BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles

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(Columbia CL-2642 / CS-9442 / CK-9442, 1967)
Reissued: (Columbia/Legacy CK 64848, 1996)

Track Listing

Released February 20, 1967. Produced by Gary Usher. Engineered by Tom May. Recorded at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, November - December, 1966. Cover Photo: Frank Bez. Bonus tracks recorded February, April and June, 1966.

The Byrds v. 2.0
Jim McGuinn: vocals, 12 string lead guitar, 6 string guitar
David Crosby: vocals, 6 string guitar, some 12 string guitar
Chris Hillman: vocals, bass, mandolin
Michael Clarke: drums, percussion

On "So You Want To Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star"
Add Hugh Masekela on trumpet

On "CTA-102"
Add oscillator

On "Renaissance Fair"
Add "Jay" on saxophone

On "Time Between"
Add Clarence White on pull string guitar
Add Vern Gosdin on acoustic guitar

On "The Girl With No Name"
Add Clarence White on pull string guitar

On "Lady Friend"
Add trumpets

On "Old John Robertson" (single & LP versions)
Crosby plays bass, Hillman plays 6-string guitar
Add strings; add fiddle on LP version

Singles from album sessions:
"So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star" / "Everybody's Been Burned"
Columbia 43987
Released January 9, 1967

"My Back Pages" / "Renaissance Fair"
Columbia 44054
Released March 13, 1967

"Have You Seen Her Face" / "Don't Make Waves"
Columbia 44157
Released May 22, 1967

"Lady Friend" / "Old John Roberston" (single version)
Columbia 44230
Released July 13, 1967

His close friend:
Chris Hillman was the first Byrd to discover Buffalo Springfield; he was one of their earliest and staunchest champions. Having seen an early rehearsal by the group, an enthusiastic Hillman helped the band borrow some decent equipment and got them their first gig at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. So taken was he with the Springfield, in fact, that he seriously considered becoming their manager, only to be dissuaded by McGuinn.

Girl Freiberg:
Girl Freiberg (née Dreyer) was a teenaged follower of the San Francisco folk scene in the early '60s, and a friend of David Crosby before he came to Los Angeles. Her family gave her the nickname -- she was the only female of six kids. At sixteen she ran away from home and then married an older scenester named David Freiberg in order to avoid juvenile hall.
Freiberg was the bassist in the Quicksilver Messenger Service from 1965 to 1971. He played on David Crosby's first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name (Atlantic, 1971) and joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1972. He stayed with that band after it morphed into the Jefferson Starship in 1974. When Paul Kantner left in 1985, he took both Freiberg and the name "Jefferson" with him.

An alien civilization:
In his manifesto on the importance scientific literacy, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark, the late Carl Sagan notes that CTA-102 was an object in space that was discovered to be emitting a non-random radio emission in the mid-1960s. Soviet scientists actually convened a press conference and announced that they had received signals from an alien civilization. Eventually astronomers realized that they were hearing a new natural phenomenon -- CTA-102 turned out to be the first quasar. Sagan's book notes that the press conference spawned a brief "media sensation," and cites the Byrds song as evidence for that furor.

"My Back Pages":
Like three of the four Dylan songs covered on Mr. Tambourine Man, "My Back Pages" originally appeared on the album Another Side of Bob Dylan (Columbia, 1964).

Tony Curtis movie:
Don't Make Waves (1967) is a lame youth exploitation film directed by Alex Mackendrick, based on the novel Muscle Beach by Ira Wallach. Besides Tony Curtis, the film also starred future Manson family victim Sharon Tate and featured cameos by comedian Mort Sahl and famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. The film, like the Byrds song, has little to recommend it.

