Years: 1964 – 1973; 1989 – 1991; 2000
Styles: Classic Rock, Country Rock, Folk Rock, Garage Rock, Pop Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Michael Clarke - Congas, Drums, Percussion (in band: 1964 – 1867; 1972 – 1973; 1991)
David Crosby - 12 string acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Guitar, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1964 – 1967; 1972 – 1973; 1989 – 1991; 2000)
Chris Hillman - 12 string acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Guitar, Mandolin, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1964 – 1968; 1972 – 1973; 1989 – 1991; 2000)
Roger McGuinn - 12 string acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Banjo, Guitar, Lead guitar, Lead vocals, Moog synthesizer, Vocals (in band: 1964 – 1973; 1989 – 1891; 2000)
Gene Clark - Acoustic guitar , Harmonica, Rhythm guitar, Tambourine, Vocals (in band: 1964 –1866; 1967; 1972 – 1973;, 1991)
Kevin Kelley - Drums (in band: 1968)
Gram Parsons - Organ, Piano, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1968)
John York - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar (in band: 1968 - 1969)
Gene Parsons - Backing vocals, Banjo, Drums, Harmonica, Pedal steel guitar, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1968 – 1972)
Clarence White - Backing vocals, Lead guitar, Mandolin, Vocals (in band: 1968 – 1973)
Skip Battin - Bass Guitar, Piano, Vocals (in band: 1969 - 1973)
The Byrds, American band of the 1960s who popularized folk rock, particularly the songs of Bob Dylan, and whose changes in personnel created an extensive family tree of major country rock bands and pop supergroups. The principal members were Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, Gram Parsons, and Clarence White.
The Byrds’ debut single, a version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” went to number one in 1965, breaking the British Invasion’s year-long dominance of Top 40 airplay and record sales in the United States. They introduced Dylan’s songwriting to a new, commercially empowered, teenage pop audience and, in the process, established Los Angeles as the creative hotbed of a new, “mod,” distinctly American style of rock. The Byrds’ trademark sound—a luminous blend of 12-string electric guitar and madrigal-flavoured vocal harmonies—spiked the Appalachian folk music tradition with the rhythmic vitality of the Beatles and the sunny hedonism of southern California. On early albums, the Byrds covered Dylan, Pete Seeger, Porter Wagoner, and Stephen Foster with a jangly clarity that reflected young America’s changing mood and its fantasies of a Pacific Coast utopia.
One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn's immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band's beautiful harmonies. The material was uniformly strong, whether they were interpreting Bob Dylan (on the title cut and three other songs, including the hit "All I Really Want to Do"), Pete Seeger ("The Bells of Rhymney"), or Jackie DeShannon ("Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe"). The originals were lyrically less challenging, but equally powerful musically, especially Gene Clark's "I Knew I'd Want You," "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," and "Here Without You"; "It's No Use" showed a tougher, harder-rocking side and a guitar solo with hints of psychedelia.
The Byrds' next single was "All I Really Want to Do", another interpretation of a Dylan song. Despite the success of "Mr. Tambourine Man", the Byrds were reluctant to release another Dylan-penned single, feeling that it was too formulaic, but Columbia Records were insistent, believing that another Dylan cover would result in an instant hit for the group. The Byrds' rendition of "All I Really Want to Do" is noticeably different in structure to Dylan's original: it features an ascending melody progression in the chorus and utilizes a completely new melody for one of the song's verses, in order to turn it into a Beatlesque, minor-key bridge.
The Byrds' second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!, was only a disappointment in comparison with Mr. Tambourine Man. They couldn't maintain such a level of consistent magnificence, and the follow-up was not quite as powerful or impressive. It was still quite good, however, particularly the ringing number one title cut, a classic on par with the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single. Elsewhere, they concentrated more on original material, Gene Clark in particular offering some strong compositions with "Set You Free This Time," "The World Turns All Around Her," and "If You're Gone." A couple more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and "Satisfied Mind" was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the '60s.
