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The Byrds were a band active in The Sixties who were the Trope Makers for the genre of Folk Rock (alongside Simon and Garfunkel), although they experimented with different genres throughout their career such as Psychedelic Rock and Country Music.

Its core members were as follows:

  • Roger McGuinn – guitar, vocals (1964–1973)
  • Gene Clark – guitar, harmonica, tambourine, vocals (1964–1967, 1972–1973)
  • David Crosby – guitar, bass, vocals (1964–1967, 1972–1973)
  • Chris Hillman – bass, guitar, mandolin, vocals (1964–1968, 1972–1973)
  • Michael Clarke – drums (1964–1967, 1972–1973)

Additional members included:

  • Kevin Kelley - drums (1968)
  • Gram Parsons – guitar, piano, organ, vocals (1968)
  • Clarence White - guitar, mandolin, vocals (1968–1973)
  • John York – bass, vocals (1968–1969)
  • Gene Parsons – drums, vocals (1968–1972)
  • Skip Battin – bass, vocals (1969–1973)
  • John Guerin – drums (1972–1973)


The band was formed initially as a duo comprised of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark as guitarists and singers. Third guitarist David Crosby soon joined up, with drummer Michael Clarke and bassist Chris Hillman following him into the band. Thus, the "classic" Byrds lineup was born. Thanks to their manager's connections, they got signed to Columbia Records.

The Byrds' first recording was a cover of the Bob Dylan song "Mr. Tambourine Man", and established their style. McGuinn's use of Rickenbacker 12-string guitars with heavy compression resulted in a distinctive, bright sound, which was put in the service of melodic, jangly guitar riffs. Their heavy use of harmony in vocals owed an obvious debt to The Beatles - all members except Clarke would sing, Crosby inevitably providing high vocals while McGuinn and Clark would alternatively sing in unison or harmony. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was released as a single and became successful.

The single was followed by two albums, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn, which relied heavily on covers of other songs, generally by Bob Dylan or traditional folk songs, with original songs mostly contributed by Gene Clark. However, the band got bored with folk-rock and began to experiment with Psychedelic Rock on Fifth Dimension, which provided another hit with the creepy "Eight Miles High".

Clark left the band in 1966 due to his fear of flying, reducing the lineup to McGuinn, Crosby, Hillman and Clarke. The new lineup recorded the famous, bitter satire of the music industry "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n Roll Star", allegedly after being irritated by the success of The Monkees, and a new album, Younger Than Yesterday. Yesterday showcased continued experimentation with psychedelia, straight folk-rock and country (largely contributed by Hillman).

However, intra-band relations deteriorated, in particular between McGuinn, Hillman and Crosby. The former two regarded the latter as an overbearing egotist and Jerkass, a perception not reduced at all by his rambling, lengthy and incoherent speeches during the band's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. An argument during the sessions for their next album resulted in Clarke's resignation from the band in August 1967, while Crosby himself was ejected in October by McGuinn and Hillman. The turmoil somehow didn't find its way into The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which contained ethereal songs seemingly created by smashing together psychedelic rock, folk-rock, country and jazz.

McGuinn and Hillman recruited drummer Kevin Kelley and guitarist Gram Parsons as their new member. Parsons, a devotee of country music, found common ground with Hillman and managed to persuade McGuinn that their next album should be an country album. This predictably attracted They Changed It, Now It Sucks from Byrds fans and hatred from the Nashville establishment once Sweetheart of the Rodeo was released. (The album, however, has been Vindicated by History as the Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker, of Country Rock.) Parsons himself didn't last long, quitting the Byrds in the summer of 1968 in protest against a plan to tour South Africa. He was replaced at first by Clarence White, then by Gene Parsons. In turn, Hillman quit, leaving McGuinn as the only remaining original member. The Byrds continued to trudge along for a few more years with varying lineups before finally calling it a day in 1973.

Discography:

  • Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
  • Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)
  • Fifth Dimension (1966)
  • Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
  • The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)
  • Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
  • Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde (1969)
  • Ballad of Easy Rider (1969)
  • (Untitled) (1970)
  • Byrdmaniax (1971)
  • Farther Along (1971)
  • Byrds (1973)

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Breakup Breakout: David Crosby went on to form Crosby, Stills and Nash/Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
  • The Constant: Roger McGuinn was in every lineup of the band from start to finish.
  • Country Rock: On their later albums. Sweetheart of the Rodeo is considered the Trope Codifier.
  • Executive Meddling: The single version of Lay Lady Lay included an overdubbed female choir that the band didn't know about until the single had already been released. The band hated this version and when the song was included on their box set and the remaster of Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, the version without the choir was used. Whilst the original version has appeared on compilations, if the band had their way it wouldn't have done.
  • Folk Rock: Their early albums.
  • New Sound Album: Their switch to Psychedelic Rock and Country for The Notorious Byrd Brothers and country for Sweetheart Of The Rodeo onwards.
  • Revolving Door Band: It was particularly nasty after Gene Clark left. When Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde was released in 1969, Roger McGuinn was all that remained of the original quintet.
  • Wasted Song: It's the belief of many fans that the 1965 version of It's All Over Now Baby Blue was wasted, due to being intended for a single that didn't get releaed at the time. It is amongst the best examples of their chiming guitar sound.
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