GeneClark Gosdin 1500 orange

the echoes in your head continue showing (gene clark part 1)

THE BYRDS’ FLIGHT TO ENGLAND in Au­gust 1965 began a dis­as­trous tour for the group. For­tu­nately, it wasn’t an en­tirely wasted trip, as it in­spired Gene Clark to pen some psychedelically-enhanced po­etry. Set to a loose melody strummed on an acoustic guitar, this be­came the basis for Eight Miles High. With as­sis­tance from fellow Byrds David Crosby on the lyrics and Jim McGuinn on the com­plex vocal and in­stru­mental arrange­ments, it was re­leased as a single in March 1966.

As many ex­pected this ex­tra­or­di­nary record to top the charts, it was a com­mer­cial dis­ap­point­ment when it pooped out be­fore reaching the Top 10. Nonethe­less, it was the first man­i­festly psy­che­delic single to be a major hit and also one of the first rock record­ings to openly flirt with modern jazz. It was also the last Byrds single to fea­ture Clark, who flew the coop shortly after its re­lease.

The Byrds would be back a few months later with an­other daring single: Rather than hip Coltrane-like jazz, 5D (Fifth Di­men­sion) was based on an old sea chantey! McGuinn’s glo­rious take on the psy­che­delic ex­pe­ri­ence may also have been an ar­ro­gant “Up yours!” to the radio sta­tions that al­legedly banned Eight Miles High for “en­cour­aging” drug use.

 

“I was doing a Gene Clark solo album, and that’s the way it would have fin­ished if I had stuck around to the end.”

 

Un­for­tu­nately, 5D was an even bigger com­mer­cial dis­aster, barely breaking into the na­tional Top 40 in its short run on the charts. While “Eight Miles High” would be­come a leg­endary record and a stan­dard on oldies and pro­gres­sive radio sta­tions, 5D has been for­gotten by most people. Nonethe­less, it is also an im­por­tant part of the de­vel­op­ment of psy­che­delic pop music in 1966 and de­serves more at­ten­tion from fans and his­to­rians.

The pop music world would not hear from Gene Clark again until the end of the year when he re­leased Echoes. It is a lovely record, an in­ter­esting at­tempt at was called Baroque rock at the time (a term that briefly made sense but has been di­luted into mean­ing­less­ness with time). Un­for­tu­nately, few of us heard the record on the radio in 1966 as Echoes failed to reach the na­tional Top 100.

That radio sta­tion pro­gram­mers and record buyers ig­nored so fine a record in 1966 should have served as an in­di­cator of the re­cep­tion that Clark’s album would re­ceive when it was re­leased a few months later.

This ar­ticle was orig­i­nally pub­lished as “Gene Clark’s First Record Echoed Bob Dylan” on my Tell It Like It Was on Medium (July 4, 2019.). The ver­sion here has been slightly rewritten and ex­panded.

 

GeneClark Gosdins MoV

GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS (Co­lumbia CL- 2618, mono, and CS-9418, stereo) was re­leased in early 1967 to little fan­fare, less air­play, and fewer sales It was ig­nored by critics and his­to­rians for during Clark’s life but has risen in stature since his death and is now con­sid­ered a minor gem. 

Tried so hard

During the last week of Au­gust 1966, Gene Clark began recording his first solo album. Co­lumbia staff pro­ducer Larry Marks was as­signed to work on the album as Gene ap­par­ently did not want to work with former Byrds pro­ducer Terry Melcher. The Byrds had broken with Melcher while Clark was still with the group over an undis­closed rift be­tween the band and the pro­ducer. 

The mu­si­cians that worked with Clark were the Byrds’ rhythm sec­tion, Michael Clarke on drums and Chris Hillman on bass, with Bill Rhine­hart from Clark’s cur­rent band on lead guitar. Larry Marks brought in Los An­geles stal­warts Glen Camp­bell and Jerry Kole on gui­tars and Leon Rus­sell on key­boards.

By the end of Au­gust, half the album was com­plete with the basic tracks in the can for six tracks: Couldn’t Be­lieve Her, Is Yours, Is Mine, Keep On Pushin’, Tried So Hard, I Think I’m Gonna Feel Better, and I Found You.

Ac­cording to Larry Marks, “Gene was re­ally chasing the Bea­tles at that point. He was kind of thrilled to be doing his first solo album, but there was a lot of pres­sure on him.”

