In-depth reviews of classic or neglected albums, mainly from the 1960s and 70s, plus a weekly newsletter featuring all the latest news, views and music. Artists covered include Beach Boys, Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Dire Straits, Grateful Dead, Hollies, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Kinks, Nils Lofgren, Monkees, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Searchers, Simon and Garfunkel, Small Faces, 10cc, The Who and Neil Young.
Monday, 26 January 2015
The Byrds: Surviving TV Appearance 1965-1991
You can now groove along to our very own AAA Byrds Youtube playlist! Visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0B91924464002067
Hello! This is the fifth in a series of (gulp!) thirty columns looking back at the TV appearances by a number of AAA bands that have - against all the odds - survived the test of time. If you've read one of our earlier articles then you'll know what to expect: a bit of tut-tutting about the poor state of the archives (especially on the European side of the world) and our usual greivances over being unsure/puzzled/intrigued by where exactly some of the clips we know to exist came from. This edition is a little bit different to what we've had before: until now most of our bands have either left their careers and back footage well deocumented across a series of carefully made DVDs (The Beatles, Beach Boys and even Belle and Sebastian), while the Buffalo Springfield sadly never left enough of a legacy for even a short running DVD. The Byrds, though have yet to have had a DVD dedicated to their surviving TV clips, even as insters made in a documentary, despite having one of the biggest hauls of footage in AAA history. The American vaults are certainly a lot fuller than the UK ones we usually cover, although this list takes in not just the UK and US but Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and Australia - forget the lyrics, The Byrds certainly were goin' somewhere throughout the 1960s, especially during their boom year of 1965 when they seemed to be on some programme or another every other week!
To be honest I was dreading compiling this list because without any DVD sleeve notes to run with all I had to rely on was a list of TV appearances in Johnny Rogan's excellent book 'Timeless Flight' - and by his own admission that list is rather vague (American TV networks may have kept more things than their British counterparts, but they seem to have liked cataloguing them less!) However, joy of joys, the Byrds community on youtube is thriving. Admittedly things change on Youtube quickly, but as of writing this practically everything on this list is available on Youtube, often cleaned up and lovingly restored and catalogued with a precision that would impress the fussiest librarian. In the end compiling this list was a pleasure, although I still found a few discrepencies between the bootleggers and 'Timeless Flight' - some clips listed here are missing from that book, while some dates have been altered slightly where I consider one or other authority to have got them 'wrong'. As with all these articles, this list is a work in progress: the law of averages means there'll be something great sitting in someone's loft somewhere they haven't shared with the world yet while new clips are being discovered all the time (including the TOTP Byrds appearance on this list, which was returned sometime in the 1990s if I remember rightly). So if you know of something, please write in and share your knowledge of it. Until then, however, this is as complete a list as you can get of what really does exist out there and has been seen at some point, in some form, with my own eyes. By the way we've restricted this list to performances either credited to 'The Byrds' or which feature two or more of the original band together (so the McGuinnn Clark and Hillman footage and various revivals are here, but - say - Roger McGuinn's 1970s TV appearances or Gene Clark's interviews aren't).
In terms of where you can get this stuff - well you can't by and large I'm afraid. There are just two DVDs featuring official Byrds footage: the various artists box set 'Monterey Pop Festival' (2007) features performances of 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' and 'Chimes Of Freedom' from 1967 and there's a rather short running 'Beat Club' DVD dedicated to The Byrdsa featuring just four songs performed as-live in 1971. That's it I'm afraid - the rest of these clips can curreently only be seen on Youtube. As ever, we won't take you to individual links (as videos get taken down and re-loaded all the time and this book will soon date if we start doing that) but as ever we'll try and keep as complete a collection of clips as we can in the 'Byrds' folder of our Youtube page (https://www.youtube.com/user/AlansArchives), free to be viewed by all whether you're a member of youtube or not. Another first, though, is that there's simply so much good stuff out there (including lots of videos of a young Roger McGuinn with the Chad Mitchell trio and an unrecognisably junior Gene Clark as part of the New Christy Minstrels) that we recommend another youtube channels to check out: the official Byrds Video Depot whose playlist for the band numbers a staggering 100 videos!
Hand up who remembers 'Shivaree'? No me neither, I had to look it up but it was apparently a 'popular' music variety show that featured several go-go dancers including a young Terri Garr (three years before she was in Monkees feature film 'Head'). Getting the TV debut of The BYrds (by a full three days!) must have been quite a coup at the time and the band are duly introduced as 'one of the country's brightest young singing groups': although released as a single as early as April the single didn't get to number one until July as word of mouth took hold. The Byrds look suitably nervous during this mimed performance although they already have their 'cool' look down to a tee (despite the lack of cape and granny specs for CRosby and McGuinn respectively). The only thing that ruins this historic clip is the fact that Gene Clark is so far to the left that he can only be seen on the rare occasions the camera puts him in close-up: an early example of Gene dodging the spotlight of fame or simply bad setting up during camera rehearsal? The rare clip of 'I Knew I'd Want You' is the only known occasion The Byrds performed this rare B-side and thankfully Gene is back centre-stage for this one, with Crosby peering over Roger's shoulder instead.
