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The Byrds speak on
Younger Than Yesterday
David Crosby - Byrdwatcher 1998
This ('Younger Than Yesterday') is my favorite Byrds
album of all. I loved it, I thought we did a great job.
David Crosby - Goldmine 1995
I started writing when I was hanging out with Travis Edmunson of Bud and Travis. He was my first mentor. I wandered into a club on Sunset Boulevard called the Unicorn, which was an early-early coffeehouse. I'd heard of Bud and Travis, 'cause I was kind of a folky guy who listened to Odetta, and Josh White, and the Weavers - stuff like that. Travis was really good, so I'd sit there, hawk his changes, and follow him around, carrying his guitar. The first song I ever wrote was a song called "Cross the Plains," and it was ludicrous. It's on a record someplace.
I wrote more and got a little better at it, went to Florida, and wrote some there. I don't think I wrote anything that was worth a damn until I was in the Byrds. I think the first actually passable song that I wrote was "Everybody's Been Burned." It's certainly one of the places I'm most comfortable in (the modal feeling), no question about it. The lyric ballad, odd-changes feel.
One of the fortunate things about working in the Byrds was that Roger had a very open head, and so did Chris. Gene tended to be more normalized in his musical thinking, but Roger and Christopher were wide open. They let me get away with putting "Mind Gardens" on a record! Roger was willing to take a swing at almost anything.
Chris Hillman - Richie Unterberger ca 2000
Roger McGuinn - Reveries 2001
Roger McGuinn - Planting Seeds Records Page
RM: Right, "Rock & Roll Star" was NOT about the Monkees, but the whole pop music business.
Roger McGuinn - Musicangle 2004
(On 'So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star') Well, we'd known Hugh Masakela. At that point, we had a manager named Larry Spector, and Hugh was working with Larry, too. So, we knew Hugh, he was just around, and we admired his work and got him in there
It was light-hearted, really. There was no bitterness intended, although people read that in. I guess because "Eight Miles High" had not gone where it could have, something like that. No, we weren't bitter at all. Our senses of humor were too dry.
Chris Hillman says it was (aimed at The Monkees), but I was writing it, too, and I wasn't thinking of them. I was just talking about the big turnover. We were looking through a teen magazine and there were all these pictures of people who had shown up, and then the next month there would be new ones. It was just funny to us.
We were being pushed into (a high period of creativity). It was probably something we wouldn't have done on our own. But we were very creative for a burst of time there.
That's (the guitar part on 'Have You Seen Her Face') probably one of my only six-string leads on the recording. I'm real happy with the way that came out.
We started country rock at that point ('Time Between'). And that's Clarence White playing the six-string on that one.
'Everybody's Been Burned' was just a Crosby thing.
(On backwards tracking on 'Thoughts and Words') The Beatles had done it before that. We were just playing around with their experiment/idea. I think it was Usher who did that.
We were using oscillators. It was pre-moog ... what was the year? '67? I got my first moog later that year. I got my first moog right after Monterey 'cause I saw it at the Monterey festival. Paul Beaver had one up there, and he was selling them, and I bought one. So, we just missed the moog on this one. We were using oscillators, which is basically what a moog is.
The idea to do the song ('My Back Pages') was Dickson's, ironically, even though he had been fired as our manager. I was driving up Laurel Canyon and we both had Porsches, and he pulled up next to me in his, rolled down the window and said, "Hey, Jim! You guys ought to do 'My Back Pages'- the Dylan song." So I went home and got the record and checked it out
'Don't Make Waves' me and Chris wrote that as a joke for the movie.
RM: I can't remember much about it ('Lady Friend'). I like that. It's all Crosby. He kicked us out of the studio because we weren't good enough to be on it, so we said, "Okay, David. Go for it," so he did. It's a good song. I though he did some nice vocal gymnastics on it.
I like the phasing of the orchestral piece (on 'Old John Robertson'). That was Gary Usher's idea, but I said I was into it. I thought the phasing gave it a really interesting quality. I remember we got that by using oscillators with two tape recorders, speeding one up and slowing one down. Usher didn't know how to accomplish that, so he asked the engineer and said that he wanted to get that "short-wave sound." The guy said, "Well, you take the two tape recorders and speed one up and slow it down." I was into it because of the technology aspect. I really did like the way it sounded.
The use of the chamber group in the middle was Usher's idea, also. I actually wrote the score.
