Monday, 9 February 2015

Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Zuma" (1975)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Zuma" (1975)

Don't Cry No Tears/Danger Bird/Pardon My Heart/Lookin' For A Love/Barstool Blues//Stupid Girl/Drive Back/Cortez The Killer/Through My Sails

"I might live a thousand years before I know what that means", or,

Ikachigazuma!!....pingping!!ping!ping!ping!!ping!ping!ping!ping!ping!ping!...falls down hole...eaten up by giant frog

The only album in my collection to share its name with a game (I can't see The Monkees doing 'Grand Theft Auto' somehow, and it's too late for Pink Floyd to dedicate a whole game to Myst sadly, which would have been right up there street of hidden meanings and undecipherable messages...and no 'Beatles Rock Band' doesn't count!) I reckon the makers at PopCapGames must, surely, have been listening to this album a lot when they created their game 'Zuma' (followed by 'Zuma's Revenge'...which would have made a great title for Neil's 'other' Aztec albums 'Rust Never Sleeps' and 'Life'). For those who don't know 'Zuma' is a game where you have to match up a sequence of three coloured balls, while all the time the balls are going round the board towards an inevitable doom from which they will never recover (and which means you lose a life). Astonishingly this is one of the few games I've completed (as opposed to throwing it across the room during a boss battle with actions for my character I don't understand, never mind know how to use) so I've got know it fairly well - the same as with this album. The more I get to know both, the more similar they seem. Every time I think I'm on the cusp of understanding how to play the game and understand the album, the ground shifts, the whole thing swirls out of control and I'm back down the same flipping black hole being eaten by a frog. And back to the start of the flipping level again despite getting to, say, 10:11 and starting to feel good about everything. While admittedly the same thing happens to me each time I hear The Spice Girls singing something (why? what do they mean?!?!?) , it doesn't generally happen from the AAA albums - once I've made the breakthrough I feel as if I understand where an artist was coming from even if future interviews end up making me hopelessly wrong.
'Zuma' however sounds different every time I hear it. Everybody at any time, from the biographies to the guidebooks to the internet sites out there call this Neil's 'happy' album. At first hearing it sounds it too: Crazy Horse are all fizz and pop songs, with the odd demented solo thrown in. If any Neil Young album deserves to be called 'adolescent' it's this, Neil typically doing thing backwards by regressing back further from the deep and detailed multilayered songs of his youth with The Buffalo Springfield now he's reached the grand age of thirty. The general label is 'drunk, but in a merry way' (as opposed to 'Tonight's The Night' which was 'drunk - but in a gloomy way'). 'Zuma' was seen that way even at the time, greeted with relief by a public that had just sat through the doom trilogy (you might think Queen Victoria spent a long time in mourning but she had nothing on Neil, show spent three albums crying his out over the death of guitarist Danny Whitten, roadie Bruce Berry and the sixties dream). The difference was made all the more obvious by this album having been released virtually back to back with 'Tonight's The Night' (recorded in 1973 but sat on for two years while Neil wondered to release his drunken shamble of a wake or not - thank goodness he did by the way, it's probably his best and certainly his bravest LP): this was a Young who could smile again, who knew that there was joy as well as sadness in life. This album is full of vibrant colours, faster tempos and tighter performances throughout. That's that then - case closed, album puzzle solved, let's go and play something else ('Hollies Halo' maybe?!) However 'Zuma' is not your regular happy album. 'Danger Bird' - the single most extraordinary track in the Young canon - is heavier and unhappier than any individual song on the doom trilogy, while the most famous song - the tale of Aztec woe 'Cortez The Killer' (which comes with the message that no empire will last forever) - isn't exactly a barrel of laughs either. Much of this album is claustrophobic, those supposedly upbeat rocky riffs sounding either ironic or like the stabbing of a knife while Neil sings on the album of a breakdown, guilt and the needless massacre of an ancient culture in the name of greed. Yep, sounds like a happy album to me.

Tell you what then, perhaps something is happier in Neil's life: maybe his love life. Yeah that will be it as after so many years of difficult years with his first two loves, including Carrie Snodgrass whose relationship with Neil is finally over in 1973, the bad times are over and it's time to partttty! Just listen to the merry tale of 'Barstool Blues', the best chat-up line in the Neil Young canon or the typically vulnerable romantic ode 'Pardon My Heart'. Except that neither of these songs work like Neil's other songs either: the first is a drunken one-night stand inspired by alcohol, adrenalin and desperation, which makes it less and less romantic as Neil gets more and wasted; the second sounds romantic with its acoustic backing and pristine harmonies, but it's a song of remorse and bitter twisted guilt, an apology from someone who still doesn't quite believe they've done anything wrong. And even then what to make of the other album songs: the gloriously poppy 'Don't Cry No Tears' (which turns out to be an emotionless goodbye when you analyse it fully), 'Lookin' For A Love' (which is nice and cosy until the most paranoid chorus in history: 'I hope I treat her kind and don't mess with her mind when she starts to see the darker side of me!') and the nostalgic 'Drive Back' (which has Neil returning to the past not to hook up with an old lover but to escape from the one-night stand he's just woken up with and doesn't want to talk to). And as for 'Stupid Girl', in which Neil Young sounds like The Rolling Stones in 1966 with his misogynist tale of an inferior gender (but which is worse, somehow, because it comes nearly a decade later and out of nowhere), well: let's just say that if you wanted to woo your beloved with a romantic Neil Young album, this wouldn't be one you'd choose for fear of getting whalloped over the head with a saucepan ('Harvest Moon' is probably your best bet, by the way, if you've just come to this page having typed in 'the most romantic Neil Young' album - goodness only knows why you would but people have found my site using the oddest of key words over the years!)

Right then, it's the return of Crazy Horse that makes this a happy album! Yay - there they are again, resurrected after a difficult four years when it looked as if they would never ride again. Bassist Billy Talbot discovered new guitarist Frank 'Poncho' Sampedro playing in another band in 1973but the two stayed friends rather than bandmates for the next two years, keeping in touch while leading their separate lives. It took Sampedro's threat to leave the business after three years living out of his truck because he'd spent all his money and a wacky holiday with Talbot in Mexico where the pair got close for Billy to consider adding him to Crazy Horse as Danny Whitten's replacement. Neil and drummer Ralph met him for the first time during a flying visit to Chicago for some loose sessions with the rhythm-guitarless band. Both were sceptical but somehow Sampedro slotted in instantly, just enough like Danny Whitten (full of some virtuosos-but-not-that-virtuoso natural playing, aggressive and tight) but with his own distinct character (Sampedro tends to do his own thing a bit more than Danny, although conversely he tends to sit on the beat instead of a few milimetres before it, driving the band on). 'Poncho' fitted into the band straight away, much to the relief of his band mates, but at first they still had doubts, worried about whether Neil would use them or not. Typically forthright, Sampedro knocked on the guitarist's hotel door and asked 'am I in the band - or not?' -a shocked Neil told him he'd already decided he was 'in' if the band were patient enough to wait for the right time.

That came after Neil abandoned a whole album that was meticulously crafted ('Homegrown') and a scrappy one that was put together in a right old hurry (The Stills-Young Band's 'Long May You Run').  Both are interesting in context, sounding miserable but actually being song-on-song probably happier than this album. 'Homegrown' for instance is one of those famous Neil Young LPs whose songs will become scattered across several albums to come: 'Star Of Bethlehem'  ('American Stars 'n' Bars' 1977) 'Love Is A Rose' ('Decade' 1977) 'Little Wing' 'The Old Homestead' ('Hawks and Doves' 1980) plus Zumas' 'Pardon My Tears' ...interestingly almost every song planned for the album centres on love and how it can look great from a distance and go wrong when you're up close; well all of them but 'The Old Homestead' which in truth could mean anything. Neil's songs for 'Long May You Run', meanwhile, mainly end up being lazy holiday songs about the pair's time in Hawaii and Stills claimed later his partner had written them on the spot (with just the terrifying 'Fontainebleau', about the memory of an epilepsy attack in a hotel, at one with the sound of the 'doom trilogy'). Only then was the time right and Crazy Horse characteristically lived and breathed Neil's latest set of songs. They lived and recorded in the same Malibu beach house belonging to producer David Briggs, whose neighbour Goldie Hawn was luckily absent for most of the time and unable to complain about the noise. Neil being Neil, while the house was spacious he chose the bigger rooms for the band to live in and kept the smallest one for recording in, painful hour after painful hour with the band right in each other's faces (the micxing room? That was in the kitchen!) Surrounded by the best drugs you could get and various groupies who loved hanging round the house at all hours, 'Zuma' became infused with a feeling of decadence and good humoured wastage. The recordings came thick and fast, the final mixes made more or less straightaway each time and the band had fun - even Neil (who according to Briggs' recollections was just 'happy happy happy!') That must be it then: this is a happy recording of a sad album, which is why it's always sounded so weird (igachikazuma!...End of level about to be one nearly loading...)

Except...(oh dear, down the hole we go, one life down again!)...if you hear this album out of context there's a great deal there you wouldn't call 'happy'. Just look at 'Danger Bird' - a scary song if ever there was one, an extraordinary, impenetrable tale that finds Neil taking the call that will change his life and suffering a breakdown, right on the spot, 'long the museum...with his friends!' -  and which Crazy Horse play so straight and densely it positively hurts if you're listening to it right. We don't know what that call is incidentally (is it the news of Danny's death? or Bruce's? The call to tell him that his marriage is over? Or simply some other bad news that tips him over the edge?) Neil's guitar playing, so nearly always emotional and vulnerable anyway, is at its most extreme here, ending in the most jaw-dropping howl of pain this side of CSNY song  'Ohio'. Many fans rate it as his greatest guitar playing ever and I'm not going to argue - in fact I'll add that this endlessly fascinating, densely layered song with Crazy Horse intoning like the choir of doom over the top of it all, may well be Neil's greatest ever song as well (again, this side of 'Ohio' anyway). Equally, 'Cortez' is extraordinary, sung with all the detachment of a wandering minstrel but filled with such pain and detail that you half believe you're back in the Aztec world for those precious seven-and-a-half minutes. Just listen to how loaded this song is, dripping with irony and sting from Crazy Horse's instruments, saying everything the narrator (trying to stay neutral? Too pained to let his emotions show?) cannot. A whole civilisation is dead, caught out by their own belief that their future was assured - and Neil's guitar sounds as if it's weeping for the whole bang lot of them, those slaughtered by the Spanish, their ancestors' desecrated tombs and the generations than were never born, all because some jerk came dancing across the water looking for some gold. This is not a happy album - and this isn't happy playing either but a guitar-weave of tears between the two guitarists (with Poncho at his best already - at least until 2012)while Billy and Ralph play a funeral arrangement behind. It's not as if these two songs are insignificant, either, taking up a full 13:25 minutes of an album that lasts a mere 36:24 (more than a third).

If you're reading these reviews in the order that they're published - we've been here before, although actually 'Cortez' came first. Neil's always had a fascination with the Aztec civilisation, although this is the first time he's used it in song. Despite telling the story of the fall of the empire here first (Spaniard Cortez being greeted as the re-incarnation of the God Quetzlcoatl, who legend said would appear, pale-faced, and visit their lands) Neil will be back with tales of Aztec life ('1979's 'Ride My Llama' and possibly the undated 'Powderfinger', plus 1987's 'Inca Queen'). This is the most poignant of Neil's 'Aztec' songs, though, about an empire that effectively handed over their years of learning and scientific principles because of a 'mistake' (people tend to think of the Aztecs as a superstitious war-like race with savage tendencies; while this is true, the Europeans were far more barbaric at the time, without any of the great libraries or many of the mathematical and scientific principles of the Incas), all because they got one 'fact' wrong - they weren't a continent alone on the planet and their visitors, speaking in foreign tongues, weren't sent from the skies. The Aztecs pay dearly for that one mistake and Cortez was merciless, killing every single one before historians ever had a chance to hear about their culture (we've only discovered bits of it since - there's lots of discoveries they made we probably still don't know about, which they took to their grave). It's a theme that's echoed down the years, from mankind handing over the keys of his planet to aliens who appear to be so nice on the outside, to sit-com/dramas/soap operas/god awful B movies where that nice young flatmate who seemed so good in the interview turns out to be a pain/axe murderer/werewolf/zombie/spice girl (depending on the budget of the film). Few writers tackle the subject as head on as Neil does here, singing about the subject matter as if he's there, despite there actually being very little written accounts of any of this story (merely Cortez' letters home, which are understandably slanted to make him look the hero). There's also a little of the 'young punk tackling an established order' to the way Neil writes this song: Cortez doesn't invade, he 'dances', with a swagger and purpose. He doesn't act valiantly - he lies and steals (it's the supposedly blood-thirsty Aztecs who are noble, 'offering lives in sacrifice so that others could go on').

'Cortez' is a key Young song for many reasons, not least because it blows the hypocritical idea that all of Western culture is a good thing and to out benefit. Neil has been fighting this theme for years (most notably in the innocent country and wicked country motif running through 1968's 'Neil Young') but only in 'Zuma' does this theme of easy modern living being a noose round our necks become a fully blown concept. It crops up again and again across this album: the narrator of 'Danger Bird' doesn't choke anywhere - he chokes in a museum, surrounded by the items of the past that reminded him of how life used to be - and that it used to be better. Neil's angry narrator decides to 'Drive Back' not because he has a past love in mind but because the past is always better and modern living is getting him down. He sings 'Barstool Blues' with all the passion of a drunk who knows he has to get his kicks now while the alcohol is pulsing through his veins because his head's going to hurt in the morning (at least when the Aztecs got drunk on something it was cocoa, which does far less harm). Perhaps the real theme of 'Zuma' and the reason it reads as happy/sad as it does (igachikazuma!...bonus points! Yes!) is that it's a deceptive album, recorded high on drugs and booze which is on the surface all about how great modern day living is (bars! booze! pretty women everywhere! ) but below it all is an angry snarl about how all that modern living just distracts from the true purpose in life. After all, it was modern day living like this that took the lives of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry far too soon and anyone whose heard any or all of the doom trilogy will know that Neil wasn't about to forget his late lamented friends in a hurry. The boozy bonhomie of 'Zuma' is really just a front - the real message of the album is that 'the Spanish are coming!' to take away our ideals, pull down our achievements and reduce our modern world to wrecks while we're not looking (Nixon may be gone in this era but politically the Western World is still a mess and the cold war is slowly thawing). 'Zuma', an album perhaps named for Aztec chief Montezuma who gave away his whole culture in the name of friendship and idolisation, really does live up to the likeliest definition of that word: 'the troubled frown of an angry God'. Fascinatingly, Neil also claims to have written a first draft while still in high school (suggesting he 'chose' this song for an album where it would hit) - and like many of his best early songs it was written while ill in bed with a hallucinatory fever (allegedly diarrhoea or 'Montezuma's Revenge', a strand of the illness through to have been passed on through Aztecs to Spaniards and on to everywhere else - although this sounds too neat a story to be true to me).

Talking of great near-mythological beings from another culture who lived long ago and gave in to their own mistakes and self-indulgences, the reunion with Crosby, Stills and Nash was another major talking point of this record at the time. Of all the many many abandoned CSNY projects over the years 1974's 'Human Highway' got closer to completion than most and would have been a fascinating release: Crosby and Stills are having a great time in their lives (one's got married - one is young free and single!) but both Nash and Young are as depressed as they'll ever be. An album full of rancour, guilt and regret, it would have been a deeply heartfelt record (and 'Pardon My Heart' would have fitted it nicely, although it seems more likely that the songs played in concert that year 'Pushed It Over The End' and 'Traces', plus the title track, would have been Neil's contributions to the album). The one recording of a Young song the quartet did manage to finish was 'Zuma's closer, the cosy ballad 'Through My Sails'. Another Young song at least partly inspired by the foursome's holidays in their beloved Hawaii (Nash even bought a house there - and let's face it Hawaii must be the polar opposite to his home town of Manchester!), it features almost the only time CSNY sing together all the way through (Neil's own later 'Lookin' Forward' and Stills' 1970 Ohio B-side 'Find The Cost Of Freedom' are the only other exceptions I can name). However even this song has things changed round,  with something slightly uncomfortably wrong and just out of place that most fans can't put a finger on: none of CSNY are singing in the usual places (Crosby takes the Stills past down low, Stills does Nash up high, Nash takes the Crosby part in the middle and Young kind of weaves in an out where he feels like it). Obviously 'Sails' was written for a whole new project - but it's interesting that yet another song supposedly about a peaceful 'paradise' has an edge to it, like all of the 'Zuma' songs to lesser or greater extent.