2)Hullabaloo (USA) May 11th 1965 (Mr Tambourine Man/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better)
National TV appearance number two and already the 'bird' comparisons are getting old! Hullabaloo have turned in an awful set full of bird-houses and the band already seem a bit grumpy about things - or is it just the fact that they're being forced to sing live for the first time? With so many lines to learn on 'Tambourine Man' this must have been quite an ordeal for a clearly nervous McGuinn and the camera sticks to him in close-up for most of the song. However, the rest of the band are on good form and rescue him before too much damage is done, with a rare shot of Gene playing guitar alonside David and Roger. An even funnier live performance of 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' has the band surrounded by the HUllabaloo 'go go dancers', strutting their stuff in giant cages on plinths either side of the band. That naughty young Crosby doesn't take off the girl in front of him duering the course of the whole song! Legend - or at least Rogan's book 'Timeless Flight' - has it that manager Jim Dickson tries to intervene in what the band were wearing. 'That will make you llok fat on TV' Jim told told Crosby. 'I'm wearing it anyway' the guitarist replied. On viewing back the taping Crosby was in tears: 'You made me look fat! Why didn't you just tear the thing off me?!' (Actually he looks great, if perhaps a little cuddlier than usual). There are going to be many more rows like this down the years, but not about clothes - Crosby solves that problem by buying a slimming green cloak and making it his own.
3)Shivaree #2 (USA) June 12th 1965 (All I Really Want To Do/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better)
Introduced as 'All I Really Want' this is an early plug for second single 'All I Really Wanna Do', a second Dylan cover that never did quite as well as 'Tambourine' in the charts even though the band probably played it more in these early days. Even Shivaree has got into the act on the dancing beauties score, although The Byrds are by now so in control of their own destiny they outshine any background antics while they mime. Crosby especially steals the show with his middle eight vocal, crumpling up his nose to make all the girls scream. B-side 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' features a rather smart looking Gene miming to his own vocal and looking deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing, a world away from Crosby and McGuinn's enthusiastic backing to his right. A ridiculously young Chris Hillman, till now hidden at the back near the drums, finally gets a place at the front of the stage for the first time although he looks earnestly serious throughout.
4) Hollywood-A-Go-Go (USA) June 19th 1965 (Mr Tambourine Man/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better/All I Really Wanna Do)
At last, McGuinn's granny specs have arrived! Just as well because the camera spends a great deal of time on him during this short-lived show from 1965, named after the 'Whisky-A-Go-Go' that was The Byrds' second home, although Roger's never seemed more comfortable in front of a cmera, loving all the attention and grinning his head off! Crosby, restricted to appearing behind his colleague for most of the shot, even forgets that he's meant to be miming the harmony during 'All I Really Wanna Do'! By comparison, Gene can't get a close-up at all during 'Better', with the camera showing most of the band at a distance during 'his' song (perhaps because Gene sings most of the song with his eyes tight shut!) Even with all this going on, all three clips are priceless performances and really show off the band's charisma at it's peak and, despite the fact that it's survivied it's hazardous 50-odd-year journey in less bright form than some of the other shows The Byrds appeared on, it may well be the best thing here. Magic.
5) Shindig (USA) June 23rd 1965 (Mr Tambourine Man/Not Fade Away/Long Tall Sally (sung with rest of cast))
Shindig was a much higher profile show than a lot of the others on this list and The Byrds really smarten themselves up for it, with Roger and David even turning up in tuexedos as part of an all-star rock and roll medley that opens the show (the pair sing a verse of 'Long Tall Sally', their only performance of the Little Richard classic known to exist; unlike the famous Beatles cover, Crosby even remembers all the words! Interestingly Gene, their chief writer and second lead singer, missed this one out) Another rare performance - uninterrupted this time - is Buddy Holly classic 'Not Fade Away', another song the band never ever did again. Roger takes the lead while Gene puffs away on a harmonica and Crosby especially looks the part, grooving along on acoustic guitar. While clearly modelles on the recent Rolling Stones cover of the song, I'd actually take the Byrds' version over it, which comes with a lot more menace and has more for the band as a whole to do (even Michael Clarke is far more at home here than he ever was on the band's folkier, quieter songs!) Elsewhere it's business as usual with another performance of 'Mr Tambourine Man', this time performed atop a revolving table (is this where they got the idea for 'Turn! Turn! Turn!?!)
6) Where The Action Is (USA) July 7th 1965 (Mr Tambourine Man/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better)
For some reason The Byrds were shot outside by a lake for their latest TV appearance (they're Byrds, not ducks! Why did no one dod the obvious and shoot them at an airport?) for this bizarre American Bandstand-spin off compered by Dick Clark, the kind of compoere who only looks good when set next to Ed Sullivan. Once again The Byrds play second fiddle to a group of go-go dancers, which comes as some relief to Gene who looks much happier here than he has of late. The wind plays havoc with The Byrds' carefully formed manes but the band are on good form here and play up to the cameras with more bonhamie than they have of late.
7) Where The Action Is #2 (USA) August 5th 1965 (The Bells Of Rhymney/All I Really Want To Do)
Presumably shot the same day and held over for a later performance (the band are wearing near enough the same clothes), sadly this second 'Where The Action Is' clip hasn't survivied the years as intact as the first. That's a shame because the band are in good form again, with McGuinn taking lead this time and struggling to remember the lyrics to 'Rhymney' in particular! Gene goes really quiet when the camera goes up to him for a close-up and starts looking at his shoes: co-incidence? Or shyness? Or perhaps he's just cold because it's another windy day by the pond (again, why?!) Interestingly Chris swaps places with Gene for 'All I Really Wanna Do' and for the first time stands on Crosby's side of the stage - an argument? Or was the director fed up of Crosby always looking at the dancer at the side of the stage? (gene is oblivious, even when he nearly hits her in the face with a tambourine!) Once again the band are only a side-show, though, to lots of grooving dancers who all have the same scary toothy grin even while ostensibly taking part in other activities like swimming and what looks like an odd American form of cricket.