On December 22, 1965, the Byrds recorded a new, self-penned composition titled "Eight Miles High" at RCA Studios in Hollywood. However, Columbia Records refused to release this version because it had been recorded at another record company's facility. As a result, the band were forced to re-record the song at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles on January 24 and 25, 1966, and it was this re-recorded version that would be released as a single and included on the group's third album. The song represented a creative leap forward for the band and is often considered the first full-blown psychedelic rock recording by critics, although other contemporaneous acts, such as Donovan and the Yardbirds, were also exploring similar musical territory. It was also pivotal in transmuting folk rock into the new musical forms of psychedelia and raga rock.
In February 1966, just prior to the release of "Eight Miles High", Gene Clark left the band. His departure was partly due to his fear of flying, which made it impossible for him to keep up with the Byrds' itinerary, and partly due to his increasing isolation within the band. Clark, who had witnessed a fatal airplane crash as a youth, had a panic attack on a plane bound for New York and as a result, he disembarked and refused to take the flight. In effect..
Although the Byrds' Fifth Dimension was wildly uneven, its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "John Riley." For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. "Eight Miles High," with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the '60s.
The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged "Mr. Spaceman" are among their best songs; "I See You" has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age. At the same time, the R&B instrumental "Captain Soul" was a throwaway, "Hey Joe" not nearly as good as the versions by the Leaves or Jimi Hendrix, and "What's Happening?!?!" the earliest example of David Crosby's disagreeably vapid hippie ethos. These weak spots keep Fifth Dimension from attaining truly classic status.
The Fifth Dimension album received a mixed critical reception upon release and was less commercially successful than its predecessors, peaking at number 24 in the U.S. and number 27 in the UK. Band biographer Bud Scoppa has remarked that with the album's lackluster chart performance, its lukewarm critical reception, and the high-profile loss of Clark from the group, the Byrds' popularity began to wane at this point and by late 1966, the group had been all but forgotten by the mainstream pop audience. Nonetheless, the band were considered forefathers of the emerging rock underground, with many of the new L.A. and San Francisco groups of the day, including Love, Jefferson Airplane, and the Buffalo Springfield, publicly naming the Byrds as a primary influence.
The band returned to the studio between November 28 and December 8, 1966 to record their fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday. With Allen Stanton having recently departed Columbia Records to work for A&M, the band chose to bring in producer Gary Usher to help guide them through the album sessions. Usher, who had a wealth of production experience and a love of innovative studio experimentation, would prove invaluable to the Byrds as they entered their most creatively adventurous phase. 
The first song to be recorded for the album was the McGuinn and Hillman-penned "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", a satirical and heavily sarcastic jibe at the manufactured nature of groups like the Monkees. The song features the trumpet playing of South African musician Hugh Masekela and as such, marks the first appearance of brass on a Byrds' recording. "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" was issued as a single in January 1967 and peaked at number 29 in America but failed to chart in the UK. Despite this relatively poor chart showing, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" has become one of the Byrds' best-known songs in the years since its initial release, inspiring cover versions by the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Patti Smith Group amongst others.
The recording sessions for the Byrds' fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, were conducted in the midst of internal turmoil that found them reduced to a duo by the time the record was completed. That wasn't evident from listening to the results, which showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies.
With assistance from producer Gary Usher, they took more chances in the studio, enhancing the spacy quality of tracks like "Natural Harmony" and Goffin & King's "Wasn't Born to Follow" with electronic phasing. Washes of Moog synthesizer formed the eerie backdrop for "Space Odyssey," and the songs were craftily and unobtrusively linked with segues and fades. But the Byrds did not bury the essential strengths of their tunes in effects: "Goin' Back" (also written by Goffin & King) was a magnificent and melodic cover with the expected tasteful 12-string guitar runs that should have been a big hit. "Tribal Gathering" has some of the band's most effervescent harmonies; "Draft Morning" is a subtle and effective reflection of the horrors of the Vietnam War; and "Old John Robertson" looks forward to the country-rock that would soon dominate their repertoire.
