GeneClark Colombe PS 1500 crop color2

why the hell isn’t gene clark in the hall of fame? (gene clark part 4)

ONCE UPON A TIME, it looked like the Byrds had a long, suc­cessful, pro­duc­tive ca­reer in front of them. In 1965, they had two #1 hits, Mr. Tam­bourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!, that ef­fec­tively de­fined the re­cently coined term folk-rock. Their two al­bums were piv­otal in the tran­si­tion of rock mu­si­cians from being pri­marily singles-oriented to being pri­marily album-oriented. The Byrds were Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Jim McGuinn.

They were pho­to­genic and “cute” enough that they made the covers and pages of teeny­bopper mag­a­zines like 16 and Tiger Beat. They were the prog­en­i­tors of a cool look and at­ti­tude as­so­ci­ated with Los An­geles that con­trasted with the earth­i­ness and ge­niality of the British bands. They were also all over tele­vi­sion, which was re­ally just catching on as a medium to ex­pose the “new music” to the masses.

Gene Clark was one of the Byrds’ two lead singers and the group’s only ac­com­plished song­writer, con­tributing one side to each of their first five sin­gles and one-third of the songs on their first two al­bums. His best-known songs are I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better and Eight Miles High. The former was prob­ably heard by more people on Tom Petty’s FULL MOON FEVER in 1989 than ever heard the Byrds’ ver­sion in the twenty-four years prior to the Petty album!

If in­flu­ence is a factor for in­duc­tion into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, then Gene Clark may be the most overqual­i­fied artist not in the Hall of Fame!

 

GeneClark Echoes pose3 1

Gene Clark posing for a photo in 1966 in­tended to pro­mote his first record, Echoes. He is wearing the same horizontally-striped tee-shirt that can be seen in other photos from this time.

A shot heard round the world

Eight Miles High was the first psy­che­delic single to be a major hit on Top 40 radio. As such, it was the “psy­che­delic shot heard round the world” (a quip from Domenic Priore that I and a thou­sand other writers wish we had said first). It also ce­mented the role of the Byrds as one of the first “se­rious” rock groups.

Un­for­tu­nately, Gene did not re­main in the flock for long: The March 23, 1966, edi­tion of the Los An­geles Times an­nounced, “The Byrds, for­merly a quintet, are now a four­some. Gene Clark has quit, but will con­tinue to write for the group.” The rea­sons given for Clark’s de­par­tures vary but fric­tion caused by Clark’s fear of flying and the other Byrds’ envy of his song­writing roy­al­ties are often cited.

He was im­me­di­ately signed as a solo artist and began plan­ning his first album. While he did not write any more songs for the Byrds, both Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman played on the ses­sions for his first studio album that Au­gust. (And that should tell you where the fric­tion laid among the “other” Byrds.)

It was the be­gin­ning of a twenty-year recording ca­reer that saw Clark pro­lif­i­cally writing and recording beau­tiful songs. But only some of them found their way onto his few if often bril­liant al­bums, which were ig­nored by all but his die-hard fans.

 

GeneClark Echoes Billboard copy 2

It has been ar­gued that Co­lumbia Records did not prop­erly pro­mote Clark’s ca­reer. This two-page spread for his first single ap­peared in the De­cember 10, 1966, is­sues of Bill­board and Cash Box. It in­di­cates that they were very in­ter­ested in Gene’s po­ten­tial in late 1966. But by the time that his first album was re­leased in early 1967, that in­terest had waned. No one has ex­plained why.

The glamor stats

In pre­vious ar­ti­cles about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I fo­cused on sev­eral artists as­so­ci­ated with the ’50s. Both the Crew-Cuts and Pat Boone were piv­otal in the process of get­ting rhythm & blues records by black artists played on white radio sta­tions. Hence they played a key role in the de­vel­op­ment of rock & roll as the music of choice of mil­lions of young record buyers, first in the US, then around the world.

For these two artists, I cited their suc­cess on the Top 40 as cre­den­tials for con­sid­er­a­tion by the Hall of Fame. I did this knowing that such suc­cess was of little im­por­tance to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, the two fac­tors that can be con­sid­ered “ob­jec­tive” for con­sid­er­a­tion for the Hall are hit records and gold records, nei­ther of which seem to matter to the nom­i­na­tors and voters.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Gene Clark and those who have never heard Gene Clark.

