You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Like so many of his generation, Gene Clark developed an interest in folk music after hearing the Kingston Trio. It was no surprise that after graduating from Bonner Springs High School, in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1962, that the seventeen year old formed his own folk group, The Rum Runners. Little did he know that this was the start of a musical career that would span nearly thirty years.

A year later, in 1963, Gene Clark was asked to join The Surf Riders, who were an established regional folk band based in Kansas City. The group played in the Castaways Lounge which was owned by Hal Harbaum. It was during a gig on August the ‘12th’ 1963 that he was spotted by The New Christy Minstrels, and was asked to join the group.

Despite recording two albums with The New Christy Minstrels Gene Clark’s time with the group was short-lived. Having heard The Beatles, he quit the group and headed for Los Angeles. 

That was where he met fellow Beatles fan Roger McGuinn at the now famous Troubadour Club. As 1964 dawned, the pair began to assemble the folk rock band that would eventually become The Byrds.

Gene Clark was originally The Byrds’ rhythm guitarist with Roger McGuinn on lead guitar. They then recruited David Crosby who also played rhythm guitar. However, this would cause problems later. Completing the rhythm section was bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke. 

Soon, Gene Clark became the band’s principal songwriter. This would prove problematic when the band signed to Columbia Records.

They released Please Let Me Love You as their debut single on October the ‘7th’ 1964. It failed to trouble the charts. However, it wouldn’t be long until The Byrds enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.

Mr. Tambourine Man.

On the ‘20th’ of January 1965 a session was scheduled to record The Byrds’ debut single. The song that was chosen was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man with the Gene Clark composition Knew I’d Want You destined for the B-Side. However, with the group still to gel musically the only Byrd at the session was Roger McGuinn. The group’s management decided that he would take charge of the lead vocal on both songs. He would also take charge of other Bob Dylan covers and some of their best known songs. However, joining the newly appointed lead singer were members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew. Little did anyone know they were about to make musical history.

Most of the band’s debut album was recorded between January the ’20th’ and March the ‘8th.’  A final session took place on April the ’22nd’ 1965. 

On June the ’21st’ 1965 The Byrds released their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man on June the ’21st’ 1965. It was a mixture of original material and covers of modern folk songs. The Terry Melcher produced album was well received by critics upon its release, and reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and seven in the UK. However, things were about to get even better for The Byrds.

The same day as the album was released they released a cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man as the lead single. It featured Roger McGuinn’s distinctive, melodic and jangling twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. Jangle pop and folk rock melted into one on what was hailed as a groundbreaking single. It topped the US Billboard 100 and UK charts, and is regarded as a hugely influential track and one that provided a template for the folk rock genre. 

Ironically, the only Byrd to play on Mr. Tambourine Man and the B-Side I Knew I’d Want You was Roger McGuinn. By then, the group had still to gel, and producer Terry Melcher decided to use members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew for the session. 

Lighting didn’t strike twice when The Byrds released another Bob Dylan cover as their second single on June the ’14th’ 1965. It stalled at forty in the US Billboard 100 and but reached number four UK charts. However, further success was just months away for Gene Clark and Co. 

Turn! Turn! Turn!

The Byrds had wasted no time in starting work on their sophomore album with producer Terry Melcher. They entered Columbia Studios in Hollywood on June the ’28th’ 1965 to begin work on the album that eventually became Turn! Turn! Turn! 

The title-track was released as the lead single on October the ‘1st’ 1965, and again, topped the US Billboard 100. Across the Atlantic, the single stalled at twenty-six in the UK charts. This was disappointing as Turn! Turn! Turn! was a tantalising taste of the much-anticipated followup to Mr. Tambourine Man.

Four months later, on December the ‘6th’ 1965 Turn! Turn! Turn! was released to mostly plaudits and praise. Just like their debut, it featured a mixture of covers and new material. This included three Gene Clark compositions, Set You Free This Time, The World Turns All Around Her and the soul-baring If You’re Gone. These tracks were part of an album that reached seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and eleven in the UK charts. Despite a number one single, the album hadn’t fared as well as the group’s debut. 

Set You Free This Time was chosen as the second single, and released on January the ’10th’ 1966. Despite the undoubted quality of the song it stalled at seventy-nine in the US Billboard 100. A small crumb of comfort came when the B-Side It Won’t Be Wrong reached sixty-three in the US Billboard 100. By then, all wasn’t well with The Byrds.

