The Byrds

The Byrds are one of my favorite groups and a major influence. We listened to most of the the 90-song box set- The Byrds recently. It’s a true powerhouse!

What made The Byrds one of the best bands of any era? The individual members, songs, production, and vision all stick out in my mind.

Members

The Byrds originally consisted of Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Other members over the years include Gram Parsons, Kevin Kelley, Clarence White, Gene Parsons, John York, and Skip Battin.

Among these, only McGuinn was the constant presence from the beginning. He, along with Gene Clark and David Crosby, founded The Jet Set (renamed The Byrds shortly after) in 1964 as folk-based group heavily influenced by the Beatles. Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke were added to create the original ensemble. Line-up changes were frequent over the years. David Crosby went on to Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Gene Clark went solo. Kelley went to join Fever Tree. Hillman and Clarke left to join The Flying Burrito Brothers, along with Gram Parsons and later, Battin. Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver loading out after a gig. Gene Parsons invented the innovative B-Bender (StringBender) with Clarence White and since then, custom-installs them in his northern California shop (along with excellent solo work, as well as with the Mendocino Quartet).

Author’s note: Many years ago (1974?), I wrote to Gene Parsons asking for information on his StringBender, and told him of my intention to form my own small record label. He answered me upon his return from a trip, wished me well, and told me that they could send the big record labels to hell for all he cared! I was off to the races after that…

Songs

The Byrds were always blessed with great songs. All band members made valuable contributions over the years. These are but a sampling:

Gene Clark- “Here Without You”, “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, “The World Turns All Around Her”, “Full Circle”

Roger McGuinn- “Mr. Spaceman”, “Ballad of Easy Rider”, “5-D”, “Chestnut Mare”, “Lover of the Bayou” (the last two written with Jacques Levy), “You Showed Me”, and “You Won’t Have To Cry” (both written w/ Gene Clark)

David Crosby- “Everybody’s Been Burned”, “What’s Happening?”, “Why?”, “Eight Miles High” (w/ Clark and McGuinn)

Chris Hillman- “Have You Seen Her Face”, “Girl With No Name”, “So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star”, “Time Between”, “Old John Robertson” (last two songs w/McGuinn)

Michael Clarke- Co-wrote “Captain Soul” and “Artificial Energy”

John York- “Fido”, “Candy”

Gram Parsons- “Hickory Wind”, “Drug Store Truck-Drivin Man”, One Hundred Years From Now”, “Lazy Day”

Kevin Kelley- “All I Have Are Memories”

Gene Parsons- “Gunga Din”, “Get Down Your Line”, “Nashville West” (w/ Clarence White)

Clarence White-“Green Apple Quick Step”, “Bristol Steam Convention Blues” ( both w/Gene Parsons)

Skip Battin- “Well, Come Back Home”, “America’s Great National Pastime”, “Precious Kate” (last two w/Kim Fowley)

Last, but certainly not least, Bob Dylan. Although not a member, The Byrds’ first hit was Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. The band would record many Dylan songs over the years, often doing a more-accessible version than the writer.

Production

The Byrds’ production was first-rate. They were particularly noteworthy as being a music bridge spanning folk, rock, country, and pop.

Jim Dickson may have been self-taught at production and music, but his productions 12-String Guitar Vol. 1 (&2) were best-sellers, featuring Glen Campbell and the Dillards. He produced excellent demos for the Jet Set (soon to be The Byrds) at World Pacific Studios in Los Angeles. He became their manager and happened to obtain an acetate copy of the unreleased Bob Dylan song “Mr. Tambourine Man”. He suggested they record that for their debut single. Dylan heard them do it, loved it, and the wheels were in motion.

Columbia records signed the Jet Set; two weeks later, they renamed themselves The Byrds. Terry Melcher, staff producer at Columbia Records (and son of actress Doris Day) was given the task of producing their first two albums with the fore-mentioned song, and “Turn, Turn, Turn” the titles (and hits) of those albums. He also produced “Ballad of Easy Rider”, “(Untitled)”(along w/Dickson), and “Byrdmaniax”, too. (Melcher also produced the hits for Paul Revere and the Raiders.)

Allen Stanton (5th Dimension) and Gary Usher (Younger Than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (my favorite), and Bob Johnston (Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde) also produced quality albums for the band. They self-produced “Farther Along”, another fine effort. Quality songs, quality production-what’s not to like?

Vision

Vision was a huge factor with The Byrds’ success. They moved from folk-to rock-to pop-to psychedelic-to country-even to experimental music with ease. There is no better example than “Sweetheart of the Rodeo“, released in 1968. This album was a bold move straight into country music, “ushering” in (the producer was Gary Usher) the country-rock movement. Their (Untitled) album was a double, one live and one studio recording- unheard-of at the time.