 

The Byrds’ Eight Miles High, written by Gene Clark, was the psy­che­delic shot heard round the world!

 

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is sim­ilar to the first and most suc­cessful Hall of Fame for major league base­ball. With a few ex­cep­tions, the Base­ball Writers of America have con­sis­tently se­lected the best among the qual­i­fied players. The BBWA base their se­lec­tions pri­marily on hard sta­tis­tics.

While it is not true that “glamor stats” like 300 wins, 500 home runs, or 3,000 hits au­to­mat­i­cally as­sure se­lec­tion, those players with those num­bers are usu­ally in the Hall be­cause to achieve those num­bers the player has usu­ally racked up other out­standing num­bers. (Other glamor stats in­clude strike­outs and ERA for pitchers and bat­ting av­erage and RBIs for po­si­tion players).

No such re­liance on any kind of stats ex­ists for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. To be in­ducted, an artist has only to have re­leased one record that re­viewers, critics, and his­to­rians be­lieve was im­por­tant or “in­flu­en­tial.” Hell, an artist doesn’t even have to have re­leased records that “normal” people bought and played and en­joyed!

For an artist like Gene Clark, who never had a hit single and whose al­bums sold mod­estly at best, I have to use the ex­cel­lence of his work and com­pare his ac­com­plish­ments with artists al­ready in the Hall who ap­pear to have sim­ilar ac­com­plish­ments along with few hits and few sales.

 

TeenSet November1968 500

Al­though Gene Clark had some ca­chet with critics as a member of the Byrds, the only mag­a­zine on the stands at the time that had critics who paid at­ten­tion to such things was Craw­daddy. The ravest re­view in the world in Craw­daddy wouldn’t sell more than a few thou­sand copies of any record by anyone. The No­vember 1966 issue of TeenSet, a higher quality teenybop mag­a­zine, did in­clude an ar­ticle that ap­peared to be part of the cam­paign for his first single “Echoes.”

The discography

In his twenty-year post-Byrds recording ca­reer (1967–1987), Gene Clark re­leased only six solo studio album. He also re­leased two al­bums with Doug Dil­lard, two with Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, and one with Carla Olson. Upon these eleven al­bums rests his claim to fame and the ar­gu­ment that he be­longs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The al­bums are listed below in chrono­log­ical order. I have given each a rating of one through five stars (✮). Here is what the stars in­di­cate:

✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮  A mas­ter­piece
✮ ✮ ✮ ✮      An ex­cep­tion­ally fine record
✮ ✮ ✮          A truly fine record
✮ ✮              A good record
✮                  A must to avoid

I awarded an extra red star () to a few ti­tles. This means that the critic in me thinks the album de­serves the lower rating but the fan in me wants just had to go and give it a higher one. The black star for TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY is for Give My Love to Marie, which may be my fa­vorite recording from the latter part of Gene’s ca­reer.

I have lifted a quote from the All Music re­viewers for each album. I do not nec­es­sarily agree with the re­viewers. With the Mem­o­ries sec­tion I want to point out that as a Byrds fan who spent an in­or­di­nate amount of time at records in the ’60s and ’70s, I rarely saw Gene Clark al­bums avail­able for sale in the reg­ular re­tail racks at the time.

 

1967

GeneClark Gosdins MoV

This lovely photo makes Gene look a wee bit more ma­ture than the readers of the teenybop mag­a­zines of the time may have pre­ferred.

Gene Clark
Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers
Co­lumbia CL-2618 (mono)
Co­lumbia CS-9418 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮

In early 1967, psy­che­delia was taking off with al­bums like Jef­ferson Airplane’s SURREALISTIC PILLOW and THE DOORS pointing things in a new di­rec­tion. De­spite Clark having written the first psy­che­delic hit single (Eight Miles High), he didn’t choose that di­rec­tion for his first album. In­stead, Gene and his band tried to fuse two of his fa­vorite sources: Bea­tles pop-rock with country & western music.

This di­rec­tion that the Air­plane and the Doors were taking did not in­clude coun­tri­fied rock music. In fact, most fans of country music were di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to fans of rock music in many things be­sides music (pol­i­tics, love, consciousness-expansion, ap­pear­ance, etc.).