Overall, then, I still don't know what to make of 'Zuma' (darn it...that's another life gone!) an album which I love and hate in equal measure. I adore this album's many plus points: the quick-witted repartee of a newly born Crazy Horse, who sound even more alive than they did on 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere', the astonishing virtuosity and song construction of 'Danger Bird' and 'Cortez The Killer' - songs lesser artists wouldn't even imagine, never mind pull off and no Young solo album with a CSNY reunion can be truly terrible (as opposed to actual CSNY reunions, which don't always come off that well). 'Barstool Blues' and 'Pardon My Heart' are minor gems too that deserve to get a lot greater recognition than they ever seem to get, Crazy Horse at their most delightfully flippant and their most righteously earnest respectively. But then I hear the crassness of much of the rest of the album: the cheap clichéd feel of 'Don't Cry No Tears', the aimlessness of 'Drive Back'  the stupidity of, umm, 'Stupid Girl' and the relative weakness of 'Through My Sails' (a song that works nicely on my cobbled together version of 'Human Highway', heard after the agonies of Nash's 'Prison Song' and the sheer terror of Stills' 'Guardian Angel' but sounds rather empty here) and I begin to question everything I thought I knew about this album. In short, there are two responses to this record, both of them equally valid. Neil played the record proudly for Carole King. Her comment: 'Erm, when are you going to make the real record?' says much for how weird this record was for the time: dry, sparse, full of uncontrolled anger and aggression, a determination not to be fooled again that makes Crazy Horse sounds more like The Who (especially the madder, sadder Who of 1975). However Rolling Stone Magazine called it a superb comeback album, the best thing Neil had ever done, blah blah blah, recognising the sheer brilliance of 'Cortez' and 'Dangerbird'. Both responses are right - both responses are wrong. 'Zuma' is an odd record, full of some great moments alongside dodgy ones, some dementedly happy songs next to some heartbreaking ones and is at the same time a door leading out of the darkness of the past three years - and a door that leads right back in to the darkness again.

That goes for the cover too, by the way: a pen and ink drawing by Neil's friend known simply as 'Mazzeo', which has upset more than a few people over the years because it looks too bad for release - too bad for a bootleg even (the wibbly-wobbly sketchyness looks like the illustrations for Rhubarb and Custard re-drawn on a moving train) but which I rather like. Mazzeo may have spent barely ten minutes on four drawings (he later joked that he got paid $200 a minute for his work - and this was back in 1975!) but he captures what few other writers could: the crudeness of this album but also the virtuosity. A bald eagle, taking some doomed romantic victim out of the camera shot above a desert's as if he heard the album. He didn't apparently, just listened to Neil rabbiting on about the visions in his head while recording the record 'the desert and pyramids and stuff'. Neil has always been one for 'first thought best thought' and that's been to the detriment of his album covers as well as his music in recent years (just have a look at the covers of the past fifteen years for albums like 'Silver and Gold' 'Chrome Dreams II' 'Greendale' 'Le Noise' 'Fork In The Road' 'Psychedelic Pill' gads! I've seen prettier pictures entered for the Turner Prize!) This one, however, works: perhaps the Neil Young sleeve that most closely resembles its contents (only 'Trans', with its robot hitch-hiking the other way to its human clone, comes close - and they spent one heck of a lot more money on that one!)

'Don't Cry No Tears' is a real jolt for anyone whose come to this album straight from the 'Doom Trilogy'. Neil isn't shying away from this song, half-unwilling to sing it: he's right in your face, with the crisp guitar crunch of Crazy Horse at their loudest. For many fans that's a relief, akin to the moment 'Cinnamon Girl' stepped out of the darkness of the early solo days but once you get to know this song well you realise how little there is going on here by Neil's recent standards. Neil's character is still quite bitter too, basically walking out of the life of someone who clearly loves him because he's had enough and expecting her to get over it without a second's thought - the cad! It's not as if Neil claims anywhere that he isn't 'worth it' or something equally likeable; all we get are some Dylan style homilies equating love with a service that's on tap until the bills aren't paid ('Cause when the water's gone the feeling lingers on') and a confusing second verse where he suddenly gets jealous at the imaginary new man on the block she may or may not be with ('I wonder whose holding her tonight?') This sticks in the throat particularly because this twist appears in such a simple (almost dementedly simple) song, played on a simple three-chord structure that sounds like either a garage band or a group just starting out (yes that's about all Crazy Horse can play according to some critics, but they've oh so recently been playing on 'Tonight's The Night', one of the most dense and subtle of Young albums, even if chord-wise it's an album not that much trickier than this one). The end result is a rather unlikeable song by Young's high standards, although there's still much to enjoy including a brief but magical moment when Neil's lead guitar stops scratching away at the riff and starts soaring, just like the old days (frankly this section isn't anywhere near long enough) and the nice chemistry between Crazy Horse who are already right on the money.

'Danger Bird' however proves at once how 'light' some of these other compositions are. A fascinating dense, torturous journey through an instant where live suddenly became too painful to live for the main character, we spend the whole song trying to work out why without ever really getting an answer (the clue might be in the two lines taken from a 1973 era song that dealt directly with Neil's breakup with Carrie Snodgrass, 'L.A. Boys and Ocean Girls' thought too 'personal' to release: 'Because you've been with another man, there you are - but here I am!') The 'why' doesn't matter as much as the 'what' though: Neil's songwriting instincts are spot-on here as he describes the memory of a breakdown ('Long the museum...with his friends!', the last word spat out with such vitriol you wonder if they were part of the problem - was this a day trip for CSNY between gigs or something?!) Neil's narrator remembers the moment when his life changed forever, as if by piecing together the exact moment he can go back to how it was before, but knows his perception of life is doomed to be forever altered by what he saw and felt that night. The hint is that's he's agraphobic now, to suspicious of people to spend much time with them, while his outbursts have turned everyone he used to spend time with away from him, half-frightened and half-confused by what he has become, effectively too mad bad and dangerous to hang around with, cutting him off at just the point where he needs to be surrounded by humanity and help ('Dangerbird flies alone!' is the song's pained opening cry). Slowly, ever so slowly, Danger Bird tries to find his way back into the life he used to have - but it's hard for him, oh so hard. Every time he tries to fly he finds his 'wings have turned to stone' and finds himself waiting for the train of depression to hit him,. 'waiting spread-eagles on the tracks'. Even freedom, a concept he used to believe in without really thinking, is 'just a prison to me': freed of all his family and friends and living the solitary life he once craved, Danger Bird finds there's no point to it without anyone to share it with. All he has are his memories of how easy life used to be and how he used to soar - and there are so many they come 'falling down, like the rain on his back'. Throughout Neil effectively talks to himself, schizophrenia writ large, as he and Crazy Horse chant back at him operatic style, taunting him in his madness by their sheer aloofness ('Where I used to be so calm now I think about you all day long!' is one of the most frightening passages in the Young canon, right up there with 'Tired Eyes' and 'Driveby', although both these songs are more detached than 'Dangerbird', a song which wows through its extraordinary emotional power, the whole band clearly 'living' this song). Then Neil takes flight on the most extraordinary guitar solo, channelling all of his angst and rage into one of his most perfect instrumental breaks, pushing bit by bit until charging at the end, Hendrix, style, furiously chopping away at Crazy Horse's slow chug, so desperate to breakout and reach out for the sky. Even by the end, though, with all that power and noise he fails, limply recovering back to the song's slow main hook and nursing his wounds until an unexpected final verse. The song then ends with a resolution, of sorts, Danger Bird knowing that though his wings won't let him fly for real anymore he still has the power to believe and Neil struggles to spit out the words to his last verse as if he's using every last ounce of breath in his body: Watch me fly above the city, like a shadow on the sky, fly, fly, fly...' Never has singing sounded like such hard work, as if there's a deadweight sat on Neil's lungs that won't let him breathe. The result is startling, compelling and one of the greatest attempts to explore the theme of madness in song. Though intensely dramatic and visual in its poetic surreal lyrics there's nothing forced about this song, which rings true from the first note (a pleading squeal of feedback, cut straight through the middle of the note as if this song has already been playing for a long time in the author's head before we 'hear' it), to the last strained nervous tick of a guitar part. 'Danger Bird' is an incredible work, vastly under-rated and a highlight of Neil's set list on each of the few occasions when he's revived it (there's a 14 minute live version from 1997's 'Year Of The Horse' live album even more stunning than this one, for instance, all the more powerful for coming after twenty minutes of noodling through the hopeless and barren 'Broken Arrow' album). One of the absolute joys of the Neil Young canon - why the hell wasn't this glorious song chosen for 'Decade' and why isn't it better known?!

'Pardon My Heart' is just as intense, but in a much quieter way. First recorded for 'Homegrown' in 1976, it features Neil's voice and an acoustic, joined by the first ever recording by the new-look Crazy Horse, filling in with some of their most gorgeous harmonies on the chorus (CSNY couldn't have done any better!) Neil's still in a bad place, inside a 'fallen situation...with little reason to believe' and clearly still nursing his wounds after his years with Carrie. The love 'isn't flowing the way it could have been' and both sides have been 'pretending' for some time, 'not giving while one pretends to receive'. However for the first time Neil seems to feel some guilt about the way it all turned out, Crazy Horse sounding like his conscience as they start off in the background and gradually become centre stage, their words of wisdom that 'you brought it all on' repeated over and over, a musical slap to the face. Neil is moved enough to add a quiet electric part to his acoustic, placed distantly in the background to sound echoey and sad (an old trick he'd discovered with Buffalo Springfield on the Stills track 'Everydays') and rarely has his guitar 'old black' sounded finer, the notes ringing out with crystal clarity, scything their way through his echoed muddied acoustic madness. Neil comes to terms, sort of, with how the relationship turned out: he loved the idea of Carrie and what she offered so much that it broke his heart when that relationship turned into petty squabblings ('I loved you more than moments we have or have not shared') and against all the odds this quietly reflective song ends happily, with the memory that at one time it 'feels so good - when love grows the way that it should'. Together with the beautiful melody and Crazy Horse's delightful harmonies (angelic and earthy all at the same time), 'Pardon My Heart' is one of the strongest Young ballads of the period, thoughtful and wise. A whole album of this on 'Homegrown' would have been quite something, although only 'A Star Of Bethlehem' actually reaches this peak as a 'song'.

Alas all that brilliance is wiped out in seconds by the tired riff of 'Lookin' For A Love'. Neil's out on the prowl, his conscience now eased by the revelations of the last song and this track is another ridiculously basic track that sounds like a rock and roll version of a carol. Neil imagines himself meeting his future love around any corner - when he takes walks at the beach for instance - although he's sure that life will surprise him and 'she'll be nothing like I pictured her to be'. However it's the unexpected switch to a minor key for the end of the chorus that points at the true heart of this song: Neil's narrator is scared first that she'll treat him badly all over again, and then that he might do the same to her, with his fiance running off when 'she starts to see the darker side of me' (singing this last line in a deep growl, like Johnny Cash). That line sticks out like a sore thumb on a track that's basically jolly and even features some nice Crazy Horse 'aaahs' that take a lot of the sting out of this song's tail. That's kind of it though: a pretty chorus, some dumb lyrics and a slight twist in the tail is something of a let down after the glorious depth of 'Tonight's The Night' or indeed this album's 'Danger Bird' and 'Cortez The Killer'.

Luckily 'Barstool Blues' is better, if only because Neil sounds as if he means what he's singing, uncomfortably pushed to the upper end of his register. The lyric is cryptic and confusing, Neil admitting years later that he really did write the song when drunk and had no memory of actually putting pen to paper when he found it the night after. That's to this song's benefit, though, full of some fascinating lines that sum up the schizophrenia of the 1975 period well: 'Why [is] my mind moving so fast when the conversation so slow?' he muses in the opening verse, before thinking again about Carrie 'in the movies and those magazines at night...I've seen you in my nightmares but I'll see you in my dreams', adding for good measure that he doesn't understand his own words and that 'I could live a thousand years before I know what that means!' The fun, charging riff comes on like a big friendly bear trying to give you a hug, an amiable youremybestestfriendsinthewholewideworldhic! kind of a drunk and this song seems to be a 'blues' in an ironic sense rather than an 'On The Beach' sense (although you sense the narrator might well have a nasty headache in the morning). Like most of the best Crazy Horse rockers, this track is actually quite slow when you come to analyse it, although Neil's cheeky chappie persona and the lopsided riff give the false impression of travelling at speed which rather suits the song's chaotic confused lyrics. However yet again there's a bit of a sting in the tail as Neil goes on to sing about 'a friend of mine who died a thousand deaths, his life filled with parasites and countless idle threats'. As far as I know Neil has never said who he was singing about here and few fans have put theories forward, so here's mine: producer/manager David Briggs was the key proponent of this album, loaning the house where 'Zuma' was recorded and encouraging the new-look Crazy Horse to bond with their leader. For the most part that's to this album's benefit, giving it a loose no-distractions vibe, but tales of heavy drugs and lots of scantily dressed females around also give it something of a negative vibe where drugs and booze offer an escape (despite the danger warning of 'Tonight's The Night') and women are a commodity. Briggs, who came from a slightly frightening, tough street gang lifestyle, was occasionally threatened by people from his past jealous at his sudden riches, while few managers came with more hangers-on. Or is Neil singing about his new mate Poncho, himself a product of a violent, tough talking background and whose money got spent on anyone around him, no ,matter how little he had at the time. Perhaps the reason this song is a 'blues' is that Neil, like many drunks, is lost in the brilliance and brightness of the moment but knows that he's going to pay for it in the morning - and the rest of his life if he ends up throwing his lot in with these people full-time (it is a fact that Neil tends to get carried away by whoever he is at any one time - which is why it's been so good for him to chop and change over the years). Whatever the cause, 'Barstool Blues' is one of Neil's better 'mindless thrash' songs and Crazy Horse turn in another note-perfect performance where even the 'wrong' notes are wrong in a good way!

Alas 'Stupid Girl' is the worst excesses of the period trapped in one handy song for you to skip. Sounding not unlike Mick Jagger Neil turns on either Carrie, a new groupie friend or a combination of both, slurring his opening words 'you're such a stupid really got a lot to learn!' In turns the next few lines tell us that she's also a 'beautiful fish...lookin' for the wave you missed' and saw her 'practising self-defense in a Mercedes Benz' (a curve-ball for you here, is Neil singing about Janis Joplin here with the references to Mercedes Benz? The year 1975 was the fifth anniversary of her death so she was in the news a lot when this album was being written and the similarity between her I'm-in-control persona and sad overdose death and Danny Whitten's may have struck Neil when he was busy 'promoting' Tonight's The Night' in this same period) Either way this is quite an ugly song, with a demented squealing rock and roll riff that's more suited to mindless bands like Status Quo or Led Zeppelin  than a 'proper' writer like Neil (ho ho that's another line that will get me letters!) Neil sings in a high voice again, perhaps wisely distancing himself from the scene or suggesting that he's drunk once more so doesn't mean what he's singing. That said he 'sounds' like he means it, without the tongue-in-cheekness with which Mick Jagger sang the similar Stones song of the same name ('Aftermath', 1966). While The Stones were borderline-wrong anyway at least they had excuses for this puerile rubbish (it was longer ago, they were living up to their 'persona'; that track was featured on 'Aftermath' following the romantic praise of women 'Lady Jane'), the only excuse Neil has is one bad experience. Something of a blot on this album and Neil's canon as a whole.

'Drive Back' is more puerile mindless nonsense, although at least it's not offensive this time around. Quoting from a Lennon song from the year before Neil starts 'whatever gets you through the night - well that's alright with me', at once making the doom trilogy warning about excess, escapism and darkness null and void. Again the song turns nasty, telling an unseen girl that she'll never ever see her again before driving back to the scene of his own youth before they met (presumably Canada, although this isn't so much a 'journey through the past' as an 'I'm leaving here and now' kind of a song). With just two verses and a chorus repeated twice surrounded by lots of chaotic jamming (the band seriously needed another take of this, if only so poor Ralph can cover up the fact he gets tired and slows down near the end) there isn't much to this song, which is less a 'car' song and more another 'bar' song, Neil so high on the booze he doesn't quite know what he's saying. Another of 'Zuma's lesser moments.

'Cortez The Killer' sounds like it's made by an entirely different band: graceful, beautiful and masters of the slow build, had this song been an instrumental it would have been a special moment in the Young canon. However it comes with that lyric, one of the most celebrated that Neil ever wrote and open to just about every interpretation under the sun. Actually it's a re-write of 'Star Of Bethlehem' - recorded before this album but released a year later on 'American Stars 'n' Bars', Neil sadly coming to the conclusion that a supposedly glorious moment in Western Civilisation 'wasn't a star at all' and miracles don't happen. Cortez of Spain wasn't a noble explorer, out to find new continents as our history books have it, 'looking for a new home and a palace in the sun'. Instead he was a 'killer', out for gold and nothing more, taking advantage of a civilisation that greeted him as their long lost God. Cortez should have made friends and set up a trade between the colonies, he could simply have taken the gold and run - but no, he had to slaughter them all, committing the genocide of a people who created so much beauty. Cortez' notes homes suggest that he slaughtered them because he thought them 'barbaric', with their worship of a 'false' sun God and the human sacrifice of prisoners. Neil, a committed 'pagan' in recent years whose already had several beefs with Christianity down the years, clearly finds this stance hypocritical, making Cortez and not the Aztecs the 'killers' in this song; theirs was a noble people surrounded by 'leaves' and 'pearls' and 'the secrets of the worlds' and their sacrifices were made to keep the Gods happy 'so that other life could go on'. By contrast Cortez only brings with him 'galleons and guns' and his sacrifices are because of a culture he doesn't understand. After a lifetime of backing the under-dogs (it's not for nothing Neil was an 'Indian' not a cowboy in the Springfield) Young has finally found a cause he can 'connect' with, building up a wonderful image of Aztec civilisation in just seven short simple verses that says more than most 500-page books on the subjects. Throughout it all is the feeling of waste: these deaths were so needless and the fact that there was nobody but the Spanish left meant nobody mourned the passing of a whole tribe who, as archaeologists and historians will go on to discover, 'built up with their bare hands what we still can't do today'. All of the above is accompanied by music that sounds like a sad eulogy, Neil sounding as if he's haunted by what his 'ancestors' did (in the sense of them being European rather than specifically Spanish) and on the verge of tears throughout. That's especially true of the poignant last verse, which suddenly switches without notice from the past to the present, Neil suddenly at the heart of the action, missing his true soulmate who perished on that fateful day ('I know she's living there and she loves me to this day!')  His guitar work is again incredibly powerful and sets the scene nicely (it's a full three minutes before he starts singing, as if his words are merely adding to what his music has already said). Incidentally, legend has it that the song would have started with a different verse heard much earlier in the song, but the ad hoc way that 'Zuma' was being recorded meant that the engineer accidentally missed a take that everyone felt was 'the one'. Fearing that Young would be angry Briggs was nominated to tell the guitarist who simply shrugged his shoulders and replied 'I never liked that verse anyway!' Unusually and rather tragically this 'lost verse' has never turned up anywhere else (unlike most revised Young songs): it was never sung in concert or features on a demo tape, although one concert from the 1990s did feature a bit of improvisation that might hold a clue as to what it contained ('Ship is breaking up on the rocks, sand and beach...they're so close!') All in all 'Cortez' is one of Neil's most celebrated songs for a reason: poignant, powerful, emotional and quite unlike any song ever written by any earlier writer, this song is both Neil and Crazy Horse at their best.