Everyone re­turned to the studio on Sep­tember 29 to cut a new song Gene had written, Echoes. For this and sub­se­quent ses­sions, the group was joined by Dou­glas Dil­lard on elec­tric banjo, Earl Palmer on drums, and Clarence White on lead guitar. Other sources claim that Van Dyke Parks played some key­boards while drum­mers Jim Gordon and Joel Larson also con­tributed to the album.

 

GeneClark 1966 casual

Gene Clark posing with his guitar some­time in 1966.

Elevator operator

When the ses­sions picked up in early No­vember, Larry Marks was gone. He had quit his po­si­tion with Co­lumbia and moved over to A&M Records. Co­lumbia re­placed him with Gary Usher, who was fin­ishing up pro­ducing the Byrds’ Younger Than Yes­terday album.

But things get con­fusing for the last two weeks of the Gene Clark project as Jim Dickson claims he took over the ses­sions: “I pretty much made that first solo album and Gary Usher just sort of stood there.… as far as the basic record­ings — the stuff with Chris, Michael, and Clarence, those record­ings — he just sort of sat through all of that.”

It ap­pears that Usher pro­duced two tracks from scratch: So You Say You Lost Your Baby and Needing Someone. With the seven tracks done under Marks, that means that Dickson pro­duced two of the record­ings that ap­peared on the album: El­e­vator Op­er­ator and The Same One.

Side 1
Echoes (Marks)
Think I’m Gonna Feel Better (Marks)
Tried So Hard (Marks)
Is Yours Is Mine (Marks)
Keep on Pushin’ (Marks)
I Found You (Marks)

Side 2
So You Say You Lost Your Baby (Usher)
El­e­vator Op­er­ator (Dickson)
The Same One (Dickson)
Couldn’t Be­lieve Her (Marks)
Needing Someone (Usher)

 

GeneClark Gosdins Col bc copy

The back cover of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS fea­tured a less-than-flattering photo of Rex and Vern but also in­cluded a list of the mu­si­cians who played on the album. This was very un­usual for the time, es­pe­cially as few of us had heard of Glen Camp­bell, Leon Rus­sell, or Clarence White.

Is yours, is mine

It was Dickson who brought the Rex and Vern Gosdin on board during the last week of recording. They were to supply backing vo­cals to the fairly dry sound that the tracks had up to that point. Vern, who arranged their vocal parts, re­mem­bered, “We had a won­derful time doing the album. Gene was ner­vous about doing his first solo album. Gene was a good fella but he was into drugs too much.”

This means that Clark orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned his first solo album as him­self singing his songs. Alone. That is the way that Larry Marks re­called it:

“The Gosdin Brothers were not in­volved in that album at all when I was there. I knew them but I was doing a Gene Clark solo album, that’s all, and that’s the way it would have fin­ished if I had stuck around to the end. Even if they had done the singing on it, which was great, it wouldn’t have been GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS. It was Gene’s album.” (John Einarson, Mr. Tam­bourine Man, page 115)

What­ever the thinking, Dickson had his way and the Gos­dins be­came an in­te­gral part of the project. Their vo­cals add a con­nec­tion to the Byrds (al­though they sound more like Don and Phil Everly that Jim McGuinn and David Crosby) and also add a bit more country to the album’s overall feel.

Fi­nally, the ex­cel­lent lead guitar throughout the album was mostly that of Glen Camp­bell; Clarence White han­dled the lead on Needing Someone, The Same One, and Tried So Hard while Bill Rine­hart did the nifty Beatles-ish playing on El­e­vator Op­er­ator.

 

GeneClark Echoes Billboard copy 2

This at­trac­tive ad­ver­tise­ment for Gene Clark’s first record Echoes took up two full pages in the na­tional trade mag­a­zines Bill­board and Cash Box. two-page

Echoes

Marks needed a single and Clark came through with Echoes. While the other songs that Clark was recording were more or less straight for­ward mu­si­cally and lyri­cally, Echoes has dense, po­et­ical lyrics. It’s a lovely recording but with two fatal flaws:

1.  The or­ches­tral arrange­ment is wimpily lush, sounding like back­ground music to a sec­tion of Fan­tasia that Disney had the sense to ex­cise from the final cut of the movie.

2.  Gene was ob­vi­ously af­fected by Bob Dylan’s re­cent BLONDE ON BLONDE. In­stead of pre­senting him­self to the public as straight for­ward as pos­sible with his first solo record, Gene hid be­hind his Bob Dylan mask.