While the band worked on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album throughout late 1967, there was increasing tension and acrimony between the members of the group, which eventually resulted in the dismissals of Crosby and Clarke. McGuinn and Hillman became increasingly irritated by what they saw as Crosby's overbearing egotism and his attempts to dictate the band's musical direction. In addition, during the Byrds' performance at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17, 1967, Crosby gave lengthy in-between-song speeches on controversial subjects, including the JFK assassination and the benefits of giving LSD to "all the statesmen and politicians in the world", to the intense annoyance of the other band members. He further irritated his bandmates by performing with rival group Buffalo Springfield at Monterey, filling in for ex-member Neil Young. His reputation within the band deteriorated even more following the commercial failure of "Lady Friend", the first Byrds' single to feature a song penned solely by Crosby on its A-side.
Following Crosby's departure, Gene Clark briefly rejoined the band, but left just three weeks later, after again refusing to board an aircraft while on tour. There is some disagreement among biographers and band historians as to whether Clark actually participated in the recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, but there is evidence to suggest that he sang backing vocals on the songs "Goin' Back" and "Space Odyssey". Michael Clarke also returned to the band briefly, towards the end of the album sessions, before being informed by McGuinn and Hillman that he was once again an ex-member.
Now reduced to a duo, McGuinn and Hillman elected to hire new band members. Hillman's cousin Kevin Kelley was quickly recruited as the band's new drummer and the trio embarked on an early 1968 college tour in support of The Notorious Byrd Brothers. It soon became apparent, however, that recreating the band's studio recordings with a three-piece line-up wasn't going to be possible and so, McGuinn and Hillman, in a fateful decision for their future career direction, hired Gram Parsons as a keyboard player, although he quickly moved to guitar. Although Parsons and Kelley were both considered full members of the Byrds, they actually received a salary from McGuinn and Hillman, and did not sign with Columbia Records when the Byrds' recording contract was renewed on February 29, 1968.
Following his induction into the band, Gram Parsons began to assert his own musical agenda in which he intended to marry his love of country and western music with youth culture's passion for rock and, in doing so, make country music fashionable for a young audience. He found a kindred spirit in Hillman, who had played mandolin in a number of notable bluegrassbands before joining the Byrds. In addition, Hillman had also persuaded the Byrds to incorporate subtle country influences into their music in the past, beginning with the song "Satisfied Mind" on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album. Although McGuinn had some reservations about the band's proposed new direction, Parsons convinced him that a move towards country music could theoretically expand the group's declining audience. Thus, McGuinn was persuaded to change direction and abandon his original concept for the group's next album, which had been to record a history of 20th century American popular music, and instead explore country rock.
The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo was not the first important country-rock album (Gram Parsons managed that feat with the International Submarine Band's debut Safe at Home), and the Byrds were hardly strangers to country music, dipping their toes in the twangy stuff as early as their second album. But no major band had gone so deep into the sound and feeling of classic country (without parody or condescension) as the Byrds did on Sweetheart; at a time when most rock fans viewed country as a musical "L'il Abner" routine, the Byrds dared to declare that Country and Western could be hip, cool, and heartfelt.
Though Gram Parsons had joined the band as a pianist and lead guitarist, his deep love of Country and Western soon took hold, and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman followed his lead; significantly, the only two original songs on the album were both written by Parsons (the achingly beautiful "Hickory Wind" and "One Hundred Years from Now"), while on the rest of the set classic tunes by Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers, and Woody Guthrie were sandwiched between a pair of twanged-up Bob Dylan compositions. While many cite this as more of a Gram Parsons album than a Byrds set, given the strong country influence of McGuinn's and Hillman's later work, it's obvious Parsons didn't impose a style upon this band so much as he tapped into a sound that was already there, waiting to be released. If the Byrds didn't do country-rock first, they did it brilliantly, and few albums in the style are as beautiful and emotionally affecting as this.