Granting that country-flavored music was Gene’s forte, having Rex and Vern har­mo­nizing with Gene didn’t fit in with where it was at with rock music lovers or with country music lovers. In ef­fect, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was re­leased to a non-existent market in early 1967. That was ei­ther daring or dumb, de­pending on how ro­mantic your was your per­spec­tive.

 

Columbia SpecialProducts sticker 300

This gold sticker was af­fixed to the front cover of mil­lions of mono al­bums in 1968 after they were deleted from the Co­lumbia Records cat­alog. I found my stick­ered copy of CL-2618 for 99¢ at the Grand Opening Sale for Arlan’s in Ed­wardsville, Penn­syl­vania, in 1968.

And, as the Byrds would later find out, country music fans didn’t par­tic­u­larly care for long­hairs playing their music. So there re­ally wasn’t a ready market for Clark’s new music. We got over all that and the plea­sures of the album grew with time. It is now con­sid­ered a minor mas­ter­piece.

For this Byrds fan, this album was dis­ap­pointing upon first hearing it back in the ’60s. From the heavy­weight who wrote I Knew I’d Want You, Set You Free This Time, and Eight Miles High, the songs here seemed light­weight. Also, the in­stru­mental playing and the backing vo­cals were too laid back for my ears. (I don’t want to say they were “plod­ding,” but that did come to mind.)

Mem­o­ries: I don’t re­member ever seeing this in the reg­ular re­tail racks. I was a diehard Byrds fan and bought YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY the day it was re­leased. I also made my way through the new re­leases rit­u­ally. How could I have missed a Gene Clark album?

The first time I re­member seeing it was in 1968 when the record com­pa­nies pulled off the Great Deletion—not quite in the same league as the Per­mian Ex­tinc­tion, but close—and started dumping mil­lions of no-longer vi­able mono al­bums into the bar­gain bins of de­part­ment stores. (The cut-out bin hadn’t been in­vented yet.)

I paid 99¢ for a mono copy of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS (CL-2618). It had a with the gold Co­lumbia Spe­cial Prod­ucts “Pro­mo­tional Album” sticker in the upper right corner. I looked through tens of thou­sands of LPs in 1968–1969 and never saw a stereo copy (CS-9418). I paid $35 for the first one I found for sale in the ’80s.

All Music Mo­ment: “The album con­tains a number of fine pop-oriented tunes and stellar folk-rock/country-rock num­bers (a year be­fore the Byrds’ SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO) and es­tab­lished Clark as a major song­writer, ri­valing his old band and often coming close to the fab­ness of the Bea­tles.” (Alex Stimmel)

 

1968

GeneClark FantasticExpedition LP 600

Why A&M Records thought this cover with Doug and Gene looking like a couple of Ap­palachian greasers (and who are def­i­nitely not bog­a­rting that joint) would sell any records in 1968 is be­yond me.

Doug Dil­lard and Gene Clark
The Fan­tastic Ex­pe­di­tion of Dil­lard & Clark
A&M SP-4158 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

Gene wrote eight of the nine songs on this album and sings lead on all nine. De­spite the credits, this is ef­fec­tively Clark’s second solo album. While this album gets cited as one of the first country-rock al­bums, it is specif­i­cally a fu­sion of rock and blue­grass. Fu­ture Eagle Bernie Leadon plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the sound of this album on guitar, banjo, and backing vo­cals.

While the Gosdin Brothers album and NO OTHER are usu­ally cited as his mas­ter­piece, this and WHITE LIGHT are my faves.

Mem­o­ries: I found this album in the spe­cial bin that Joe Nar­done had added to his shop next to the counter with the cash reg­ister. Joe had re­cently started stocking pro­mo­tional copies of LPs. The al­bums were not shrink-wrapped but were un­played and cost 99¢ each. There were dozens of white label promos press­ings of FANTASTIC EXPEDITION.

I bought one, took it home, and fell in love upon first hearing. This might have been 1968 or 1969. I can’t re­call ever seeing a copy for sale in the reg­ular racks of al­bums, where it would have re­tailed for $3.99 or so.