8) Top Of The Pops (UK) August 12th 1965 (All I Really Want To Do)
A hilarious clip from The Byrds' ill-fated and under-rehearsed tour of Britain (being billed as 'America's answer to The Beatles' didn't help a lot of the audience warm to them!) You see this a lot on UK TV, perhaps because it's the only clip of the band on what used to be Britain's seminal TV show (till Jimmy Saville's reputation ruined the franchise!) The band look a little frazzled and while still looking the height of cool mess things up as only The Byrds can, McGuinn accidentaly miming the wrong words to 'drag you down and chain you down' and instead of covering up by miming the right ones bluffing his way through even though he knows he's wrong. The rest of the band find this hilarious, except for Chris Hillman, who looks so intense it's scary.
9) Shindig #2 (USA) September 16th 1965 (I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better/The Bells Of Rhymney/California Sun (with rest of cast))
Shindig appearance #2 sees a similarly smartened band miming to two classics - and unusually neither is their current hit single. However the performance is most notable for the one-off performance of Joe Jones' 1961 hit 'California Sun' which features McGuinn taking lead vocal on the last verse while the rest of the band mime behind him, looking uncomfortable as they balance precariously across a group of steps. The steps make a come-back on a cracking live performance of 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' (interesting how much more comfortable Gene is performing rather than miming) where even in silhouette for the first few bars of the song The Byrds are still both recognisable ansd the epitome of cool. Interestingly Chris' bass is the loudest thing here and all but drowns everyone else out, while Michael Clarke actually smiles at one stage - a truly unique experience all round! 'Bells Of Rhymney' is slower and rougher, with McGuinn singing lead for much longer than normal (and standing miles in front of the others) before someone on the control desk clearly realises they're all meant to be singing in harmony. By now the screams are really becoming loud - the band are really at peak flight despite the comparative flop of 'All I Really Wanna Do'.
10) Hullabaloo #2 (USA) October 4th 1965 (The Times They Are A-Changin'/Do You Believe In Magic?)
However even by this point the Byrds aren't so big they can escape TV presenters clowning around and host Michael Landon introduces the band by listening to a parrot sitting on his shoulder (of course he does, it's Hullabaloo...) The Byrds look the most uncomfortable they have in a long time too thanks to a simply ridiculous set: the girl dancers are back again but standing still this time, posing with guns as if 'hunting' the band against a wildlife backdrop. Hmm, just be glad that The Beatles were a British group and never did appear on Hullabaloo, I dread to think what might have happened to them...Alas the production team are going for 'arty shots' and spends the whole of the precious first verse panning into the band from a long way away! Interestingly Gene plays a guitar for only the second time in one of these clips. The second clip is more interesting, a brief but welcome one-off cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's first hit 'Do You Believe In Magic?' Crosby was the big John Sebastian fan in the band but it's Roger who takes the lead vocal on it once again.
11) Shivaree #3 (USA) October 16th 1965 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better)
Hats are the big talking point of Shivaree performance number three, with the world premiere of the band's second number one 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' overshadowed by the second clip of yet another 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' where McGuinn for once stands in the background but still upstages everyone by wearing a bus conductor's hat on his head. Gene and David are on particularly on great form, loving the fact that they can mime without any worry of performance or any off-putting gimmicks for the first time in ages and Crosby's crumpled grin is at it's best here. As for 'Turn!', it's already getting a huge reception from the crowd despite the fact that it's only been out in the shops a fortnight or so and hasn't yet topped the charts.
12) Shindig #3 (USA) October 23rd 1965 (Chimes Of Freedom/Turn! Turn! Turn!/I'm A Loser)
Back on Shindig for the final time, The Byrds are introduced by comedian Ed Wynn (he's either The Mad Hatter in Disnye's cartoon or the bloke on Twilight Zone with a Grandfather Clock depending on your age) with comedy patter about forgetting the band's name: ho ho ho indeed. It's a shame, then, that The Byrds are in serious troubadoor mode for this performance, with two of their most serious songs. 'Chimes Of Freedom' - a highlight from the debut album - makes rather a late appearance on this list. The band are clearly miming although Roger seems to be singing his vocals live, hence the fact he gets the third verse wrong and grins at his goof before falling back into step with the others. 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' is causing hysterics in the Shindig audience even though by their high standards this rather a tired performance (the rather odd cardboard 'waves' set isn't helping either!) However the third item in the programme is a surprise: The Beatles' 'I'm A Loser' is something of a fan favourite that's far from their best known work and already eleven months old by the time the band do it here. Roger and Gene share the lead gathered round the same microphone, although they only sing the first verse - presumably as another 'all star jam' linking piece with the rest of whoever was on Shindig that week, although I've never actually seen the rest of it. The song sounds rather good with oodles of Rickenbacker guitar and Byrdsy harmonies though!
