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The Byrds speak on

The Beatles

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David Crosby - Mojo, 2012

On visiting The Beatles at Abbey Road after they had finished recording Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band:

I walked in, and they were acting silly and strange and having fun, because I think they were thrilled with what they had done. They knew what they had created. They sat me down in the middle of a room on a stool, and they were laughing about it: they rolled over two of those huge, coffin-sized speakers up on either side of me, and then they played me A Day In The Life. And when they got to the end of the piano chord - man, I was dish-rag. I was floored. It took me several minutes to be able to talk after that.

On the Beatles' Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:

You couldn't help but have it change your whole world. Think about where we were coming from, man – the kind of things you expected from bands before was...you know...Paul Revere And The Raiders. It was dim. And then here was this blazing, glorious panoply of colour and sounds – it was fantastic. No-one had done an album where the songs felt so right together. They were way ahead of us. When I was a kid, we'd be standing around in some burger joint and somebody would put Day Tripper on, and I would get competive about it. I would feel we were almost nipping at their heels. But by the time they got Sgt Pepper – man, they were so far ahead of everybody ... they hadn't stretched the envelope, they’d thrown the envelope away. But it was inspiring, all I wanted to do was approach my music with the same freedom."

David Crosby - Goldmine 1995

They (The Beatles) were our heroes. They were absolutely what we thought we wanted to do. We listened to every note they played, and savored it, and rubbed it on our foreheads, and were duly affected by it. I was in Chicago, living with a British guy named Clem Floyd on Well Street, right in the middle of it all.
I was singing at Old Town North and Mother Blues. I was trying to quit smoking, and the way I figured to quit was to buy a quarter-pound of pot, which I rolled and smoked every time I wanted a cigarette. I'm not saying to try this at home, kids - but it worked. So I was in a high old state of affairs, and Clem walked in one afternoon with that first Beatles album, Meet the Beatles. He put it on, and I just didn't know what to think. It absolutely floored me- "Those are folk-music changes, but it's got rock and roll backbeat. You can't do that, but they did! Holy yikes!"
I ate it for breakfast. The Byrds never tried to imitate the Beatles, ever. We always had more ideas than we needed about how to do it our own way. I don't think anybody would say that the Byrds' stuff sounded like the Beatles' stuff. The Beatles certainly didn't think so. They told us they liked our music because it really was our music. Our own synthesis, our own mixture of the musical streams we'd been exposed to.
Yeah, (I was close with John Lennon). I guess I can say it now - 'cause nobody can give John any shit for it - but we all ate sugar cubes one time. But the only thing I ever did that really impressed John was showing him an E-modal chord with no major or minor in it. He loved that chord, immediately glommed that chord completely. It was the only time he ever gave me a real smile, and was obviously happy with me. We were just fooling around, playing guitar.
He and I had a fairly nice friendship going until one time I visited him in New York in the studio, and every time I'd ask him a question, You-Know-Who would answer it. I finally said, "Can we go out in the hall and talk or something?" And John said, "Where I go, Yoko goes." And I said, "Well, it's been great, John - see ya." It was just too frustrating. She was constantly inserting herself, constantly demanding to be seen as an equal. An equal artist, even - and she was standing next to a guy who changed the world. It pissed me off too much. I expect that happened with a lot of people.

Chris Hillman - Triste 2003

And then you know with McCartney and Lennon of course at the end, they were writing stuff themselves and they would publish it or copyright it as Lennon/McCartney, when sometimes it would just be Paul that had written the song, you know? But initially as they started out it was the two of them. And I'm sure that's happened with Jagger, and whatever.

Chris Hillman - Central Coast Magazine 2008

We also saw The Beatles first movie, A Hard Days Night, which also opened our eyes quite a bit. That's where Roger McGuinn saw George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 12-string. Roger had been playing a Gibson acoustic 12-string and when he saw Harrison, that was the guitar--and the rest, as they say, is history. So, in the literal sense, yes, we plugged our amplifiers in and by hook or crook, learned how to play to Rock and Roll. It was actually what made The Byrds unique because we didn't have a blueprint to follow.
I don't think [that] was as much [pressure] as was The Beatles acknowledging us with very high praise. They were quite taken by our version of Tambourine Man and the sound that we had. They were saying things in the press like, "Well, The Byrds are the best band in America right now," and this and that. They were very complementary to us and that had an impact.
The Beatles just totally came out of left field. I really credit them--now, you may think I'm crazy--but the Beatles were a real healing force. They came out just after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Then in 1964, all of a sudden comes this fresh, energetic, just unbelievably exciting band that had absorbed all of our American music and sort of mixed it up, and it came out in their own style. They were also all really good players ... they opened the floodgates for everybody.
Initially we (The Byrds) kept it together (as did The Beatles, who had Brian Epstein) and we had a man named Jim Dickson, who was our manager and co-producer. He kept us somewhat focused. The day we got rid of Jim was the day it started to crumble, and the day Brian Epstein died was the day The Beatles started to crumble. You see, you needed someone driving the stagecoach or it will drive you over the abyss. The only band that stuck it out and is still standing is the Rolling Stones.
You have to remember one thing about the English sound: those guys came out of post-war Britain. They grew up poor, Britain had to rebuild itself; it was a different scenario than the spoiled kids of the 1950s in America.