Efforts to promote the song:
Jon Young relates a great story about the Byrds in a 1991 article for Musician:
"Back in '67, to promote the single 'Lady Friend,' the band appeared on the 'Tonight Show.' With obvious disdain, guest host Bob Newhart read the Byrds' stock introduction off cue cards and added, as Roger McGuinn and David Crosby strummed the opening bars of the song, 'I think I hear them tuning up now.'
"Unfazed, Crosby leaned into the mike and countered, 'We tune because we care.'
"Yours truly was incensed that the button-down comic had dissed my favorite band and immediately fired off a letter, explaining the Byrds' blend of rock, folk, and country, and recommending that Newhart check out Younger than Yesterday. Imagine my surprise to receive a response a few months later. Newhart wrote that while he appreciated my point of view and did in fact like some pop, citing the Supremes, he found the Byrds to be 'cacaphonous.'"*

"So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star" /
"Everybody's Been Burned"

Over six days in late November and early December, the second incarnation of the Byrds (McGuinn, Crosby, Hillman and Clarke) recorded all the songs on Younger Than Yesterday with producer Gary Usher. The most remarkable aspect of the release is the number and caliber of Chris Hillman's songwriting and vocal contributions.
The best of these became the first single, "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star." Hillman says he came up with the unstoppable bass hook while playing on sessions for trumpeter Hugh Masekela. With McGuinn, Hillman wrote the lyrics, an acerbic but good-natured swipe at the success of manufactured rock bands like the Monkees. Those familiar with certain pre-fabricated elements of the Byrds' career (like, say, a drummer who couldn't play drums but did look a whole lot like Brian Jones) will be forgiven for their mistaken belief that the song was intended to be autobiographical.
Hillman's bass playing was never better than on this driving performance, in which he constructs a series of clever variations on the melodic main riff. Masekela adds a wonderful trumpet part, the first appearance of brass on a Byrds song. Rounding out the song is the sound of screaming teenage girls, taped at a Byrds show in Bournemouth, England during the band's '65 tour.
The flipside of the single was another of the album's best tracks, Crosby's jazzy torch song, "Everybody's Been Burned." Crosby had written the song in 1962, long before joining up with McGuinn and Clark. Crosby's voice is in fine fettle; McGuinn's subdued guitar and Hillman's deft, jazz-influenced bass picking provide sensitive accompaniment.