Alas after such heavy losses 'Zuma' needs a stronger way to go out than the brief tonic of 'Through My Sails'. On the upside, this CSNY outtake from 1974 features some typically gorgeous harmonies and a lovely melody and in one sense makes for a good companion (the images of sail - this song also makes for a good sequel to CSN classic 'Wooden Ships' and Crosby and Stills' many songs about sailing as a metaphor for life). Stills, especially, sounds lovely while the middle eight (the wordless 'aah' that's shared in tandem by Crosby and Young and echoed by Stills and Nash) is positively gorgeous. However the lyrics are so tame after such a wild ride: it merely recounts a holiday to Hawaii where 'still glaring from the city lights into paradise' Neil 'soared'. Re-connecting with nature has long been a Young theme, but other lyrics (such as the later 'War Of Man' and 'Mother Earth', not to mention most of the 'Neil Young' album from seven years earlier than 'Zuma') make the point rather better. Ultimately this is a song that sounds like no breeze is blowing through these sails - this is just a song coasting by thanks to a basic tune, basic words and the beauty of CSN.

Overall, then, 'Zuma' is a puzzle of a record (no lives left - you're out the game!) Apart from my beloved twin albums of '#Tonight's The Night' and 'Trans' and possibly 'Freedom' and 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' I don't think I could name you another album with two Young songs quite as stupendously inspired as 'Cortez' and 'Danger Bird'. Those two songs alone pack such a punch that 'Zuma' is straight away amongst the top legion of powerful, passionate Young LPs, full of the guitarist at his hypnotic and haunting best. Both these songs read 'true' in a way that few others do. On any other album the 'winners' would be 'Pardon My Heart' and 'Barstool Blues', two other downright brilliant songs that only lose out because they're measured against such perfection. But what does the rest of the album do? It wastes what could have been the single best album of the 1970s talking about stupid girls, looking for loves, driving back and not crying tears that sounds like they could have been written by any writer with a knowledge of three chords and a guitar. On any other album these four songs would have sounded disappointing - as part of this potentially genius album they sound even worse. That's probably deliberate of course - Neil famously added the horrid 'Motorcycle Mama' to 'Comes A Time' because that album was in danger of becoming 'perfect' and Neil knew he's have to live up to it and I sense a similar thing may have happened with 'Last Trip To Tulsa' on 'Neil Young' and 'Words' on 'Harvest'. The shame, though, is that Neil is clearly on the roll of his life here, his creative side waking up from the there's-no-point depression of the past three years without yet being so afraid of falling sales or his record company (Reprise come out of this whole scenario brilliantly, by the way - what other label would allow that album cover out and release 'Tonight's The Night' mere months before this one?) that Neil has to sell his soul to get his work made either. 'Zuma' fails because it should have been so much more - but the very fact that we're talking in  sentences like this shows just how 'right' the better half of this album is. In other words, 'Zuma' the album is so like 'Zuma' the game: just when you think you're about to mess up you get an extra life and extra chance to make things happen; yet conversely just when you think you're in charge of everything and you're on top of your game you end up falling down a great big hole.

Other related articles from this website you might be interested in reading:

'Neil Young' (1968)

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969)

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970)

'Fork In The Road' (2009)

'Le Noise' (2011)

'A Treasure' (1986/2012)

The Byrds: Non-Album Songs 1964-90

You can buy 'All The Things - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of...The Byrds' by clicking here! 

Non-Album Recordings Part #1: 1964
A) [1] 'Please Let Me Love You' is the first ever Byrds release - although it's  still credited to manager Jim Dickson's choice of quirky English-centric name 'The Beefeaters' (a tag the rest of the band hated with a passion!) Like the rest of the marathon lost of songs in this section, it was recorded at World Pacific Studios across 1964, financed by manager Jim Dickson who used the demo tape as a means of hawking the band round town.This track - one of only two of the 24 tracks here to find a period release - is a lovely folky Gene Clark song. It's interesting how many elements of the band sound is here from the start: Crosby's harmonies, Roger's guitars and a sound that manages to sound if not quite a cross between Dylan and The Beatles then certainly folk and The Beatles. Gene's simple lyric is still pretty far ahead of it's time: this isn't a straightforward song but one about revenge: the narrator doesn't care about the girl on his arm for her feelings but because of the jealous looks he gets from others so he can feel he's 'really' made it. This is an unusually unsensitive lyrics from Clark which suggests it's being written under duress, but there's no sense of that in the hauntingly beutiful melody which manages to sound both simple enough for top 40 radio and deeply unique and original. The trio (Hillman and Clarke haven't joined the band yet) turn in a great performance too, one full of life and exuberance. The Byrds will get better, deeper and even more special but they've already hit the forumla right here from the start, with only a rather unfitting German-Beatlesy 'oh yah' chorus sounding clumsy and out of place. The band really should have revived it for one of their first two albums. Find it on: 'In The Beginning' (1988), box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
B) [2a] 'It Won't Be Long' was the flipside of that Beefeaters single, heard here under it's original title 'Don't Be Long' for reasons unknown (the band never sing these lines - did they change it too late in the day to have the paperwork changed?) This Clark song isn't quite as convincing - a wannabe rock and roll song played by a folk trio with a session musician drummer, something about this track doesn't quite gel. The song sports a fine guitar riff though, which already sounds great treated with echo (although a long way from the powerhouse it will become on debut album 'Mr Tambourine Man') and some nice if scrappy vocals. Gene's already employing his love of sudden switches of rhythm, too, which must have made this song a pain for three largely inexperienced musicians to sing - without Chris Hillman there to 'cover' the gap this doesn't come off quite as well as later attempts. Still if I'd heard this record I'd have signed the band then and there - clearly there's magic in the room with just a few odds and ends that need sorting out. Find it on: 'In The Beginning' (1988), box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
C) Clark's [3] 'You Showed Me' is one of the lesser 'Preflyte' songs, with a 'dooby dooby doo' melody-line far simpler than his usual work and lyrics best described as from the 'moon and June' school of writing. That said McGuinn gets in a fine middle eight ('And when I try-e-y I can see you fa-a-a-all') that seems to push against the rest of the song, as if it's the mirror image. The songis a short one, though, without much to say and comes to a natural full stop st 1:30, though, with the repeat of the middle eight and chorus superflouous. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969), 'In The Beginning' (1988) , box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
D) [4a] Clark's 'Here Without You' already sounds like a great song, full of doom and portent and loss. Gene sounds like a star too, with a terrific baritone vocal that would have been nice to hear solo. Everyone is isn't quite there yet though - Crosby's bouncy geeleful harmony isn't quite right of the song, McGuinn's Rickenbacker's a little too vivid and Clarke's drumming hopeless (having not been a drummer for very long, he struggles on these early recordings but is one of the best drummers around in thew 1966-68 period). The arrangementis remarkably similar to the version released on first album 'Mr Tambourine Man' a year later - it's just the little touches here and there that aren't quite there yet. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969),   'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
E) [5] Clark's 'She Has A Way' was tackled by the early Byrds a few times, perhaps because it's another of the tambourine man's more Beatle-inspired and commercial works. While both are sloppy, one is drowned out by some chaotic guitar-and-drums battles, while the other much nicer version is more harmony-led and simpler. Lyrically this is a song that borrows heavily from Mersebeat, with lots of 'lo-e-ongs' and 'hea-e-art's, but already Clark is digging a little depper than mere love songs. This narrator isn't happy he's in love, he's already doubting whether he'll be able to keep up this happiest of times ('I wonder if she'll ever want to settle down') and searching for meanings as to why he's fallen for this girl in particular. Never returned to by the Byrds proper - perhaps because this song smacks so much of 1964 - it's a shame that a song this good has to sit in the vaults for so long. Find the 'rougher' version on 'Preflyte' (1969) and the more harmony-led simpler version on 'In The Beginning' (1988) and both on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
F) [6] 'The Reason Why' is yet another Clark song that's key in his development as a songwriter: his first song about a break-up. Later Clark songs will try to come to terms with such a loss existentially, philsophically and morally - this one is simpler and more about not understanding why he was dropped. Clark's narrator even tells us that he never really liked her that much anyway, but he's clearly lying, admitting in the chorus 'the reason why I cried - I wish he knew'. Clearly he knows - he was fonder of the un-named 'her' than he'll ever let on. The best part of the song isn't the laidback verse-chorus but the first of many truly terrific Gene Clark middle eights: told by his girl's friends that their relationship is over he both hints at his covered-up hurt and the reason the relationship failed, in two pithy short sentences Dylan would have been proud of ('I couldn't understand a thing they were saying, 'cause inside my head the music was playing!', Gene already 'mocving on' from hurt by turning it into art). The Byrds turn in a stronger performance here, with Crosb especially nailing the song's naive charm. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969),  'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
G) [7] 'For Me Again' is a slighter, less convincing Clark song that's very 1950s old school until a sudden unexpected conversion to a minor chord that has the effect of knocking us off our feet. Typically Clark's mind is trying to write a Beatley song he knows might get played on the radio, but his heart is pouring out a lyric and music that's 'real', with the end result a compromise betwee the two halves. The lyrics 'pretend' that all is well and that even after a minor tiff the pair will inevitably get back together - but the music is less sure, sighing it's long sighs as the music switches between the hopeful and the pessimistic over and over again, never quite setlling down in either. The Byrds' three-part harmonies are really growing lovely now, although with less 'changes' going on throughout the song than normal for Clark there's less for the band to do. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969),   'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
H) [8] 'Boston' is my favourite of all the Byrds' pre-Flyte demos. Tiring of earnest folk, Clark comes up with his first attempt at a rock song and - basic and simple as it is - it's a whole lot of fun and one that Crosby and Clarke particular relish. The chugging riff around which this track is based is a typical 12-bar blues and the lyrics aren't that special: they try hard to edge towards Chuck Berry territory, listing 'Boston Massachusetts' as the destination of the narrator's girl, eager to see him the same way that Berry lists 'Memphis, Tennessee'. The 'twist' is that the narrator is already entangled with another, admitting to his now stranded second lover 'I'm not leaving because of you - I just can't stand here sitting feeling blue!' (this is an unusually pro-active lyrics for Gene, whose normally the 'injured party' on his songs!) In truth Clark has written better songsbefore and particularly since, but the riff is an especially good one that McGuinn has fun playing, Clarke and Hillman's rhythm section suddenly click and Clark and Crosby are superb on the vocals, egging each other on right up until the fade-out (where Clark's dry Dylanesque drawl hits Crosby's excited Beatles 'ooh!' head on - perhaps the most Beatles-Bob Dylan hybrid moment of the band's career!) What a great shame that the Byrds never returned to this fabulous song, which would have livened up the first album no end. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969) ,  'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
I) A fun driving rocker, [9] 'You Movin' is a Beatles pastiche that gets the 'Mersey' sound impressively spot on for an American band. A driving rattling rocker with a funky beat it features Gene's breathless vocals trying to ask a girl to dance. Fascinated by the way 'you toss your hair as you swing to the right' the narrator sounds thrilled as he tells us 'I'm falling so in love!' and the trio launch into a Beatley chorus of 'you moving oh you moving oh yeah!' Clark's written better songs, McGuinn's played a better solo (this is too fast and rock and roll for his tastes) and the three have belnded their vocals better elsewhere, but this is a whole lot of fun and perfect for the times - it's a surprise it wasn't the second Beefeaters single, in fact. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969), 'In The Beginning' (1988) , box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
J) Interestingly the most accomplished of these early recordings comes not from Clark but Crosby. [10] 'The Airport Song' is a smoky blues that simply ignores Clark and McGuinn's attempts to aim for the middle of the folk and rock market to do something deeply original and uncategeroisable. It's a wonder this fine song wasn't revived by the guitarist during his Byrds career (it didn't come out until 1988!) the same way his periods song 'Everybody's Been Burned' was. An unusual tale of a romance taking place at an airport (all three 'Beefeater' Byrds were into aircraft and bonded by hanging out at airports), it's never made clear whether the 'girl' has just got off a plane, is going on one or has simply met up with the narrator while plane-spotting herself. Note too the first appearance of the Crosby line 'you make me smile' which he'll recycle on 'his' section of CSN song 'Wooden Ships' and several songs beside. Crosby sings solo but gives plenty of space over to his colleagues, with Clark puffing away on harmonica and McGuinn playing the 'straight man' to Crosby's burbled jazz staccato guitar bursts. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969), 'In The Beginning' (1988),  box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
K) [11a] 'You Won't Have To Cry' is one of Clark's songs that was successfully re-recorded for the first album - and that's a surprise, frankly, because great as it is some of his other early songs were better. Another very Beatle-inspired song, there are two seperate versions doing the rounds. The first is a sweet acoustic demo, pretty similar in every way to the finished version - just not yet as good, with both Gene and Jim (as McGuinn still was back then, before he became 'Roger) both singing an octave lower than per the finished product. The second though is a more electric reading which sounds harsher on the demo version, driven not by the full pretty harmonies (which sound a little scrappy here) but by Roger's almost punkish guitar riffs and Clarke's fierce drumming. This sounds rather at odds with the message of the song, which by Gene's standards is uncharacteristically straightforward - basically saying 'I'll be here for you whatever happens'.  Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969), 'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
L) [12a] 'I Knew I'd Want You' is an exquisite Clark song that gained a lot of attention when it was first professionally released on 'Tambourine Man'. Simple enough for rock/pop fans to appreciate while saying a lot in it's short clipped sentences and with a really neat tension in the harmonics unusual for the period, it's Clark at his best. The demo version is scrappier than the finished product than far, with the tension replaced by an odd and over-busy part from both McGuinn and Clark (who taps a tambourine noisily throughout the entire song). However it's still very pretty, with McGuinn's bass, Crosby's falsetto and Clark's baritone all adding up to something wonderful. Already, though, The Byrds don't sound like a 'band' - every other act around in 1964 (certainly the ones we cover at our site) know excatly what they want: to sound like The Beatles (with the possible exceotion of The Beach Boys, who wanted to sound like they always did, but with a bit of The Beatles in there too). Crosby wants to sound like The Beatles, but McGuinn wants to sound like a folk act and Clark is already one of a kind, expressing his soul while his colleagues try and 'pretty' his song up. Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969),  'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
M) No one in their right minds surely would have heard this wretched early version of [13a] 'Mr Tambourine Man' and said 'yes guys that's the one - it'll be number one for six weeks next year and the start of a whole new movement!' Easily the sloppiest recording of these entire 1964 sessions, this recording seems to agree with the legend that's built up around the song (that manager Jim Dickson got it from Dylan as a 'favour' and hard sell about how much the band loved it, when in truth they thought it was ordinary and less interesting than their own - meaning Gene Clark's - material). This recording sounds suspiciously like 'sabotage' to me, the equivalent of The Beatles rattling off Mitch Murray's 'How Do You Do It?' in ten minutes to satisfy George Martin before really showing what they can do on one of their own songs. Clarke's military drumming is so wrong for this song it's not real: while the later Byrds release tidied it up a bit the whole point of Dylan's original is the fun it has with time signatures, stretching out each verse to unequal length so that you're never quite sure when the famous chorus will kick back in. McGuinn's vocal and guitar part fall flat, sleepy and lethargic quite unlike the rich promises of tomorrow the song has in both Bob's and the Byrds' later version. Crosby and Clark are competent but far from the note-perfect harmony singers we've heard elsewhere. In truth this version of 'Mr Tambourine Man' is a rotten mess not equal to the atelnts of the band or the song and easily the worst Byrds performance for the whole of the 1960s. How on earth did they get from this to a million-selling record in less space than it takes The Spice Girls to do a reunion tour?! Perhaps sensibly, this recording was released once only, on the original 'Preflyte' compilation, rather than the two follow-up sets that came out afterwards.  Find it on: 'Preflyte' (1969),  'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
N) [14a and b] 'Tomorrow Is A Long Ways Away' is a gorgeous forgotten Clark song that's never gained the credit it deserves. Passed over for the first two 'proper' Byrds albums and passed over again in 1970 for the 'Preflyte' collection, it finally saw the light of day as late as 1988 and the 'In The Beginning' compilation. A lovely song that has one foot in the band's past and in the future, this is a folk-rock song with twinges of psychedelia that finds Clark in a deeply romantic mood. Wishing he could stay with his beloved forever, he's contented to think that even just tomorrow is a long time away (well, it is by his standards of romantic relationships!) A beautiful yearning middle eight seems to add some clouds on the horizon, however, stating 'if you would stay forever...' (note the word 'if', not something the rest of the happy-go-lucky song suggests), ending up ina  delightful growl as Clark promises 'my love for you will never die' singing as low as he can (what impresses me most about these early recordings is how many notes the Byrds are using. Most relatively new singer-songwriters tend to use foru or five notes, an octave at most - but Clark is already moving well out of his comfort range on songs like these). While Byrds fans have tended to ignore this song, they were clearly very into this song at the time, turning in two seperate but erqually distinguished arrangements acoustically and electrically (these are used to bookend the 'In The Beginning' comp). The electric version is slightly better, thanks to a fuller sound, but both are excellent. Another song the band really should have returned to. Find it on: 'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
O) The most dated song of this early batch is [15] 'The Only Girl I Adore' - the most overtly Beatley song here (the song ends with an 'oh' stolen from the  finale to 'When I Get Home' - hot off the press on the 'A Hard Day's Night' movie in July that year - and there's even a 'yeah yeah' in the chorus, just one word away from a 'yeah yeah yeah'!) All that said, Clark's song is awfully sweet in an early 60s kind of way and it's interesting to hear him trying to drop his usual writing style in favour of writing something simpler and more commercial. Had he been less of a poet Clark could have done well as a 'Tin Pan Alley' composer, conjuring a song that features every romantic cliche under the sun (stars, 'I could be the only one' ) and yet still ends up sounding as if it was written and inspired by a 'real' person. The arrangements of the vocalists is interesting too: Clark sings lead with McGuinn and Crosby largely parroting away a few beats behind him, a trick the Byrds sadly never used again but particularly suitable here (as the narrator 'chases' his girl until their voices finally combine on the sublime middle eight). That middle section is by far the greatest part of the song - by rights the song is so short it doesn't need a middle eight anyway but a bit of the 'real' Clark slips out on a delightful and complex run through twice as many chords as the rest of the song and with Crosby's sunny harmonies on the line 'could be real' suddenly sounding as if this is a relationship that's going to run and run. Of it's time, but charming. Find it on: 'In The Beginning' (1988) , the box set 'There Is A Season' (2006) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
P) [16a] 'It's No Use' is an interesting one. The Byrds do return to this song, which we rather dismissed out of hand on our review for the first album. The band tried a little too hard with the polish there and the rocky feel of the song didn't quite come over, sounding like a bad Beatles pastiche ('I'll fi-e-ind her someday!')  This demo, however, is terrific: Clark has dropped all his inhibitions and sounds like a 'proper' rock singer, Crosby dances neatly alongside him in suport and McGuinn and Clarke widly thrash around like maniacs. This puts a little life back into a song I'd never really rated before and a recording that's relatively rare (I had to really hunt for this demo recording, which wasn't included on either 'Preflyte' or 'In The Beginning'!) Find it on: 'In The Beginning' (1988) and 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
Q) [17a] 'The Times They Are A Changin' only got as far as a backing track before being abandoned - which is odd given that it's arguably the tightest one here with the McGuinn-Hillman guitar-bass relationship particular lively and strong. The song sounds like a much better bet than the earlier taped 'Mr Tambourine Man' - and is actually a better, more driving arrangement than the re-recorded version on 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' the following year. Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
R) [18] 'Come Back Baby' is a very bluesy song for The Byrds to cover (AAA fans might know it from Jefferson Airplane's version), but they suit it surprisngly well. Crosby sings deeper than normal and makes for a very convincing bluesman, far more so than the only other comparable song in his canon (1989's 'Drop Down Mama'). Michael Clarke is much more open to jazzier songs like this than folk-rock and puts in way more effort than anywhere else on these early sessions, while McGuinn unleashes his inner Ledbelly. The result is a recording that would have given The Byrds a whole new string to their bow and really should have been returned to. If I was manager of The Byrds I'd have junked the folk-rock and the Dylan covers and promoted them as a blues band instead. Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
S) [19] 'Willie Jean' is more of the same, another traditional blues song that Crosby takes lead on, with McGuinn as his very able second-in-command. The result is another convincing performance that's a far better pastiche of the sound than the later 'Hey Joe'. Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
T) [20] 'Jack Of Diamonds' is the least convincing of Crosby's four blues songs but the Byrds still turn in a fine performance: wilder than anything else the 'Preflyte' sessions threw up and with Crosby really yelling out the lyrics. The gambling lyrics are the kind of thing every lazy folk song has included down the centuries, though, and the tune is less distinguished than elsewhere. No one's told Michael Clrke this is a folk song though, as he transforms himself from a rather basic folky drummer into Keith Moon! Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
U) [21] 'Get Together' is another traditional song made famous by Jefferson Airplane,featuring a winsome Crosby lead. His vocal is quite different to what he'll go on to do, caught halfway between folk and blues as the Byrds take the usually slow moving ballad about peace and jive it up a bit, adding a distinctive 'growl' to it not present in any other version I've heard. The song is a  fascinating one: an inter-war folk song by Dino Valentino, it's calls for peace and equality make it arguably the world's first 'hippie' song, with obvious appeal to proponents of the age like Crosby and the Airplane's Paul Kantner. The cheery chirrup in Crosby's voice really dfoes make you believe that world peace is possible. Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
V) After the 'real' Crosby, not rhe 'real' Clark. [22a] 'She's The Kind Of Girl' is a gorgeous ballad that won't see the light of day until 1973 (when it marks the last time all five original Byrds are in the same room until their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appearance in 1990!) Clark's demo is slower and more thoughtful than the finished product and misses CRosby's classic harmonic blend, but it's still a fantastic reading of a great song that sets out many of Clark's touches of genius to come: (he's deeply in love with her, she isn't with him, it's all going to end in tears, he still wants her anyway!) How astonishing to think that The Byrds will pass over this great song for both the two records with Gene in the band and their reunion album and even when this version is recorded in 1973 it has to wait another four years and a rarities set ('Roadmaster') to see the light of day. A Clark classic to rank as high as 'Set You Free This Time' and 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better', it already sounds note-perfect here. Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
W) [23] 'I'm Just A Young Man' is solo Crosby, the Bo Diddley song recorded by so many early and mkid 1960s bands from The Who on down (it's more usually called 'I'm A Man'). Crosby's version is less threatening than cute (certainly compared to Roger Daltrey's growl), with the usual power of the lines 'I'm a man now - I made 21!' sounding more like triumph than threat. The result is one of the lesser songs from these sessions, petering out before the end and probably not giving Ellas McDaniels (aka Bo) too many sleepless nights about his competition (it's also worth pointing out that Crosby is a comparatively old 23 here!) Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)
X) [24a] 'Everybody Has Been Burned' is the single most thrilling moment of the 'Preflyte' recordings. Crosby's smoky ballad won't be heard on record until The Byrds re-record it for 'Younger Than Yesterday' in 1967. That version is perfectly respectable with lots of clever overdubs that really flesh out the sound. This, though, sounds like the 'real deal' - Crosby sings solo to his own acoustic guitar part sounding not unlike Gene Clark's early solo work in the process). Both are staggering, ominous, bleak - a world away from the cutesey-pie Beatles pastiches of most of these recordings. This song too sounds far more like Crosby's future work with CSN than any other single Byrds recording - the starkness, the acousticness, even the off-centre jazz modal guitar tunings are in place (suggesting just how much CRosby changed his 'ntaural' leanings to keep The Byrds 'on-message'). Marvellous - how this song got passed over for the original 'Preflyte' goodness knows). Find it on 'The Preflyte Sessions' (2001)