13) The Big TNT Show (USA) November 19th 1965 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/The Bells Of Rhymney/Mr Tambourine Man)
This entry is unusual in as much as it comes from a film, albeit an extended film version of excatly the sort of TV programmes the rest of this list entails, shot at the Moulin Rouge Club in Los Angeles. David Mccallum, then best known as one of the Men from Uncle, is emcee for the night and introduces a whole host of other acts: in order Ray Charles, Petula Clark, The Lovin' Spoonful, Bo Diddley, Joan Baez, The Ronettes, Roger Milles, Donovan and Ike and Tina Turner. The Byrds appear near the end of the film and get a whole three song medley to their name, taking up eleven whole minutes of the film. Considering the austere settings and McCallum's rather earnest introduction (informing the crowd that 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' was adopted by Pete Seeger from the Book of Eccliastes), the band turn in rather a sloppy performance for them. Roger's mike is way too low, Gene's is way too loud and Crosby has to yell at the top of his voice to try and rescue the whole thing. Michael Clarke, struggling to hear anything, simply hits the drums as hard as he possibly can and hopes for the best. How the band end all together is nothing short of a miracle, especially as they add a couple of extra 'doo-da-doo-da-dur-durs' at the end of 'Turn!' compared to normal. 'Rhymney' is the best of the three, although even that becomes more of a struggle by the end, with the last elongated 'ahhhhs' breaking all three voices at different points. Evidence of how poor the Byrds could play when under-rehearsed and over-stressed, it's not one of their better moments although it's priceless footage to have and the audience - bored to tears after an extended Roger Miller workout - scream their heads off.
14) The Ed Sullivan Show (USA) December 12th 1965 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/Mr Tambourine Man)
The biggest shock here is seeing The Byrds in colour, even if typically the band seem to have all decided to wear grey! Oddly, America's answer to The Beatles played far less shows on America's premier television programme than The Beatles did and only appeared this once, with rather timid versions of their two biggest hits. Even more oddly, Ed Sullivan gets their name right and it's quite a hard name to pronounce if you don't know or understand the 'joke' (by contrast Cilla Black was billed as 'England's biggest star, from Wales' and Eric and Ernie into 'that well known trio 'Morey Cambey and Wisey'!)
15) Unknown (UK) Unknown 1965 (It's No Use)
It's no use asking me where this clip comes from, because I plain don't know! The Byrds Video Depot lists as being 'November 6th 1965' which is fair enough, but the 'Timeless Flight' book doesn't list any programmes that day or indeed any performances where The Byrds sang this song, which makes it rather remarkable. Despite Gene taking the lead vocal he's been shunted to the back, just like the early days, while McGuinn has ditched his usual smart suits for what looks like an RAF uniform with lots of pockets (hence perhaps that classic joke 'The Byrds have just flown in - and boy are their arms tired!')
16) Hollywood-A-Go-Go #2 (USA) February 5th 1966 (Set You Free This Time/Turn! Turn! Turn!/It Won't Be Wrong)
Unusually, Gene has been given the coveted fourth A-side to write and sing. More usually, the others are clearly jealous of him and completely upstage his earnest and serious vocal. IN what must be the funniest of all these videos, Roger has dressed up as David (big green cloak) and David has dressed as Roger (complete with Granny specs). Well, you have to do something to stop yourself going mad on the road I suppose! They look rather good actually, even if they both have clearly failed to do their homework and learn the backing vocals properly and poor Gene in the middle seems lost as to what's going on! Seeing as this is the Hollywood-A-Go-Go programme there are more shots of dancers than there are of the singers anyway. The other two songs are less interesting, with The Byrds back up some stairs for a rather tired looking mime of 'Turn!' and a lively dancer-filled jive through B-side 'It Won't Be Wrong', that yet again shoots the band largely at a distance.
17) Shivaree #4 (USA) February 19th 1966 (It Won't Be Wrong/Set You Free This Time)
'What could possibly go wrong? Let's ask the Byrds, who say 'It Won't Be Wrong'!' With that corny intro the band clock up their fourth and final appearance on Shivaree and this is arguably the last time they actually look interested in what they're playing. Roger gets so into it his head starts grooving to the beat in a jazz musician way, while David grins his head off and Gene awkwardly clutches a pair of maracas. A much more serious take on Gene's classic 'Set You Free This Time' is up next, although Clark is once again visibly uncomfortable with all the attention and really doesn't know what to do with his hands as for once he can't mime to a tambourine. It's nice to see him at the front for a change, though, with Crosby demoted to 'top step'!
18) Where The Action Is #3 (USA) February 21st 1966 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/It Won't Be Wrong)
Well, that was unexpected. Anyone who thought The Beatles looked uncomfortable on horseback on the 'Penny Lasne/Strawberry Fields' promos has never seen The Byrds here, trying to sing along with 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' whilst balancing their guitars awkwardly on a series of five ponies (is this whetre Roger got the idea for 'Chestnut Mare' from? Or, worse, the decision to replace Crosby with a horse on the 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' cover?!?) Roger looks quite comfortable, Chris looks shocked, David tries hard not to fall off (his horse is as frisky as he is and tries to walk off at the very end of the song!) and Michael is hiding at the back so you can't see his horse too well (although it seriously does look as if his tom-toms are balanced over a pony!) I didn't see Gene, who may have sensibly decided not to take part. For some reason the shot seamlessly fades in during the second half to a more normal mimed performance of the band with instruments, although to be honest they don't look any more comfortable (it fades back for the very end). The band are clearly getting fed up with all this TV lark by now too, with a shambolic mimed performance of 'It Won't Be Wrong' which is for some reason set outdoors (inevitably, this band being called The Byrds, there's a big tree in shot too). Gene mouths the wrong words and clutches painfully at his maracas while shivering from the cold, Crosby doesn't even bother singing along for half the song and Michael Clarke grins on oblivious underneath a great bit Stetson hat of which he's clearly proud. However the band are still getting on fairly well and turn to each other with a big grin over the inanity of it all in the second half.