Chris Hillman - Portfolio Weekly 2006

A lot of bands in those days, with the exception of The Beatles, didn't play on their own records. But Tambourine Man was the only song the band didn't play on. Columbia Records was sort of hedging their bets, 'we're giving these guys a singles deal;' meaning that if the single takes off, we have the option to do an album. We played on everything else; in fact I will go on record saying we were better in the studio than we were on stage. We took sort of a lackadaisical attitude onstage but in the studio we made pretty darn good records."
Initially, of course we wanted to be like The Beatles until Jim Dickson steered us away from that and pounded it into our heads to go for substance over style, go for depth in the material. Here's a song-Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, it hasn't been put on a record, Bob just wrote it-listen to this. And everybody was a little wary of it. But McGuinn, with all due respect, put that arrangement to it.
So our manager steered us out of emulating The Beatles and trying to be some sort of second rate American Beatle band with clothing, hair and all of the accoutrements, and put us more into our own thing. It took a while, but once we started to get clear of the Bob Dylan covers, we started to develop our own style of music. We got songs like Eight Miles High, but the best known of our songs is probably Turn Turn Turn which is out of the Old Testament, written by King Solomon with music by Pete Seeger.

Roger McGuinn - Modern Guitars Magazine 2006

  Yes, we (George Harrison and I) were friends. He was very reserved. A really sweet guy, he loved his music, loved his family. Not much to say. We went to his house in Hyde Park and he was kind enough to show us around. He let me play his Rickenbacker that he played on A Hard Day's Night. Showed us around his studio and we all went out to dinner. Early on the Byrds went to see A Hard Day's Night, a kind of reconnaissance trip. And we took notes on what the Beatles were playing and bought instruments like they had. We got a Gretsch Country Gentleman and the Rick.
The sound (of The Byrds) actually was formed in New York before I flew out to California. Well, not the 12-string Rickenbacker part, but the part about mixing folk and rock. I was working as a songwriter in Bobby Darin's publishing company in the Brill Building. My job was to listen to the radio and write songs like ones that came over on the radio.
The Beatles came out about that time and I got really jazzed by the Beatles. I loved what they were doing and they were doing a lot of passing chords. Like instead of just going like G, C, D, they'd go G, Bm, Em, C, Am, to D. So, the minor and passing chords I liked and, I thought these are really folk music chord changes. I kind of got it from what they were doing, I guess because they'd been a skiffle band.
I imagined that they were more folk oriented than they really were. I thought they were probably more a folk band that could play bluegrass banjo and mandolin, but they chose to do pop music because it was more commercial.
Turned out not to be the case. But in my imagination this whole thing developed and I started mixing up old folk songs with the Beatles beat and taking them down to Greenwich Village and playing them for the people there. To the point where a guy put out a sign outside that said, "Beatle Imitations." I was kind of put off by that.

Roger McGuinn - Christian Music Today 2004

George Harrison wrote that song (If I Needed Someone) after hearing the Byrds' recording of Bells of Rhymney. He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, the Beatles' former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes the Beatles.

Roger McGuinn - Folk To Flyte 1996

If you listen to the very early Byrds recordings on, say, Preflyte, you can hear a pronounced Beatles sound. We moved away from that gradually, after getting into Dylan material. We weren't thinking of making a new musical style at the time; we were just trying to keep a beat.

Roger McGuinn - ByrdsFlyght 2000

Playing the Royal Albert Hall, and meeting the Beatles was the high point, the low came just as the Byrds were ending.

Roger McGuinn - PopMatters 2006

I guess you'd have to focus on the main points, which would be that jingle-jangle sound of the Rickenbacker electric twelve-string, the pretty harmonies, the melodies -- the folk-based melodies -- and combining the folk songs or style of folk songs with the energy of the Beatles, kind of combining the two because that had not been done prior to Mr. Tambourine Man. Now some people say it was the Animals, but that was a blues song, but (jokingly pauses), ok, anyway ... We were doing it, then exploring different territories, like country and jazz, and what they called psychedelia, which was really our jazz exploration.
The original Byrds were very much Beatles-influenced, and then we gradually got our own sound. We started mixing things together more.
[Singing in a Beatles-style accent] "Oh yeah ... oh yeah..." and those things, yeah.

