After trying out a variety of different names during 1964, Jim McGuinn (now known as Roger McGuinn), Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, became the Byrds late in the year. Jim, Gene, and David all had a folk background while Chris had country background. This mixture would lead the group in a number of ground breaking musical directions.
The group went into the studio in early 1965 to record their first single for Columbia Records, an updated version of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man. This song: introduced the key elements of their sound (McGuinn’s jangling twelve string guitar and beautiful vocal harmonies); was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard charts; and single handedly created a new musical genre labeled as folk rock. The album of the same name followed and was also a hit producing an additional single with another Bob Dylan cover (All I Really Want to Do). Gene Clark did the majority of the writing by the group for the album, scoring the B-sides of the two singles. One of those B-sides was I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better which gave a glimpse of the writing talent lurking in the group. Lets have a listen.
The group’s next single was a Pete Seeger cover (Turn!Turn!Turn!) which became their second #1 hit and the title song of their second album. The writing credits for the album and for the album singles started to slightly tilt in the direction of the direction of the group with this album. Although Gene Clark continuing to have the majority of the groups writing credits, Jim McQuinn’s contributions were more significant than on the first album, including one song on which he shared writing credit with David Crosby.
Fifth Dimension, the Byrds third album, represented a change in direction for the group and introduced the world to another new musical genre, psychedelic rock with its first single Eight Miles High that was written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby. You have probably heard this one before but it is worth another listen even if you have.
By this time the group was doing most of the writing and David Crosby in particular was starting to step to the forefront. One of his songs on the album is a favorite of mine and in many ways sets the tone of most of the songs that he would write for the remainder of his career. See what you think.
David’s growth as a songwriter was fortunate because Gene Clark quit the band around this time. As noted above, Gene had carried a significant portion of the writing load so his departure required the other band members to step up their games.
Chris Hillman rose to the songwriting challenge with the band’s next album called Younger Than Yesterday. He wrote four of the album songs himself including Have You Seen Her Face.
Chris also co-wrote the Album’s biggest selling single, So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star, with Jim McGuinn. Jim and David each contributed four songs. (Note: One of David’s contribution was Everybody’s Been Burned which we featured a week ago in the Blog post titled I Got You Covered #3.)
On the surface, all was well with the group but we will see in an upcoming post that this was somewhat of an illusion. The next post in the The California Sound series will be coming your way this weekend.