Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Song of the Week: First Aid Kit - Emmylou

Johanna and Klara Söderberg hail from Enskede, Sweden. In 2012 the young sisters released The Lion's Roar, their second album, on Wichita Records. The second single from that album, Emmylou, traces the love stories of Johnny Cash and June Carter as well as that of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and compares them to their own lives. The tight harmony country-esque number reached the top 25 in Norway and Sweden, but failed to make an impression here in the states. We think that's a shame.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: He Was A Friend Of Mine

For our final day of our look at The Flip-Sides of The Byrds' singles, we are going to do something a little different. Dare I say...special.

He Was A Friend Of Mine was a traditional folk song dating to the mid 1930s. On the night of John F. Kennedy's assassination, on this very date 50 years ago, Roger McGuinn rearranged the traditional folk ballad and rewrote the lyrics to make the song about the slain President. The Byrds recorded McGuinn's He Was A Friend of Mine almost two years later on November 1, 1965 and released the tribute to the fallen President on The Byrds' second LP, Turn, Turn, Turn.

Now here is the kicker. The above pictured 45rpm of He Was A Friend Of Mine was never actually released. Bazinga. Columbia Records pressed a few test pressings of the record with He Was A Friend Of Mine pressed on both sides of the disc in November of 1966 and distributed them to radio stations only in Los Angeles to see if the stations thought a JFK third anniversary tribute had any potential. Clearly the answer was "no" and Columbia pressed no more.

We at On The Flip-Side thought it appropriate to pull this out of our vaults on this, the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, and solemnly share this rather rare record for you today.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Pretty Boy Floyd, Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man

Pretty Boy Floyd
For the 14th single, Gram Parsons was now clearly exerting a massive influence in the band. But the man with the plan was Chris Hillman. Hillman was firmly ensconced as a primary songwriter in the band and it was he who began pushing the country sound and many critical personnel changes, including using Clarence White as a studio musician and bringing in Gram Parsons to replace David Crosby. Hillman gets songwriting credit for the A-Side, I Am A Pilgrim (Though we agree with the commenter below, it's a traditional song that predates the Byrds). For the Flip-Side Gram Parsons pushed the Woody Guthrie number, Pretty Boy Floyd. Because of contractual issues, Gram Parsons could not sing the lead, leaving Roger McGuinn to more than ably handle the duties. John Hartford plays banjo on the number. I'm unsure of who plays the fiddle and the mandolin. 
Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man
The only 45 from The Byrds to show Gram Parsons name as a composer didn't even feature Parsons. By the time Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man was recorded and released in January of 1969, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons had flown the coop and reunited with ex-Byrds, Michael Clarke to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. That left McGuinn to do the lead and the harmony singing. Guitar wizard Clarence White takes over lead guitar, John York was on drums and Gene Parsons picked up the pace at drums.

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Change Is Now, Artificial Energy

Change Is Now
By the time the Byrds released their 12th single, the Goffin-King composed, Going Back, on October 20, 1967, they were a band in the midst of massive change. For starters, change in personnel, as David Crosby left the band shortly after recording this single. But also a change in musical direction as the band dabbled with country, psychedelia and straight out pop -- to mixed results, I might add. The Flip-Side, Change Is Now, is our featured song and it may be the last thing Crosby recorded with the band. It's likely that Jim Gordon is sitting in on drums for Michael Clarke and Red Rhodes provides us with the nice pedal steel throughout the song.
 Artificial Energy
It took quite some time for the new-look Byrds, now with Gram Parsons replacing David Crosby on guitar and vocals and Kevin Kelly replacing Michael Clarke on drums, to release their 13th single. A full 6 months had passed since their last single. The re-feathered Byrds returned to a tried and true formula -- record a Bob Dylan song! The fabulous You Ain't Going Nowhere was recorded in Nashville and showed The Byrds' full frontal embrace of country music. For the Flip-Side the band turned to an old song recorded for the previous album, the Hillman, McGuinn, Michael Clarke composition, Artificial Energy which kicked off the tepid Notorious Byrd Brothers LP released just three months prior. It's a peppy pop number with horns and, I believe, Hillman on lead vocals.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Don't Make Waves, Old John Robertson

More on the path less traveled of Byrds singles.
Don't Make Waves
Don't Make Waves appeared on the Flip-Side of Have You Seen Her Face, released on Columbia in May of 1967. For the first time ever, bassist Chris Hillman gets writing credit on both sides of the single. Hillman is the lone composer of the excellent Have You Seen Her Face (which we wrote about almost two years ago here) and he shares credit with Roger McGuinn for the Flip-Side that we feature today. Don't blink, it goes by fast at a cozy 1:36. Apparently David Crosby thought it "a masterpiece" as you can hear at the end of the song.
Lady Friend
This is soooo hard not to share some of these A-Sides. Lady Friend, a non-lp number composed and sung by David Crosby is a real great gem with harmonies reminiscent of the best work by the Beach Boys. The Flip-Side is an odd number composed by McGuinn and Hillman called Old John Robertson.  Mcguinn takes the lead and we even get a funky little string concerto break down in the middle. All in 1:50.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Everybody's Been Burned, Renaissance Fair

