Byrdmaniax

Byrdmaniax
The Byrds

CBS / Columbia

Released 23 June 1971

Produced by Terry Melcher

Byrdmaniax: The Byrds, UK LP 1971 CBS
side oneside two
Glory Glory
(Arthur Reynolds)
I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician
(Roger McGuinn / Jacques Levy)
Pale Blue
(Roger McGuinn/ Gene Parsons)
Absolute Happiness
(Skip Battin / Kim Fowley)
I Trust
(Roger McGuinn)
Green Apple Quick Step
(Gene Parsons / Clarence White)
Tunnel of Love
(Skip Battin / Tim Fowley)
My Destiny
(Helen Carter)
Citizen Kane
(Skip Battin / Tim Fowley)
Kathleen’s Song
(Roger McGuinn / Jacques Levy)
Jamaica Say You Will
(Jackson Browne)
Byrdmaniax: The Byrds, UK LP CBS 1971
CD, 2017 version, Floating World, licensed from Sony Music

2000 CD Remaster bonus tracks

12 Just Like A Woman (Bob Dylan)
13 Pale Blue (Alternate version) (Roger McGuinn / Gene Parsons)
14 Think I’m Gonna Feel Better (Gene Clark)
(14 continues with) Green Apple Quick Step (Alternate Version) (Gene Parsons / Clarence White)
2000 Remaster, CD version only

MUSICIANS

Roger McGuinn – vocal, lead guitar
Clarence White – lead guitar, mandolin
Skip Battin – bass
Gene Parsons – drums, harmonica, banjo

WITH:
Paul Polena – strings, horns, reeds
Sneaky Pete Kleinow- steel guitar
Byron Berline – fiddle
Larry Knechtel – piano, organs
Terry Melcher- piano on I Trust

uncredited:
Merry Clayton – part of choir on Glory Glory
Jimmi Seiter- percussion
Eric White Snr – harmonica on Green Apple Quick Step

CHART:

US LP (Billboard) #46

SINGLES

I Trust / My Destiny (May 1971)
Glory, Glory / Citizen Kane (August 1970) US #110

Byrdmaniax has competition. I was torn between it, Farther Along and their 1973 original members reunion, Byrds. Several commentators go for Farther Along as weaker, but by that one McGuinn had virtually given up on the band. Having death masks on the cover gives Byrdmaniax the edge, and led me to look at Byrds sleeve designs. Only one decent one … Sweetheart of The Rodeo. Whoever chose their sleeves surely didn’t have an eye for design.

Byrdmaniax falls into two categories of Reviled! album:

– What have they done to my song, Ma? (The producer screwed up the album). In this case, Byrds manager, Terry Melcher, who was the son of Doris Day.

– Sole survivor (one group member retains the name of the band long after the other originals have departed)

Robbie Robertson once dissed Creedence Clearwater Revival as ‘John Fogerty and some guys.’ The Byrds by 1971 were ‘Roger McGuinn and some guys’ even though those guys had stuck together for four albums and included the superb Clarence White on guitar.

Maybe it was always thus. McGuinn had the longest professional musical history prior to The Byrds. The original Byrds also included David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke. Columbia / CBS had doubts about their abilities, because the backing for Mr Tambourine Man was Roger McGuinn and session men. And what session men! The Wrecking Crew … Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel, Hal Blaine, Jerry Cole. McGuinn sang, with Crosby and Clark backing him.

A Byrds session outtake appeared as a bonus track on the remastered CDs of Notorious Byrd Brothers with the band berating Michael Clarke’s drumming abilities and any band has to rely on a solid drummer. Here I’m on a long-held theory: in West Coast bands, the bass guitarist is way more important than the drummers: Jack Casady, Phil Lesh, Chris Hillman.

Crosby, Hillman and Clark went on to great musical careers, in Crosby’s case CSN / CSNY easily eclipsed The Byrds. One of the joys of the remastered CD series of Byrds albums was realizing what a brilliant bass guitarist Chris Hillman was. Like McCartney, it’s about choosing the notes rather than playing riffs. Gene Clark is a critics choice. However, on their first UK tour they were almost universally lampooned as inept on stage.

During concert performances, a combination of poor sound, group illness, ragged musicianship, and the band’s notoriously lackluster stage presence, all combined to alienate audiences and served to provoke a merciless castigating of the band in the British press.
Wikipedia

Being stoned may not have helped.