19) Where The Action Is #4 (USA) March 24th 1966 (Set You Free This Time)
The last surviving TV performance with the original five-man Byrds is once again outside and returns to the same boring 'tree' formula. Only a rather poor quality version appears to exist, which is a shame because it looks like rather an intense mimed performance after a full month away from the Tv cameras. Roger is spsrawled across a tree trunk, while Gene is perched on a stump, clutching a twig instead of his usual tambourine, perhaps symbolically a bit apart from the others on the right hand side (he's mere weeks away from quitting the band at this point, making it odd they should choose his song to plug even if it was the last single).
20) Popside (Sweden) March 3rd 1967 (Mr Tambourine Man/So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star/Eight Miles High)
A lot had changed since the band's last appearance: the Byrds are now a quartet and are actually about to start sessions for their second album without Gene Clark at this point. They look different too: Crosby now comes with hat and moustache, Michael Clarke is growing a slight moustache too and comes wrapped up in a woolen scarf, Hillman's hair has grown out of all porportion and for perhaps the first time on this list McGuinn is barely seen. In fact, it's Crosby who does the introductions However it's the first TV clip of them miming to their final Gene Clark song 'Eight Miles High' that this short-lived Swedish TV appearance is most notable for. With their low budget - only one camera in black and white - the production team make a good job at trying to create psychedelia, mergeing from a single unbroken shot of the band (mocing up and down the row of them playing) with some shots of space and the universe forming. Cosmic, man. 'So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?' - the one 'new' song in the set - replaces the space imagery with a 'negative' lens that turns white into black and vice versa (very Byrds!) Once again McGuinn is barely seen and the one time he is he seems to be throwing something in the air, although the crazy effects are too fuzzy to make out what it is. By contrast, the band mime 'Mr Tambourine Man' straight, without any effects and given the clothes and hairstyles it already seems like it came from a lifetime ago, not just two years.
21) Monterey Pop Festival (USA) June 17th 1967 (Renaissance Fair/Have You Seen Her Face?/Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go?)/He Was A Friend Of Mine/Lady Friend/Chimes Of Freedom/So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?)
David Crosby is fully in charge of the band's last appearance as a quartet too, seemingly in charge of the Crosby-heavy setlist and making all the on-stage announcements in front of the biggest crowd the Byrds every played to. That didn't go down well with the rest of the band, who resented his raps about legalising drugs ('Your mother gets high and you don't know it!') and the Kennedy cover-up almost as much as they resented his decision to make a guest appearance with his new friend Stephen Stills in the Buffalo Springfield's set the following day. Crosby's time in the band is coming to an end (he'll be thrown out by September, just three months down the line) and all the band have gone on record about saying what a sorry show this under-rehearsed hits-lacking performance was. Yes The Byrds have done better, but I've always been rather fond of this show which has some great versions of some fantastic songs The Byrds didn't play live very often. Reduced effectively to a singing duo against a quartet, there's a raw power and energy The Byrds hardly ever had again. While the band is rough and clearly playing songs they barely know, it's McGuinn who seems least at ease - by contrast Crosby has never seemed happier than singing to a crowd this size and certainly doesn't turn in an 'un-rehearsed' performance. A spine-tingling 'He Was A Friend Of Mine', prefaced by Crosby's complaints about the Warren Commision's shelved report on JFK's murder, is also far from the travesty many fans assume - instead it's exactly the political backbone a hippie show should be presented against (note that Crosby never made these remarks anywhere else, simply where he knew most people would hear them). Perhaps the most resonant moment of the set, this clip deservedly made the the 'Monterey Pop Festival' box set, making this the earliest Byrds footage officially available. It went alongside the only song kept in the setlist from the band's Gene Clark days (Dylan cover 'Chimes Of Freedom', a very hippie song in retrospect) and a frenetic version of 'Hey Joe' which Crosby dedicates to 'a cat that's going to perform here named Jimi Hendrix'. For the moment his announcement is greeted with silence, but a mere 24 hours later the unknown Hendrix will be the talk of the festival! Alas, while the other clips still exist, these are the only three songs made widely available. The choice of tracks is interesting in itself because at the time the missing finale 'So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?' was the talking point of the show, both for it's sideswipes at the fake side of the music business (a talking point with two of The Monkees at the festival and various bands' reputations hurt forever when they didn't play like The Beach Boys) and for the guest appearances by two of Crosby's new friends, Hugh Masekela and his drummer Big Black. All in all essential for any Byrds but, especially those with a soft spot for David Crosby.
22) The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (USA) October 22nd 1967 (Mr Spaceman/Goin' Back)
Has there ever been a comedy act less funny than The Smothers Brothers, the American equivalent of The Chuckle Brothers? Luckily compared to some AAA clips I've sat through for the processes of making this site, they aren't on screen very long. Anyway, ignore all that because what you really need to know is that David Crosby has gone and been replaced by...Gene Clark. Looking even more out of place than he did in 1965, Gene's face is one of shock as he tries hard to integrate himself back in the band and it's no surprise watching him here that he'll be out the band again after six weeks. Not that the others look any more comfortable: the band leaning against wooden struts for 'Goin' Back' must be the single most boring set The Byrds have yet had to perform to and only a newly moustached McGuinn (whose new look rather suits him) seems that comfortable. Oddly enough Gene is the only Byrd who doesn't get a seat - is this another example of the slights against his character, or was he added to the line-up so late in the day that they just didn't have one ready? Given the circumstances this is the only 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' song that was ever plugged on TV, although the revival of 1966's 'Mr Spaceman' seems an odd idea: yet another song Gene didn't know and had to learn to mime to! Perhaps it was chosen so the production team could have fun with their latest gimmick, which allowed the band to look as if they were whizzing through space - the effect is about as convincing as the miming.
