David Crosby/Gene Clark: Rhythm Guitar and Gene Leaving the Byrds Questions

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mbleicher1, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. mbleicher1

    mbleicher1 Tube Amp Curmudgeon Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Mateo, CA, USA
    I've been getting really into the Byrds recently--I've always loved their Greatest Hits and have a soft spot for the debut and 5D, but didn't explore the rest of their catalogue or know much about their back story. I just learned that Crosby forced Clark out of the rhythm guitar role, and possibly was a major factor in Clark's leaving the band. I thought the forum might know:

    - Any recordings of the band with Clark on rhythm? I've always thought Crosby's rhythm playing was an underrated, crucial aspect of the Byrds' sound.

    - Can anyone shed more light on what Crosby was bullying Clark about? Why did he single Gene out--jealousy? Was it mainly Crosby plus fear of flying that led Clark to leave, or did Clark have other issues at this time?

    Thanks in advance - 5D with more Gene is one of the great what-might-have-beens, to me.
     
    Chris M likes this.
  2. rockerreds

    rockerreds Forum Resident

    I believe Gene played on "Set You Free This Time", and I think McGuinn was also giving Gene a hard time.
     
  3. lazydawg58

    lazydawg58 Know enough to know how much I don't know

    Location:
    Lillington NC
    Clark was the main songwriter at that time and was reaping more financial reward. There was some jealousy as a result.
     
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  4. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    Crosby was definitely the superior rhythm player but the whole thing could have been handled better. Gene just sorta fell into the role early on, but instead of a diplomatic discussion Crosby kinda bullied his way into getting his hands on the guitar. Crosby's fessed up to his arrogance and butt-headedness of the time, but in his partial defense we gotta remember these were all young men barely out of their teens. But, yeah, Crosby was an a-hole.

    Another dimension to the intra-band politics was Gene was light years beyond the rest as a songwriter. He was cashing huge royalty checks based on his compositions when the other guys were barely scraping by. That incited a lot of crabbiness and angst directed his way. Gene was a tender-hearted guy and probably let all that mistreatment fester until he blew his stack in the infamous airplane episode.

    Gene was no slouch playing rhythm guitar especially later in his career. I don't think he was cut out to fill that role in the Byrds, but his playing in support of his own compositions is pretty good and at times very intricate and beautiful.
     
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  5. MarcS

    MarcS Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oradell NJ
    Other than Set You Free, it does largely sound like only McGuinn and Crosby on most tracks but there a bunch of photos of the band live and Gene is playing guitar and he also strums a guitar on a couple of TV appearances.




    The Byrds - "Mr. Tambourine Man" - 5/11/65
     
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  6. mbleicher1

    mbleicher1 Tube Amp Curmudgeon Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Mateo, CA, USA
    Interesting - I didn't even know that he had a blow-up related to flying, I thought he just refused to tour any more. While I can't think of another Sixties band that had the Beatles' camaraderie, it seems like the Byrds didn't even have the ability to come together for work the way the Stones or the Beach Boys did, where there were internecine conflicts, but ones that could be sublimated long enough to make a few years' worth of albums with the same core lineup.

    Did the Byrds ever consider a Brian Wilson-type arrangement with Clark, or was the jealousy over the royalties too great?
     
  7. mbleicher1

    mbleicher1 Tube Amp Curmudgeon Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Mateo, CA, USA
    What is that stage set?!
     
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  8. MarcS

    MarcS Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oradell NJ
    I believe he was told in no uncertain terms, you have to fly to be a Byrd. I don't think they contemplated a Brian Wilson arrangement because McGuinn and Crosby were probably chomping at the bit to put their own material forward and then Hillman started writing songs. But they did stay on good relations with him; he sat in with the band a few times in 1966 including an extended period when Crosby was sick; Clark and Hillman played on his solo records, and he even replaced Crosby briefly in 1967 and allegedly co-wrote Get to You on Notorious Byrd Brothers.
     
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  9. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    Yeah, the Byrds were on their way to New York for a show and Gene couldn't make the flight. There are varying accounts as to what happened and what was said, but Gene's anxiety flared up, he left the flight before it took off, and he was soon gone from the band.

    The chemistry of the band for making music was off the charts. Their chemistry for getting along for any length of time...not so much. It's somewhat ironic that they kept circling back to each other in various combinations throughout their entire musical lives but as far as making it an ongoing thing, nope.

    It's interesting that you raise Brian Wilson. By the end of the 60s, Gene was definitely not into the touring game. He wanted to just retreat to his home and record songs and release albums and not have to deal with touring. When he went up to Mendocino in 1970, he released White Light and didn't support it with any kind of touring. His career cratered as a result. Brian Wilson had the kind of profile where he could duck out of public appearances. Not so for Gene.

    You should read John Einarson's biography on Gene. I'm sure you'd find it edifying.
     
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  10. Dylancat

    Dylancat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Hullabaloo TV show.
    Avail. On dvd
     
  11. MarcS

    MarcS Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oradell NJ
     
  12. MarcS

    MarcS Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oradell NJ
    I think part of the problem was they weren’t really a band very long before they hit it big. Unlike the Beatles and the Stones, they didn’t have thousands of hours together in the clubs. They played their first gigs in January 1965 and within six months were #1. If you believe any of Jimmi Seiter’s books about the original band, they were a bunch of strangers who hit it big and never really had each others backs.
     
  13. John Rhett Thomas

    John Rhett Thomas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Macon, GA, USA
    There's a lot of truth to this. That said, they did spend a lot of time honing their sound in World Pacific Studios and recording demos well before their first album hit. But that's probably no replacement for hitting the trenches and playing out. Another dimension is that despite being so young, they'd all paid their dues in the professional music biz prior to their coming together: Gene had been a member of the New Christy Minstrels, Roger had toured with Bobby Darin and worked in the Brill Building, Crosby had been recording with Jim Dickson and was almost certainly building up his own ambitions about a career, Chris Hillman had been polishing his bluegrass credentials in San Diego (he was a Scottsville Squirrel Barker, for cryin' out loud! :agree: ) And Michael Clarke, well... okay, maybe he didn't bring much to the power dynamic. I don't think he ever tried to throw weight around; like Gene he was pushed around. But anyway, those guys probably had their own ideas about how the band should run based on prior experience. Crosby and Roger were very aggressive about being the dominant force, Gene never effectively stood up for himself, Hillman just hung out in the background and waited his turn to step up. That's my feeling about the power dynamics. Based on the personalities involved, Gene seemed doomed from the get go. I'm glad we got as much out of him with the Byrds as we did.
     

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