All Music Mo­ment: “One of the first, inar­guable clas­sics of country-rock. Time has been kinder to this album than most of the genre’s founding works, and it’s a work rooted in tra­di­tion while rev­eling in freedom and new ideas and making the most of them all.” (Mark Dem­ming)

 

1969

GeneClark ThroughTheMorning LP 600

Where are the rolling pa­pers?

Doug Dil­lard and Gene Clark
Through the Morning, Through the Night
A&M SP-4203 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮

For the second outing of Dil­lard and Clark, Doug’s girl­friend Donna Wash­burn joined the band as a singer. This com­pletely changed the sound and feel of the music. Whereas the first Dil­lard & Clark album was ac­tu­ally Gene Clark’s second solo album, THROUGH THE MORNING is more of a group ef­fort. As such, it is a less than fan­tastic ex­pe­di­tion.

That said, first Clark’s Through the Morning, Through the Night and Polly, Don and Phil Everly’s So Sad, and the tra­di­tional I Bowed My Head And Cried Holy are al­most good enough to be on the first album!

THROUGH THE MORNING is to FANTASTIC EXPEDITION what BURRITO DELUXE is to THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN: a follow-up to an album so mag­nif­i­cent that it suf­fered hugely in com­par­ison. And like the Flying Bur­rito Brothers’ second album, Dil­lard & Clark’s second album has gotten better with the passing of time. For those of us who bought the records when they came out, the sense of their being bring­downs is long for­gotten.

Mem­o­ries: I went through the same process with this album as with the first Dil­lard & Clark (above). I don’t re­call ever seeing a copy for sale in the reg­ular racks. This was al­ways harder to find than FANTASTIC EXPEDITION, al­though not as de­sir­able.

All Music Mo­ment: “Dil­lard & Clark’s second outing was a dis­ap­point­ment in re­la­tion to their far more eclectic and orig­inal prior ef­fort. Taken on its own, it’s a fair, pleasant, heavily bluegrass-flavored outing with few sur­prises.” (Richie Un­ter­berger)

 

1971

GeneClark TheAmericanDreamer 600

The sound­track album for The Amer­ican Dreamer movie fea­tures two tracks by Gene Clark along with tracks by Hello People, John Man­ning, John Buck Wilkin, and others.

Movie sound­track
The Amer­ican Dreamer
Me­di­aArts 41–12 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮

Fol­lowing the world­wide suc­cess of Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper could call his own shots and so sought to make a mon­u­men­tally se­rious movie. Need­less to say, he wanted to be taken mon­u­men­tally se­ri­ously as a di­rector. This movie was titled—apparently without irony—The Last Movie.

“The premise for the 1971 film was, in­deed, a bizarre one — it was a drama about a stunt co­or­di­nator who at­tempts to stop ac­tors on the set of a Pe­ru­vian Western from killing each other for the camera. The film was crit­i­cally praised yet fi­nan­cially dis­as­trous, a toxic com­bi­na­tion that set back Hopper’s Hol­ly­wood ca­reer for well over a decade.

That same year, pho­to­jour­nalist Lawrence Schiller and actor-screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson made a film about Hopper’s cre­ative process. The di­rec­tors fol­lowed Hopper around Los An­geles and Taos, New Mexico, during post-production and ended up with The Amer­ican Dreamer, a quasi-documentary re­leased at the same time as The Last Movie at film fes­ti­vals and on col­lege cam­puses but never the­atri­cally.” (Steven HellerThe At­lantic)

Dennis Hopper dug all things Byrds and so when the pro­ducers of a doc­u­men­tary on Hopper as­sem­bled a sound­track, they used music from people Hopper knew and liked. Thus there are two new Clark com­po­si­tions on the sound­track album: Amer­ican Dreamer and Outlaw Song.

Each track is less than two min­utes in length and fea­tures Gene on acoustic guitar. They are fine if slight and would not be out of place as bonus tracks on the WHITE LIGHT album. Nonethe­less, this album was long sought after by Clark afi­cionados. (What is rarely men­tioned by anyone is that, overall, the sound­track is a pretty good album.)

Mem­o­ries: I don’t re­member seeing this album in 1971, even in the cut-out bins, and didn’t buy one until years later.

All Music Mo­ment: I could not find this album listed and re­viewed on All Music.