I didn’t see them in Bournemouth on that tour. Friends did and told me they were abysmal. The Byrds later claimed the screams on So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star were from their Bournemouth show. Not so. They barely got polite applause. They used screams from the BBC News recording of The Beatles from the same venue (I was there for that one).

They moved on. They produced albums of stature after Mr Tambourine ManTurn! Turn! turn!, Fifth Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Sweetheart of The Rodeo, Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde, (Ballad of Easy Rider, (Untitled).

Roger McGuinn was NOT a Ray Davies, nor a John Fogerty … the lone songwriter. Aside from the Bob Dylan covers, other major songs like Going Back and Turn Turn Turn were also covers. Eight Miles High was Gene Clark / Roger McGuinn / David Crosby. Gene Clark was a major (early on, equal) contributor, as was David Crosby. By Notorious Byrd Brothers, Chris Hillman has eight co-writing credits. Gram Parsons has two on Sweetheart of The Rodeo.

By 1971, I felt the Sweetheart offshoot, The Flying Burrito Brothers were eclipsing The Byrds both on record and live – they were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

Byrdmaniax had Clarence White, Skip Battin and Gene Parsons. As they had proved on the live album on the double LP (Untitled) they were a tight, formidable outfit on stage. Clarence White and Gene Parsons had been in Nashville West together and both were Byrds from Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde onward. Skip Battin arrived for (Untitled). This unit lasted from 1969-1972.

(An aside: The Byrds were irritatingly confusing in sharing too few names, with Gene Clark and Michael Clarke in the first version. Then Gram Parsons joined and left and Gene Parsons joined.)

Roger McGuinn was interviewed by Melody Maker in May 1971 on the UK tour. I Trust was released as a single ahead of the album. At this point they didn’t know what Melcher had done to the rest.

Roger McGuinn: The present Byrds is better than the old Byrds by 97.5% – arbitrarily speaking, of course. Everyone’s professional now, whereas in the old Byrds … thee was a sense of roughness, you know, rough edges, conflict, strife.
Melody Maker 8 May 1971

In the same interview McGuinn revealed that to him ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ was God.

Roger McGuinn: At the beginning it’s me speaking to God … it’s a spiritual testimony.

Ah, not Marvin Gaye, then, as Dylan once claimed. It’s certainly an unusual interpretation.

His views certainly shifted.

Roger McGuinn: I regret carrying the name on after the original guys left. Even though Clarence White was a marvellous guitar player and I loved the guy personally. I think the band was less than The Byrds and shouldn’t have been called The Byrds. I should have just gone solo after Sweetheart of The Rodeo and taken a chance but I was kind of nervous about it. The Byrds just ran down and went out in less than a blaze of glory. I should have put The Byrds away when they were really great.
CD 2017, interview with Tom Hibbert, April 1991

Amen.

Battin, White and Parsons were on a salary, so it really was Roger McGuinn and some guys.

In August 1972, an increasingly dictatorial McGuinn sacked Parsons over a dispute about expenses and Battin was slowly edged out over the following months to make way for a short-lived reunion with the original members
Skip Battin Obituary, The Independent, 15 September 2013

Back to Byrdmaniax:

Terry Melcher had produced Mr Tambourine Man. They trusted him, and went off on tour to Europe and left him to it. He did what had worked on Ballad of Easy Rider and added strings, horns and backing singers. This time, it didn’t work.

Think about it. The Byrds were doing well on tours, going down well, selling out. venues. They were a four piece: two guitars, bass and drums (plus the roadie on enthusiastic percussion). So you produce their album. Several tracks have highly prominent piano or organ. Citizen Kane has a New Orleans trad jazz horn section. Elsewhere strings abound. So how are they going to play this stuff live?

I had the LP and bought the CD recently to get the bonus tracks. It’s telling that on amazon, the classic Byrds albums on CD and vinyl are Columbia Legacy label. Byrdmaniax is Floating World ‘licensed from Sony Music.’ In other words, Sony / Columbia didn’t see a need to keep their version in print. Floating World also license Preflyte and Live at The Fillmore, February 1969 and are an enthusiast’s label. The CD version has extensive sleeve notes by Alan Robinson, which include many quotes from earlier interviews.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

What a boring dead group. But then again aren’t they all? Right that puts it into a different perspective. Increments of pus. Anything unfestering is a bonus. Two halfway decent cuts makes an album a winner, maybe even one
R Meltzer, Rolling Stone, 19 August 1971

(This is abuse masquerading as criticism!)