Younger Than Yesterday

On the heels of the stellar single came the LP, showing off a new side of the band. Bassist Chris Hillman, who hadn't written any songs or sung any lead vocals on the previous LPs, was energized after his Masekela sessions, and suddenly emerged as a talented songwriter and vocalist. Hillman's appealing tunes added an element of straight-ahead pop that had been absent from the Byrds' mix since Gene Clark's departure. His songs on Younger than Yesterday have a catchy pop and pop-country sound not unlike the more upbeat early work of his close friend, Stephen Stills. (For example, listen to the Stills contributions to the 1966 debut album by Buffalo Springfield: "Go and Say Goodbye," "Sit Down I Think I Love You," and "Pay the Price.")
"Have You Seen Her Face" was strong enough to be chosen as the third single from the LP. Hillman's vocals are winning, and the song sports a killer hook in the chorus. His other pop number, "Thoughts and Words," shows a definite Beatle influence in the chorus, and in the groovy, backward guitar that fills the bridge, sounding not unlike a sitar.
Hillman's greatest contribution was to bring the band around to its first sincere attempts at country. Hillman's effort paid off: from this album forward, every Byrds album -- even the post-Hillman LPs -- would contain at least a bit of country music. "Time Between" featured two friends of Hillman, Vern Gosdin and Clarence White on guitar, White's patented string bender providing the sound of a country steel. Hillman's bass plucks out a Johnny Cash-style walking bassline and Clarke hammers out the simple beat. The sturdy melody, the ambitious irregular rhyme scheme, and the encouraging message of the lyrics held up well enough that Hillman would revisit the song twenty years later on the eponymous debut album, The Desert Rose Band (Curb/MCA, 1987).
Clarence White's pull string adds the same country flavor to "The Girl With No Name," another winsome fusion of country and pop. Hillman again adopts an "I Walk the Line" country bass style, and Clarke plays strict time. This number was based on a real woman nicknamed Girl Freiberg.
Crosby's contributions to Younger than Yesterday ranged from the sublime ("Everybody's Been Burned") to the ridiculous ("Mind Gardens"). In between are two other Crosby compositions. The first of these is a tepid remake of "Why," the former raga song co-written with McGuinn and performed with considerably more conviction on the flipside of "Eight Miles High." The version here is a left-over from the Fifth Dimension sessions. The second is "Renaissance Fair," a song that recaptures those heady days when the sight of a bunch of addle-pated Tolkien addicts jousting, strumming lutes, and gnawing on greasy shanks of beef did not immediately inspire howls of derisive laughter. The latter song featured some nice bass work from Hillman. Musically and thematically, it anticipates Crosby's "Guinnevere."
As undistinguished as the two McGuinn/Crosby tracks are, "Mind Gardens" is in a league by itself. From the shrill, modal vocal to the obvious, sophomoric lyrical conceit ("Get it, man? He's saying your mind is, like, a garden, man..."), from the pretentious Hamlet quote to the complete lack of melody... this song is so self-indulgent that it's no wonder it put the band off raga forevermore. The lyrics in particular are the kind of dubious doper "poetry" that bands like the Moody Blues would later specialize in. ("Breathe deep the gathering gloom....") The legion of backward guitars is the one redeeming feature about the song.
The inclusion of all-time Crosby dog "Mind Gardens" is bad enough, but truly baffling is that a haunting Crosby number was left off for no apparent reason. The outtake "It Happens Each Day" was finally heard with the release of Never Before in 1987. The song also appears on The Byrds Boxed Set and apperas as a bonus track to the reissue.
Aside from his collaborations with Hillman and Crosby, the only McGuinn song is "CTA-102." Co-written with his friend Bob Hippard, the song is about an object in space that was briefly thought to have been an alien civilization sending radio transmissions to earth. The song combines the scientific abstraction of "5D (Fifth Dimension)," the jaunty melody and whimsical extraterrestrials of "Mr. Spaceman," and the playful sonic experimentation of "2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)." McGuinn's idea of fusing disparate elements in one song would dominate the next LP. Those aren't backward vocals; they're just McGuinn and Crosby uttering nonsense intended to sound like alien voices. (Is it my imagination or does one alien say "rock 'n' roll star" around the 2:05 mark?)
McGuinn also argued for the inclusion of a Dylan cover, over Crosby's objection. At Jim Dickson's suggestion, the band chose "My Back Pages," the song with which Dylan disavowed his protest-singer past, and then executed the song according to the successful Dylan cover formula of the first two albums. In so doing, the band simultaneously and paradoxically renounces and reaffirms its past work. "Back Pages" would be the last Top 40 Byrds single in the States.
Despite a few missteps, Younger Than Yesterday was a strong outing for the band. With Hillman now a full creative partner, the quartet seemed poised for something great.

"Roll Over Beethoven"

Shortly before the release of the album, the band toured Europe, where they recorded the sloppy version of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over, Beethoven" that appears on The Byrds Boxed Set. The song was a regular part of their live set during this phase of the Byrds, and gives some idea of the limitations of the band's live act during the first few line-ups.

"Don't Make Waves"

In May of 1967 the Byrds released the last single from Younger than Yesterday, Hillman's "Have You Seen Her Face." The flip was a short, slight pop ditty called "Don't Make Waves," recorded for the soundtrack of the Tony Curtis movie of the same name. The track appeared on the CD of Never Before in 1989, then as a bonus track to the 1996 reissue. On both these rereleases you can hear Crosby's sardonic evaluation of the song: "Masterpiece!" An inferior take of the song was used on the MGM soundtrack LP, released in September of '67. It has not been reissued.