Non-Album Recordings Part #2: 1965
A) We're onto the 'true' Byrds sessions now, recorded after the band's first hit. The Byrds are unusual amongst our AAA bands in that virtually all their singles and their flip-sides ended up being repeated on whatever the next album happened to be (1971's A side  'Lay Lady Lay' and 1965's B-side 'She Don't Care About Time' being the exceptions). There's still quite a list of these 'non-album songs' across the book, though - most of them unreleased in the band's lifetime but available since a series of rather good CD re-issues in the 1990s and two seperate Byrds box sets. First on our list is Gene Clark's lovely [5b] 'She Has A Way' should really have found a home on 'Mr Tambourine Man' - it's a typically lovely song about heartbreak and loss that's one of Gene's better attempts at finding a 'halfway house' between The Beatles and Bob. The band sound so much more confident than they did on their 'Preflyte' version, with some especially nice harmony work from Crosby and a great Rickenbacker motiff from McGuinn. Presumably this song got left behind simply because Gene already had so many songs on the album. While arguably better than 'It's No Use', Clark was flying so high in this period that even this charming piece isn't quite up to his standard on the rest of the album.Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1996)
B) [41] 'You and Me' is a groovy backing track from the first album sessions that was sadly never finished. It would have made for quite a departure for The Byrds, with a wild swinging medley, a great walking jazz bass part from Hillman and solid drumming from Hillman. The heaviest rock the Byrds will attempt until 'Eight Miles High', the song sounds like a template for their more famous composition - especially the way Crosby and McGuinn's guitars mesh together for a twin attack. It would have been fascinating to hear a finished version or read a lyric sheet - the title suggests an angry rant along the manner of 'It's No Use' - but sadly none have ever been discovered. A nice curio, though, that would have enlivened 'Mr Tambourine Man' up no end! Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1996)
C) One of the most famous non-album Byrds songs is Gene's [42] 'She Don't Care About Time', the flip-side of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' Preumably only jealousy over Gene's creative spurt got in the way of this song appearing on the second album, as this song is very much to his usual high standards. The lyrics have a real Dylanesque slant as a tale of an illicit meeting evolves, but one that's read not in terms of geography but in time. The first verse is especially staisfying, setting the scene in just a few words and making it sound at once like an ordeal and the greatest thing that's ever happened to the narrator ('Hallways and staircases every day to climb, to go up to my white-walled room out on the end of time'). The narrator is a busy man who can only get a few snatched moments of joy before going tback to his 'other' life (is he a musician and she a groupie?), but to his joy he finds that 'she'll always be there - my love don't care about time'. The Byrds turn in a tight backing track, with the urgent restlessness of the song coaxing some wonderful shuffled rhythms and the best performance yet out of drummer Michael Clarke, with an excellent Rickenbacker part from McGuinn that sounds pretty much identical to his future one for 'I Know You Rider' from the following year (rhythm, tempo and chords are all the same; this is, along with 'Bells oif Rhymney' the Byrds  song George Harrison admitted helped inspire his similar part on Rubber Soul track 'If I Needed Someone' ). There are two versions of this song doing the rounds - the 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' re-recorded version discussed above which is the one most compilations/box sets/etc tend to use and an earlier sketchier and frankly odder version first intended for release on the back of aborted single 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' intended for release as the band's third single with a bass and drum riff that sounds very much like the template for 'Ticket To Ride' (did the Beatles get an advance copy?) This is another nice version of a great song but takes the idea of 'playing with time' rather too literally for confortable listening though.  Find  the 'main' version on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1996), the two box sets 'The Byrds' (1990) and 'There Is A Season' (2006). Hear the 'alternate' version on 'The Original Singles As and Bs 1965-71' (2012)
C) [11c] A very loose and rather sloppy version of 'You Won't Have To Cry' from 1965 remarkably comes out sounding even sloppier than the 'Preflyte' version of 1964. McGuinn's guitar sounds as if it's played down a tunnel, Hillman's bass is more suited to an uptempo Motown song and the harmoncies between Clark and Crosby are about as ragged as this band ever sounded under the Byrds banner. For all that, this is still a fascinating glimpse at a nice song taking shape, the band clearly coming at this one more from the 'rock' angle than the 'folk' style of the finished take. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1965)
D) [25b] The alternate take of 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' is a fascinating alternate glimpse of how the song might have turned out had it been closer to rock than folk. Gene sings double-tracked, with a nicely gritty lead vocal - it sounds to me awfully similar to the 'leaked' session tapes that had Gene singing a live rough guide with the rest of the band, but everything else is too polished for that (suggesting it's the standard issues backing with Gene's 'final' vocals replaced by his first take). This song (probably) feels a whole lot better the way The Byrds did it for the record, with all of their usual polish, but it does add a nice human element into one of Gene's better songs that's rather fitting. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1996)
E) The single version of  [28b] 'All I Really Want To Do' is, surprisingly, much less commercial than the album version. Taken slightly fasterm with a silly tambourine riff going throughout, McGuinn sounds perkier on it but the rest of the band sound a little sluggish. The most obvious differences are the rather tinny mix (sadly the single version has only ever been released in mono) and the middle eight where Roger sings lead rather than David. No wonder this version of the single flopped and why virtually all the compilations out there prefer the album version: this take sounds rushed, without the poise and nuance of 'Mr Tambourine Man'. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (1996) and 'The Original Singles As and Bs 1965-71' (2012)
F) [43] 'The Day Walk' aka 'Never Before' is one of the last songs Gene recorded with the band (it may well be the last as he most likely doesn't appear on 'Eight Miles High', his last Byrds composition) that was taped late in the 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' sessions and was completely forgotten about until being re-discovered when work was being done on the Byrds rarities set 'Never Before' in 1987. Unusually for Gene the song doesn't seem to have been 'named' on the session tapes and when contacted about the song Clark admitted he couldn't remember it - as a result the compilers named it after their compilation 'Never Before'. However session notes that have come to light since give this song it's 'proper' title 'The Day Walk' - a very un-Clark like title (it woulsn't surprise me if this is the wrong name for the song too). A rather odd and angular song, this composition finds Gene in true Dylan mode, with a song that isn't split so much into verse and chorus as 'rant one' and 'rant two'. The lyrics for this one are fascinating, Gene caught between the two paths as he figures on the one hand he needs The Byrds and he'd be stupid to walk away from a band that's made him a success ('The day is too short and you can't find support in the slums') and on the other that the experience has stopped being fun: 'The sudden scare of a landing there on a scene which you don't even care to see when you're alone'. With a tune that's forever going back and forth between the two ideas, it's the musical equivalent of pacing up and down, trying to decide which option might be best. Another great band performance is the icing on the cake, Crosby (in the left speaker) and McGuinn (in the right) not so much playing in harmony as competing with each other, each trying to grab the listener's ear. The song ends on an unfinished 'question mark', with a note that belongs halfway between the two sets of melodies and ends hanging in the silence. One of Clarks' better songs, you can understand why this song wasn't used at the time (Gene was out of the band and this is perhaps his least commercial track for The Byrds yet) but it's their loss: Dylan's favourite songwriter ended this time with the band as he started it: inspired and pioneering, by far the Byrds' most convincing songwriter in their early years. Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' (1996), the rarities set 'Never Before' (1987) and the two box sets 'The Byrds' (1990) and 'There Is A Season' (2006).
G) Someone in The Byrds must have really loved [44a] 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' - one of Dylan's least convincing attempts at a rock and roll song - because they recorded the song three times with different line-ups (probably McGuinn seeing as he sang lead on them all). The 'middle version' has never come out and the 'last version' from 1969 is the only one to find release in the band's lifetime (on 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' 1969). This first version was intended to be the band's third straight Dylan A side in a row before McGuinn came up with the more voncinvinv 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' In truth this song would probably have fared even less well in the charts than 'All I Really Wanna Do' thanks to a slightly hurried and frenetic air where nobody quite seems to know what they're doing (Clarke and Clark, for instance, are playing very different rhthms on drums and tambourine respectively) and an increasingly high and unconvincing McGuinn vocal. While arguably closer to the shifting mood back ot rock and roll of late 1965 than 'Turn!', this song simply doesn't have the accessibility of 'Tambourine Man', being one of Bob's more deliberately obscure and complex lyrics about love and loss ('Your lover who just walked out the door is taking all his blankets from the floor, the carpet too is moving under you!') The slower third version is much more convincing, although even that isn't great. **check***Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' (1996), the rarities set 'Never Before' (1987) and the two box sets 'The Byrds' (1990) and 'There Is A Season' (2006).
H) A trippy alternate take of Dylan's [17c] 'The Times They Are A Changin' was also recorded at the 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' sessions. Manager Jim Dickson considered this such an key song of the era that he was horrified at the Byrds' slapdash approach and got them to record the version that appeared on LP - but actually it's that re-make that sounds tired and lethargic. This early version has a real wing to it and McGuinn especially relishes having a strong set of Dylan words to spout, which sound more genuine here than with the rather sarcastic approach he takes for the final product. He also adds a nice pearl of guitar notes during his guitar licks instead of just plkaying the riff straight (the way that Dylan did on his version) and the song doesn't end with the silly 'dum-dur-dee-dah-bah-dum-*crash*' finale of the finished version, sounding altogether more serious and weighty.While this version isn't perfect -  the drums are slightly sluggish and the harmonies a tiny bit off  - there's a real passion and drive in the room, which is more than you can say for the re-recorded version which, in restrospect, sounds like a rather bored Byrds angry at having to re-create this song all over again. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' (1996)
I)  Crosby's unfinished backing track [45] 'Stranger In A Strange Land' was inspired by the book of the same name by sci-fi author Robert Heinlein. An early example of The Byrds trying to do 'space-age', he's admitted since that he's not very keen on the song and it was most likely his own indifference to it rather than band in-fighting that meant it wasn't finished. I'm intrigued to know if that's true or not (Crosby isn't always the best judge of his own material) because the backing track could have gone either way. An intriguing and daring fade-in to the track is highly apt for a song that as the title implies is a hurried, always moving sea of guitar, bass and drum lines that's deeply unsettling. With the right lyrics this could have really been something (and as the first sci-fi Crosby song, four years before 'Wooden Ships' and six before his role in Paul Kantner's superlative 'Blows Against The Empire' important in Croz' development as a writer). With the wrong lyrics it could simply have been silly - given Crosby's other songs in this period (the trite 'Wait and See', the superlative 'What's Happening?!?') the jury's still out. Like many a backing track 'Stranger' isn't really made for repeated listening but is a nice find and more proof of how well the Byrds were able to mesh their 'traditional' jingly-jangly sound to new genres when the mood took them. Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' (1996) and 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'. 