Here is a link to the 1966 ver­sion of Echoes; below are the lyrics so that you can read along while lis­tening:

On the streets, you look again
at the places you have been
or the mo­ments that you thought,
“Where am I going?”
Though the walls are like the dead,
they re­flect the things you’ve said,
and the echoes in your head con­tinue showing.
Near the cas­tles you can build,
out of dreams you have ful­filled,
won’t keep out all of the ill wind that is blowing.
And you look still for a trace
of an opening in a place
where you find the life that you were used to knowing.

You can walk out in the night
and be sure that it’s all right
to ex­ag­gerate the world that’s only being.
You can watch Regina dance
through the crystal panes of glass,
yet you know that there’s so much that she’s not seeing.
Still, you hold one pre­cious thought,
after all this time you’ve sought,
that she might be just pro­tecting what she longs for.
And her eyes are veiled with black,
’cause she claims she can’t look back
*
at the love she wanted so but says is no more.

The lights go on, com­mence the cold,
as your senses will be sold
to the parrot-watchers mim­ic­king no reason.
To pre­tend that what they are from the fact com­pletely far,
while the truth may be be­trayal, lies, and treason.
Build their towers in the sand,
walk the roads at their com­mand
**
while the kingdom is the in­no­cence they’re stealing.
And in­fec­tion easily spreads
through the searching, twisted heads,
as they team up to tear down each other.s feeling.

*   The lyrics printed on the 2-page ad in Bill­board have this line as “’cause she plays she can’t look back.”

** The lyrics printed on the 2-page ad in Bill­board have this line as “don the robes at their com­mand.”

I hear both de­pending on which set of lyrics I looked at most re­cently. Ei­ther way is fine as they make as little ra­tional sense as most of the rest of the im­pres­sion­istic lyrics. (Thanks to Clarkophile’s tweet for pointing this out to me.)

 

GeneClark Echoes PS a 600

Keep on pushin’

By late 1966, I had been an avid Byrds-watcher for al­most eigh­teen months. I was also an in­vet­erate AM radio lis­tener who picked up a copy of the WARM radio (“the Mighty 590”) Top 40 that was dis­trib­uted at record stores around the area.

But I never heard Echoes played on ei­ther WARM or WILK radio in north­eastern Penn­syl­vania. My sta­tions were not alone in ig­noring the Clark record and Echoes didn’t even crack the Top 100 of any of the na­tional charts.

But should it have been a hit?

Prob­ably not.

There are sev­eral rea­sons why Echoes wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly savvy se­lec­tion as Clark’s first record:

  The dense lyrics did not make for good AM radio lis­tening.
  The mood of the recording is in­tro­spec­tive and brooding, two ad­jec­tives we don’t nor­mally as­so­ciate with hit records.
  The pace of the record is so slow it’s al­most pon­derous.
  Clark simply reads his lines: There are no hooks to catch the listener’s at­ten­tion.
  The or­ches­tral arrange­ment doesn’t jibe and gives the record a pre­ten­tious feel.

Echoes seems to have been con­ceived in a dif­ferent uni­verse than the rest of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS. The only other record­ings that Clark made in the post-Byrds ’60s that it re­sem­bles are the two sides of an un­re­leased 1967 single, The French Girl and Only Colombe.

In 1972, Co­lumbia re­leased COLLECTORS ITEM – THE EARLY L.A. SESSIONS. They al­lowed Clark to rere­cord most of the vo­cals for his first album and remix the tracks. For ECHOES, in­stead of reading his lyrics like a Dylan-wannabe, he read them like Gene Clark. Here is a link to the 1972 ver­sion.

 

GeneClark SoYouSay Can 600

Early in 1967, So You Say You Lost Your Baby was is­sued com­mer­cially in Canada but to little air­play and fewer sales. It is a rather rare record in­deed. Like Echoes, the record credits Clark solely.

The same one

As Echoes was Clark’s first record, it was sup­ported by a good pro­mo­tional cam­paign. The two-page ad (above) that ap­peared in trade mag­a­zines (Bill­board, Cash Box, and Record World) in­di­cates that Co­lumbia (or some­body) be­lieved in Clark and thought that Echoes was a winner.