"Lady Friend" / "Old John Robertson"

As if to prove that he could come up with a real pop masterpiece, Crosby wrote the next single, certainly the best Crosby song recorded by the Byrds, maybe the best ever: "Lady Friend." A chiming guitar riff announces the song, then the rhythm section gallops furiously along the bottom while a beautiful tenor harmony soars across the top, and wall-of-sound guitars fill the center. Just when you think the song can't get any better, along comes the wonderful bridge, where joyous trumpets ring out, and the singers respond with scatted "bah-bah-bahs" in the style of the Mamas and the Papas. The words are great as well: Crosby cleverly borrows Gene Clark's tactic of pairing upbeat music with lyrics of loss and disappointment.
On "Mind Gardens," Crosby indulged in experimentation for its own sake. On "Lady Friend," Crosby's innovations -- use of brass harmonies, more complex vocal parts, droning Eastern-sounding guitars, the furious tempo -- are all in service to a brilliantly constructed song. Unfortunately, despite the band's efforts to promote the song, it stalled in the charts. As a result of its poor placing and Crosby's subsequent departure from the group, the song was left off The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and it's easy to understand why its omission exasperated Crosby.
Beware the version of "Lady Friend" on Never Before: it contains overbearing and substantially different drum overdubs that hamstring the song's driving rhythm. Instead, stick with the version that appears on The Byrds Boxed Set and as a bonus track to the reissue, which is faithful to the original.
The flipside of "Lady Friend" was the country number "Old John Robertson." Written mostly by Hillman, the song described an actual gentleman by the same name, a former movie producer, who lived in the town where Hillman grew up. Whether intentional or not, the lyrics are a nice metaphor for the band's relationship to country music: as callow youths, they mocked it, but after taking the time to learn about it, they came to appreciate its virtues.
The instrumentation is interesting for a number of reasons. Crosby plays bass and Hillman 6-string. The Beatlesque use of a string quartet on the bridge, though a drastic shift from the rest of the song, somehow works. A different mix of the same song would appear on Notorious a few months later.

To The Notorious Byrd Brothers...


Bob Newhart story. Young at 42.

[Back to top.]

Tracks from album sessions:
Original album tracks:
"So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star":
Jim McGuinn & Chris Hillman
Rec. date: November 28, 1966

"Have You Seen Her Face":
Chris Hillman
Rec. date: November 29, 1966

Jim McGuinn & Robert J. Hippard
Rec. date: December 1, 1966

"Renaissance Fair":
David Crosby & Jim McGuinn
Rec. date: December 6, 1966

"Time Between":
Chris Hillman
Rec. date: November 30, 1966

"Everybody's Been Burned":
David Crosby
Rec. date: December 7, 1966

"Thoughts and Words":
Chris Hillman
Rec. date: December 6, 1966

"Mind Gardens":
David Crosby
Rec. date: November 30, 1966

"My Back Pages":
Bob Dylan
Rec. date: December 5, 1966

"The Girl With No Name":
Chris Hillman
Rec. date: December 8, 1966

Jim McGuinn & David Crosby
Rec. date: February 21, 1966
1996 Bonus Tracks:
"It Happens Each Day":
David Crosby
Rec. date: December 8, 1966

"Don't Make Waves":
Jim McGuinn & Chris Hillman
Rec. date: April 26, 1967

"My Back Pages"
(alternate version):
Rec. date: December 5, 1966
Previously unreleased

"Mind Gardens"
(alternate version):
Rec. date: November 30, 1966

"Lady Friend":
David Crosby
Rec. date: April 26 and
June 14, 1967

"Old John Robertson"
(single version):
Jim McGuinn & Chris Hillman
Rec. date: June 21, 1967

Other tracks from album sessions:
"Roll Over Beethoven" (live):
Chuck Berry
Rec. date: February 1967
Live recording made in Sweden,
appears on Boxed Set

"Don't Make Waves":
Rec. date: April 26, 1967
Appears on MGM soundtrack

Unreleased tracks from album sessions:

[Back to top.]

Byrds Albums | Younger Than Yesterday

Welcome | News | LPs | History | Members | Spinoffs | Related | Reference | Sanctuary | About | NEXT SECTION

Mr. Tambourine Man | Turn! Turn! Turn! | Fifth Dimension | Younger | Notorious | Sweetheart | Dr. Byrds | Ballad | (Untitled) | Byrdmaniax | Farther Along | Byrds | Beginning | Never Before | Box | NEXT CHAPTER

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This page was last revised on November 10, 1997.