Non-Album Recordings Part #3:1966
A) [57a] 'Why?' is the exciting flip-side of 'Eight Miles High' that made for a great one-two. A driving Crosby rocker with the same take-no-priosners raucous rock sound and an instrumental break featuring a similar sense of space and energy, it's one of Crosby's best Byrds songs and in another era might well have been the A-side. He's ably backed up by everyone though on one of the band';s tightest performances: Gene's 'afrewell present' to the band is a superb gruff 'parental' vocal that gives the more youthful sounding Croz somethiung to bounce off, Roger provides a superb Indian-influenced guitar solo and Hillman and Clarke are at their liveliest, with soe superb jazzy bass swoops and a terrific hold-on-tight drum onslaught from Clarke (whose at his best on these straightforward sorts of songs). Crosby wrote the piece originally as a Lennon-ish put-down of all the people who'd held him back and told him he was 'useless' - the lack of love from his mother, especially, is one of the key driving forces of his early years (before drugs mellow him out). Although childhood angst was 'big' in 1966, McGuinn disliked the negative words and re-wrote his partner's first verse to being a girl the narrator has never noticed before, receiving a co-credit in the process. I'm not quite sure why this song didn't turn up on '5D' - the band were clearly desperate for material and Crosby in particular was thrilled with how the song turned out (perhaps Gene's part was just too prominent for a band trying to prove they could make an album without him?) Frustrated that not people had heard this song, Crosby pushed for a re-recording on 'Younger Than Yesterday' a year later, but while that version is passable it's nowhere near as tight as here, lacking both the extended McGuinn solo and Clark's excellent harmonies. A third, even earlier version was also dug up for the CD re-issue of '5D' - slow and tentative, with a folkier sound, this version is even less successful and never quite catches fire, although as ever it's fascinating to hear the subtle changes in the band's arrangement (Crosby's lead is much more prominent in this version and McGuinn's solo a bit more 'normal'!) Originally the B-side of 'Eight MIles High', this 'single' version can also be found among the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of '5D (Fifth Dimension)' (1996) and the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'.
B) The first attempt at [52b] 'Eight Miles High' is fascinating too. Crosby considered this slower, jazzier version better than the one put out as a single; I'm not sure I agree but it does sound more than fit enough to release and you wonder why the band pushed so hard for a second go. The main differences are the tempo (it's about half the speed of the finished version) and the impact this has on the rest of the song: causing Crosby to rumble rather than stab and McGuinn to loosely find his way around the main guitar riff instead of showing off how fast he can play. This version of 'Eight Miles High' teases us and plays cat and mouse with us instead of going for full-on nightmares and as a result is less intense and ground-breaking. However there's something to be said for the slow build-up of noise, which peaked surprisngly early in the hit single version and stayed there - this 'Eight Miles High' only hits full cruising mode at the very end in a cacophonous rumble of flying cymbals and arpeggios guitars that sound even more as if the 'plane' has crashed. Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of'5D (Fifth Dimension) (1996)
C) The traditional [58] 'I Know My Rider' - much covered by fellow AAA band The Grateful Dead - was yet another aborted Byrds single. Intended as the first poist-Clark single it was a McGuinn choice that isn't quite as suitable for the band as 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' but does have lots of space for his Rickenbacker peals and the straightforward rock drumming of Clarke, who sounds mightily reliveed to have got the band's 'folk years' out of the way. This track also (probably) features the singing debut of Chris Hillman (very much filling in Clark's part here) and some exquisite vocal work all round. However there's something about this frenetic arrangement which doesn't quite come off: the song seems rushed and hurried and has (ironically given that The Byrds more or less invented the genre) lost the folk-rock flavour of most cover versions (the Dead included, where it was usually played languidly and part of a medley with the similarly relaxed 'China Cat Sunflower'). Looking for something heavy and powerful after 'Eight Miles High', this song clearly wasn't it - although it would have made a fine album track and really should have found a home on '5D' (it makes more sense than 'Captain Soul' for instance). However it's also a better choice than what the Byrds did ultimately go for (the weary cyncism of 'So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star') so perhaps it wouldn't have been too bad. Find it on: 'Never Before' (1987) and among the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of'5D (Fifth Dimension) (1996)
D) [59] 'Psychodrama City' is further evidence of David Crosby's growing interest in jazz and like a good half of '5D' finds The Byrds floundering - unsure whether Gene Clark's departure is a great excuse to do all the things they've always wanted to do or the beginning of the end. This song is about the weirdest put together in this period (trust it to be a Crosby song!), with he and McGuinn trading increasingly atonal guitar lines for a full 80 seconds before the song 'proper' kicks in. When it does the song is one of Crosby's typical 'questioning' lyrics, three stark verses dealing with unrequited love, the death of the world, violence on TV and a rather harsh dig at Gene Clark for leaving them in the lurch ('All of my friends got on a plane, one of them got off again, to this day OI won't know why he got on at all if he really didn't want to fly!') Each verse tails off with the single line 'Psychodrama city - don't need none today!' 'None' what? Drama? Psycho-analysis?! Strange jazz tunings?!? What does it all mean? The sound of guilt and jealousy tinged through with acid, 'Psychodrama City' is an odd song that could only have been recorded in that short time between 1966 and 1967 when new experiences, however, odd, were there to be shared. The star of the entire proceddings is Michael Clarke who has a particular 'feel' for jazz tracks like this - everyone else, Crosby included, sounds adrift and a little lost. Rightly left off the '5D' album. Find it on: the bonus tracks on the '5D (Fifth DImension)' CD. re-issue (1996)
 Non-Album Recordings Part #4:1967
A) 'Let's double it! Masterpiece!' David Crosby's sarcastic wit at the end of the rather silly McGuinn/Hillman song [69] 'Don't Make Waves' is sadly spot on. A rare extra-curricular 1960s project for the band, it's the not terribly distinguished theme tune to a not terribly distinguihsed film, thankfully long forgotten. The sound of The Byrds aping The Beach Boys (Roger even attempts a Hawaiian style guitar part - all that's missing is the sound effects!) should be more interesting than it is. Even the lyrics are suspect, basically saying 'don't stand up for yourself because if you ruffle feathers you might lose all your money!' Yeah right, like that's the 'real' Byrds philosophy - we'd have had no folk-rock, country-rock or whatever-the-hell-is-going-on-on'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' with that attitude! In truth writing songs for film scores is a difficult art-form to master - you have to sum up a film's 'feel' without parroting the plot and without offering up ideas that are alien to your own band sound. Hillman and McGuinn badly fail this test - 'Don't Make Waves' is regarded by even the band's biggest films as something of a mistake!  Find it on: the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996)
B) [70] 'It Happens Each Day' is perhaps the greatest song Crosby ever wrote for The Byrds. Near-enough a solo performance and an obcvious template for his later ethereal work with CSN/Y, it features a very Paul McCartney-esque rounded melody and some gorgeous and complex multi-layered Crosby harmonies that try so hard to reach for the sky but always fall back. wounded, as gravelly low as Crosby can sing. That's a clever musical trick for what's happening in the lyrics: like many of David's best songs this is a track about loss and the world not being quite right. We only get hints about the person missing from his life, but they stull float throughout his life like a ghost, a 'dismebodied spirit wathcing over me'. This song is quite eerie given what will happen to Crosby in 1970 (his long-term girlfriend Christine dies in a car crash after the pet cat she was taking to the vet got loose - the needlessness of the accident and the speed with which it happened, mere minutes after he saw her, will haunt and stretch his music for many many years to come; decades even. This song sounds at one with later songs like 'Shadow Captain' and 'Somehow She Knew' about rudderless ships and wounds that will not heal - but we're still three years away here. Something's clearly gnawing away at Crosby though - his last four songs for the band ('What's Happening?!?' 'Psychodrama City' 'Mind Gardens' and 'Why?'; 'Burned' is of course an earlier song re-recorded) all share similar aggressive active melodies (unusual for Crosby's later work) matched with increasingly peaceful lyrics. Are the band battles getting to him? Does he see his own future a a Byrd in doubt? Is the adolescent hang-ups that once saw him bullied and be-littled rising to the surface again now that The Byrds are no longer the all-conquering heroes they once were? Something clearly made Crosby walk away from one of his better songs when it's actually better and more Byrdsy than any of his on the 'Yesterday' album - did the 'realness' in this song (forget the lyrics if you want, they could be fictional - but this frightened deer-in-the-headlights melody is trying to tell us something and while the words fit well this isn't necessarily a song of loss) - the first real time this has ever happened to the by now 26-year-old composer - frighten him a little? Did it frighten the other Byrds? Or was he simply saving what sounds suspiciously like a solo recording (with just simple Clarke drumming and a quiet McGuinn Riockernbacker part, buried under layers of Crosby's guitars) for a solo recording he knew might soon come? Whatever the cause 'It Happens Each Day' is a special song, amongst the most signifigant in this entire book, a lovely haunting piece of music about losing something you simply refuse to give up. Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996), plus rarities set 'Never Before' (1987) and both box sets 'The Byrds' (1990) and 'There Is A Season' (2006)
C) [71] 'Lady Friend' is the other side of Crosby's talent and his 'big break' while in The Byrds - his first ever solo A side with the band (McGuinn of course had '5D', He and Hillman had 'Rock and Roll Star', Clark had 'Set You Free This Time' and Clark McGuinn and Crosby wrote 'Eight Miles High' up to this point). A fun and nicely driving song about the moment a 'friend' becomes something more but then goes away suddenly without ever learning of what she' awakened and leaving their uinfatuated boyfriend behind (the title, not repeated in the lyrics, is ironic) is spoilt by an exrenely indifferent performance and a spoilt Phil Spector-ish production that seeks to make what should be a nicely intimate song about personal experience big and wide and echoey. Clarke's drumming, which had shown such a marked improvement over the past year, is his sloppiest in a while, slashing the cymbals this way and that so hard you lose all sense of the beat. McGuinn and Hillman are more professional but still do the smallest amount of work needed to keep this song on the straight and narrow. A double-tracked Crosby tries to liven up the song, with a cheery likeable melody and an unusual orchestration involving horns (very out of favour in 1967, despite the use on 'Sgt Peppers' title track), but the rest of the performance just drags him down. A brave stab at something new, this would have made a fine album track but really should have been re-done as an A-side - with little or no help publicising this song from the rest of the band Crosby was aghast to watch this single sink without trace. McGuinn and Hillman then decided to exclude it from the 'Younger Than Yesterday' album on the grounds that it was a 'failure' - harsh words considering '5D' and 'Rock and Roll Star' hadn't exactly lit up the charts and Crosby had raised no objection to them. I wonder how the rest of the band might have re-acted had Crosby pushed for either 'Why?' or 'It Happens Each Day' for the single - both would have had better chances of success and even Roger and Chris wouldn't have been follish enough to let an 'obvous' hit single drop (knowing The Byrds they'd have just claimed the credit for it instead!)  Released as an 'A' side. Find it on:amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996) and as part of  'The Singles Collection' (2012)
D) [72a] 'Old John Robertson' is the 'friend' (or at least the 'B-side') of 'Lady Friend', written largely by Chris Hillman to 'exorcise' his demons after adult guilt over a childhood spent laughing at eccentrics (drugs - plus two years amongst his exceeedinly eccentric co-Byrds - may well have seen Chris belatedly learn that there's more to learn from people with unusual characters and that they may well 'know' more than conventional 'straight' people; speaking of himself and his childhood 'gang' in the third person Chris recalls 'they never took the time to find out what he was all about - they kept him out!') The same recording was subtly remixed for 'Notorious' with very few differences - this version has lighter bass and drums, slightly more 'feathery' vocals, less phasing and effects during the strings 'instrumental break' and a generally more 'folk-rock' than 'rock' feel. It's placement on an album in favour of the A side seems deliberately designed to 'wound' Crosby, who turns in a typically fine suppoorting role in the harmonies. Find this 'B-side' mix amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996) and on the 'Singles Collection' (2012)
E) [67b] 'My Back Pages' is the song The Byrds recordewd more times than any other - as well as the published album version there are 'medley' versions and 'live' versions of it coming up on this list later. For now, though, we're interested in the first ever attempt at this song - not all that different from the 'Yesterday' version except for a slightly looser feel and a loud organ part skipped entirely for the finished product. As with the album cut, only McGuinn feels like he's really in love with the song - everyone else sounds as if they're gpoing through the motions, chomping at the bit to have a go at one of their own songs. Find this alternate take on: The CD Re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996)
F) Finally, for now, we have an early version of Crosby's [66b] 'Mind Gardens' - the polar opposite of 'My Back Pages'. This take is very different, with a quite different Crosby vocal that's sad and mounrful rather than full of 'outrageous fortune'. There are far less layers of sound going on, too, which actually makes for a much more interesting recording with space given to individual instruments to allow them to be 'pulled out' by ear one by one. With more emphasis on Crosby's acoustic rather than McGuinn's backwards electric, this song reveals it's folkie origins, especially Crosby's vocal which wouldn't have sounded out of place in a folk club. The result is far less intense than the finished version - which was kind of the main point of the song in the first place - but all these years on it's arguably a better version, less of a 'recording' but more of a 'song'. An additional third alternate take of 'Mind Gardens' is also available - an instrumental take without vocals that's a seriously trippy affair. My ears suggest that this alternate version was used rather than the more common album version, although the packaging ('Yesterday' is unique among the Byrds re-issues in not having the usual fascinating booklet) doesn't specify which version was used - or if this another take altogether. Find both of these on: The CD re-issue of 'Younger Than Yesterday' (1996)Non-Album Recordings Part #5:1968
A) While 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' is our pick of the albums and on first sight seems to be the CD to upgrade (with lots more bonus tracks than usual), the truth is the leftovers from these sessions are by far the least interesting unearthedby record label Legacy.  [94] 'Moog Raga' is a case in point: Roger McGuinn never seriously intended this track for public release at the time - he was just doing what anyone who could afford a moog synthesiser in 1968 was doing: having fun with what weird sounds he could make! Slightly more palatable than George Harrison's similar 'Electronic Sounds' actually released as an album a year later (mainly because it's shorter!), what's interesting is that despite playing on an instrument that couldn't be less like his beloved Riockenbacker guitar, I bet most fans blindfolded would still be able to 'guess' that this was McGuinn - this track has his tradermark blend of Indian time signatures in a Western setting with a distinctive folk flavour in the 'guitar picking'. Obviously the more Byrds items released the better - but this is scraping the barrel a little thinner than the other CDs. Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' (1997)
B) [95] 'Bound To Fall' is Hillman getting the band to mess around with a distinctly rockified backing track toone of his favourite country songs. The song's new translation into a hard-hitting 4/4 rock tempo works surprisingly well and would have added a nice extra texture to the rather short 'Notorious' album had it been released. Hillman will revive the song, in an arrangement closer to the way it's always played, on the Stephen Stills/Manassas album of 1972 which replicates this arrangement's nice extra tension through the key change in the middle eight but loses out on the comical Michael Clarke rock thrusts. Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' (1997)
C) [96] 'Triad' is a cheeky Crosby song deliberately designed to provoke a re-action. Intended by it's composer for a starring role on 'Notorious Byrd Brothers', it's lyrics discussing three-way relationships was always going to get his more traditional-minded colleague's minded backs up. Knowing Crosby, it was probably created as a trade-off to get his loathed cover of Goffin and King's dreary 'Goin' Back' off the album and sounds like another near-solo performance bar some more typically under-par drumming from Clarke, probably in protest at s sdong he didn't like or agree with (that idea and this song became null and void once the other Byrds kicked Crosby out of the band;the more adventurous Jefferson Airplane welcomed the song with ipen arms instead as Crosby must have known they would - their version, from fourth album 'Crown of Creation' is slower and moodier than the Byrds' and has quite a different slant with Grace Slick singing a 'female' version of the tri-gamous relationship). The sound of a man experiencing a whole new lifestyle and wanting others to share in it, it's highly typical of Crosby's work in that it all stems from the question 'why?' Crosby is at his peak womanising period in 1968 and genuinely loved two ladies (both immortalised in the CSN song Guinevere along with Joni Mitchell). Crosby's vocal is typical sumptuous, almost able to convince the world of anything by itself, although the surprisngly upbeat and jazzy arrangement isn't quite up to the delightful solo acousti cperformances Crosby gave of this song during his CSN and solo tours (a live version of which can be heard on CSNY's 'Four Way Street' LP). While you can understand why the other Byrds objected - unlike CSN this was a 'band' in the raditional sense, who all had to take the flack from anything one of the five did or said - it still deserves it';s place on the album especially compared to the drivel of... Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' (1997) and the 1990 box set 'The Byrds'.
D) [74b] 'Goin' Back', which astonishingly sounds even worse in an early incarnation that somehow manages to be both heavy-handed (Michael Clarke treats this twee ballad as a heavy rock and roll song) and slighter (thanks to some twinkled glockenspiel). This version lacks the later finished product's sweeping harmony vocals (did Crosby insist on them as the only way he would accept having anhything to do with this drivel?) and Hillman's lead vocal is more prominent, with McGuinn all but hidden. The finished version was pretty drippy in the context of one of the band's tougher, better albums - this version is a waterfall, soaked through with artifice and is one of the Byrds' weakest, most insincere moments on record. Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' (1997).