The Rolling Stone Record Guide and The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) just skip it. Though the latter adds (on (Untitled) :

Battin simply cannot write Byrds songs.

The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) gives it a reasonable 3 stars and adds:

Both Byrdmaniax and Farther Along would be considered stellar efforts if released by bands with a lesser history.

True, but probably true of the weaker efforts of any major and legendary band.

It didn’t help The Byrds cause that more than a few of thes ongs on Byrdmaniax had been conjured up rather hastily by Battin with the aid of pop veteran Kim Fowley.
Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for The Sun, 1996

Two good white gospel (a fundamentalist and a modernist) plus one good Roger McGuinn song (out of four and he needed a collaborator) plus one good Skip Battin song (he needed a collaborator too – Kim Fowley). In sum, better than Father Along, but if you can only tell the difference arithmetically how much difference does it make? B-
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide to Albums of the 70s

Byrdmaniax is generally held to be the weakest Byrds album. Why? Imagine this setting: The Byrds were bound by contract to deliver two albums per year; they’d been playing 200 shows a year; their last release, the excellent Untitled, was still in the charts when recording commenced; they had three weeks to record. Three weeks wouldn’t be too bad for some bands, but constant touring didn’t leave time for writing did it? Roger McGuinn, the sole founding Byrd at this point, arrived at the sessions with one song! This left room for the others to write, which was a mixed blessing. 
Larry Crane, TAPE OP online

The trouble with Byrdmaniax is two-fold: the band didn’t bring great material to the studio to begin with, and the producer (Terry Melcher) brought in an orchestra and backing vocalists to embellish what he (probably rightly) felt was an underwhelming collection of songs. The Byrds were apparently mortified when they heard the final mix, and promptly disowned it. Unfortunately for their fans, disowning a record you’ve already paid for and played is a bit trickier (or at least was back in 1971, before Amazon magically waived buyers of all responsibility). Musically, you could make the case that Gene Parsons is a better drummer than Michael Clarke, or that Clarence White is a better guitarist than Gram Parsons, but the group’s creative spark is here dampened by too many different musical directions and not enough genuine inspiration.
Progrography website

Johnny Rogan is the person who has written in most detail about this album, and on The Byrds in general (the book has 720 pages), so he gets last word:

Melcher’s real failure was his inability to cope with The Byrds less than impressive material. On weak songs such as Glory Glory he tried to compensate for the ineffective vocals by introducing backing singers, but rather than succeeding he highlighted the shortcomings of The Byrds. Instead of attemping to improve the instrumentation, Melcher occasionally decided to bury it, but such instances were the exception rather than the rule. His production on Byrdmanix was a spurious controversy to my mind and though the results may have been unusual, and disappointing to certain purists, they were not ultimately, disastrous.
Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited , 1997

WHAT THE BAND SAID

Gene Parsons: there are a lot of the same musicians who were on Bridge Over Trubled Water, and it isn’t particulaly to my taste. There are a few tunes that are funky and crude but basically it has been well orchestrated. I’m a little sad about that because it’s not the way we are.
CD 2017, from New Musical Express 8th May 1971

Skip Battin: We went a little overboard in the fact of taking a long time and spending a lot of the record company’s money. The group were in Europe when the album was released and we heard the final mixes in Holland. It was somewhat of a disappointment for us.
CD 2017, quoting a 1976 interview.

Roger McGuinn: You’re talking about Terry Melcher’s little surprises. I walked into the studio in LA and discovered a thirty piece orchestra walked out again, thinking I was in the wrong studio. I asked a guard which studio we were in and got directed right back to the same studio where the orchestra was striking up one of our songs … We weren’t very happy with the mixes on the album but we sent the lot up to San Francisco and had them remixed. We fired Terry as manager because he wasn’t managing and he quit as producer.
CD 2017, from Record Mirror 19 June 1971.

