Gene Clark was a founding member of The Byrds, a superb singer, one of the architects of what came to be known as Country Rock and at times a truly wonderful songwriter. But like a few other guys we’ll encounter in this blog he had his demons and tried to quiet them with booze and drugs leading to an early death. “Collected” is a 3xLP wrap-up of Clark’s work from The Byrds to the end and was very much an impulse buy.
As you’ll find out soon I recently bought an album by Monica Queen on which is a cover of Gene’s song “Why Not Your Baby” recorded in 1968 with Bluegrass Banjo player Doug Dillard during the sessions for their album “The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark”. It didn’t make it onto the album in 1968 but was released as a standalone single in 1969. I was listening to Ms Queen’s version one Sunday morning when it suddenly struck me what an incredible song it is. So I went digging online for the original and by the time I’d played through Dillard & Clark’s take twice I was almost in tears. It’s quite superb, have a listen down there.
Gene Clark wrote “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High” for The Byrds before leaving because of a combination of jealousy over the money he earned from songwriting royalties from the other members and his own fear of flying, necessary while touring in the US. His first solo album “Echoes”, made together with West Coast Country duo the Gosdin Brothers, was a mixture of Country, psychedelia and baroque pop.
The rest of the music within is broadly folk based American roots with a sprinkling of Country. It covers his time with The Byrds, solo and with Doug Dillard, reunions with former Byrds as McGuinn, Hillman and Clark and some of his later recordings with singer Carla Olson. Highlights start with the previously mentioned “Why Not Your Baby” (please have a listen below, it’s quite beautiful), of course The Byrds jangle fest “Feel A Whole Lot Better”, the gentle “For A Spanish Guitar”, the title track from his 1974 solo album “No Other” which when it wasn’t ridiculed was ignored at the time but is now seen as a classic, and a fabulous thigh-slapping run through the traditional song “In The Pines”.
Gene Clark passed away at the age of 46 from a combination of problems related to substance abuse. He was a great songwriter and but for his difficulties with travel and various substance and alcohol problems to curb those fears, who should really have a much higher profile in American music. Along with Gram Parsons and Townes van Zandt, Gene is another of the lost souls who should have done much, much more.
Why Not Your Baby - https://youtu.be/VtiXNB68XKc?si=VstJTOSJKR-Ozu2H