Co­lumbia shipped pro­mo­tional copies of Echoes to radio sta­tions in a very at­trac­tive pic­ture sleeve (above). The sleeve in­cluded liner notes on the back:

“Gene Clark has been writing music for a long time. (He started when he was 11.) He didn’t make music his ca­reer until he joined The New Christy Min­strels. But Gene had def­i­nite ideas about what kind of music he wanted to make. After he left the Min­strels and the ‘folk’ scene, he helped form The Byrds.

“The Byrds made it big, but Gene still wasn’t happy with his mu­sical ex­pres­sion. Most of his songs were moody and thoughtful. He had to com­mu­ni­cate feel­ings and ideas on his own.

“So Gene left The Byrds. To sing the songs that are im­por­tant to him. Songs like ‘Echoes.’ Songs like ‘I Found You.’ ‘Music is a way of re­lating to a lot of people at one time,’ he says. He feels that he is re­lating now.”

In­ex­plic­ably, in April 1967, Co­lumbia shipped pro­mo­tional copies of So You Say You Lost Your Baby (Co­lumbia 4–44088) to radio sta­tions. This may have been done to plug the album or to test the wa­ters for a second single.

Around the same time, Co­lumbia is­sued THE SUPER SET, a pro­mo­tional extended-play album that sam­pled tracks from six re­cent al­bums. So You Say You Lost Your Baby was in­cluded and the album GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was fea­tured promi­nently on the pic­ture sleeve.

 

GeneClark TheSuperSet PS 800

THE SUPER SET was a seven-inch EP album that played at 45 rpm and fea­tured snip­pets of tracks from si new Co­lumbia al­bums. Re­leased in early 1967, it fea­tured Clark’s So You Say You Lost Your Baby

I think I’m gonna feel better

Re­leasing ex­cel­lent records that no one heard would prac­ti­cally de­fine Gene Clark’s solo ca­reer. But both of Gene’s pro­ducers went on to work with other artists and en­joyed a bit more fame and for­tune. Larry Marks would go on to pro­duce many fine artists, in­cluding Liza Minelli, Phil Ochs, Lee Michaels, and Emitt Rhodes.

Two al­bums he han­dled are among the defining works of country rock: THE FANTASTIC EXPEDITION OF DILLARD & CLARK and the Flying Bur­rito Brothers’ THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN.

Gary Usher would be­come one of the finest pro­ducers of the ’60s, han­dling such gems as the Byrds’ YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY, THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHER, and SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO and Chad & Jeremy’s OF CABBAGES AND KINGS and THE ARK. He would also as­sist Brian Wilson on his first at­tempts at a come­back album in 1986.

The Byrd Who Flew Alone is a doc­u­men­tary movie by Jack and Paul Kendall about Clark’s life and ca­reer. It is a film, “you fi­nally see, as well as hear, the legend in everyone’s mem­o­ries and etched for­ever in those records.” (David Fricke) A voice in the film’s trailer asks this rhetor­ical ques­tion: “How is it pos­sible for someone like that—who was so tal­ented, so good looking, such a great singer—to get into such a mess?” While Gene Clark’s life seems tailor-made for a big-budget biopic, that no one in Hol­ly­wood has picked up on him makes per­fect sense.

Fi­nally, for a very dif­ferent ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Echoes, check out the Clarkophile web­site. The writer ex­plains the lyrics in a manner that makes sense:

“The first four lines of the song pro­vide bril­liant ex­po­si­tion for the dual nar­ra­tives (past/present) to follow. One can imagine Gene’s having written these lyrics in the im­me­diate af­ter­math of his split from the Byrds. It must have been hum­bling, pos­sibly even a little hu­mil­i­ating, to walk down Sunset Strip as a former member of the Byrds. Imagine how many times people got in his face de­manding to know why he left the band.”

Hell’s Belles, he even ex­plains who Regina is, where she danced, and how Michelle Phillips might have fig­ured into the song!

Orig­inal album pro­ducer Larry Marks was doing a Gene Clark solo album and that’s the way it would have been fin­ished if he had stuck around to the end. Click To Tweet

GeneClark Gosdin 1500 UK

FEATURED IMAGE: Since most of the im­ages in this ar­ticle are ei­ther black & white, I thought I would add a little color. I cropped Clark’s face from the cover of the GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS album and played with the color tools on the GIMP photo ap­pli­ca­tion. While still some­what somber, they are in­ter­esting. I used one of them here and the other as the fea­tured image for “When Was ‘Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers’ Re­leased?

 

 

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much better link.

Nice ar­ticle Neal.