Clarence White: Terry Melcher put the strings on while we were on the road. We came back and we didn’t even recognize it as our own album. It was like somebody else’s work. Our instruments were buried.
1971. Quoted by Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited. 1997

Roger McGuinn: By that time (Byrdmaniax) the whole Byrds thing was falling apart. I became too democratic and allowed some of the other members to include songs which really shouldn’t have got on there.
CD 2017, from September 2002 interview with Johnny Black

THE PRODUCER

Byron Berline (session violin): On the Green Apple Quick Step I was there from 9 pm to 5 am. Terry would say, ‘We’ll do this …’ then he’d go off and drink coffee or something. But I didn’t care. I got well paid for that.
Quoted by Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited, 1997

Johnny Rogan, the Byrds biographer, cornered Terry Melcher and questioned him on the album. Melcher had said he should never have let the work go beyond the first session.

Rogan: How do you explain away the fact that you spent $100,000 on the album?
Melcher: There were wasted weeks. McGuinn rented a Moog which was very expensive. I wasn’t getting the guitar parts so I added other instruments.

Rogan: Was the orchestration added without their approval?
Melcher: I think the orchestration was a big mistake. But the songs were weak I was trying to save the album, but it was a mistake. I should have called a halt.

Rogan: You still haven’t answered my question. Do you admit that you did add the orchestration without their approval?
Melcher: No. Well, I mean I admit I wasn’t in consultation with them a lot and I didn’t really deal with Clarence, Battin or Parsons on these matters. But I’m sure it was inconceivable that McGuinn didn’t know about the orchestration.

Rogan: Clarence White said ‘Melcher buried our instruments’. Is that true?
Melcher: It’s possible. If anything got buried it was because it was mediocre … I thought Gene Parsons was a better guitar player than a drummer.

Rogan: McGuinn says it was remixed in San Francisco. Were there any substantial differences?
Melcher: I can’t remember the differences or even if there were any. All I can say is that my original couldn’t have been any worse.

(All in Johnny Rogan: Timeless Flight Revisited, 1997

Side one

Glory, Glory
By Art Reynolds
Recorded 17 January 1971

Glory., Glory: The Byrds. US promo 45, Columbia 1971

The second single. US promo copies have Mono on one side (for AM Radio) and Stereo on the reverse (fior FM). British and German singles are stereo with B-sides.

The Byrds were getting a bit Christian rock from Sweetheart of The Rodeo onward (I Am A Pilgrim, The Christian Life, Jesus Is Just Alright). Were they aiming for that audience or did they just like Gospel Music?

aka Lay My Burden Down. The Art Reynolds Singers recorded it in 1966 with Thelma Houston taking the lead vocal. It was a B-side too. That version co-credits Eddie Kendricks, but face it, ‘Traditional’ appears the fairest credit. I wondered why I never liked the song, then I realized it was the title track of a George Mitchell Black & White Minstrels album. I probably equated it with their blackface version of Dem Bones.

The Byrds version speeds it up and the bass part just doesn’t have the feel of the original. Keeping with astonishing female vocalists, Merry “Gimmee Shelter” Clayton sings on the chorus. The piano part is a major addition.

Terry Melcher: We were aiming to cut another ‘Jesus Is Just Alright’, but we didn’t make it. Larry Knechtel played piano on this cut but it was too fast. The whole thing was a mess.

It predates McGuinn’s conversion to evangelical Christianity in the 1970s, though David Crosby is quoted at the time of Notorious Byrd Brothers saying that McGuinn’s religious leanings bothered him.

Roger McGuinn: I don’t perform gospel music. I prayed about it, and received that I was to stay where I was when I was called. So I put a positive spin on all my songs and hopefully, with the Lord’s help, will continue to light up the darkness in a different way.
Blue Cloud Abbey Vol 9 #2, 1998

So maybe that’s why he doesn’t perform it.

Pale Blue
by Roger McGuinn

A lot of critics thought this the best song. Melodically it is, even if the lyrics would better suit Bobby ‘Roses Are Red, my love’ Vinton.

Melcher’s use of orchestration was justified here and strikingly enhanced the romantic elements in this song. However, by allowing Parsons’ harmonica breaks to remain, Melcher altered the whole effect. The juxtaposition of that most simple of instruments, the harmonica, with an elaborate string sections seems to have escaped the notice of everybody.
Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited

I Trust
by Roger McGuinn
Recorded 6 October 1970

I Trust (Everything Is Gonna Work Out Alright): The Byrds, UK single CBS PROMO A side
I Trust (Everything Is Gonna Work Out Alright): The Byrds, Nerherlands single CBS, 1971

The single gains a subtitle in brackets. It was issued ahead of the album, during the UK tour.