Just go through their catalog, album to album and you can listen for yourself what I’m talking about. If you love music, you won’t be disappointed!

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot.com



I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Kinks

The Kinks are one of my favorite bands from the 60’s. Ray Davies’ songs are topical, thought-provoking, and even controversial. Some of my favorites include: “You Really Got Me”, “Stop Sobbing”, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Waterloo Sunset”, and of course, “Celluloid Heroes”. I could go on…

One Ray Davies song in particular hits home with me-“I’m Not Like Everybody Else“:

I’m Not Like Everybody Else © 1966 Ray Davies

I won’t take all that they hand me down
Make out a smile, though I wear a frown
And I’m not gonna take it all lying down
Cause once I get started, I go to town

Cause I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else

And I don’t want to ball about like everybody else
And I don’t want to live my life like everybody else
And I won’t say that I feel fine like everybody else
Cause I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else

But darling, you know that I love you true
Do anything that you want me to
Confess all my sins like you want me to
There’s one thing that I will say to you


I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else

If you all want me to settle down
Then slow up and stop all my running ’round
Do everything like you want me to
There’s one thing that I will say to you

I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else

And I don’t want to ball about like everybody else
And I don’t want to live my life like everybody else
And I don’t want to stay fine like everybody else
Cause I’m not like everybody else
I’m not like everybody else

So, What Do I Do?

So, what do I do? Well, let’s see… I write lyrics and music. I play guitar and sing. I engineer and produce the music and edit the videos added to it.

While I’m not the best guitarist, singer, etc., I’m not like everybody else. I have no interest in “show biz”. There’s no point in the redundant, endless life on the road, chasing instant-gratification highs with mind-numbing social schedules. I don’t want to be shoe-horned into a specific genre where I’ll languish hoping for some crumbs. Nope.

I’m not like everybody else. I approach each composition in a different way. That helps keep it fresh for me. After hundreds of thousands of hours spent locked away recording, I know how best to exploit both my strengths and weaknesses. I also want to keep learning. I work on scores sometimes, or improvise, or whatever seems right at the time. Above all, I want to actually say something.

What I do is communicate, not needing permission or approval. Listen, or not. I don’t care anymore.

© 2019 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot.com

Waves and Discovery (Pt. 2)

Waves

It would have been physically impossible to make my audio gains in the past few months without Waves plugins.  A plugin is software inserted in the audio chain of your DAW  (digital audio workstation).  It is generally an emulation of the original processing hardware desired.  They are indispensable for sound-shaping.

Mixing “in the box” is a term used to describe mixing done completely using a computer.  The only hardware used is your audio interface where you can monitor what you’re mixing or plug in microphones or guitars if you choose.  The advantages are immediacy and convenience.  One can change gear at the click of a mouse, unlike the old days of unplugging the unwanted hardware, dragging out the gear you want to try, and plugging it all back in.

Waves Audio was founded in 1992 . Its first product was the Q10 Paragraphic Equalizer.  It was the first commercially available audio plugin.  They now have over 200 plugins that can process audio in a myriad of ways.  Each piece of replicated gear has been carefully modeled, down to the 60 or 50hz hum of the original hardware.  Waves even puts a couple of extras not on the original equipment!

When I listened to the Beatles while growing up, I dreamed of recording at their EMI (Abbey Road) studios.  Their producer (George Martin) used Abbey Road equipment to decorate the sound much like an artist uses colors.  I now am able to use that same equipment in software form, from beginning to end (as well as many other studio gear combinations).

Every recording studio is filled with audio processing gear.  It is expensive and cumbersome.  Each component has its own distinct sonic character.  It’s what we look to for “spice” in our recordings.  The ability to change these quickly is vital.  Waves makes this economically and physically possible.  I use their plugins exclusively now and recommend them.   They aren’t paying me for this endorsement, either!

Discovery (Pt. 2)

Another discovery I made was the in the music of Tony Joe White.  He had just released his 42nd album in September, then unexpectedly passed away in October.  Tony Joe White was a true original.

He was driving a dump truck in Marietta, Georgia in 1967 when he heard Bobby Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe”.  He was inspired to write his southern-based “swamp rock”.  He wrote “Polk Salad Annie” (among others), drove to Nashville, signed with Monument Records, and had a #8 hit with fore-mentioned song.

He wrote the huge hit “Rainy Night in Georgia” that was made famous by Brook Benton.  Tina Turner would record four of his songs on her 1988 “Foreign Affair” album.  (Tony Joe played  guitar and harmonica on it as well.)

He made great music right up till the end of his time on this earth, doing what he loved.  That’s how to do it!

You can discover Tony Joe White, too!


© 2018 J. Mark Witters      Skyypilot.com