After Gram Parsons' departure, McGuinn and Hillman decided to recruit noted session guitarist Clarence White as a full-time member of the band in late July 1968. White, who had contributed countrified guitar playing to every Byrds' album since 1967's Younger Than Yesterday, was brought in at Hillman's suggestion as someone who could handle the band's older rock repertoire and their newer country-oriented material Shortly after his induction into the band, White began to express dissatisfaction with drummer Kevin Kelley and soon persuaded McGuinn and Hillman to replace him with Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram), who White had previously played with in the country rock band Nashville West.
The McGuinn–Hillman–White–Parsons line-up was together for less than a month before Hillman quit to join Gram Parsons in forming the Flying Burrito Brothers. Hillman had become increasingly disenchanted with the Byrds since the South African débâcle, and was also frustrated by business manager Larry Spector's mishandling of the group's finances. Things came to a head on September 15, 1968, following a band performance at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, when Hillman and Spector came to blows backstage. In a fit of rage, Hillman threw down his bass in disgust and walked out of the group. Following his exit, Hillman would have a successful career both as a solo artist and with bands such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther–Hillman–Furay Band, and the Desert Rose Band. He remains active, releasing albums and touring, often with ex-Desert Rose Band member Herb Pedersen.
As the only original band member left, McGuinn elected to hire bassist John York as Hillman's replacement. York had previously been a member of the Sir Douglas Quintet and had also worked as a session musician with Johnny Rivers and the Mamas & the Papas. In October 1968, the new line-up entered Columbia Studios in Hollywood to begin recording the Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde album with producer Bob Johnston. The sessions saw the band juxtaposing their new country rock sound with more psychedelic-oriented material, giving the resulting album a stylistic split personality that was alluded to in its title. In the wake of the recent changes in band personnel, McGuinn decided that it would be too confusing for fans of the group to hear the unfamiliar voices of White, Parsons and York coming forward at this stage, and so they were relegated to backing vocals on the album. As a result, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde is unique in the Byrds' back catalogue as McGuinn sings lead on every track.
If Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde found Roger McGuinn having to re-create the Byrds after massive personnel turnovers (and not having an easy time of it), Ballad of Easy Rider was the album where the new lineup really hit its stride. Gracefully moving back and forth between serene folk-rock (the title cut, still one of McGuinn's most beautiful melodies), sure-footed rock & roll ("Jesus Is Just All Right"), heartfelt country-rock ("Oil In My Lamp" and "Tulsa County"), and even a dash of R&B (the unexpectedly funky "Fido," which even features a percussion solo), Ballad of Easy Rider sounds confident and committed where Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde often seemed tentative. The band sounds tight, self-assured, and fully in touch with the music's emotional palette, and Clarence White's guitar work is truly a pleasure to hear (if Roger McGuinn's fabled 12-string work seems to take a back seat to White's superb string bends, it is doubtful that any but the most fanatical fans would think to object). While not generally regarded as one of the group's major works, in retrospect this release stands alongside (Untitled) as the finest work of the Byrds' final period.
Just prior to the release of Ballad of Easy Rider, the Byrds underwent yet another change in personnel when bassist John York was asked to leave the band in September 1969. York had become disenchanted with his role in the Byrds and had voiced his reluctance to perform material that had been written and recorded by the group before he had joined. The rest of the band had begun to doubt his commitment and so, a consensus was reached among the other three members that York should be fired. He was replaced, at the suggestion of Parsons and White, by Skip Battin, a freelance session musician and one-time member of the duo Skip & Flip. Battin's recruitment marked the last personnel change to the group for almost three years and as a result, the McGuinn–White–Parsons–Battin line-up became the most stable and longest-lived of any configuration of the Byrds.