Roger McGuinn - HeatBeat 2007

The blending of Folk and Rock was something that was inspired by The Beatles when I was working for Bobby Darin in New York. I was in the Brill Building in 1963 and I heard The Beatles and it inspired a combination of Folk and Rock and I went down to Greenwich Village and I started playing traditional songs with a Beatle beat and gradually when I went out to the West Coast Gene Clark came along and David Crosby and we formed The Byrds around that sound.
We were very blessed to have so much talent in one band. I don't think we really appreciated it at the time, but looking back you can see that there were really some greatly talented people, like David Crosby for his harmony singing and Gene Clark for his song writing. We had a really good band.
Well, I guess meeting The Beatles would be one of my favorite stories. When we Were in London in 1965, we were playing at a venue called "Blazes" , it was a Blues club. John and George were in the audience and after the show, we all got together and hung out. Kind of exchanged notes about how things work and Everything. John was interested in my little glasses that I wore. I wore some Rectangular sunglasses, so he liked that and started wearing little round glasses after that. And then The Beatles said that their favorite band was The Byrds. And we started exchanging things across the pond. George wrote a song called If I Needed Someone based on a lick I did on my Rickenbacker electric twelve string on the first album, I believe. And so he sent the song back via Derrick Taylor, our press officer at the time, and that's the first song on my new CD, Limited Edition. And that's the reason it's there; a tribute to George.
Well, we were friends. We saw each other now and again. We didn't see each other a lot, but we maintained a friendship over the years.

Roger McGuinn - O'Reilly 2005

Actually, the (jingle-jangle guitar) sound was already around in the early 60s. The Searchers and The Seekers were doing it on songs like Needles and Pins and Every Time You Walk in the Room. I think Harrison picked up on that and started a little bit of that sound when the Rickenbacker company gave him his first electric 12-string. The Byrds were big Beatles and Searchers and Seekers fans, so when I got the electric 12, I pursued that sound further myself. I had been playing around with Bach-like stuff at that time, too, which together with the 12-string became the basis of the intro riff to Mr. Tambourine Man. A little Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring kind of thing there.
They (The Beatles) called us their favorite band the second time they came over to America-that excited us a lot. They had come to see one of our gigs in England and we all hung out after the show. The next night I went to Paul McCartney's club in St. James and he took me out for a drive around London in his Aston Martin DB5. It was a really amazing time.

Roger McGuinn - The Hornpipe 2005

I first saw the Beatles on television in 1963, in New York. It was the clip with all the screaming girls. I loved the music! I got it right away and started playing folk songs with a Beatle beat down in Greenwich Village.
If you listen to the very early Byrds recordings on, say, Preflyte, you can hear a pronounced Beatles sound. We moved away from that gradually, after getting into Dylan material. We weren't thinking of making a new musical style at the time; we were just trying to keep a beat.

Roger McGuinn - PopMatters 2004

Back when the Byrds and the Beatles were more or less hanging out together, George had listened to the Byrds' version of The Bells Of Rhymney, the Pete Seeger song, and on it I had done the riff with the Rickenbacker going (de-de-de, de-de-de), so he took that and made the tune If I Needed Someone out of it. They had recorded it for Rubber Soul and they gave a preview copy to Derek Taylor, who was working with them in London as their press officer, and he was working for the Byrds in that capacity too. He flew back to L.A. and came to my house and said "George wants you to have a copy of this, and he wanted you to know that If I Needed Someone is based on the riff from The Bells Of Rhymney. It was kind of a cool cross-pollination in a way.

Roger McGuinn - Ear Candy 1999

I'd had my acoustic 12-string for years. The Beatles movie showed me that there was a great electric 12-string on the market.
George (Harrison) gave Derek Taylor a copy (of If I Needed Someone) and asked him to hand deliver it to us, before the release of the song, along with the explanation that he had put it together with the riff from the Bells of Rhymney.
David Crosby was out harmony man. His influences were the same as the Beatles, with a little jazz thrown in the mix.
Yes, Crosby can be heard on Sgt. Pepper.

Roger McGuinn - BBC London 2009

"It was very much like being in A Hard Day's Night, coming down the steps of our Pan Am plane the first time we were here (in England)," he chuckles as he cradles a Martin acoustic guitar in his lap.
"We met the Beatles, and the Stones, and we went out to parties with them. This wouldn't have happened in the States, where bands were much more competitive with each other." he continues.

Chris Hillman - Musicangle 2004

I loved The Beatles. I thought they were really special when they came out and Jim (Dickson) invited me down to hear the guys singing and I thought that they were really great. It was above and beyond anything I'd ever heard before, and I thought, "What an opportunity!" when they asked me.
Well, that (the bass part) was a brand new thing for me, as the other instruments were for the other guys. Everybody came from a folk music background. We all literally learned how to play together. This really made for that interesting Byrds-sound we came up with. A lot around Roger's playing, of course, but we weren't a garage rock-and-roll band. We were a bunch of kids that came out of folk music, so to speak, and we plugged it. It was interesting - I never really tackled the bass as a bass player. In some instances I would do other things, but I think Paul McCartney was a big influence.