The Byrds were one of the most important bands in rock & roll history, with mutual influences flowing two ways between them and Dylan and the Beatles. Without the Byrds there is no Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, no R.E.M., nor many other hugely significant bands. In fact, in a documentary about Petty, he is shown on poor-quality home video in an ‘early-’90s studio righteously berating and belittling a couple of hapless A&R; execs who are messing around with McGuinn’s song choices or something. Petty is schooling these guys, asking them rhetorical questions like, “Do you even know who Roger McGuinn is? Do you know what his music means to people?” [Those are not direct quotes — it has been a while since I have seen it.] It is cringe-worthy but hilarious.
The general public, it seems, barely knows the name Roger McGuinn nowadays, never mind the late Gene Clark, the latter of whom wrote and sang some of the band’s best and best-known songs, Teenage Fanclub tribute song notwithstanding.
Allmusic.com has a nice bio of Clark that starts off:
Gene Clark will always be best remembered for his two-year stint as a vocalist with the Byrds between 1964 and 1966. A fine legacy to be sure, but the shame of it is that there was far more to Clark’s body of work than that; he was a superb songwriter, one of the founding fathers of country-rock, and recorded a number of fine albums with an impressive array of collaborators whose quality far outstripped their modest sales figures.
This is an understatement. For fans of this sort of music, particularly if you are an early R.E.M. fan (Stipe’s vocal style and timber is extremely close to Clark’s), I beseech you to root out some Gene Clark albums. They are not always easy to find, even on the net. And the styles veer around from record to record, from stuff that might as well be the Byrds (the Echoes LP), to folk, to straight-up country, to pop and soul, sometimes hitting all of them just right.
My choice for a cover this week is from the Roadmaster LP, which I picked up at a record distribution company in Spain in the early 1990s and have not had much luck, as I recall, finding again. This is a song called “In a Misty Morning.”
Please note that this is the sixth installment. Cover of the Week 5 is just below this, a holiday bonus for all of you, perhaps the only one that any of us will be getting this year unless you work at one of the hedge funds that acted on the subprime fiasco at the right time. So enjoy!