuinn didn't actually write that many top tunes but I suppose he was the focal member of the band. After Gene Clark I probably like Chris Hillman's songs the best. He always comes across very well in documentaries about the various bands as well.

    As to your last point: I don't know why that should be the case. I suppose it all depends on the calibre of the Englishmen and Americans you encounter. Despite living in London for the best part of ten years I don't think I've met any Americans, so I've not had chance to quiz them on their knowledge of beat groups.

  3. What a pair of beauties - I don't know Gene Clark track, but it's like discovering a long lost friend. I know You Showed Me, but not this version (or the De La Soul sample) perhaps a cover?

  4. Mondo - I nearly put the Byrds demo-ish version of "You Showed Me" up, is that the one you know? The De La Soul track's one of the dead short bits on "3 Feet High And Rising" - they run snippets of an old Teach Yourself French instruction record over the top of it.