 

GeneClark WhiteLight 600

Fi­nally, A&M gave Clark a de­cent cover!

Gene Clark
White Light
A&M SP-4292 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

With this album, it was love at first listen for me. In 1971–1972, I used to play this for friends who tripped over to my psy­che­delic apart­ment to trip the night fan­tas­ti­cally. (I had a good stereo system, rather are in those days.) During the come­down por­tion of the trip, this record both en­gaged their at­ten­tion and soothed their some­times ragged psy­ches.

Mem­o­ries: I did find this in the reg­ular re­tail racks in 1971, al­though it was deleted quickly. It was readily avail­able as a cut-out for sev­eral years and I used to buy copies (for $2.99) as gifts for friends.

All Music Mo­ment: “Using melodies mu­tated out of country, and re­vealing that he was the orig­inal poet and ar­chi­tect of the Byrds’ sound, Clark cre­ated a wide-open set of tracks that are at once full of space, a rugged gen­tility, and are har­row­ingly in­ti­mate in places. One of the greatest singer/songwriter al­bums ever made.” (Thom Jurek)

 

1972

GeneClark EarlyLA Col 600

What rock or country-rock or even namby-pamby singer-songwriter fan would buy an album with this ghastly cover art?

Gene Clark
Collector’s Se­ries – Early L.A. Ses­sions
Co­lumbia KC-31123 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮

In 1972, Co­lumbia Records made an un­prece­dented move: They brought Gene Clark into the studio to “im­prove” his 1967 debut album GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS. As that project had lost money for Co­lumbia, it was an im­prob­able busi­ness de­ci­sion.

What made the de­ci­sion un­prece­dented was having Clark record new lead vo­cals for most of the album. Artists had recorded new ver­sions of their older hits, often for com­pi­la­tion al­bums where the artist or the record com­pany couldn’t get the rights to use the orig­inal tapes.

It was cer­tainly a novel move by Co­lumbia as Clark’s voice and style had changed in the in­ter­vening years. It was more ma­ture, more mellow. Gene’s new vo­cals stuck close to the orig­i­nals on most tracks, but the new ver­sion of “Echoes” was very dif­ferent in­deed! (And there will be sep­a­rate ar­ticle de­voted to that recording.)

Here is how the new album varied from the orig­inal ver­sion in other ways:

•  El­e­vator Op­er­ator was dropped from the album. It was prob­ably the most de­riv­a­tive and weakest track on the orig­inal album, but there re­ally was no need to drop it com­pletely.

•  An al­ter­na­tive take of Tried So Hard from 1966 was sub­sti­tuted. The al­ter­na­tive take is sim­ilar to the orig­inal but doesn’t seem to have been EQed as much as the orig­inal, so it sounds crisper, live­lier.

•  Every­thing but Tried So Hard was remixed. The backing vo­cals by Rex and Vern Gosdin were placed fur­ther back in the mix. This new mix ac­cen­tu­ates Clark’s lead vo­cals and makes the record­ings sound more like the solo album that it was sup­posed to have been.

Ap­par­ently, the point of this project was to dis­play Clark’s im­por­tance in the for­ma­tion of country-rock, which was just get­ting its head in 1972. While this was a laud­able ef­fort, ti­tling it GENE CLARK: COLLECTOR’S SERIES – EARLY L.A. SESSIONS could not have helped, as it iden­ti­fies the album as archival, not con­tem­po­rary.

Opin­ions vary on this one: While I as­sume every Gene Clark fan likes the album, some hear it as in­fe­rior to the live­lier, ear­lier (and younger) ver­sion. But there are more than a few fans who be­lieve it su­pe­rior to the orig­inal album.

These tracks were later re­leased as part of the ECHOES com­pi­la­tion.

Mem­o­ries: I also found this one in the reg­ular re­tail racks. I be­lieve it was avail­able for sev­eral years be­fore being deleted as a slow mover.

All Music Mo­ment: Oddly, there wasn’t a re­view for this album on the All Music site, so I posted this sec­tion as a User Re­view.

 

1973

Byrds Asylum 600

Unin­spired cover with an unin­spired title for an unin­spired col­lec­tion of music, all of which made four of the five Byrds look old and in the way.