The two-record (Untitled) album was released by the Byrds on September 14, 1970 to positive reviews and strong sales, with many critics and fans regarding the album as a return to form for the band. Peaking at number 40 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and number 11 in the UK, the album's success continued the upward trend in the band's commercial fortunes and popularity that had begun with the release of the Ballad of Easy Rider album. The live half of (Untitled) included both new material and new renditions of previous hit singles, including "Mr. Tambourine Man", "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and a 16-minute version of "Eight Miles High", which comprised the whole of one side of the original LP release. Band biographer Johnny Rogan has suggested that the inclusion of these newly recorded live versions of older songs served to forge a spiritual and musical link between the Byrds' current line-up and the original mid-1960s incarnation of the band.
The studio recordings featured on (Untitled) mostly consisted of newly written, self-penned material, including a number of songs that had been composed by McGuinn and Broadway theatre impresario Jacques Levy for a planned country rock musical titled Gene Tryp that the pair were developing. Plans for the musical had fallen through and as a result, McGuinn decided to record some of the material originally intended for the production with the Byrds. Among the Gene Tryp songs included on (Untitled) was "Chestnut Mare", which had originally been written for a scene in which the musical's eponymous hero attempts to catch and tame a wild horse. The song was excerpted from the album and issued as a single in the U.S. on October 23, 1970, but it only managed to climb to number 121 on the Billboard chart. Nonetheless, the song went on to become a staple of FM radio programming in America during the 1970s. "Chestnut Mare" did much better in the UK, however, when it was released as a single on January 1, 1971, reaching number 19 on the UK Singles Chart and giving the Byrds their first UK Top 20 hit since their cover of Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want to Do" had peaked at number 4 in September 1965.
As legend has it, the Byrds wrapped up the basic tracks for Byrdmaniax in early 1971 and then hit the road for a concert tour, leaving producers Terry Melcher and Chris Hinshaw to polish the final mix. Melcher and Hinshaw then proceeded to add copious overdubs to what the group had set down, drowning the songs in a swampy morass of keyboards, horns, strings, and massed background singers in the misguided hope of making the album sound more "commercial" (even Clarence White's superb lead guitar often gets lost in the murk). The shame of it is that the aural gingerbread managed to spoil what might have been one of the Byrds' better albums; it's hard to imagine what Skip Battin's goofy "Citizen Kane" or Roger McGuinn's witty "I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician" were intended to sound like originally, but "I Trust" and "Kathleen's Song" are lovely if you can listen past the overproduction, and "Green Apple Quick Step" gives White and Gene Parsons plenty of room to show off their old-time country chops. Not an awful album, but Byrdmaniax is hardly the pleasure it could have been in the hands of a more tasteful production team.
One thing the Byrds had in common with most of their fans was that they weren't especially happy with the absurd overproduction that had been inflicted upon Byrdmaniax in their absence. As a response, the group quickly cut Farther Along in 1971, producing the sessions themselves and getting the album into stores a mere six months after its predecessor. It's certainly a significant improvement, but something short of a triumphant return; the band sounds a bit tired in spots, as if they were starting to run out of gas -- which quickly proved to be the case as the Byrds split up a few months after the album's release. However, Roger McGuinn and Clarence White were nothing if not professionals, and if Farther Alongdoesn't always sound inspired, it's never less than well-played, really connecting when the group can get their enthusiasm up; the tough rockin' "Tiffany Queen" and the pensive "Bugler" are the late-period Byrds at the top of their game, and "Bristol Steam Convention Blues" features some superb bluegrass picking from White. This is hardly the rousing conclusion to the Byrds' story that some fans might have hoped for, but it's a strong and well-crafted set from a band that inarguably gave it their all right up to the finish line.
Following the release of Farther Along, the Byrds continued to tour throughout 1972, but no new album or single release was forthcoming. In July of that year, Gene Parsons was fired from the group for a number of reasons, including McGuinn's growing dissatisfaction with his drumming, disagreements that he and McGuinn were having over band members' pay, and his own discontent over the band's lack of morale during this period.