23) Where The Girls Are (USA) April 23rd 1968 (Mr Spaceman/Good Day Sunshine)
We're back to black-and-white one last time as The Byrds mime their old song again even though these production effects are less than space-age. The band start by playing atop lots of wooden panelling (you know the sort of thing, what The Beach Boys used to stand on while surrounded by California Girls although The Byrds are on their own here). Sadly what looks like an interesting performance, with Gene's, Chris' and Mike's very last TV appearance with the band until the 1990s, keeps being interrupted with awful comedy gimmicks, Monkees-style romps that involve a painted car and a strange gadget that makes girl's dresses fall off (Operation Yewtree might want to get involved...) The Beatles cover (by now almost two years old) is another odd choice, again sung by a whole range of guest stars rather than just The Byrds. Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke is missing, perhaps angry at yet more comedy antics when the band are by now an established respected act, replaced by roadie Jimmy Seiter and an unknown drummer (and very uncomfortable the four of them - including Roger and Gene - look too!)
24) Playboy After Dark (USA) September 28th 1968 (You Ain't Goin' Nowhere/This Wheel's On Fire)
Sadly no footage exists of the Gram Parsons era country Byrds. However more than I expected from the White/Gene Parsons era of the band exists, starting with this rather good attempt to re-invent the band's image. Playboy After Dark was a reather daft and stilted series run by Hugh Heffner and featuring lots of bored looking extras and fake furniture. To eb fair, though, they had all the best guests, even those who were deemed by most shows of the day to be either 'dangerous' or 'past it' (regular AAA readers may recall the fun the Grateful Dead had on this show, spiking the cameramen's drinks so it would 'look better'...) This new look Byrds with a surprisngly tall John York (height is always hard to judge from record covers!), a pre-beard Clarence White and a pre-moustache Gene Parsons look like a whole new band, while Roger in particular looks very different with his hair cropped very short indeed. Perhaps wanting to re-establish that they really are The Byrds, honest guv, the band play two Dylan covers from their last two respedctive albums and play them rather well: Gene Parsons is on terrific form, pushing the songs forward while the heavy rock/feedback sound on Clarence's guitar was never better. What's more this line-up of the band have no trace of nerves, even McGuinn it seems, suggesting either that they were more 'at ease' on this set or that this later incarnation of the band were just better at covering them up! Sadly this is the only known TV clip with John York on bass and Skip Battin will replace him from the next entry on.
25) Newport Folk Rock and Jazz Festival (UK) June 20th 1969 (You Ain't Goin' Nowhere/Old Blue)
A rare and rather poor quality clip from one of Britain's regular festivals has amazingly survivied the years tacked onto the end of a news-reel about the festival. The Byrds are clearly going back to the bottom of the bill: the rather bored audience are too busy chatting to themselves to listen and one of them even clambers on stage during the beginning, although interestingly they pay more attention during shaggy dog story 'Old Blue'. The Byrds put on a good show, with some more excellent playing and Roger seems in a good mood, even uncharacteristically talking to the crowd at one point commenting on all the speakers and lighting paraphenelia to his left: 'Hey it's really groovy up here...feel like I'm in a greenhouse or something!' For those keeping tabs with facial hair, Gene now has his moustache (as does Roger) but Clarence doesn't have his familiar beard yet!
26) Talent Party (USA) January 16th 1970 (Mr Tambourine Man/Jesus Is Just Alright)
A very, very late appearance for this old classic which appeared on a 'local' TV show in Memphis that showed off the figures of the day. McGuinn is having fun, playing with the camera and wearing round Lennon-style sunglasses in place of his usual granny specs. However the rest of the band (Including Clarence with a beard at last) look bored out of their minds and don't even mime along to David and Gene's old parts! What must have Roger's old colleagues have made of it all? The band look happier miming along to 'Jesus' and Roger even takes his glasses off so we can see his eyes. Hilarious, if stilted, stuff.
27) Kralingen Pop Festival (Netherlands) June 28th 1970 (Old Blue)
Another summer, another music festival - this one in Holland. Thankfully this one is actually filmned from the stage so we get a good look at the band in action and they're on fire for this performance, with an extra 'growl' from the guitars the studio version of this song doesn't have (they clearly know it well now a year on from release). The director is clearly a music fan as a good half the shots are close-ups of the various players' hands playing solos/thrashing cymbals - all four Byrds of this era had such distinct personalities that you can clearly tell which is which. What a shame that only one song from this festival seems to exist - and even that is sadly cut short during the last Gene Parsons cymbal bash.