I enjoyed working with Usher and it was great fun in the studio. We were kind of Beatles-influenced, I don't know if it was Revolver or Rubber Soul, but we were influenced by one of those. I think they'd released something that didn't have separations between the tracks, so I think that was the inspiration for that. It was just a real artistic expression, freedom of expression. It was a lot of fun to be able to do things that were off the wall like that.
He (Michael Clarke) was just tired of the whole thing -- the little girls weren't coming around as much any more and that was what he was in it for.
Chris Hillman - Musicangle 2004
That ('Younger Than Yesterday') was the thing where we'd made the management changeover, and the guy that was managing us was managing Hugh Masakela, and he was just starting out, and we knew him, and he was doing demo session with this gal from South Africa, and for some odd reason he asked me and Crosby to play on the demo, me on bass and David on rhythm guitar, so we went in there and it was all South African musicians. I remember the piano player's name was Cecil something ... and I think Big Black was playing congas. And I was on bass, and it was so much fun, and such an easy, free feeling and they enjoyed what we were doing, and she enjoyed what we were doing ... I have no idea what we did but it worked. And I got so excited coming out of these sessions that I wrote "Time Between" which had nothing to do, groovewise, with what I'd been doing all day, but it's really like a bluegrass tune. In fact, we recut it with the Desert Rose Band and did it better. But, initially, that's one of the songs I had Clarence come in and play guitar on. Then, Vern Gosdin did the tenor part originally and then David came in and redid it. I wasn't really the singer -- I didn't know how to sing and it was in the wrong key for me, but it's a good little song. It's interesting. It was about the gal I was with. She was English and she went home to England and it was my little ode to her. And then, 'Have You Seen Her Face' really is an outcropping directly from those Masakela sessions. It's those changes and that feel. Cecil played piano on it, and it was that choppy rhythm and those changes. I just came up with it. 'Rock and Roll Star' same thing. We all lived in Laurel Canyon in Hollywood then, and I had that beginning riff: (sings) da da da dah dah and Roger lived across the canyon and I had him come over and he added the bridge. Really, that was sort of off some Miriam Makeba changes, from her earlier albums. And so, it had that South African wink, along with Masakela playing on it. But, it's a fun song. It was sort of about the contrived putting together of the Monkees. It was just fun. It was a great track. Tom Petty did a great cut of that song. Yeah, and "Renaissance Fair" is a real good song, I really enjoyed playing that. 'Everybody's Been Burned' is one of Roger's great songs.
I don't even remember the drugs I was taking back then. It was just a creative period and I was comfortable with myself. I think I felt good because I had written some songs that worked, that lyrically were okay, and I felt really good. So, I think that the confidence factor of just knowing David and Roger at that point, having worked with them for two years, made it so comfortable that I just experimented and there wasn't any pressure and I just came up with those lines that worked real good. We just flowed. I remember we just flowed with those tracks. I don't know if some infinite process took over, because I remember when we got back together a few years ago, I was trying to do 'Everybody's Been Burned'. I could do it, but I didn't want to be too busy and I found myself playing that onstage in the shows we did back in 1988 or something and I found I was restrained a little bit on that. I didn't want to be as busy. But, those came out good.
'Lady Friend' is a great song, but David
unfortunately went back into the studio and put all the voices on and took
ours off, and he made it this mishmash crazy sounding thing that had no
personality. He ripped it of personality and loaded it up with tracks of
vocals of his own and it was awful. But it was initially a great song.
It's one of his better songs.
He put all the parts on there, and then it became this cacophony of noise. I think it was a b-side of a single, maybe it was a single.
'Old John Robertson' almost was a good song. It's a
good song, but it wasn't cut right. The groove wasn't there. In hindsight,
we should have done in acoustically. We didn't do things acoustically back
There was a real man like that, where I grew up. There's an old movie director from the twenties ... I don't know what that is (the chamber piece). That's trying to be 'Sergeant Pepper'. That's horrible.
Well, that was this movie ('Don't Make Waves') Roger and I were working on and I think David was involved and we wrote that song in five minutes, literally just whipped it out. It was a Tony Curtis movie, and oddly enough it had Sharon Tate in it, you know, who was murdered later by the Manson family. That was our first experience doing something like that and it ended up, we made no money and somebody else came in and did all the music. Awful music, bad surf music.
(The movie) is one of these goofy sixties comedies. I don't know. They have the master, so bang, it's on the CD for historical purposes, I guess.
