Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chris Hillman of the Byrds, continued


Every now and then we interview someone whose career is so packed that’s it’s difficult to summarize all the key points in one newspaper feature.

Fortunately, we have this blog, so I can tell you more about Chris Hillman, former member of the Byrds, who will perform in Nipomo on Saturday.

Here are a few highlights from our interview that didn’t make it into Thursday’s Ticket story:

* The Byrds song “So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star” wasn’t about The Monkees.

Not totally, anyway.

“They were good guys — and pretty good players,” said Chris Hillman, who co-wrote the song.

Hillman said the song was less about the band and more about the idea of creating one for TV.

“It was about the fact that Hollywood had made a weekly sitcom based on ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ which was a wonderful movie. (The sitcom) was very contrived. Maybe we shouldn’t have. It was never meant as any malicious thing.”

Ironically, Stephen Stills, whom Hillman would later perform with in Manassas, had auditioned for The Monkees but was rejected.

* Of the many artists who have covered Byrds songs through the years, Hillman likes Tom Petty’s covers the most.

“I think Tom nailed ‘So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star’ and ‘Feel a Whole Lot Better When You’re Gone,’” he said. “He did those just like we did, but just every so much better – just a little lighter.”

* On former band mates Stills and David Crosby, whom he performed with in Manassas and the Byrds, respectively: “I don’t think I could have handled both of them in one band, though, I’ll tell you right now. It would have been too much for a normal human to deal with,” he said with a laugh. “But they’re brilliant.”

* On former band mate Gram Parsons (Byrds,Flying Burrito Brothers), who was fired from the Burrito Brothers because of drug use. (Parsons later fatally overdosed): “He’d show up late or he’d show up too inebriated, stoned or whatever, to perform. So we fired him. And that’s when he went to live with Keith Richards at Keith’s house in England. But they eventually had to tell him to leave. ... Sometimes you see people and you almost expect, ‘When is this going to happen?’ It’s like with poor Gene Clark, one of the great songwriters and singers with The Byrds, who had a great career. But there are times when you go, ‘This man isn’t going to survive.’ ”

* After seeing Emmy Lou Harris perform at a small club, he introduced her to Parsons, giving Harris her big break.

* On the war in Iraq: “I’m sorry these kids are over there,” he said. “I hate kids getting killed in war and all that. I’m going, ‘Gosh, I don’t know -- we shouldn’t have gone over there. But we’re dealing with some really crazy people that don’t want us to exist as a country and don’t want Western Europe to exist. Not all followers of Islam, of course, are in that fanatical end.”

— Pat P.