There had been problems within the group for some time. This could be traced back to when The Byrds’ management decided that Roger McGuinn should take charge of the lead vocals on some of their best known songs, including their Bob Dylan covers. This was a disappointment for Gene Clark who had been already been relegated from rhythm guitarist to playing tambourine and harmonica. Another problem was that he disliked travelling and had a fear of flying. This must have impacted on the group’s touring schedule and meant that income from touring was being lost. However, it was the extra money Gene Clark received from songwriting royalties that caused much of the resentment amongst the other band members. Soon, things would come to a head. 

Fifth Dimension.

It was all change when work began on the group’s third album, Fifth Dimension. Producer Terry Melcher had been replaced by Allen Stanton when work began on January ‘24th’ 1965. Gene Clark sang the goal on future Byrds classic Eight Miles High and Why. He also played harmonica on Captain Soul. These three tracks would be his last contributions as a member of The Byrds.

When Fifth Dimension was released on July the ’18th’ 1966 the reviews were mixed.  The loss of the group’s principal songwriter resulted in an album that featured four cover versions and an instrumental. It lacked cohesion and wasn’t the same quality as their first two albums.  The album reached just twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-seven in the UK. This was disappointing for The Byrds who were now reduced to a quartet. However, their fortunes were about to improve.

For the lead single, Eight Miles High which chosen. It was penned by Gene Clark with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby and features the influence Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane’s saxophone playing. The influence pf India from his 1963 album Impressions can be heard on this groundbreaking and genre-melting single. Psychedelic rock and raga rock melt into one on a single that reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and twenty-four in the UK. This was as good as it got for The Byrds without Gene Clark. 

Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers.

Having left The Byrds, Gene Clark signed to Columbia Records as a solo artist.  During the summer of 1966 he recorded the majority of his debut solo album. Taking charge of production were Larry Marks and Gary Usher. On September the ’29th’ 1966 they recorded the final track Echoes. The result was an album that was very different the music he recorded with The Byrds.

 The album that became featured everything from baroque psychedelia and country to pop. It was an innovative release that was well received by critics and showcased Gene Clark’s ability as a singer and songwriter. Despite the quality of music and reviews, when it was released in baroque psychedelic Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers was a commercial failure. It didn’t help that it was released at the same time as The Byrds’ fourth  Younger Than Yesterday.  

After the commercial failure of his debut outing, Gene Clark’s solo career looked in doubt. However, after two changes in line-up of The Byrds, Gene Clark rejoin the group he had cofounded in 1964. 

The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

By then, work had already began on The Notorious Byrd Brothers with producer Gary Usher. Recording started on June the ’21st’ and Gene Clark returned in October 1967. 

The first departure was drummer Michael Clarke who left after disputes with the other band members. They weren’t happy at his playing ability. Meanwhile, he wasn’t happy with the standard of new material for the group’s fifth album. Michael Clarke decided to quit and replaced by session players Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew. However,  he wouldn’t be the last Byrd to fly the nest.

David Crosby was sacked by the band in October 1967, and Gene Clark was asked to rejoin the group. At the time, he wasn’t working on any new music so decided to rejoin The Byrds. His time with the band was short-lived.

Gene Clarke’s second tour of duty with The Byrds lasted just three weeks. During that period he played live and featured on The Notorious Byrd Brothers. However, later, the extent of Gene Clark’s involvement became the subject of debate amongst music critics and historians. It’s thought that he contributed backing vocals on Goin’ Back and  Space Odyssey. Roger McGuinn later said in an interview that Gene Clark cowrote Get To You and that the songwriting credits on the album are wrong.

After just three weeks and three concerts as a Byrd, Gene Clark left the group for a second time.  His anxieties and fear of flying was the reason for his departure. This meant that just two members of the band that started recording the album remained.

Despite the recording session being beset by tension, acrimony and the departure of three band members the result was an album that was a groundbreaking fusion of baroque pop, country, electronic music, folk rock, jazz and psychedelia. New effects and instruments were used during the recording of The Notorious Byrd Brothers which looked like being Gene Clark’s Byrds’ swansong.  

The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard and Clark.

Having left The Byrds,  Gene Clark signed to A&M and started work on a collaboration with banjo player Doug Dillard. The pair were joined in by producer Larry Marks and some top musicians. This included bassist Dave Jackson, mandolinist Don Beck, Chris Hillman of The Byrds and  Bernie Leadon who would later, join The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles. This multitalented and versatile band recorded a landmark album during 1968.

Because of Gene Clark disliked travelling and had a fear of flying he refused to tour. The only concerts the duo played were a series of concerts at the Troubadour in LA. This was the only promotion for The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard and Clark.