(Of producers) I think Dickson might have brought the most artistically, but he was difficult to work with. He would become obsessive with us, and controlling. He had the best artistic vision of what The Byrds were. Terry Melcher was okay. Allen Stanton was nothing, he was just a fill-in guy. He was sitting there reading the newspapers while we were making the record. We did it ourselves. Gary Usher wasn't bad. I think he passed away a few years back ... But he was pretty good. He had a few new ideas and he tried things. He would take chances, so I have to say he was really, really good at that point.
He was good, he did the 'Sweetheart Of the Rodeo' project, and he took a lot of risks.
He (Gary Usher) was the one that had Roy Halee involved. All in all, I'd go on record saying Gary was probably the best one we worked with. Jim had the artistic vision, but he was hard to work with. He'd get into battles and start hating one of us. It was real uncomfortable.
David Crosby - Musicangle 2004
That's ('Renaissance Fair') a tough one. How did I do that? Back that far, I think that one was likely to have been in regular tuning. Is it in A minor? Yeah, I think it was A minor 7, and I think it was in regular tuning. When I was in the Byrds, the furthest I'd gone was just dropped D. I hadn't really started to experiment until just about the time that they threw me out.
That ('Everybody's Been Burned') one's in dropped D, and you could see right away that I was a slightly demented child. Yeah, I haven't played that in a long time. I remember the chords to -Everybody's Been Burned,- that's for sure.
It's a frustrating thing for me. I thought that the Byrds, that we did, for that time anyway, some very unusual stuff. Some very pretty stuff. But, man, this is really frustrating. I feel that with McGuinn still here and still as good as he is, and with Christopher (Hillman) still here and still good and with me being still here and still good that we could be doing it.
It's a very deep frustration to me because Roger doesn't want to do it. And, I don't know why -- he did it with everybody else in the world. But, either he or his wife, must have some sort of enormous grudge. I'm not sure.
Well we knew what we wanted to do and by that time ('Younger Than Yesterday') we'd gotten pretty good at it. I didn't know we did it that fast. That's probably the best record. I remember sitting up at Hillman's house looking out over Los Angeles, um chemically enhanced and listening to the thing and thinking 'goddamn' you know? I was really knocked out by that. I thought it was an excellent piece of work.
I thought he (Chris Hillman) did really well. He is still my best friend out of the group. He's a very nice guy, a very funny guy and a very decent guy.
My happiest thing about it ('So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star') is the answer back harmonies and I really loved getting Hughie Masekela on there- he's a friend of mine and that was my idea and I thought it came off great because he had such an attitude and you can feel it in the horn. It was right for him to play that. Not the moody kind of thing Miles plays- he's an African- South African music is happy shit.
David Crosby - CS&N Biography 1984
Everybody's Been Burned was most characteristic of what was to become my style. Pretty changes, an unusual feel and flavour - plus good words.
Roger McGuinn - CD Liner Notes 1996
David Crosby - CD Liner Notes 1996
Christopher did a real good job on that (Everybody's Been Burned), I was really pleased with it.
Roger McGuinn - Mojo Magazine Special 2007
I was driving my Porsche up La Ciniega, and Jim Dickson, our former producer and manager, pulled up in his Porsche, and signalled for me to roll my window down. -Hey. You ought to record Dylan's 'My Back Pages'. I said, OK. Thanks. It's a very insightful song about that thing when you think you're so knowledgeable when you're young. And then when you get a little older you realise what you didn't know.
Chris Hillman - Event Guide 2005
David Crosby and I had done these sessions for Hugh Masekela. We had the same manager, and we worked with all these South African musicians. I don't know why Hugh even called us in. David played guitar and I played bass, but the rest of them were real good players, jazz players. We couldn't even read a note of music, but we were working for this lady Letta Mbulu a jazz singer. It was an epiphany in my life. I went home after these sessions and started writing songs. Didn't have anything to do with what I'd been doing in the sessions, but on the second or third day I wrote Rock'n'Roll Star, and had Roger (McGuinn) come over and help me write it. Roger put in the bridge. The first part is something I absorbed from that session. Roger probably won't back me up on my version of this, but that song was just a slight jab at the Monkees. Not at the people, but at the process of taking a contrived thing and making a watered-down version of A Hard Day's Night on a weekly sitcom. It cheapened the music. It was never a jab at the four guys, in fact Mike Nesmith was a great songwriter and singer.