E) )  [97] 'Universal Mind Decoder' is a lot more fun - basically it's the backing track for one of the Byrds' greatest recordings 'Change Is Now'. While obviously not as good (you miss the harmknies, the sudden twists and turns into country and that breath-taking solo), this early rehearsal version is still awfully good. McGuinn's Indian-influenced guitar-work kicks in much earlier while Chris only learns how to play his strong bass loops near the end of the song. The band do lose their way quickly, though, suggesting that they're jamming on the riff rather than making a full and proper attempt at the song (although interesting everyone hits their mark exactly at the three minute mark, suggesting it was pre-arranged). What a shame, too, that the very psychedelic title was dropped - did this song originally come attached to a completely different set of lyrics?! Find it on: amongst the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' (1997) and the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'.
F) [98] 'Flight 713' is a final farewell for the McGuinn-Hillman partnership, an unfinished instrumental recorded late on in the 'Notorious' sessions. The song was untitled when it was originally recorded, McGuinn adding the title especially for release when the track was added to the CD re-issue of outtakes set 'Never Before' ('Flight' came because they were 'The Byrds' while '7:13' was the time on the studio clock when Roger was asked what it was called!) Sadly this rather nice instrumental, which is much more interesting than most of the other Byrd instrumentals, has never been given a wider audience and is currently out of print (why isn't it on box set 'There Is A Season' for instance, given the amount of tracks on that set getting their 4th or 5th release?) This doesn't sound like any previous incarnation of The Byrds, with a driving rock beat, a bubbly bass part and some lovely double-tracked McGuinn guitar, sounding more like Paul Revere and The Raiders than the band's usual style. It's one that suits them, though, and one they should have returned to with a clever contrast between the reflective verses and the harsh angry choruses. The very fact that we're discussing verses and choruses suggests that this song was originally intended as more than an instrumental and it would be easy to imagine a vocal line to this one (kinda like the verse part of 'Get To You'). Alas if there were any words they've been long forgotten. A nice discovery. Find it on: 'Never Before' (1987, CD Version only)
G) For all of Gram Parsons' 'reputation' as a country genius, I've always preferred his rockier songs: he's got a great rock voice and a nice understanding of off-beat rhythms. 'Sweethearts' outtake [99] '(You Got A) Reputation' - originally a folk song written by Tim Hardin - was only ever intended as a studio warm-up and does sound a little unfinished, but it's possibly the greatest example of this. It's a 'heavy' song, almost funky and very bass heavy the way it's mixed here, as if all the joy has been sapped out of the song, with only Hillman's bright harmonies offering a 'way out'. Lyrically it's an early example of Gram's low opinion of women (no wonder he got on with the Stones so well!), Parsons' narrator wearily turning on his girlfriend whose getting a 'reputation' for being an 'easy lay'. At one stage of the song Parsons even claims she's doing it solely to get to him, that 'you're just fishing, but I won't bite!' Kevin Keley is the other star of this song, again proving how much more suited to a Byrds rock and roll album he would have been, while conspicusously McGuinn is apparently nowhere to be seen. An even greater sign of what's to come in the Parsons-Hillman Flying Burrito Brothers spin-off than the 'Sweetehearts' album, this is one of the better songs from the sessions that badly deserved a place on the album, with a life and enthusiasm about it that no Gram country ballad or Roger vocal on a Gram country cover song can hope to match. Find it on: 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' (CD re-issues 1997 and 2003) plus the box set 'The Byrds' (1990)
H) [100] 'Lazy Days' is a fun Parsons song that was never finished during his time in the band and seems to have been treated merely as a 'warm-up' exercise. While less polished than 'Hickory Wind' and 'One Hundred Years From Now', it's arguably a song closer to the defaulty Byrds sound than either, a true match between heavy Beatles and simple Dylan. Gram and Chris sing together for the first time without Roger, with this country-rocker another major signpost towards their joint venture The Flying Burrito Brothers (their more straightforward rock version appeared on second album 'Burrito Deluxe' in 1970 under the title 'Lazy Ways'). More fun than any other Gram Parsons song, it reveals a funner, less serious side to the young country purist and Hillman too sounds as if he's having more fun than in a very long time on lyrics celebrating doing nothing that ironically comes with an urgent, relentless riff that sounds as if it can't wait for the next opportunity that comes along. Roger is again conspicuous by his absence on a rockier track that must surely have appealed more to his own tastes (his later compositoon 'Tiffamy Queen' sails pretty close to the beat of this song), missing entirely from the most 'famous' mix of this song (not heard during The Byrds' lifetime but a regular on rarities sets, box sets and CD re-issues) and heard only in a curious unmusical squeal on a mix included in thr 2006 box set that suggests he was trying too hard to impress his oldest and newest friend. Find one mix on both the single and two-disc CD re-issues of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' and the 1990s box set 'The Byrds', with a second mix appearing on the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'.
I) [101] 'Pretty Polly' is a fast-strumming folky song that was one of McGuinn's favourites - he recorded it no less than three times in his career! A tale of love, lust and betrayal, he first learnt in his pre-Byrds days as a folksinger and - along with the later 'Sweet Mary' - is the only time Roger put his folk period to full use with The Byrds.The first version we're referring to appeared on the first Byrds box set and on the original single disc CD re-issue of the 'Sweethearts' album - it's a tad slower than the other two, with more McGuinn double-tracked harmonies and a slightly muddled murky mix. The second version and the best of the three only came out on the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season' - more straightforward, slightly longer (thanks to a fiery guitar-banjo duel, presumably with Hillman), faster and with just one Roger singing throughout it's terrific until the track falls apart right at the end. Either one would have cheered up 'Sweethearts' no end - presumably Gram Parson objected because it was 'folk' not 'country', but one return to the band's original sound would have helped fans make the uncomfortable sudden leap between genres a lot easier. A decidedly more country version appeared on Roger's third album 'Cardiff Rose'. Roger kept the banjo but no the guitar, replacing the fast trot of the other two versions with a fiddle. McGuinn's vocal, so neat and tidy on the Byrds versions, is all over the place - Roger acting 'drunk' as he tries to over-dramatise the storylines. A clear early signpost of his 'folk den' project (reviving forgotten traditional songs in the way they would have been played), it's a key song for McGuinn, even though the first two versions of the song never came out and the third one was largely ignored. Find it on: version one: both the single disc and deluce two-disc CD re-issues of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' and the 1990 box set 'The Byrds'. The second version can be heard on 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'.
J) Poor Kevin Kelley. There he was, helping cousin Chris Hillman out when The Byrds were in trouble and promising to delivere the kind of psychedelic wonder they'd delivered on the 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' album when suddenly, without warning, they become a country band! Kelley never sounded entirely comfortable as a Nashville drummer, but rhe new boy was game to try anything and - keen to ingratiate himself into the band properly - even wrote his own attempt at a country song. It's rather good too: [102] 'All I Have Are Memories' is very much in keeping with the nostalgic and slightly sorry for itself mood of the album. Kelley is a much more convincingcountry singer than Roger ever was and sounds like he was tailor made for country singing despite all being so alien to him. This song wouldn't necessarily win any awards for originality - in the song the narrator gets drunk, waiting for his girlfriend to show and realising it's over - but Kelley manages to convey the right sort of sorrowful lament without anything likle the fuss of Gram. This is another of my favourite songs from these sessions and once again a 'Sweethearts' outtake that's far better than anything actually on the album! Find three versions of this song - two instrumentals and a vocal version - on the 2003 'deluce' re-issue of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'.
K) Recorded by the International Submarine Band in 1966 and not included on their LP 'Safe At Home',  [103] 'Sum Up Broke' was first released as a bonus track on the Byrds 'Sweetheart Of The Rodeo' album, even though technically speaking it had nothing to do with those sessions. Harder edged than most of Gram's work, it's actually rather Beatlesy and more like Gene Clark songs 'You Movin' and 'Boston' than the country-rock standards of the LP. Gram's fiery guitarwork is the highlight of a song that has the narrator leaving after a breakup, vowing to 'forget all about you now'. Chances are everyone would have forgotten this forgettable song too had it not been recorded by a future star. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
L) Similarly [104] 'One Day Week' is another International Submarine Bandsingle from 1966. This one has a distinctive Monkees 1966 vibe, complete with Hammond organ and catchy chorus. It's a long long way away from what's to come, although the moment when Gram finally starts singing in his natural deep voice in the middle eight is quite an electrifying moment and he turns in another fine fiery guitar solo. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
M) [105a] 'Truck Drivin' Man' is a very early version of future Byrds classic 'Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man', started by Gram in 1966 (and released as a flop single by the International Submarine Band) before being co-written with Roger sometime near the end of thwe 'Sweetheart' sessions (a version duly appears, made without Gram, on the 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' album). To be honest the two are only very very distant cousins, the only real similarity being the chorus (which goes 'a tru-uck driving ma-an' to fill in the gap where 'drug store' should be at the beginning) and a general sense of sarcasm - taken to new heights in The Byrds' version. There's no mention yet of The Byrds' poor response in Nashville or the country DJ who doesn't really know what music is - just a gentle slap in the face with a cream pie rather than a wet fish. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
N) From hereon in, this is The Byrds as The Gram Parsons show. Goodness knows what ructions might have occurred had 'Sweetheart Of The Rodeo' come out the way it was intended, with new boy Gram Parsons given another seven vocals in adittion to the two that made the album (basically Gram would have sang everything bar the two Dylan songs, 'Pretty Boy Floyd' and 'I Am A Pilgrim'!) All of these Gram vocals were of course removed because of a legal claim from Lee Hazelwood, who still had Gram under exclusive contract - although given that this claim was solved before the album's release it seems odd that the band didn't simply junk Roger's hatily re-recorded vocals in favour of the originals.  [85b] 'The Christian Life' is amongst the better Gram alternate takes, complete with fascinating opening dialogue between the band, with Roger getting nervous over his harmony part (which sounds rather good to me) and getting his own back on the years of producer Terry Melcher interrupting perfectly good takes when his in-studio buzzer accidentally does off ('That's Melcher's favourite toy' he giggles - anyone whose sat through the bootlegged outtakes of the first two Byrds albums will agree with him!) The rehearsal take included on both CD re-issues of 'Sweetheart' is light years ahead of the album version: Gram is born for a country honky tonk style song like this and Roger's unashamedly folky support is delightful. Had the album been more like this it might not have hurt the band's reputation quite so much, the pair of singers finding some rare common ground on this song of religious virtue. Two similar rehearsal takes were also discovered in the vaults and added to the 2003 'Sweethearts' CD , although they don't add much if you already own the earlier 'Gram' take released in 1997. Find it on: the 1997 and 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
O) Roger never really suited [86b] 'You Don't Miss Your Water' on the album, which brought out the worst in his nasal tendencies. Gram, however,m was born for the role and clearly respected the material, delivering an excellent reading with Roger again reduced to some rather good backing harmonies (sung by him double tracked on the album version). Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
P) Gram's vocal on his own [90b] 'One Hundred Years From Now' , though, is actually not up tot eh rendering Roger gave it on the album, heading a little too far into country cliche. The take with Gram singing released on the two CD re-issues of 'Sweetheart' is actually a rehearsal take and Gram struggles a little here, with the band taking the song at a much slower lick. The pedal steel is very different too, playing only about half as many notes! In total four rehearsal versions - all more or less the same - appear on the 2003 'deluce' CD.  Find it on: the 1997 and 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
Q) A rehearsal take of Gram's charming ballad [89b] 'Hickory Wind', actually taped in Nashville, isn't actually all that differebt from the finished version: Gram sings a little deeper and growls the word 'p-i-i-i-i-i-nes' a little differently, while there are no backing vocals (which is a bit of a shame, actually, makinhg this song sound more boring than it should). For a rehearsal the band are impressively together though. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
R) An early reheasal version of [92b] 'Life In Prison' is also near enough to the finished product to make no difference. This take is slightly less cluttered and elaborate but that annoying pedal steel part is still intact and the song still sounds a little too woe-is-me for the tone of the album. One of the lesser discoveries of the 'deluxe' Sweethearts set - scarily enough thyat goes for (gulp!) all four very similar alternate versions. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
S) The rehearsal take of  [87b] 'You're Still On My Mind' from the 'deluxe' Sweetheart set is take 43, hinting at just how many problems a distinctly non-country band were having tackling this material. The differences aren't that great: just an ever so slightly longer honkly tonk bar-room piano solo and a slightly less fussy pedal steel part. An earlier version, take #13, reveals that very little has changed in the arrangement between the two. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'
T) Finally on this long list, take 14 on the rehearsal version of [91b] 'Blue Canadian Rockies' reveals the band in trouble: Chris is 'flat', Roger is 'too slow' and coming in at the wrong time the band sound tired and mutinous. Roger jokes that this is 'take 116, right?' and the take when it finally gets going is indeed a bit of a struggle to sit through. Chris takes the lead, not Gram, and while he's not as at home as with 'I Am A Pilgrim' he sounds rather good - better than Parsons actually, who never did quite nail this song. The slightly brighter backing track - there's less harmonies getting in the way and the mix doesn't add echo to everything - suits this song much more than the album version. One of the better discoveries from the 'deluxe' Sweethearts, with The Byrds finally playing as a real live 'band' rather than as Gram's back up men. Find it on: the 2003 deluxe version of 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo'Non-Album Recordings Part #6:1969
A) [109b] 'This Wheel's On Fire' is a slightly looser, rawer take on one of the band's better Dtylan covers which ended up on 'Dr Byrds'. McGuinn's vocal on the finished version is impressively confident, almost aggressive (not his usual singing style at all), whereas on this version he sounds nervous and afraid. Both interpretations of Dylan's all-meaning lyrics are equally valid but the released version fo this song is perhaps a little more musically-friendly, with Clarence atypically losing his way about the 90 second mark and having to vamp to catch back up with the song. White's solo is the highlight of this alternate take, though, with a second overdubbed McGuinn trading lines with  him - an idea sadly dropped for the later version. Hear it on: amongst the bonus tracks on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1997)
B) I always used to think that 'Dr Byrds' closing medley [117b]  ('My Back Pages/B J Blues/Baby What You Want Me To Do?') was so rushed and hurried it had to be a last minute played-as-live first take added to the album because nothing better was available. I was wrong. This is the first take, actually slightly tighter than the finished version but even less interesting, with the band trying too hard to hit each mark straight on without letting the song truly fly. There's a much shorter 'My Back Pages' but a longer 'B J Blues' and a slightly less histrionic version of 'Baby What You Want Me To Do?' with a terrific 'angry' guitar part from Clarence. The biggest difference though is that there's no 'Hold It!' instrumental break at the end, the song instead tailing off with layers of feedback similar to the opneing of 'Wheel's On Fire' (which would have made an interesting bookend to the album if nothing else!) Ultimately, though, the difference is between a band you know is great but having an off day (as per the finished version) and a competent pub rock band who don't 'feel' or 'live' the song. No wonder the band decided to re-record it - but, seriously, neither version of this medley is really worth your time. Hear it on: amongst the bonus tracks on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1997)
C) The alternate version of country instrumental [113b] 'Nashville West' isn't all that different - Clarence and Gene know the song so well you sense they could play it in their sleep, the main difference being a rather average rhythm part from MCguiin - discreetly placed low in the mix, although whether in the 1960s or 1990s for release Im not sure - and there's no 'false ending', including Gene's pierced screams and his 'nonsense' vocals. Running at 2:04 this version of the song is far shorter, and yet without that false ending to break things up seems infinitely longer somehow. Hear it on: amongst the bonus tracks on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1997)
D) I always wondered why the 'film mix' of [112b] 'Child Of The Universe' from the movie 'Candy' wasn't included on the 'Dr Byrds' CD re-issue. I figured it must have been awful, too bad for The Byrds to contemplate re-issuing - actually it's rather good. There's a heavy handed use of strings, brass, an organ part and even a choir that wasn't on the 'album' mix, which certainly has the effect of making this song less 'Byrdsy'. The song is strong enough to withstand the extra weight, however, and McGuinn and York's shared vocals are still extremely strong. Gene's drums are less 'heavy' here and the two guitars are very low in the mix. I'm not sure I prefer it to the finished version, but it's a nice one to hear and is very different - unlike some of the Byrds alternate versions doing the rounds. Hear it on the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
E) [128] 'Stanley's Song' is the first entry in this book from the forthcoming Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy musical 'Gene Tryp' which sadly still hasn't been completed as I write in 2014. This is sadly the weakest of the seven released from the musical so far (most of which ends up on later LPs 'Untitled' and 'Byrdmaniax'), a rather anonymous walking paced ballad  about a minor character from the work which sounds to my ears as if it comes in the plot somewhere around 'I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician'. Gene reaches out a hand of friendship from the pulpit ('It's all one world in which we live, so understand and try to give') but unlike the zelous 'Politician' he sounds less than convincing or convinced. A fun country lilt on the guitars rolls this song along nicely, but like many of the Byrds' 1969 recordings it doesn't quite hang together, without any real fire or passion here. Hear it on: amongst the bonus tracks on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1997)