Parsons was quickly replaced with L.A. session drummer John Guerin, who remained with the Byrds until January 1973, when he decided to return to studio work. Although Guerin participated in recording sessions with the band and appeared on stage with them from September 1972, he was never an official member of the Byrds and instead received a standard session musician's wage,while continuing to undertake work for other artists as an in-demand studio player. Three officially released Byrds recordings exist of the McGuinn–White–Battin–Guerin line-up: live versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Roll Over Beethoven" that were recorded for the soundtrack of the Earl Scruggs' film Banjoman, and a studio recording of "Bag Full of Money" that was included as a bonus track on the remastered reissue of Farther Along in 2000. 
Following Guerin's departure, he was temporarily replaced for live performances by session drummers Dennis Dragon and Jim Moon. The band underwent a further personnel change following a show of February 10, 1973 in Ithaca, New York, when Skip Battin was dismissed by McGuinn, who had capriciously decided that the bassist's playing abilities were no longer of a sufficient standard. McGuinn turned to ex-Byrd Chris Hillman, who at that time was a member of the band Manassas, and asked him to step in as Battin's replacement for two upcoming shows on February 23 and 24.
Hillman agreed to play both concerts for the sum of $2,000 and also brought in Manassas percussionist Joe Lala to fill the vacant spot behind the drum kit. Following a shambolic, underrehearsed performance at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey on February 24, 1973, McGuinn cancelled the band's remaining concert commitments and disbanded the touring version of the Byrds, in order to make way for a reunion of the original five-piece line-up of the band. Five months later, guitarist Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver on July 14, 1973, while he loaded guitar equipment into the back of a van after a concert appearance in Palmdale, California.
The five original members of the Byrds reunited briefly during late 1972, while McGuinn was still undertaking selected concerts with the Columbia Records version of the group. Discussions regarding a reunion between Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke had taken place as early as July 1971, around the same time as the then current line-up of the band were recording the Farther Along album.
Plans for a reunion accelerated in mid-1972, however, when the founder of Asylum Records, David Geffen, offered each of the original band members a sizable amount of money to reform and record an album for his label. The reunion actually took place in early October 1972, beginning with a rehearsal at McGuinn's house, where the group began selecting suitable material for a new album. The five original Byrds booked into Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles from October 16 until November 15, 1972, recording their first album together in seven years.
In 1972, Roger McGuinn's final version of the Byrds unceremoniously broke up, but the following year the group briefly reunited -- surprisingly enough, with the classic original lineup of McGuinn, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman. However, if most of the participants meant for this to be anything more than a one-shot get-together, you couldn't tell from listening to the resulting album; Byrds never sounds much like a Byrds album, absent McGuinn's chiming 12-string guitar and the group's striking harmonies (the Byrds' twin aural calling cards).
Much of the original material, especially David Crosby's, sounds like cast-offs from their other projects. And what sort of a Byrds album features two Neil Young covers and not a single Bob Dylan tune? In all fairness, Byrds has its moments: Gene Clark's "Full Circle" and "Changing Heart" are great songs from the group's least-appreciated member, and McGuinn's "Born to Rock 'n' Roll" is a top-notch rock anthem. But for the most part, Byrds sounds like a competent but unexciting country-rock band going through their paces, rather than the work of one of the best and most innovative American bands of the 1960s.
The negative critical reception that Byrds received in the music press resulted in the band losing faith in the idea of an ongoing series of reunions. In the years following its release, all five band members were openly critical of the album, with the general consensus being that the material included on it was weak and that the recording sessions had been rushed and ill-thought out. In addition, McGuinn and Hillman have both suggested that with the exception of Gene Clark, the songwriting members of the band were reluctant to bring their strongest compositions to the recording sessions, preferring instead to hold those songs back for their own solo projects. In the wake of the reunion, the five original Byrds quietly returned to their own careers, with the June 1973 release of McGuinn's eponymously titled solo album serving to effectively mark the end of the Byrds.
