Appreciating Gene Clark

June 28, 2010

Gene_Clark
Like Stravinsky, every few years or so, I re-fall in love with (original member of The Byrds) Gene Clark’s music. I’m sure part of it was growing up in the 1960s and the memories associated with those years. But Gene’s gritty and intense songs and performances are emblazoned in my mind forever. Indulge me a brief flashback.

Gene Clark was one of my childhood heroes. He wrote and sang many of the Byrds early songs. Michael Stipe would never have been Michael Stipe had Gene Clark never had been Gene Clark.

Here is a Gene Clark sampler. Let’s start with the New Christy Minstrels, a very popular folk ensemble, still around today, but was a hotbed for many young artists in the early 1960s: Jackie and Gayle; Barry McGuire; The Association, and my (late) hero, Gene Clark. Here you’ll hear Gene sing the second verse, the lyrics begin with “…Step by step he traveled on…” The song is called “Follow the Drinking Gourd.”

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I’ll never forget hearing this one for the first time. I was in the barber’s chair and I got insane goose bumps. The barber asked my what was going on. I told him it was the music’s fault. This performance is a live one I’d never heard that will be fun to share here as I assume most of you have heard the original version.

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(Turn your speakers DOWN for this one, as it’s a hot recording.) And then Gene penned one of my fave tweens song “Feel a Whole Lot Better.” Here you’ll see Roger McGuinn in the granny glasses, David Crosby on rhythm guitar, Chris Hillman on bass, and Mike Clark on drums–none of them actually playing. Check out Gene’s Prince Valiant haircut.

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And then he left the Byrds because of his fear of flying (sic) and put out his first solo album Gene Clark. One of my faves from the album was “Tried So Hard.” (This is NOT the recording on the album. It appears not to be available on YouTube at this time. It is close enough to the original to hear how it goes.)

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And then the late-Clark masterpiece, “Spanish Guitar.”

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In his stint with Doug Dillard, Dillard and Clark put out their cover of Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down.”

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