McGuinn had a catch phrase, taken from Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, ‘I trust it will turn out alright.’ Why anyone would want to borrow a phrase from such a book escapes me. it’s a mindless “script” like I hear what you say (but have no intention of doing anything about it). The song took six years for McGuinn to write.

The catch phrase finally makes it into a song. One wishes it were worth the wait.
2017 CD sleeve notes.

Melcher added backing singers to belt out / shriek the line ‘I Trust’ from half a mile away down the road. Clarence’s White’s distinctive lead guitar fails to save it. The mix is too busy with the bass too far forward.

The lead vocal on this is to me truly horrible and the main fault. Too nasal (even for McGuinn) with weird strangulated elongated vowels. So the singer, not the arrangement. The song itself is pedestrian with dull lyrics. Why on Earth did they release this as the single (instead of say Pale Blue) People have complained about the Battin / Fowley songs, but I’d place this as weaker than any of them. Drivel.

Tunnel of Love
by Skip Battin & Kim Fowley

Enter Kim Fowley, described in his Guardian obituary as the Sunset Strip Svengali. He wrote several songs with Skip Battin for The Byrds, and then for New Riders of The Purple Sage when Battin moved there. He was known for self-promotion and producing mainly novelty material.

Hang on! This is simply Blueberry Hill with different words, so not as good. Saxophone way back in the mix. The lyrics are a REALLY bad trip,

Oh, the water was floating with graves
Where cotton candy should be
And get this
And girls in black robes were dancing around
And touching their fingers to me


The tune turns out not be too bad. As Rogan points out, The Byrds are not to be heard. It sounds like a Battin solo effort. He sings on it.

Citizen Kane
by Skip Battin & Kim Fowley

B-side of the Glory Glory single in the US and UK.

Skip Battin: Kim wrote things like Citizen Kane incredibly quickly. It was a novelty in one sense, but also true. Kim had lived that Hollywood life and he saw a lot of that as a kid.
Quoted by Barney Hoskyns in Waiting For The Sun, 1996

Having been born in 1939, after the characters in the song were at their peak, he didn’t see that as a kid, though he picked up the ambience. Kim Fowley’s parents were actors. His dad was Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp on TV. He would have known Terry Melcher from way back.

In the period listening to the album while writing this, I have to say that the biggest earworm of all has been the chorus to Citizen Kane:

Up in Xanadu diamonds fell like rain.
Citizen Kane was king, poor Citizen Kane!

The thing is, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is a fictional version of William Randolph Hearst. But in this the others characters name-checked are real people from Golden Age Hollywood … Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, John Barrymore, Louella Parsons, Rudolph Valentino, Fatty Arbuckle and back to fiction for Frankenstein. I like the lyric.

Fat ugly fat man swam
In a red tire made of stone,

A painted lady paddled next to him
With two poodles on her lap.

The New Orleans band comes from where? It doesn’t conjure up Golden Age Hollywood to me, and as above, it was an impossible song for live performance, and truly did not fit The Byrds. I can see a more ramshackle jug band type group having fun with it and doing it better. It has potential.

Side two

I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician
by Roger McGuinn & Jacques Levy
Recorded 19 January 1971

Glory Glory / I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician: The Byrds, CBS German 45, 1971

B-side of the Glory Glory single in Germany.

Jacques Levy was both a theatre director and a clinical psychologist (a useful combination when dealing with actors). Levy approached McGuinn to work on a musical theatre piece to be entitled Gene Tryp. There were to be twenty-three songs, and it was based on Peer Gynt transposed from Norway to the US South-West. It proved abortive, and the most famous survivor was Chestnut Mare on (Untitled). Jacques Levy mounted a performance in 1992 as Just A Season: A Romance of The Old West , but in that only the songs known to have been recorded by The Byrds were included … four from (Untitled) plus two from Byrdmaniax. The Peer Gynt story is full of side plots and fantasy, so it’s impossible to guess where songs might have fitted. They continued working together until Thunderbyrd, McGuinn’s solo album in 1977. McGuinn introduced Levy to Bob Dylan, and Levy went on to collaborate on the Desire album … and get a co-writing credit with Dylan.

McGuinn talks at length about Gene Tryp on his one man shows when introducing Chestnut Mare. Too much length for a project that died. Two songs got onto this album, this one and Kathleen’s Song.