Day four of our Tour de Byrds Flip-Sides in chronological order. 
Everybody's Been Burned
After a four month hiatus, The Byrds returned to producing records in January of 1967 for Columbia Records with the stellar So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star. That number was written by McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman, who gets his first song writing credit on the A-Side. The Flip-Side was, for the second straight release, a David Crosby composition. Everybody's Been Burned is another languorous number with Crosby singing lead and not a single trademarked Byrds harmony to be heard. It's really exquisite and very Un-Byrds like. 
Renaissance Fair
For the 9th single, released in March of 1967, The Byrds returned to the proven formula of putting a Bob Dylan cover on the A-Side, My Back Pages, and an original composition on the Flip-Side. David Crosby again does the heavy vocal lifting in this song he wrote with Roger McGuinn. McGuinn and Hillman lay the new sounding Byrds harmonies on thick. The goofy lyrics and hippy-dippy ethos of Renaissance Fair should make me run for the ye olde hills. But I love it, largely for the musical arrangement. Chris Hillman's bass work in particular is really something special here. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Why?, Captain Soul, What's Happening?!?!

 Day three of our spin of the Flip-Sides of The Byrds original US singles.
Why? (singe version)
Why? appeared as the Flip-Side to The Byrds 5th official single, the remarkable Eight Miles High as released on Columbia Records in March of 1966. The A-side was written by Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. McGuinn and Crosby get songwriting credit for the featured song today. This would mark the last recording before Gene Clark would take flight from the band. The song would later be reprised with a different take featuring a longer intro and no Gene Clark, for the apex of their LP work, Thoughts And Words
Captain Soul
Captain Soul is an instrumental credited to the whole band (sans Gene Clark who just left months before) and was featured as the Flip-Side to 5D (Fifth Dimension) released June of 1966. The song is a clear lift of the Allen Touissant song, Get Out Of My Life Woman which would get released by The Leaves five months later on Mira. Get Out Of My Life Woman was also recorded by Dutch garage gods, Q65. 
 What's Happening?!?!
David Crosby gets his first lead singing job on a Byrds single with What's Happening?!?!, the Flip-Side to the September 1966 release, Mr. Spaceman. David Crosby had a languid jazzy style with odd timings, chord progressions and unexpected phrasing. That style would play itself out over his long career, but here you get to hear the birth of his unique style. I love this song and the way Michael Clarke propels the number into the warped Roger McGuinn leads.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: She Don't Care About Time and It Won't Be Wrong

Back for more of The Flip-Sides of The Byrds' singles. Today we look at the Flip-Sides of the third single, Turn, Turn, Turn, and the fourth single, Set You Free This Time.

She Don't Care About Time
She Don't Care About Time was the Flip-Side of the The Byrds' third single and mega-hit, Turn, Turn, Turn, released on October 1, 1965. Gene Clark, for the third straight time, provides us with the original composition backing a cover song on the A-Side. Gene Clark, logically, takes the lead on the song as well as performing the harmonica work over the brief guitar lead. 
It Won't Be Wrong
For the fourth single, released on January 5, 1966, Gene Clark was given the A-Side with his melancholy song, Set You Free This Time, the first time an original had graced that coveted side of the record. That left Roger McGuinn to get the Flip-Side with his 1:58 composition, It Won't Be Wrong. It's an incredibly strong Flip-Side with a catchy guitar riff and some nice time changes that give the number a jazzy feel. Roger McGuinn sings the lead with Clark and Crosby harmonizing throughout.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: I Knew I'd Want You, I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better

As frequent readers of On The Flip-Side know by now, I'm a fan of Flip-Sides. That's often the place where the edgier, less pop oriented songs were relegated. And with the Byrds, particularly the early days, that's the place to where the band originals were relegated. We're going to spend the next few posts looking at the Flip-Sides of most all of the Byrds US singles discography through the 1960s. There are so many that we will double and triple up to cover them all.

We'll start today with the first two singles, both from 1965 for the titan of labels, Columbia Records.

I Knew I'd Want You
I Knew I'd Want You was the Flip-Side of the band's debut single, the brilliant cover of Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man. Roger McGuinn gets the lead on the A-Side, but here, on the Flip-Side, Gene Clark steps to the center of the mic on his own composition. The four singers of the band, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Rogert McGuinn and David Crosby were rarely ever better than on Clark's compositions. Dig the lush harmonies of McGuinn and particularly Crosby's tenor. Gene Clark didn't fly all that long with The Byrds. But his three years (and occasional returns) were incredibly important to the sound of the LA based band that rocketed to fame at the speed of sound. Gene Clark's compositions were brooding, most often slow (almost awkwardly slow) with unusual vocal phrasing and puzzling lyrics. I'm guessing that is Van Dyke Parks on the electric piano hidden way deep in the mix. 
I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better
The Gene Clark composition I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better may well be my favorite Byrds song of all time. Columbia toyed with the idea of releasing it as the A-Side of their second single, releasing it as a double sided promo on red wax in the US, before deciding to put it on The Flip-Side of another Dylan cover, All I Really Want To Do. I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better is clearly the superior of the two songs. Gene Clark again has the lead on his own composition, this time a more sprightly number with a slew of suspended chords that would become a trademark of The Byrds sound. Roger McGuinn's guitar work, from the jangly suspended chords to the lead, are just perfect. 

Vinyl Frontier

You just know the girl at 12:00 O'Clock is thinking, I wonder what is On The Flip-Side?