The Byrds
Byrds
Asylum SD-5058 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮

While the five orig­inal Byrds had re­united in late 1970 to record two tracks in­tended as a Gene Clark single (see ROADMASTER below), this was the first Byrds record fea­turing the five orig­inal Byrds since Eight Miles High in early 1966. Recording for this album took place in Oc­tober and No­vember 1972 and its re­lease was greeted with a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion.

What a bring­down it was with only Gene Clark con­tributing any new worth­while ma­te­rial. Even five decades later, it’s Clark’s songs (es­pe­cially Full Circle and Changing Heart) that are sin­gled out. Oth­er­wise, this is a rather drab col­lec­tion and I am tempted to bump it down to two stars for the lasting dis­ap­point­ment I still feel for the whole af­fair.

Mem­o­ries: In 1973, this album could be found all over the place in reg­ular re­tail racks for $5.99. In 1974, this album could be found all over the place in cut-out bins for $2.99.

All Music Mo­ment: “For the most part, BYRDS sounds like a com­pe­tent but un­ex­citing country-rock band going through their paces, rather than the work of one of the best and most in­no­v­a­tive Amer­ican bands of the 1960s.” (Mark Deming)

 

GeneClark Roadmaster Netherlands LP 600

This what A&M in the Nether­lands thought a Gene Clark album should look like—except that the number of Gene Clark fans who rode or even dug big bikes was prob­ably mi­nus­cule. (And the third and final entry into the Mo­tor­cycle Cover Trilogy.)

Gene Clark
Road­master
A&M 87-584-IT (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

The album opens with two tracks recorded by Clark with the four other orig­inal Byrds backing him vo­cally and in­stru­men­tally. Recorded in 1970–1971, She’s the Kind of Girl and One in a Hun­dred were sup­posed to be re­leased as a single but was with­drawn, ap­par­ently due to legal tan­gles of the var­ious artists’ record com­pa­nies. These two alone make the album note­worthy and they are far from the best tracks here.

Eight of the songs were recorded in 1972 as a pro­jected follow-up to the WHITE LIGHT album, but as it also failed to sell in the U.S., is also went un­re­leased. Ar­iola is­sued the album as ROADMASTER in the Nether­lands and Ger­many, where WHITE LIGHT had been a huge crit­ical hit.

Mem­o­ries: I stum­bled over this in a cut-out bin in the mid-’70s. Im­ported al­bums were not a common sight in the U.S. in those days. They were usu­ally only found in spe­cialist record stores, of which there were pre­cious few out­side of the big cities.

All Music Mo­ment: “The man should be men­tioned in the same breath as Neil Young. ROADMASTER is one of the many rea­sons why.” (Matthew Green­wald, Matthew Green­wald)

 

1974

GeneClark NoOther LP 600x

The person who made the de­ci­sion to go with this art should be in an asylum.

Gene Clark
No Other
Asylum 7E-1016 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

I found this album a local record store that sold promo copies of al­bums for 99¢. Then it popped up in cut-out bins for $2.99. I don’t re­call ever seeing a reg­ular copy for sale for full re­tail price.

I’m saying that I can’t say, “It came and went re­ally fast,” be­cause I’m not sure it ever came. It was al­ways just gone.

It’s okay be­cause I don’t know anyone who liked it in the ’70s. I played my copy for friends, but they were as con­fused by Clark’s over-the-top music as I was. Like the Gosdin Brothers album, it took time and dis­tance to make sense. Now I wish I could lie and say I knew it was bloody mar­velous all along, be hipper than everyone else was in 1974.

But I wasn’t.

Mem­o­ries: I also found this as a white label promo with the black Elektra/Asylum pro­mo­tional sticker af­fixed to the front cover. This one did turn up in the reg­ular re­tail racks, but not for long as sales were all but non-existent. (Who would buy a rock album with this cover?)