Degenerating into namby pamby innocuous mickey mouse with latent-blatant political content.
R. Metzer, Rolling Stone 19 August 1971

McGuinn’s attitude to politics was quite serious … he had insisted, “Politically I’m becoming much less apathetic …I’ve aways been somewhere left of centre … I’m curious but i’m cynical because I came out of of Mayor Daley’s Chicago … Following the blandness of McGuinn’s poliitcal humour …
Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited

I’ll take issue with all the comments linking the song to McGuinn’s political views. Rogan, as ever, is a serious biographer. Metzer is merely a wannabe Hunter S. Thompson trying to make a smartass impact for himself in Rolling Stone. (As so many did).

It was written for theatre. It’s NOT McGuinn’s view, but the character’s view. As far as we know, the lyrics could be Levy. Just as Roger McGuinn didn’t really want to catch a chestnut mare and give it his brand. Music journalists seem confused on the distinction.

It’s a bouncy song with a sense of humour. Again, Larry Knechtel’s piano is the instrumental highlight, with a jazzy instrumental section towards the end, finishing with a marching band. It really sounds ‘musical theatre’ … in my mind I’m already choreographing the surrounding dancers dressed as cheerleaders in stars and stripes leotards. It’s a very good musical theatre song and in now way ever is it intended to represent anyone’s views.

I’ll give the young the right to vote as soon as they mature
But spare the rod and spoil the child to help them feel secure
And if I win election day I might give you a job
I’ll sign a bill to help the poor to show I’m not a snob

Absolute Happiness
by Skip Battin and Kim Fowley

Skip Battin: It was a song abut Buddhist philosophy, We wrote it after a Buddhist meeting. Kim wasn’t involved in Buddhism, but he absorbed the idea.
Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited

The lyrics are as folows:

So long ago I promised to conscience and easily wrote a code
So the Lord and I’ll soon be back together again
Men’ll always be equal in times of bad connection
Looking up instead of down only good prevails

Mmm. Lovely bits of guitar surround it, but the sentiments are sub-Mike Love.

Green Apple Quick Step
by Gene Parsons & Clarence White
Recorded 24 January 1971

Bluegrass. Clarence White plays mandolin and guitar, his dad, Eric White plays harmonica, Gene Parsons plays banjo, Byron Berline guesting on fiddle. Parsons complained that Melcher had destroyed the beauty and subtlety of Berline’s fiddle lines.

Byron Berline: I didn’t record live with them. Terry (Melcher) wanted me to overdub three fiddle parts. That was impossible. It didn’t turn out as well as it should. The mixing was awful they put me up in a booth, way upstairs some place. I couldn’t see anybody. I had a microphone about six feet from my fiddle in order to get that big hollow echo feel. Terry Melcher is a very strange producer at times.
Quoted by Johnny Rogan in Timeless Flight Revisited.

(Is This) My Destiny
by H. Carter

This Is My Destiny: The Byrds, UK single, CBS Promo B-side of I Trust

The single shifts the title from (Is This) My Destiny to This Is MY Destiny, and H. Carte has become P. Carter. CBS UK didn’t seem consistent! In fact it should be H. Carter … Helen Carter. It was originally recorded by The Carter Sisters with Mother Maybelle in 1954. Johnny Cash and Wanda Jackson are among the many who have covered it. Clarence White brought it along having played it since his bluegrass days. He also sang it.

Roger McGuinn: You know on the next album there’s only going to be one country song. And that’s going to be Super Country, with steel guitar and all that.. It’s called My Destiny.
Melody Maker 8 May 1971

Again, Knechtel’s piano is the most prominent.

Keith Emerson: The piano intro was like the intro to a Joe Cocker tune. But I like the piano streaming along. The guitar solo didn’t happen. They seem to be on a Jesus trip- laying their burden down … because of the record player you’re using, there’s a lot of sibilance on the voice.
Reviewing singles “blind” Melody Maker 9 October 1971

Sibilance? No, that’s just Clarence White’s voice. I’m sure Emerson was listening to this B-side as well as I Trust for his review, and the piano intro refers to this side.

This nasal dirge was painful to hear on a Byrds album, resembling nothing less than a bad outtake from Sweetheart of The Rodeo.
Johnny Rogan, Timeless Flight Revisited.

Kathleen’s Song
by Roger McGuinn & Jacques Levy
Recorded during the (Untitled Sessions) 9 June 1970

The other Gene Tryp song. Really lush instrumentation is poured onto a sweet and simple lyric, with a melody which has almost a stately mock-Elizabethan air to it..