28) Fillmore East (USA) September 23rd 1970 (Jesus Is Just Alright/Eight Miles High)
A great mini-concert which starts with the band walking down the steps to the stage and Bill Graham walking up to the mike to introduce the band. A fiery 'Jesus' features Gene Parsons especially prominently , while funnily enough Roger seems to be the one 'outside' the band here, standing about as far stage left as he can (have they had a row? What am I saying - it's The Byrds, of course they probably had!) A cracking version of 'Eight MIles High' follows, with some terrific bass playing from Skip Battin similar in style and feel to the extended workout from the 'Untitled' album though not quite as long (this version still reaches an impressive nine minutes though!) Alas these two songs are about all that seem to exist from this concert and nothing I've read will tell me if the rest still exists or why it was taped at all - truly a Byrdsian mystery!
29) That's For The Byrds: Live At The Forest National Hall (Belgium) May 18th 1971 (Lover Of The Bayou/You Ain't Goin' Nowhere/Truck Stop Girl/Baby What You Want Me To Do?/Soldier's Joy/Pretty Boy Floyd/Take A Whiff On Me/Jesus Is Just Alright/Mr Spaceman)
Hit it Roger! The quality might be so poor my DVD player has trouble reading it, the band might fluff the odd note, the title pun might bex excruciating and the running time is still presumably a few songs short of a full concert, but the fact that this little gem exists at all is terrific. This is the second-era Byrds unadulterated, complete with pauses between songs and off-the-cuff remarks to each other between tracks ('stop that' Roger grins as Clarence picks out a tune under his introduction), not to mention Roger trying - and failing - to speak to the crowd in French! ('Chanton de la Bob Dylan...You Ain't Goin' Nowhere!') It's this era of The Byrds at their best, the band truly cokking on this show and arguably the friendliest they are for the whole of this list. And why not? With the superb 'Untitled' in the works and a stable line-up at last, the world is their poyster here - and they know it. Roadie Jimmy Seiter stays on stage for most of the set, adding a bit of percussion next to Gene's drumming and whether because of that or not this is a very nicely raw and rocky Byrds tonight, with 'Bayou' particularly electrifying. However the real highlight is an unexpected acoustic coupling, The Byrds going 'unplugged' 25 years before it was in fashion, with Gene Parsons getting out the banjo on the jaw-dropping instrumental 'Soldier's Joy' (taken at about twice the speed of normal) and an unexpected 'Pretty Boy Floyd'. Roger clearly hasn't had his hair cut in a while (Playboy in 1968?) and it's now past his shoulders, while he's grown a full beard to keep up with Clarence and Skip.
30) Country Suite (USA) January 17th 1972 (Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms/Soldier's Joy/Black Mountain Rag/Mr Tambourine Man/Farther Along)
By this point, though, The Byrds are clearly becoming a drag to all concerned. The band are having far less fun, but then again perhaps they're not meant to - this is a show for serious country musicians not just yahoo rock and rollers and it's actually quite a coup for the band to be asked (their name was mud in 1968, although having Clarence in the band no doubt helped their country credentials). Gene Parsons sticks to banjo and harmonica throughout (there are no drums on this gig) and the only 'plugged' musician is Skip on bass. He takes the lead vocal on opening song 'Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms', a traditional American standard the band never did on record (although it would have fitted nicely onto 'Farther Along'). Lots of tricky instrumental 'fancy finger-pickin' comes next, before a sleepy countryfied 'Mr Tambourine Man' that's much closer to Dylan's original version (just in tune!) and for the first time features the extra verses cut from The Byrds' single. Finally Roger gets interviewed - or is that grilled? - about his country background before Clarence (a genuine country boy) comes to his rescue. Alas my copy is missing the finale, listed in 'Timeless Flight' as the gorgeousd traditional hymn 'Farther Along'. Roger has by now shaved his beard off.
31) Beat Club (Germany) 1972 (Eight Miles High/Chestnut Mare/Black Mountain Rag/Bristol Steamboat Convention Blues/So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?)
Probably the best known Byrds performances, if only because they get recycled a lot and are available on DVD (German programme Beatclub have done lots of AAA DVDs - sadly most of them only last 20 minutes or so). The Byrds are unusual in that 'camera rehearsals' for the sessions was taped, so their DVD (listed on our DVDs page) is effectively double length, although by now the band are such a well-drilled outfit the differences aren't that great. Alas somebody in Germany has just bought a very expesnive new graphics toy and is determined to use it, meaning that one of the band's last performances (even 'Timeless Flight' isn't sure of the date) mainly consists of teeny tiny Byrds playing in front of a giant screen where occasional close-ups are screened. This must have been revolutionary in the day, when video-screens weren't de reigeur at concerts, but nowadays looks rather cheap and tacky and strains the eyes (especially the 'distorted' shosts extreme left and right of frame). The Byrds have only one new song to play, the instrumental 'Bristol Steamboat Convention Blues' and with no new album to promote look back to their past with three old hits. None of the performances are classic - even 'Eight Miles High' cuts well short of the 1970/1971 epics - but it's nice to have 'Chestnut Mare' in particular, as amazingly this is the only TV footage of the band performing it. Roadie Jimmie Seiter is again a 'guest' on percussion.
32) Midnight Special (USA) February 2nd 1973 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/The Ballad Of Easy Rider/It Won't Be Wrong/The Water Is Wide/Mr Tambourine Man/Nashville West/Lover Of The Bayou/Jesus Is Just Alright/Mr Spaceman/So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?)
