Thursday, June 21, 2018

June 21, 1965: The Byrds Release Their Debut Album "Mr. Tambourine Man" PLUS Gene Clark Playlist To Accompany "Gene Clark Sings For You"

The Byrds released their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man on June 21, 1965, 53 years ago today...

The videos on this post feature the second track on Side One: “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, written by Gene Clark, who sings lead and plays tambourine, with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby harmonizing, and McGuinn's distinctive jingle-jangle Rickenbacker 12-string guitar. The Byrds rhythm section consisted of Michael Clarke on drums and Chris Hillman on bass. For the first album, members of the Wrecking Crew played some of the parts, including Hal Blaine (drums), Leon Russell (piano), and Larry Knechtel (bass).

The single "Mr. Tambourine Man" (released in April 1965) was #1 in the U.S. and U.K. and helped propel Bob Dylan into whole other level. The album itself peaked at #6 in the U.S. and #7 in the U.K. and is widely cited as having launched "folk rock".

Last week, Gene Clark Sings For You was released. It's taken from an acetate Gene recorded in 1967 shortly after leaving The Byrds for a solo career to try to interest record companies in signing him and other bands to cover his songs.

18 "New" Songs From 1967 By Byrds Co-Founder Gene Clark: The Holy Grail?

Gene Clark Sings For You is an incredible addition to Gene Clark's incredible body of work. We had heard about it, but very few people had actually heard it, until last week.


To get a fuller picture of where Gene was at, artistically, in 1967, there are the four unique tracks on the Back Street Mirror E.P. (three songs from the Chip Douglas Tape and another version of "Yesterday Am I Right" from the Hugh Masakela/Leon Russell sessions), currently only available on vinyl from Sierra/Entree Records.

Besides that, I think it's quite helpful to listen to Gene Clark Sings For You along with:

  • Gene's contributions to The Byrds (first three albums plus the reunion album)
  • Gene's first solo album with bonus tracks
  • Sierra Records' The Lost Studio Sessions
  • Stray songs such as "American Dreamers" and "Outlaw Song" (both from Dennis Hopper's film American Dreamer), the Dylan cover "I Pity The Poor Immigrant", "That's Alright By Me" (1968 version) and "Los Angeles".

After that, you'll be ready to listen to:
  • White Light (with Jesse Ed Davis)
  • Here Tonight: The White Light Demos
  • Roadmaster
  • No Other (with Jesse Ed Davis)
  • So Rebellious A Lover (with Carla Olson)
  • "Your Fire Burning", "Mississippi Detention Camp" and "The Last Thing On My Mind" from Gypsy Angel

In the end, Gene Clark emerges as a major songwriter and singer (he was both a great harmony singer and a great lead singer), and one of the best interpreters of Bob Dylan ever. His versions of "Tears Of Rage" and "I Pity The Poor Immigrant" are superb. Many have noted the influence Dylan had on Gene's songwriting. Lately, I've been interested in covers of Gene songs by other people.

Among the notable ones:

Carla Olson and Richie Furay: "She Don't Care About Time" (side note: This is a very good version and we LOVE Carla BUT we were very disappointed in Richie's recent obnoxious right-wing comments about the Parkland kids fighting for gun control. He apologized and such, but even if he is a right-wing "Christian" nut only because it helped him survive prolonged drug abuse, it still will always cause me to think a little less of him, despite his considerable historical contributions to music...)

Iaian Matthews (Fairport Convention): "Spanish Guitar", "Tried So Hard", "Polly". Also worth mentioning the great version of "Tried So Hard" Matthews did with Sandy Denny & Richard Thompson while still in Fairport Convention.

The Rose Garden: "Long Time" and "Till Today"... and a big thank you to The Rose Garden for providing 6 Gene Clark songs which are part of the new Gene Clark Sings For You release from Omnivore which no one had heard before (and were not on the original Gene Clark Sings For You acetate). Amazing. Thank you.

Mark Lanegan & Soulsavers "Some Misunderstanding" from Broken (2009)

There are MANY great versions of Gene Clark's "Eight Miles High". I especially like Husker Du's and Gabor Szabo's.

Other famous versions of Gene Clark songs: Tom Petty ("Feel A Whole Lot Better"), Linda Ronstadt ("He Darked The Sun"), The Eagles ("Train Leaves Here This Morning"; written with Bernie Leadon), Paul Weller & Death In Vegas ("So You Say You Lost Your Baby"), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ("Polly" & "Through The Morning, Through The Night"), The Flying Burrito Brothers ("Here Tonight" & "Tried So Hard" &"She Darked The Sun")...

And Kanye West?!?!?!!? Yes, it's true. In 2010, Kanye sampled a version of the Gene Clark/Roger McGuinn song "You Showed Me" on "Gorgeous". Details here: The Gene Clark - Kanye West Connection

In 2017, "This Is Us", Season 1, Episode 11: "The Right Thing To Do" used Gene's "Because Of You" (broadcast January 10, 2017).

There are a number of official and unofficial releases featuring Gene Clark live at various points in his career. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of live recorded material from his early days with The New Christy Minstrels or The Byrds, nor his late1960's early solo and Dillard & Clark days. (Oh, to hear what Gene & Roger sounded like back in the day as a duo in The Folk Den or their first gigs with Crosby... Enticing, but sadly not apparently existent.)

I do like some of the recordings of some of the McGuinn, Clark, & Hillman shows (one of which features Crosby as a guest star), as well as one from 1978 with just Gene and Roger.

There are several live shows of Gene with various backing bands in the 80's, the most notable being the 20th anniversary tribute to The Byrds in 1985 which featured several former Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Blondie Chaplin, and members of The Band. Here's them doing "Eight Miles High".

There' s a very nice live album of Gene singing with Carla Olson simply called In Concert With Carla Olson.

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