F) [129] 'Lay Lady Lay' is a stand-alone single that didn't too well in the charts - even Dylan was said to be displeased with it! One of Bob's more heartfelt, personal, simpler lyrics this song should have suited The Byrds to a tee. However nothing in this track really clicks: Roger sounds more like a lawyer than a lothario, the plucked guitars are twee and the sudden switches of rhythm and dynamics - something The Byrds used to be so good at - doesn't really come across. Whisper it quietly, but considering the many repeats that are in the song it comes over as a little bit boring. Over-weighted by too many over-powering Terry Melcher strings, it should have been an early clue that the similar sound of album 'Byrdmaniax' really wasn't the way to go. Hear it on: amongst the bonus tracks on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1997)
E) The jazziest the post-1967 Byrds ever become, [130] 'Way Behind The Sun' aka 'Way Beyond The Sun' is a very old traditional song that had been all but forgotten until fellow AAA band Pentangle revived it for their self-titled debut album in 1968. A big fan of the group, the Byrds' new bassist John York persuaded the band to give it a go, turning in an off-key yet so-right vocal that would have done that band's Bert Jansch and John Renbourn proud (York really should have got the chance to sing more, with a better voice than Clarence or his successor Skip Battin). Clarence White has great fun on this track, adding a touch of country to it, while Gene Parsons finds a great groove behind on drums. Only McGuinn gets precious little to do, which might explain why this fun jam session never got a place on 'Easy Rider'. The engineers at the session clearly hadn't heard of this obscure song either - it's official name is 'Way Behind The Sun' but the title 'Way Beyond The Sun' was scribbled on the tape box and that's the title originally used when this performance was first released in the 1990s. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider'  (1997)
F) Jackson Browne was an unknown teenager writing quirky songs when McGuinn heard about hi through word of mouth and fell in love with his all-American writing (Crosby too will become an early champion; for those who don't know him think of a hippier Bruce Springsteen)  [131] 'Mae Jean Goes To Hollywood' is the first of two Browne songs The Byrds will tackle (the other, [162] 'Jamaica Say You Will', will find release on 'Byrdmaniax' in 1971), a fun romp  about a wannabe actress who tries to find fame and stardom in an uncaring Hollywood. Her boyfriend - the narrator - can't work out why she should abandon her home town shere she's loved by him for a slim chance of being loved by others and flies over to be with her but that doesn't work out too well either ('I'm getting tired of hearing people call you someone else'). McGuinn gets this wordy song's frustration and love spot on but somehow this arrangement never quite convinces: The Byrds are the wrong band to try this kind of thing and apart from Roger's guitar no one sounds that convinced by the song. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' (1997) and the box set 'The Byrds' (1990)
G) Of all the weird songs in the Byrds' canon - talking aliens, war standards with a folk-rock-beat, hoovers doubling as lear jets - [132] 'Fiddler A Dram' is one of the weirdest. To be fair it was probably never intended for release at the time, it's just one of those things that creative people come up with whe they have too much time on their hands and not enough songs. McGuinn plays the moog while White plucks a banjo through a traditional song that has a nice Byrdsy mix of the old and the new. The harmonies are particularly odd, among the most traditional 'country' the Byrds ever came up with; the results are best described as 'an acquired taste'. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' (1997)
H) [133] 'Build It Up' is a more promising outtake from 'Easy Rider' that sadly only exists as a backing track. Had it been finished it would have been the heaviest rocker on the album, with a nice guitar interplay from White and McGuinn and some fierce drumming from Parsons. Sadly we don't know what the lyrics were and so can't judge this track's value as a song, but the many 'sections' this track comes in suggests one that cuts a shade deeper than normal 1969 style Byrds: an urgent driving verse, followed by a pause for thought and a world weary melancholy chorus before the whole song goes back round the cyles again. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' (1997)
I) [121b] The first of two alternate versions from 'Easy Rider' features the original recording of  'Tulsa County Blue' with John York on lead before McGuinn said he fancied a go and booted the bassist off the recording. York's vocal is much more in keeping with the traditional folk of the song and he turns in a much more confident, assertive vocal than Mcguinn's weary, troubled narrator that quite changes the feel of the song. The rest of the arrangement is subtly different too: there's more guitar, less harmonies and no strings - the result being decidedly rougher than the finished product but ironically easier on the ear without all that treacle. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' (1997)
J) The alternate version of [120b] 'Oil In My Lamp' couldn't be more different from the version that made the album: where the 'Easy Rider' version sounds like it's playing on a slower speed than it should be, so this one sounds as if it's been sped up to 78 rpm. This fits in nicely with the urgent lyrics that cry for spiritual fuel, but there's less space for those luscious harmonies and White guitar, while suggesting that all the 'oil' is going to be used up by the end of the song. The Byrds were probably right to re-arrange and re-record it, but this first version is still rather good. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' (1997)
K) [134] 'Buckaroo' is a country instrumental that's an even closer marriage betwen rock and country than 'Nashville West'. A rollicking backbeat and some fiery McGuinn guitar pushes the song one way before White's country twanging pulls it the other. The band have a lot of fun with this one in a live setting (it's heard on several bootlegs as well as the mini 1969 live show featured on the 2006 box set), so much so it's a surprise this track didn't feature on one of the Byrds' LPs. Oh and sadly the song title is all to do with bucking horses (or maybe bucking women) rather than named after the game! Find it on: The 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
L) Merle Haggard's [135] 'Sing Me Back Home' was another live favourite oft-played by the Byrds between now and the end of the road. Like many of the band's country songs, McGuinn sounds mis-cast with a hopelessly fake country accent that must have made Gram Parsons squirm but the song is a strong one that fits in nicely with the theme of 'Sweetheart' of returning to the music of the home and hearth (although they're actually the memories of a prisoner awaiting execution - Johnny Cash should have done this one, it has his name written all over it!) White once again fits in perfectly, updating the original's sound to be fresh and contemporary and this track would have fitted in nicely on 'Easy Rider' too. Find it on: The 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
 Non-Album Recordings #7: 1970
A) [136b] 'Lover Of The Bayou' wasn't originally intended for the 'concert' half of 'Untitled' - it was recorded, along with the other Gene Tryp songs, in the studio. Great as this alternate version is, though, with a slower snakier rhythm, it's no match for the smoking hot live recording which is about ten times as intense. There's a curious harmonic phrase within this version that's much more elaborate than the bare-bones surroundings and doesn't quite work, while the sleepier, slower backing sounds less like a swamp-monster after it's prey than a teddy bear in need of a hug. Full marks to whoever suggested the band simply record their fesisty live version instead amongst a track listing otherwise made up of covers and hit songs: the swamp of live theatre is very much the 'Bayou's natural habitat: this studio version is simply too 'clean'. Still, nice to hear - and this studio version is still way ahead of the lesser re-recorded version by 'Roger McGuinn and Band' in 1975. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled'  (1998)
B) The alternate version of our AAA ebook title track [140b] 'All The Things', meanwhile, sounds every bit as gorgeous as the finished version. All the pieces are in place already, with a backing track ever so nearly matching the final version and a McGuinn lead vocal that's a bit rougher but acually even more affecting than the finished version, treated with an echo that makes the narrator sound ever more lost and isolated, experiencing an untouched world anew.  The slower tempo and an extended repeat of the main song theme adds almost two minutes onto the playing time. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
C) A third different 'Untitled' alternate  [141b] 'Yesterday's Train' is even nicer: the finished version wasn't exactly elaborate but this beautoful vocal-guitar-and-harmonica version (all played by Parsons) sounds ever closer to the 'essence' of this lovely song. Once again Gene Parsons' performance is exquisite and the laidback folky feel of his playing sounds even more Byrds-like. The only shame is that the middle eight is treated more like the rest of the song, instead of delightfuly rolling forward off the rails as per the finished recording, although the scat singing ending is even better. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
D) [147] 'White's Lightning' (Parts One and Two) is a fiery studio jam that took place in 1970 never intended for release, although it sounds mightily close to the mammoth twenty minute version of 'Eight Miles High' the band played in concert about this time (just minus McGuinn's riff). The original version lasts for some 30 minutes, although to date only two extracts (each lasting mere minutes) have been released to date. To my ears they sound as if they belong the 'other' way round, with the 'part two' included on the 'Untitled' CD re-issue sounding like the start and the 'part one' extract taken from the 1990 box set 'The Byrds' sounding like it comes from the middle. Neither is excatly essential nor are they up to the cracking version of 'Eight Miles High' that made the album, but both are well played and intense. Interestingly only McGuinn and White get a writing credit despute the fact that this very much sounds like a 'group' composition! **Check*** Find 'Part One' on the 1990 box set 'The Byrds' and 'Part Two' on the  CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
E) Little Feat are best known for their take-no-prisoners rock and roll and wild fury. For me though their best songs are their ballads.  [148] 'Willin' is a prime example, a song about devotion that finds Gene Parsons 'drunk and dirty' 'blown by rain and snow' still following the girl who doesn't even know he exists. Nowadays you'd call that stalking, but this song is entirely innocent with Gene again at his past on a slow burning soulful folk tune. The Byrds play acoustically, Parsons passing on his drums to add more conviction to his vocals, which works really well. Poor Gene gets rather overlooked on 'Untitled', with just the one glorious vocal (his own 'Yesterday's Train') to his credit: what a shame space couldn't be found to squeeze this delicate three minutes in somewhere - it's actually preferable to the Little Feat song that did make the album, 'Truck Stop Girl' (how odd that the Byrds should attempt two songs by a rival band!) AAA fans note: co-writer of both tracks Lowell George will later end up a Grateful Deade producer, working (and playing) their 1979 album 'Shakedown Street' (a disco/rock hybrid that couldn't sound less like this track!) Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
F) [149] 'Black Mountain Rag' was a live regular in the Byrds' set, a country instrumental rattled as fast as the band can manage. Clarence must have smoke blowing from his fingers after the first officially released version, which lasts all of 80 seconds and was included on the last. McGuinn does indeed strain to keep up with hi as he quips during his introduction! Find it on: 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
G) [150a] 'Kathleen's Song' is a delicate McGuinns ballad taken from 'Gene Tryp' that was tried out for 'Untitled' but won't be recorded to the band's satisfaction until 'Byrdmaniax'. Another better than average McGuinn song, it's about Gene's lover Kathleen who waits for him, princess-like, across the changing seasons. In truth this understated song would have been a bit lost against the more gung-ho songs on 'Untitled' (even the ballads) but the stark acoustic reading first tried out for the song (and featured on the CD re-issue of that album) is dfeinitely preferable to the treacly strings-and-choirs version that made it to 'Untitled'. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)  the 1990 box set 'The Byrds' and 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
H) An amazing a capella rendition of [151] 'Amazing Grace' used to end every Byrds concert back in 1970. Perhaps the most mesmerising display of the 'second band's vocal prowess, it borrows heavily from CSNY in the sense that four very different styles and voices all unite in brilliant harmony and gives al four space to shine. That's Gene on lead, McGuinn up there with him, Clarence doing the bass and Skip the falsetto on the studio take, unbilled but added to the 'Unreleased' half of the 'Untitled' CD re-issue at the very end (the dying notes of 'This Wheel's On Fire'). While clearly unfinished and lasting all of a single minute (ebbing away into silence at the end of the first verse), it's one of the greatest things on the disc and would have sounded breathtaking turned into a full song (where it would have made a fine eerie coda to war protest song 'Welcome Back Home'). Sublime. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
I) While the full tapes for half the original 'Untitled' show (at the Queen's College, New York) seem to be sadly missing, the full concert at New York's Felt Forum (used on the other half of the album) thankfully does survive and the remaining pieces were sensibly added to the 'Untitled' CD re-issue. They reveal a band on fine form with tighter performances than on the posthumous official live LPs like the 1971 gig at the Royal Albert Hall and the 1969 show at the Filmore, even if all the best performances had been heard on the 'Untitled' album already. [83b] 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere' was the 'real' opener to the LP as you can tell from the same emcee announcement that kicked off the original album (edited onto the front of 'Lover Of The Bayou'). It's a rather ragged performance of Dylan's spiky song, less subtle than the LP version (on 'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo') and without the sheer anger of the 1968 Tv version from Hugh Heffner's 'Playboy After Dark' show (the Byrds' best performance of their set regular). The harmonies are nice though, even if the instrumentation is a little worn and frayed. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
J) [110b] 'Old Blue', another set regular, sounds like a friskier and slightly hunrier breed than the dog heard on 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde'. McGuinn's vocal is far less polished but has lots more character while his and White's guitar duet is a delight. You still have to question the taste of a band who sings a song about an imaginary pet dog in between two of Dylan's more acerbic songs but there's a strong beat to this song and this is one of the highlights of the concert songs that didn't make the album. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
K) [152] 'It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding' is the Dylan song that McGuinn performed for the 'Easy Rider' movie. It was really good too: more intense and folkier than most of the Byrds' own cover versions, with a harsh lyric from Dylan that's one of his most thoughtful and profound (it's where his famous line about those who 'aren't busy being born are busy dying' comes from). The Byrds sadly never did record a studio version themselves but the White/Battion/Parsons line-up played it frequently in the early 70s. The live recording added to the bonus disc of 'Untitled' is one of the best things on it, with Gene's smoky harmonica and White's sinewey guitar leads conjuring up what is by Byrds standards a highly intense and dark recording. Along with 'Lover Of The Bayou', this darker-edged sound seems like a good direction to have gone in, tougher and tighter than most of their usual material, but sadly the band will go in a quite different direction through 1971 and 1972. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
L) [118b] 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' features much the same stop-start passage and Parsons' drumming barely  changes between the two, perhaps giving away it's birth as a 'Dylan' song (for the first verse or so at least). Still in 'Easy Rider' mode, McGuinn starts making some motorbike noises and quips to the front row 'hey there hippie, get a haircut - want me to blow your brains out?' (we can't see it of course, but the irony is the Byrds in 1970 have about the longest hair of any AAA band and three of them have thick beards to boot). The actual version of 'Easy Rider' is a little ramshackle and a tad fast, but Clarence fits in a fine guitar break that was played by the strings on the original version and this performance of the song is a lot more 'rootsy' than the more polished version that made the LP. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
M) [67d] 'My Back Pages' seems to crop up frequently in this book, with as many versions of it around as 'Mr Tamboruine Man'! This rough version, with McGuinn losing his voice, is harder edged than both the 'Younger Than Yesterday' and 'Dr Byrds' versions, less throwaway and more carefully controlled and contained. The Byrds still sound less than comfortable on it, though, which makes you wonder why they revived it here. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
N) Claren'ce vocal showpiece of 1970 was Ledbelly's [144b] 'Take A Whiff On Me' , a song designed to get a cheer from crowds at the sheer outrageousnes of mentuoning drugs on stage (and if anyone objects to modern hippies The Byrds could always point out at the pre-war recording date of the original!) White's vocals, uncertain in the studio never mind live, are an acquired taste and all in all this version doesn't have the bounce of the studio take. Parsons is on great form on the harmonica again though and this suits the song much more thewn the pounding drums he played on the Byrds' original take. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
O) [123b] 'Jesus Is Just Alright' was the Byrds' surprise return to the charts with a song a Christian anthem seemingly at odds with everything else released in 1969. All live versions of this song sound superior to the rather timid studio version as the band got to know it that much better on the road and the 'Untitled' show is one of the best versions around, complete with squealing feedback at the start and some fiery guitar interplay from Roger and Clarence. In this version Jesus is Alright is more than Alright, he sounds invincible! Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
P) [109c] 'This Wheel's On Fire' is either the fifth or sixth Dylan song from the Forum show (depending on whether 'Positively Fourth Street' from the album was taped there too- session notes are a bit vague and sketchy), which seems like an awful lot of Bob for a half hour. 'This Wheel's On Fire' was one of the band's better Dylan covers and works well live: there's a definite hard rhythm on this song, unusual for Bob, and lots of space for Byrd harmonies and guitar bursts. Roger's looser and less respectful of the vocal than on the record, slurring his lines all over the place, but this only has the effect of making him sound more like his idol. The record still has the edge, though, if only for Clarence's wild and eerie guitar sound, replaced here by carefully controlled chaos. Find it on: the two-disc CD re-issue of 'Untitled' (1998)