On theThe Byrds box set it says:
On Byrdmaniax it appeared as a somewhat cluttered, orchestrated cut, due to several layers of overdubs added without The Byrds’ knowledge or consent. We present it here for the first time in its original unaltered mix.

Jamaica Say You Will
by Jackson Browne

The Byrds version came out before Jackson Browne’s own version which is on 1972’s Jackson Browne album. Clarence White is lead vocalist.

Jackson Browne: I thought I was kind of writing it for this girl I knew that worked in a garden in Zuma Beach, across the street from the Pacific Ocean, and she worked in this organic food orchard, like the Garden of Eden, and she was the kind of Eden-like girl, too. When I created the fable of this girl who lived by the sea and whose father is a captain, and eventually she would be taken away and go sailing off, I wanted to hide in the relationship. I wanted to sort of have the cocoon of this relationship to just stay sort of insulated from the world. And she was ready to move out into the world and was… you know, the relationship had broken up. That’s the … reality that was going on in my life. I just think it’s odd that that’s exactly how songs come into being, but if you feel it, it’s about something
Audio Interview, 2012, at Wayback Machine online

It had multiple covers … The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Joe Cocker, Tom Rush. The Byrds played it at the Royal Albert Hall in 1971 (which was released in 2008)

Skip Battin: We had done a dynamite cut of Jamaica Say You Will which Jackson Browne played piano on, and it was not even used. He had come in and taught ius the song, and Gene, Clarence, Jackson and I laid down this beautiful track which was really hot and very tasty, but for some reason it was considered the demo.
CD 2017, quoting a 1976 interview

Clarence White imitated Jackson Browne’s phrasing carefully, but unfortunately really, really didn’t have his voice. As on My Destiny it’s nasal and thin.

CD BONUS TRACKS

Just Like A Woman
by Bob Dylan
Recorded 11 June 1970. It was an outtake from (Untitled)

Entirely disposable. If you need a cover version, you go to the Manfred Mann version. I’ve seen Mike d’Abo and Paul Jones sing it separately and together with Manfred Mann (Mike d’Abo) and The Manfreds (Paul Jones alone, and both together) If you want a different take, try Van Morrison. 1971? 1974? 2004? Any one of them. I’ve seen Van duet with Chris Farlowe on it.

The Byrds even try to imitate Dylan’s voice except it wavers. It reduces it to a dirge. One of The Byrds least successful Dylan covers. I’m not surprised they rejected it from (Untitled) but I am surprised they resurrected it as a bonus track here AND put it on The Byrds box set.

Pale Blue (Alternate Version)
by Roger McGuinn & Gene Parsons

A Different credit to the version on the main album. This is the stripped down version. Listening through, the strings added to the original are forgivable, though the folkier version may be more affecting.

I Think I’m Going To Feel Better
by Gene Clark

The song is from 1967’s Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers album. Both Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke had played on the original version. This was Gene Clark’s solo debut on leaving The Byrds so an odd one to cover. Why were they trying to do it? Gene Clark’s voice is way better than the strangulated nasal howl here (presumably Clarence White), and the backing’s better on the Gene Clark original too.

Green Apple Quick Step (Alternate Version)
by Gene Parsons & Clarence White

This continues on as an uncredited track.

COMPILATIONS

Compilations and box sets indicate the band’s own assessment of their work. The Byrds Box Set has selections on CD4 Final Approach:

Final Approach: CD 4 The Byrds box set, Columbia / Legacy UK 1990

Kathleen’s Song
Minus Terry Melcher’s overdubs
Just Like A Woman
Glory, Glory
I Trust
I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician
Green Apple Quick Step

There are three tracks on The Essential Collection 2 CD set from 2003.
Glory, Glory
Jamaica Say You Will
I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician

There are no tracks on The Best of The Byrds from 2006
There are none on The Ultimate Collection 3CD set from 2015

OVERALL

Well, after a week of re-listening. I realize that the song I played most when I originally got the LP was Citizen Kane, an unusual choice. I still like it. Pale Blue and Kathleen’s Song are pretty melodies, verging somewhat on the twee. I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician is OK.

The trouble is that doing this one was a little boring, because it’s so uniformly mediocre. I think this one is justly reviled. A two star album.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Wild Life – Wings
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:

Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

This list will grow steadily

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s