So, before we move on, there are some loose ends that need to be tied up.
When we last discussed Buffalo Springfield, things appeared to be looking up. The band, with Jim Messina now on board as bassist, recorded some new tracks in early 1968; however, things fell apart for good when Neil, Richie, and Jim were caught up in a drug bust in April of 1968. Although the group formally disbanded in May of 1968, it still had a contractual obligation for one more album. Jim and Richie took the tracks from earlier in the year (and some culled from recording sessions in 1967) and used them to create the final Buffalo Springfield record that was appropriately titled Last Time Around. Here is one of Stephen’s songs that made it onto that last album.
The Byrds were in a creative growth spurt at the end of our first post in this series. David, Chris, and Jim (who was by now going by Roger) were all proving to be accomplished song writers and we highlighted some of their key contributions to the Younger Than Yesterday album. Work on their next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, started in 1967. The first song they recorded was one of David’s titled Lady Friend. It was a wonderful song, perhaps his best to date, and David took the lead during the recording session. See what you think.
Lady Friend was David’s only A side single for the Byrds but, inexplicably, it was not a hit. David took its lack of success hard. Although I love David and his music, based on everything I know about him, he is not an easy person to live with. The failure of Lady Friend probably exacerbated this issue. In David’ own words (from a ByrdWatcher interview in 1998), “I was not an easy guy at that point. I was pretty much of a punk and had an enormous attitude and thought I was a lot better than I probably was, and wanted to be… to have a larger share of things.” David’s attitude started to grate on Roger and Chris and as the recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers continued the tensions in the group continued to increase. The end result was that David was kicked out of the band (and/or left the band) before the album was released. In addition to David’s attitude, other contributing factors to his departure included the refusal of Roger and Chris to include David’s song Triad on the album and their decisions to include a cover of Goin Back on the album when David felt that he had songs that were better. The end result was (again in David’s own words from the interview referenced above), Notorious Byrd Brothers…”is the record they tried to pretend I wasn’t on. [Laughs.] I’m on it. It was not a comfortable parting of the ways. They threw me out. And they were not nice about it. And they did take songs that I co-wrote, and music that I made, and tried to pretend that I wasn’t there. Or at least give the impression that I wasn’t there, which was unkind, but understandable under the circumstances.” Maybe most troubling to David was the band’s failure to include Lady Friend on the album. On this topic David has said (from the interview referenced above) “That frustrated me more. That was when I realized that I was really up against them, because I thought, “Man, this is good as anything else there — at least.” And it should have been used.”
Bottom line….David was out of the band. Around the same time, Michael Clarke left the Byrds as well leaving the group with only two of its original members (Roger and Chris). We will continue the Byrds saga in a later post.
So…..when we last discussed the Hollies all was looking up. Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Graham Nash had taken over songwriting duties on the Hollies last two albums in 1966 and 1967 and the band was creating some wonderful music. Graham Nash, in particular, was stretching his songwriting wings. He wrote the Hollies’s next single King Midas in Reverse (credited to Clarke, Nash, and Hicks) but had to fight with the producer to get it released. The producer thought the song was too complex, let’s listen and you can decide for your self whether you agree with the producer
As it turns out, the song was not as commercially successful as earlier Hollies songs. (If you have been following closely you might start to notice some interesting similarities starting to develop between the career’s of David Crosby and Graham Nash) The Hollies next album, Butterfly, was released in 1968. This album, like the previous two, was completely written by the Hollies. Although Alan, Tony, and Graham all contributed to the album, Graham clearly was playing the lead role for the group on this album in terms of songwriting and lead vocals. All of this makes the Hollies next career decision almost impossible to understand….they decided that their next album would be entirely composed of Bob Dylan covers. To be clear, by “they” I mean the whole band excluding Graham. Putting out an album of cover songs was a course of action was totally unacceptable to Graham (yet another similarity between David and Graham). He decided to leave the band in late 1968 . The Hollies would continue as a successful band but the they had peaked from an artistic perspective. This was not to be the case for Graham.
In my very first post in this Blog we talked about how Stephen and David got together after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield and David’s departure from the Byrds so I will not repeat that story here. If you missed that post, why don’t you take a minute and read it before proceeding.
At some point during 1968, David and Stephen were hanging out at Cass Elliot’s house and harmonizing on You Don’t Have To Cry, a new song by Stephen. Graham Nash, taking a break from the Hollies, was also present at Cass’s house that day and asked Stephen and David to sing the song one more time. Graham joined in, added an improvised harmony part, and musical history was changed forever. The guys knew that they were on to something special but at this point Graham was still in the Hollies so it would take a few months for this new relationship to be fully consummated. When Graham finally left the Hollies later in 1968, Crosby, Stills, and Nash was officially a group but there was one remaining hitch. Ahmet Ertegun, was ready to sign the group to a recording contract with Atlantic Records but Graham was signed to Epic which was the Hollies label. This problem was finally solved in a deal that basically traded Richie Furay, and his new post-Buffalo Springfield group named Poco, to Epic records in return for Epic releasing Graham. We will talk more about Richie’s new group in our next post in the Southern California Sound series.
The group’s self titled album was released in 1969. Although all three members contributed incredible songs to the album, it was Stephen that played most of the instruments during the recording of the album. This ended up being a critical issue once the band decided to tour and we will talk more about this in a future post. For now, let’s just enjoy a song from each of the members.
I think the Rolling Stone reviewer of the album nailed it (for once) in July of 1969 when he said, “They are in complete control of all they do, and the result is an especially satisfying work.” I hope you agree with the reviewer. Look for the next post in this series by late next week.