Q) Meanwhile, just at the point where The Byrds had grown about as far apart as they were ever going to get, an unexpected reunion of the five original Byrds took place with old manager Jim Dickson producing. Inevitably the reunion was over swiftly, was achieved through overdubbing swork rather than in-person chemistry and typically the two songs recorded at the single session remained in the vaults for three years and even were near-impossible to get hold of. Even so though - The Byrds were back together again, as a quintet, for the first time in five years. It's always amazed me that there wasn't more fuss at the time than there once - especially because, unlike much of the pie-slicing reunion album, the two recordings really do sound like 'The Byrds' again, complete with glossy harmonies, Rickenbacker guitar and clattering Clarke drums (who was at his second peak in this period, a fact wasted on his day job in country spin-off  The Flying Burrito Brothers to be honest). What's even more remarkable is that both songs were done as a 'favour' to Clark to help get his solo career back on track after a difficult few years - a surprisingly generous gesture given the still simmering contempt at the way he'd left the band in the lurch in 1966 and 1968 (Gene will return the compliment to Chris and Michael straight away by helping out on the third Flying Burrito record in Gram Parsons' absence).  [182*] 'One In A Hundred' is a gorgeous new Gene Clark song that would have been crying out for The Byrds had they not been on it. Gently urging people to recover from a difficult night with ther words 'morning has come', Gene even adds a few allusions to 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and 'My Back Pages' for good measure, prematurely hinting at next reunion song 'Full Circle' with lines about how 'seasons shall say - to look at a longer life now, to look at yesterday'. Crosby's gorgeously mellow harmony vocal goes together with Gene's lead deliciously, with a song that's very CSN-esque in it's quiet humble optimism and certainty of better tomorrows (Clark sounds very influenced by their first album both here and into the 'White Light' period, with the same acoustic subtlety), recognising how rare such inspired happy days are (they're 'one in a hundred', although Gene doesn't actually use the title in his lyrics). McGuinn, Hillman and Clarke - though quiet - are right on the money instrumentally and all sound enthusiastic about getting back together, even in different recording studios, unlike the 1973 reunion to come. This song should have been a big hit - instead it languised in the vaults until being released only in Holland in 1973, for some odd reason known only to Gene's record company, the rest of the world not hearing it for another thirteen years...Find it on: Gene Clark's 'Roadmaster' (1973/1986)
I) [22b*] 'She's The Kind Of Girl' is even more of a surprise. A demo recorded by The Byrds back in their 1964 Jet Set days but abandoned in favour of more commercial material, Gene revisits the song again with the original line-up all guesting on this song somewhere. The slower tempo, added flute work and dreamy double-tracked McGuinn Rickenbacker give this song even more of an air of mystery and Crosby's harmony vocal - though low in the mix - is again both sensitive and note-perfect. The middle eight where the band suddenly go into rock mode ('Doesn't everybody want to hear it?') doesn't come off quite as well as in 1974 - not all the band seemed to get the message about changing dynamics - but otherwise this later re-recording is a good example of how much Gene has been learning across the last half a dozen years. Once again the rest of The Byrds support him ably, much more so than back in 1965 when Gene was actually in the band! (perhaps all of the first two albums should have been recorded alone and separately like this?!) As with 'One In A Hundred', this song deserved a far better fate than being lost to the distant landsa of The Netherlands, who weren't even particularly known for their love of Gene Clark. Find it on: Gene Clark's 'Roadmaster' (1973/1986)Non-Album Recordings #8 1971
A) [174] 'Just Like A Woman' is a Dylan cover recorded for 'Byrdmaniax' - unusual, given that Dylan covers seem to be the default inspiratoon for the Byrds over the years, irrespective of quality. One of Dylan's weirder but more accessible sounding lyrics, I've never really taken to this song which basically says all it needs to say in the chorus and amazingly The Byrds' version is even worse than The Hollies' awful take on the song. Uniquely Skip takes the lead and he sounds more like Dylan than ever (ie out of tune!) but to be fair this is most likely a guide vocal most likely to be replaced at a later date. Like much of 'Byrdmaniax' the backing track is best described as folky gospel and really doesn't fir the song, which sounds rather weedy with church organ in the hole where the guitars should be. Probably best left on the cutting room floor to be honest. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Byrdmaniax' (1998)
B)  Much better is the original early version of one of Byrdmaniax's few highlights, [154b] 'Pale Blue'. The original wasn't exactlty over-adorned with instruments compared to most of the album but this version with just Roger's vocal and twin guitars is delightful, returning the Byrds temporaily back to their folky past. Perhaps one day someone will perform a 'stripped remix' version of 'Byrdmaniax' (in the style of John Lennon's 'Double Fantasy') - I've always said there was a good album in there somewhere underneath all the treacle and this recording enhances my theory nicely! Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Byrdmaniax' (1998)
C)[175]  'Think I'm Gonna Feel Better' is a rather odd Gene Clark song picked and chosen by Clarence White (the only time the Byrds ever return to Gene's work with him not in the band). It's about the most rock and roll we ever hear the strict line counry traditionalist and rockier than Gene himself has sounded in a while. Sounding not unlike Hillman's upcoming Byrds song 'Things Will Be Better', this is a rare moment of hope and optimism from quite a depressing period. While White's vocal is awful, all over the place even by his standards (again it's probably just a guide to be fair), the backing is pretty good, McGuinn unusually taking the solo and twirling his Rickenbacker through some 'Eight MIles High' ish runs. While far from the best thing the band recorded it would have made a fine addition to the album whern finished. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Byrdmaniax' (1998)
D) An alternate version of [160b] 'Green Apple Quick Step' appears unlisted as a bonus track on the 'Byrdmaniax' CD. This version is a rough warm-up take that features a lot of intense descussion and debate about who exactly is playing what, with the unfamiliar deep bass voice most likely that of guesting fiddle player Byron Berline (***). As on the finished version, it's an unusual quickfire instrumental that never really fitted into it's surroundings, although Clarence's as ridiculously impressive as ever. The arrangement is noticably similar to the released version too, with only a slightly rougher performance differentiating the two, suggesting that all that discussion at the beginning served it's purpose and the band know what they're doing now. Nice to hear once, but not made for repeated listening. A further version of [160b] 'Green Apple Quickstep' is credited as  'Byrdgrass' on the box set 'There Is a Season' despite sounding near enough identical to the finished version to me (just missing the fiddle overdubs and running a shade longer). The same reponses as earlier apply here: Clarence sounds great, everyone else does ok and the instrumental, while clever, doesn't really deserve to be here in the place of a full song. Find it on: version 'b' is on the CD re-issue of 'Byrdmaniax' (1998), while version 'c' is on the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'Non-Album Recordings #9 1972
A) [176]  'Nothin' To It' is yet another Byrds country instrumental, this one taped during sessions for 'Farther Along' but left in the vaults until as late as 2010. In truth this could be any fine country hillbilly band and is really just an excuse for Clarence and gene to keep in touch with their country roots. While well played it's probably just as well it didn't make the album, which was already over-stuffed with instrumentals (this one isn't quite up to either 'Green Apple Quick Step' or 'Britsol Steamboat Convention Blues'). Find it on: the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season'
B) [13c] The 'Banjoman' soundtrack recording of 'Mr Tambourine Man' features the Byrds poignantly turning full circle in their last year before the original band reunite. This scratchy pure folk version loses some of the freshman of the original, though, being more like 90% Bob and 10% Beatles in this version as opposed to 50:50 as before. The biggest change is that McGuinn now sings the second verse, cut from the Byrds' record but retained for all future McGuinn performances (including the McGuinn Clark Hillman years). White adds a harmony vocal that's so unlike Crosby's soaring harmonies it's almost embarassing - however if somehow you cpould come to this song fresh without knowing the original it's a pleasant enough version of the song. Find it on: the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season';
C) [178] A third and final song from 'Banjoman' features Chuck Berry's old warhorse 'Roll Over Beethoven', played in fumbling style by the country-era Byrds like some fading sidtant memory. You truly can't play a successful version of this song about the power of rock in any other style and yet The Byrds don't rock so much as roll their way through the song, sucessfully completing the changes but without much energy or fun. You can tell lustening to this performance that the end of days is in sight somehow, as the band struggle to get even their warm-ups to hang together. Find it on: the 2006 box set 'There Is A Season';
D) McGuinn had one last try at a Byrds album, though, taping three songs in the early part of 1972 before reluctantly calling a halt to preceedings. None of the trio are all that distinguished but could plausibly have been the cornerstone for a good album and might have been the best since 'Untitled'. All three will be re-recorded and recyled by McGuinn, two on his epnyumous first solo album and one on the Byrds reunion project. [179*] 'Lost My Driving Wheel' is a particularly interesting song about feeling uninspired and missing something, which seems like a particularly apt choice given how The Byrds felt in this period. This version is indeed lacking the fire and power of McGuinn's second attempt, with Parsons especially sounding too afraid to play anything much in case his erstwhile leader has a go at him again, but the song is a good one and very much the early 70s country-rock hybrid the band could have made their own in this period. The harmonies are quite lovely too, making the end result a draw. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Farther Along' (1998)
E) Roger's own [180a*] 'Born To Rock and Roll', meanwhile, is a lame dog of a song in any version. Re-recorded for the Byrds reunion album (where it sounds even worse than here), it's what punk was put on the planet to erase: a bunch of bored and tired musicians going through the motions on a song meant as a 'tribute' to the power of rock that couldn't rock less. Thats said, the 1972 vintage Byrds make a much better fist at this song than their more illustrious cousins, turning in a version with country leanings that features some nice guitar picking from Clarence and far better dynamics between the laidback verses and uptewmpo choruses. It's still an awful song (especially the chorus, which now has harmonies of 'I was born I was born to rock and roll' instead of 'rolling and a rocking' as per the later version), but it's a slightly less rotten song here with a bit of potential about it. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Farther Along' (1998)
F) [181*] Finally, 'Bag Full Of Money' is a McGuinn/Levy song that sounda like graditional moral folk tale about all them awful people out to steal your money unless yiou're wise with it. This deeply country recording is perhaps the most Hilbilly the Byrds have been since 'Nashville West' or even 'Sweethearts' and once again Roger is deeply unconcinving as a yee-hah cowboy. However the song itself is a good one that could have been a minor Byrds classic, re-recorded in superior form with Crosby's help on Roger's first LP a year later. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Farther Along'(1998)
G) The alternate version of [173b] 'Bristol Steamboat Convention Blues' appears unbilled at the end of the CD re-issue of 'Farther Along' and features The Byrds soudning unusually unsure of their own material. Gene Parsons muffs up his banjo opening a few times before the song finally takes flight. This version of the song is slower than the finished version and misses out on some of the overdubs but otherwise sounds much the same: nicely played but a little dull, only really taking off when Gene decides to play his banjo as a rock-star might a guitar rather than with the respect of a country player. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Farther Along' (1998)Non-Album Recordings Part #10: 1990
A) Few people would have put money on a Byrds reunion after the way McGuinn-Clark-Hillman fizzled out and the bad blood that still remained in the group. However in many ways the meeting of McGuinn Hillman and Crosby in 1990 was inevitable. These four songs exist, purely and simply, because releasing product with these three names attached to it helped them immeasurably in the court case they were currently fighting against Michael Clarke over the band name (Clarke's 'anniversary tour', arranged without their knowledge and the occasinal support of Gene Clark, had been touring since the mid-1980s, Michael's attorney arguing in court that he had as much right to revive the name as any, even quoting the fact that the band had no major success after he was pushed out of the band in early 1968). By reviving The Byrds name, if only for a short time, they proved that The Byrds were not dead but an ongoing entity (the booklet could have made it clear that this was only a three-way reunion like 1978-81 - whose songs were noticably absent from the box set - but instead it proudly and rather arrogantly announces them as 'The Byrds'). The fact that Columbia and McGuinn were busy working on a box set - the perfect home for four new songs - seemed like the perfect excuse. The trio met up to record four songs in Nashville, of all places - the arena that had once laughed the 'country' Byrds out of town now respecting the place the band had in the creation and popularity of country-rock. The threesome seem to have given no thought to making an olive branch out to their errant colleagues, even though Gene had been keen to distance himself from Clarke's band the minute they started being billed solely as 'The Byrds' rather than 'The Byrds Anniversary Tour', in deference to the others' request. However the move wasn't entirely cynical: Crosby for one had good reasons to get back together with his old band, experiencing the same thrill Nash had recently had getting back together with The Hollies and reminding him of his heritage - not to mention the fact that, after coming as close to death as anyone can and live in the 1980s, he was still enjoying something of a two-year 'victory lap' in the public eye. His harmonies are genuinely gifted across these four songs, while it's nice to hear Hillman singing what would normally Gene's part. Ironically it's McGuinn, the instigator of these sessions, who sounds less than sure about the whole thing - perhaps realising after the 1973 reunion album (blamed on Crosby) the others might turn on him if it wasn't a success. Actually the four songs attempted are a bit of a mixed bag. A re-make of [35b] 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' is easily the best of the four, a sensitive reading of a song that puts you right back in the moment, wiping all the years away and reminding us of all that was lost to The Byrds and their generation: JFK in 1963. This time Crosby sticks to the script, unlike the Monterey Pop Festival (the last time the Byrds sang it) and the arrangement really benefits from Hillman's deep harmony and McGuinn's simple guitar backing, drenched with echo. Few fans would take it over the 1965 original, which has a special sort of innocence and optimisim missing from this sadder, reflective version, but this is excatly the sort of things a good reunion does: revisits suitable material decades on and through fresh eyes. Find it on: 'The Byrds' (Box Set 1990)
B) [193] Inevitably, The Byrds turned to Dylan one last time during these sessions. 'Paths Of Victory' isn't one of the Bobmeister's better compositions, probably chosen by McGuinn because of  it's similarity to one of his own beloved sea shanties, but lacking his usual poetical touches despote being of 1963 vintage (it's an outtake from 'The Times They Are-A Changin' Album'). This is very much McGuinn's show again, with Crosby and Hillman reduced to rather tentative harmonies and everything smothered in two seperate McGuinn Rickenbacker guitar parts. The song never really gets going sadly, another wasted opportunity that might have been better kept for McGuinn's 'Back From Rio' album from the following year, although it's quite fitting that the band should look back to their first inspiration and go for an obscure song rather than a classic. Find it on: 'The Byrds' (Box Set 1990) and 'There Is A Season' (Box Set 2006)
C) Julie Gold's [194] 'From A Distance' was the hit of the early 1990s. Sung with the same wide open but entrancing naivite of some of the early Byrds songs ('He Was A Friend Of Mine' included), it was a favourite of Hillman's and seemed to make sense as a cover song: it was modern and in an alternate universe could have been a Crosby CSN composition (although it's actually closest to Phil Collins 'doing' CSN with Crosby's help - songs like 'Another Day In Paradise' and 'That's Just The Way It Is'  on his 1989 'But Seriously' album). Alas there've been so many cover versions of this song by now that it's hard to hear it without wincing slightly and The Byrds' version is more wince-worthy than most: Hillman's lead is treacly, McGuinn's nasal harmony is off-key in all senses of the word and this song suits the simple backing (Rickenbacker, echo, the odd bit of drumming) less than a few others here, somehow sounding more traped in time than the Byrds' recordings of thirty years earlier. At the time this song didn't seem too bad - but 'from a distance' of 25 odd years it now seems like something of a wrong move. Find it on: 'The Byrds' (Box Set 1990)
D) Roger's [195] 'Love That Never Dies' was the only orignal song recorded at these sessions and - amazingly - was Roger's first release of any kind since McGuinn and Hillman called it a day in 1981. Given the long wait it's a shame that the song wasn't better and it's not obviously suitable for a Byrds reunion: the title kinda fits and Roger drops in a few fascinating lines about a 'timeless flight' apt for a band whose main theme was always flight and altitude  (picked up on by Johnny Rogan for his book about the band) and 'throwing a dime' to a 'tambourine man' seen in the street (is that all the reunion Byrds are getting? A dime's worth of attention?! Or is this a dig at Gene Clark's revival of the band, left out in the cold?!?!?) For the most part, though, these references sound shoe-horned into an ordinary love song where meeting someone new is like 'opening a new door' and she is being 'held in my arms' and *yawn* you know the sort of thing - the charts are full of it, none of it any good. Chris and Crosby get very little to do once again, barely keeping up with Roger, although this is easily McGuinn's best perfoermance of the four. His guitarwork is genuinely lively and his vocal is great, without the wobbles or nasality of the other recordings. The sound used on this track will very much become the centrepoint for his 'comeback; album'Back From Rio'. Like much of that album, this song is pretty and brings a certain warm glow on first hearing, but is ultimately flimsy and disposable - not something you could ever say about the pre-1971 Byrds, even at their worst. Placing it at the end of the box set - instead of 'Friend' or 'Victory' also makes for one heck of anticlimax to the set - they should have out this one in the running first. Find it on: 'The Byrds' (Box Set 1990)

A Now Complete Link Of Byrd Articles Available To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

'Mr Tambourine Man' (1965)
‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ (1965)

'(5D) Fifth Dimension' (1966)

'Younger Than Yesterday' (1967)

'The Nototious Byrd Brothers' (1968)

'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' (1968)

'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1969)

‘The Ballad Of Easy Rider’ (1969)

'Untitled' (1970)
'Byrdmaniax' (1971)
'The Byrds' (1973)

Surviving TV Appearances
Unreleased Songs
Non-Album Songs (1964-1990)
A Guide To Pre-Fame Byrds Recordings
Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One (1964-1972)
Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two (1973-1977)

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Three (1978-1991)
Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Four (1992-2013)
Essay: Why This Band Were Made For Turn! Turn! Turn!ing
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions