Byrds: Mr Spaceman

June 6, 2007

Here is a lip sync performance of The Byrds singing their UFO hymn, “Mr Spaceman” on The Smothers Brothers show, and judging by the way the band looks, it’s 1967–the year of their NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS where David Crosby had been kicked out of the band. (Funny. It is indeed David’s high harmonies on the recording you hear here.) A sultry Gene Clark, soon to put out his first album, is playing rhythm guitar. Chris Hillman, who had recently met the talented and naughty Gram Parsons, is on bass. Michael Clarke, cute and drunk, is on drums. Roger McGuinn is playing his signature 12-string Rickenbacker. I love the psychedelia of this early music video. (The sound doesn’t line up with the image here, and the print is very lo-res, so I’d love to know whether there is a hi-res master out there somewhere.)

Chord motion is interesting here. In the verses, the chords all ascend (G A D repeated 2 times each verse); and in the chorus they descend (D C Am G repeated 2 times each verse). McGuinn keeps a high G pedal on his 12-string giving the impression that a banjo is playing. I love the eccentric cadence of ( ii I supertonic, tonic) accompanying the end of the chorus “won’t you please take me along for a ride.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Wood June 6, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Great fun. By coincidence today, as a test disc for some A/V equipment I’m evaluating I selected my DVD of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Bernie Hermann’s score (complete with theremin) really works to make the movie special, and overall I can almost forgive the complete mutilation of the classic Harry Bates short story Farewell to the Master upon which the movie is said to be based.

Back to the Byrds. To this day I still get very much into flashback land when I happen to hear Eight Miles High. Actually, just thinking about it now is enough.

PK June 8, 2007 at 1:48 pm

That song has appeared in my brain at the oddest moments of the last forty years, thanks for the refresher. It is also nice, how short and concise it is. People often think singles equal three minutes, but they were often a good deal less.

Now I flash on Omaha by Moby Grape, another quick ditty.

Somehow the basic harmonic movement seems misleadingly (nyuck-nyuck) simple, when you take into account all the passing suspensions.

Roger Bourland June 9, 2007 at 9:07 am

Brad: Yeah, 8 miles High is SUCH a cool song! Still get goose bumps from it.

PK: Wasn’t this stuff called “Space Country?” Did you ever hear McGuinn’s “Candy” for the 60s movie by the same name? I think Peter Fonda was in it but not sure. NOTORIOUS BYRD BROS had a lot of Space Country in it.

PK June 9, 2007 at 11:55 am

The term “space country” only barely rings a bell. At the time, I thought of the Byrds as more of a US rip of the English Invasion, until Clarence White joined and started twisting strings. I guess I tended to differentiate folk and country, and their strumming guitars and Dylan material painted it a bit more folk to me. I remember seeing Chris Hillman with the Flying Burrito Brothers, playing at a club called Stonehenge in Ipswich, MA circa winter 70/71. Between Sneaky Pete and the wild Nudie clothing, they were definitely country (and then I think of Kind Woman by Buffalo Springfield). My date was there simply for their version of Jagger/Richards Wild Horses which they released first.

Candy!!!!! Wow. I have to see this, thanks for the tip, although it appears to be rare as hen’s teeth.

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