And so we bid The Byrds farewell, surprisingly late in the day (the reunion gig was already well underway by the time this show was screened - presumably it was taped at the end of 1972 and took a long time to edit?) By this point Gene Parsons has been sacked (replaced here by session player Jim Schulz, who does a good if heavy-handed job, to be honest no better than Parsons could have done) and Skip is about to be (the bassist, always a man of few expressions, looks quite nervous by his standards here). Roger again sings his countryfied arrangement of 'Mr Tambourine Man' , which sounds particularly nice with Clarence's gruff counter-harmonies and unique to this concert a cover of traditional English folk song 'The Water Is Wide' (early evidence of the interest that will result in Roger running 'The Folk Den Project' from his website).
33) (as McGuinn Clark and Hillman) Old Grey Whistle Test (UK) 1979 (Don't You Write Her Off)
Is this The Byrds? Probably not, but it's nice to see three of them back together for the first time in eleven years all the same. Standing Clark-McGuinn-Hillman, all three are in jumpy mood for this rare UK TV appearance, with Gene particularly thrilled to be back in front of the cameras again after so many years away (there is lost of Gene Clark solo footage on youtube, but most of it's from the 1980s!) This is a live performance rather than a mimed one and is actually a lot better than the one that made the album, with a lot more energy about it. For those keeping score, this time it's Chris with the beard and the other two are clean-shaven.
34) (as McGuinn Clark and Hillman) Unknown Unknown 1979 (Don't You Write Her Off)
A grinning and smartly dressed McGuinn is clearly having fun on this show and even stops miming guitar mid-song to start clapping through 'Don't You Write Her Off' - such sponatneity is deeply rare for The Byrds!; by contrast Clark and Hillman look as if they've been up all night. A nice clip of a song that the trio seem really keen to plug during their get-together!
35) (as McGuinn Clark and Hillman) Unknown (Holland) 1979 (Don't You Write Her Off/Backstage Pass)
Evidence of growing tensions within the trio can be seen from these two videos, especially if viewed in the correct order. The opening chords to a mimed 'Don't You Write Her Off?' starts with Gene giving Roger the finger (or flipping him the 'Byrd' if you'd rather!) Thereafter Gene looks out to stage right while Roger seems more than usually interested in Chris the other side of him. Things get worse during 'Backstage Pass', a Gene solo, where Roger stands with his back towards him, sulking throughout the whole of the song. Have the pair had a row just before coming on? (Heck what am I saying, these are three of The Byrds, of course they did!) Chris, meanwhile, does his best to look professional and even steps up to the mike for the harmonies in the latter song but even he looks uncomfortable. That's a shame because 'Backstage Pass' especially is a strong product for the trio and the band's only known TV performance deserves to be special, doubly so given that this older, more confident Gene gives an excellent performance, outsmouldering the camera in a way his younger early-twenty-something self never could.
36) (as Mcguinn Clark Hillman) After Dark (Australia) 1979 (Mr Tambourine Man)
Slightly flat but with lots of charisma, this is a remarkable five minute version of the band's old warhorse, dressed up to sound rather different this time around. Not content with adding an extra verse to the song from Dylan's original, as performed during the 1971/1972 Byrds tours, Roger revives every single verse, expanding the track to some six minutes. McGuinn, Hillman and Clark take a verse each, in that order, with Gene's sleepy tempo-defying finale the show-stopper, before the trio reunite for the more famous one from the single to finish. It's a lovely nod to the past from a trio who've spent the best part of a decade trying to forget it.
37) (Mcguinn/Hillman/Crosby/Tom Petty) Unknown 1989 (So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star?)
In 1989 The Byrds were popular again, thanks to a growing sense that the 1960s were finally cool again (of course they always were cool - have you seen the 1970s?!) and a number of then-huge groups talking about how much of an influence they'd been. Tom Petty was one of them, covering 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' on his 1989 album 'Full Moon Fever' (the one he cut in between the two Travelling Wilburys LPs), although all his week is in debt to McGuinn's Rickenbacker guitar sound to some extent. In 1989 he managed to do what The Byrds themselves had been trying and failing to do for ten years and got three of them (McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman) back together. This being the period right after Crosby's drug sentence, he looks ill and lost but a tanned and ahtletic looking McGuinn has never looked healthier.
38) (McGuinn/Hillman/Crosby) The Roy Orbison Tribute Night (USA) February 24th 1990 (Turn! Turn! Turn!/Mr Tambourine Man/Eight Miles High)
Roy Orbison's sudden death in December 1988 brought much of the music world together, although oddly a 'proper' televised tribute took a full 14 months to get ready (even George Harrison's was done in less). The Byrds didn't have any particular link to Roy (although McGuinn was tapped as his replacement in the Travelling Wilburys for a while - to keep Bob Dylan happy more than anything!) but McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman were happy enough with each other's company after a mini-reunion recording four songs for a 1990 box set that they took up the invitation to appear, singing three 'oldies' (oddly, not many people tries to do Roy's songs that night). The band don't sound on gresat form, but it's nice to see them back singing one last time.
39) The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (USA) January 1991 (Induction and Mr Tambourine Man)
Or rather, penultimate time, because against all odds all five Byrds turned up to their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction award (this despite the fact that three of them were then suing Michael Clarke for using the band name without permission!) Thank goodness this event took part when it did: Gene will be dead four months from here, Michael Clarke in another two. Against the odds all five Byrds look healthy (even Crosby, on a rare easy year between major dramas in this period) and look genuinely delighted to be in one another'c ompany for the first time since 1973. Tom Petty is on hand to induct them and while his speech isn't great, the performance of 'Mr Tambourine Man' with all five playing is. The result is a moving coda to an eventful story and a nice place with which to end our article.