When the album was released in October 1968, it was a commercial failure. However, nowadays, many critics regard the album as Gene Clark’s finest album and a mini masterpiece where country rock and Americana are combined seamlessly. 

By 1968, other artists had already started to cover Gene Clark’s songs. This includes The Rose Garden who feature on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a new compilation that was recently released by Ace Records. It features twenty-one cover versions that were released between 1968 and 2020.

Among the artists that feature on the compilation are Juice Newton, Thin White Rope, Flamin’ Groovies, Roxy Music, Velvet Crush, The Flying Burrito Bros, Linda Ronstadt, Iain Matthews, The Byrds and The Baird Sisters. They’re among the twenty-one artists and groups on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a lovingly curated compilation.

It opens with You Showed Me by Echo In The Canyon with Jakob Dylan and Cat Power. This oft-covered track which was written by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn, and featured on the CD Echo In The Canyon, which was released in 2019. It’s a timeless track and a reminder if any was needed, of one of the great songwriters of his generation during one of the most productive periods of his career. 

I Knew I’d Want You by alt-rockers Thin White Rope featured on the compilation Time Between-A Tribute To The Byrds. It was released in 1989, and finds the Californian band taking the track in a new and different direction to the original.

San Francisco and the Flamin’ Groovies were inspired by groups like The Byrds, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Despite musical tastes changing with the advent of punk, the group stayed true to the music that they believed in. This meant that their music sometimes fell out fashion and wasn’t always embraced by music critics and record buyers. By 1984, the group had signed to Skydog International and released The Gold Star Tapes EP. It featured a cover of the Gene Clark composition She Don’t Care About Time. It’s a lovingly created homage to The Byrds, and a welcome addition to the compilation.

One of The Byrds’ classic tracks was Eight Miles High. It was covered by Roxy Music, and features on their 1980 album Flesh and Blood. This cover is best described as a fusion of boogie, disco, funk and lounge. It’s very different from the group’s early art rock sound, but is a reminder of their versatility and ability to innovate. 

In 1968, The Rose Garden covered Till Today on their eponymous debut album. It was released by Atco finds the folk rockers paying homage to Gene Clark on one of the finest cover version on the compilation.  

Elevator Operator featured on Velvet Crush’s 2001 compilation CD A Single Odyssey. It was released by Action Musik and finds the power pop renaissance group reinventing as they play with energy and enthusiasm.

By the time The Flying Burrito Bros recorded their eponymous third album Gram Parsons had left the cosmic country-soul pioneers and embarked upon a solo career. The album was recorded at Sunset Sound in LA by new members of the group. Producing the album were Jim Dickinson and Bob Hughes. When the album was released in 1971, one of the album’s highlights was a cover of Gene Clark’s Tried So Hard. Although it’s a toe tapping country track the vocal is wistful, ruminative and full of hurt and heartache  as he thinks aloud about how to save a failing relationship? 

On her 1970 sophomore album Silk Purse, Linda Ronstadt covered He Darked The Sun. She delivers a soul-baring vocal on this beautiful ballad seamlessly mixing power, passion and emotion.

Polly was covered by Iain Matthews for his 1974 album Journeys From Gospel Oak. It was  meant to be third albumin he released on the Vertigo label. However, they lost interest in the album and it was released by Mooncrest Records. Sadly, this album of country rock and folk rock failed commercially. One of the highlights is the Gene Clark composition Polly a heartachingly beautiful ballad.

The original lineup of The Byrds decided to reunite for what would be the group’s twelfth and final album. This was Byrds, which features Full Circle which was written by Gene Clark who takes charge of lead vocal on the album opener. Sadly, when it was released as a single it failed to chart. That’s despite being a breathtakingly beautiful track that nowadays, is a hidden gem in the folk rock pioneer’s back-catalogue.

Closing You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark is Strength Of Strings by This Mortal Coil. It’s an atmospheric interpretation from their 1986 album Filigree and Shadow where the track is taken in a new and very different direction.

Theres a total of twenty-one tracks on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a lovingly curated compilation, and another welcome addition to Ace Records’ long-running and successful Songwriter Series. There’s a mixture of tracks from familiar faces and what will be new names to some music fans. However, each and every track shares one thing in common…quality.  It’s not just the quality of the recordings, it’s the quality of the songwriting.

The songs were penned by Gene Clark, who was a musical master craftsman, who sadly passed away aged just forty-seven. Nowadays, the legendary singer-songwriter’s music is starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves. You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark is the perfect introduction to his music, and will be the start of a voyage of discovery through the music of a true musical pioneer.

You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark.

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