Following the reunion of 1972/1973, the Byrds remained disbanded throughout the rest of the decade. Roger McGuinn turned his attention to establishing his own career, releasing a series of solo albums between 1973 and 1977, and making a high-profile appearance with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. Chris Hillman worked as part of the Souther–Hillman–Furay Band following the Byrds reunion and released a pair of solo albums entitled Slippin' Away and Clear Sailin' in 1976 and 1977 respectively.
David Crosby returned to the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for their 1974 tour and subsequently continued to produce albums with Graham Nash. He also took part in a 1977 reunion of Crosby, Stills & Nash, which saw the group release their multi-platinum selling CSN album. Michael Clarke also found success following the Byrds reunion as the drummer for soft rock group Firefall, while Gene Clark returned to his solo career, producing the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums No Other (1974) and Two Sides to Every Story (1977).
In addition, between 1977 and 1980, McGuinn, Clark and Hillman worked on and off together as a trio, modeled after Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and, to a lesser extent, the Eagles. This supergroup made up of former Byrds was reasonably successful commercially and even managed to score a Top 40 hit with the single "Don't You Write Her Off" in March 1979. The trio toured internationally and recorded the albums McGuinn, Clark & Hillman and City. Clark departed the group in late 1979, resulting in a third and final album being billed as McGuinn-Hillman.
In the late 1980s, Gene and Michael both began touring as the Byrds, prompting a legal challenge from McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman over the rights to the band's name. As a result of this, McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman performed a series of reunion concerts as the Byrds in 1989 and 1990, and also recorded four new Byrds' songs.
On January 16, 1991, the five original members of the Byrds put aside their differences to appear together at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The ceremony honored the original line-up of Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, while later configurations of the group featuring such key personnel as Gram Parsons and Clarence White were quietly passed over. The occasion, which saw the band come together on stage to perform the songs "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)", "Mr. Tambourine Man", and "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", represented the first time that all five original Byrds had stood together since 1973. Unfortunately, it would also represent the last time that the five original members were gathered together. Clark died later that year of heart failure, and on December 19, 1993, Clarke succumbed to liver disease brought on by alcoholism. McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman remain active.
Since the band's 1960s heyday, the influence of the Byrds on successive generations of rock and pop musicians has grown steadily, with acts such as the Eagles, Big Star, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, R.E.M., the Bangles, the Smiths, and innumerable alternative rock bands of the post-punk era all exhibiting signs of their influence. Musician and author Peter Lavezzoli described the Byrds in 2007 as "one of the few bands to exert a decisive influence on the Beatles", while also noting that they helped to persuade Bob Dylan to begin recording with electric instrumentation. Lavezzoli concluded that "like it or not, terms like "folk rock," "raga rock" and "country rock" were coined for a reason: the Byrds did it first, and then kept moving, never staying in the "raga" or "country" mode for very long. This is precisely what made the Byrds such a rewarding band to follow from one record to the next."
In his book The Great Rock Discography, music researcher Martin C. Strong describes the Byrds' cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" as "a timeless slice of hypnotic, bittersweet pop" and a record that "did nothing less than change the course of pop/rock history." Author and musician Bob Stanley, writing in his 2013 book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, has called the Byrds' music "a phenomenon, a drone, genuinely hair-raising and totally American."
In his book Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in 60s Hollywood, music historian Domenic Priore attempts to sum up the band's influence by noting, "Few of The Byrds' contemporaries can claim to have made such a subversive impact on popular culture. The band had a much larger, more positive impact on the world at large than any Billboard chart position or album sales or concert attendance figure could possibly measure."
1. Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/the-Byrds
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 166 - Richie Utenberger
3. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Byrds
4. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 167 - Mark Deming
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