All Music Mo­ment: “Upon its re­lease in 1974, NO OTHER was soundly re­viled as an ex­er­cise in studio and fi­nan­cial ex­cess, a crit­ical and com­mer­cial failure — it was pop music’s Heaven’s Gate. This is one of those record­ings, one that is being re­dis­cov­ered for the mas­ter­piece it is. A sprawling, am­bi­tious work that brought el­e­ments of country, folk, jazzed-out gospel, blues, and trippy rock to bear on a song cycle that re­flects the mid-’70s better than any­thing from that time, yet sounds haunt­ingly timely even now.” (Thom Jurek)

 

1977

GeneClark TwoSides 600

RSO Records didn’t do Gene any fa­vors with this photo. (Al­though I’ll betcha a buck-three-eighty he has rolling pa­pers in one of his pockets.)

Gene Clark
Two Sides to Every Story
RSO RS-1–3011 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮

Gene Clark, his man­age­ment, his pro­ducers, and his record com­pa­nies ap­par­ently just kept right on be­lieving that there was a por­tion of the country & western au­di­ence just dying to dis­cover Gene. So they kept on making coun­tri­fied rock/pop al­bums.

They weren’t. The country au­di­ence, that is—they weren’t dying to dis­cover Gene.

There are ten tracks on this album: five are ex­cep­tional, five are not. The se­quencing of those tracks is what makes this album seem less than it is: the first four tracks are work­man­like but undis­tin­guished. In fact, they may be the weakest things he had recorded since THROUGH THE MORNING.

Then he closes the first side with Give My Love to Marie, a recording so achingly beau­tiful it al­most saves the rest of the side!

The second side has four lovely bal­lads and Gene’s less-than-inspired take on the ’50s rocker Marylou. Had the ex­cep­tional bal­lads been shuf­fled around, this album might have more punch. (And for my taste, drop­ping Home Run King from the line-up would be a big plus.)

Mem­o­ries: I found this in the reg­ular re­tail racks and bought it in 1977. It quickly found its way to the cut-out bins of America.

All Music Mo­ment: “If this is well short of a mas­ter­piece, it’s still clearly the work of a mas­terful singer and song­writer, and the best mo­ments here are hon­estly mag­ical.” (Mark Dem­ming)

 

1979

McGuinnClarkHillman first LP 600

Is this a “disco look” or a “male model” look? Does any­thing give the ’70s away more than Roger’s collar?

Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman
McGuinn, Clark and Hillman
Capitol SW-11910 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮

The po­lite way to de­scribe this music is anemic; I prefer limp. Un­less, of course, you like slick, soul­less ’70s pop. I would not be averse to giving this album one star for its sheer life­less­ness and being such a blown op­por­tu­nity by McGuinn and Hillman.

The Clark songs–Little Mama, Back­stage Pass, and Feelin’ Higher—are all light­weight, but Re­lease Me, Girl is the closest thing to a “good track” on the album and it’s over-produced and mod­estly disco-fied.

I was em­bar­rassed for McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman when I heard this album forty years ago. Un­like sev­eral of the others above, most of it hasn’t aged well.

Com­pare the album ver­sion of Re­lease Me Girl with this haunt­ingly beau­tiful live ver­sion of Re­lease Me Girl recorded by Clark with McGuinn at the Bottom Line in New York on March 19, 1978. Why didn’t they record an album that sounded like this?

Mem­o­ries: By 1979, I wasn’t vis­iting new record stores often. I had moved to Northern Cal­i­fornia and spent all my spare time in the used record stores in the Bay Area. Not that it mat­tered much: By this time, I was so un­mo­ti­vated by the last few Byrds al­bums, the var­ious Byrds solo en­deavors, and the hit single (Don’t You Write Her Off) that I didn’t buy this album.

I think I found a new copy with a hole or a clipped-corner at a swap meet and bought that for a couple of dol­lars. A wasted couple of dol­lars, ac­tu­ally.

All Music Mo­ment: “If the trio had an ap­pealing sound, how­ever, they lacked sub­stance. The song­writing was pleasant but slight.” (William Ruhlmann)

 

1980

McGuinnClarkHillman City LP 600

What ever were they thinking?

Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman
City
Capitol ST-12043 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮

The po­lite way to de­scribe this music is anemic; I prefer limp. Un­less, of course, you like slick, soul­less ’70s pop. I would not be averse to giving this album one star for its sheer life­less­ness and being such a blown op­por­tu­nity by McGuinn and Hillman.

Wait—I al­ready said that.

Ap­par­ently, what­ever caused Gene Clark to leave the Byrds caused him to leave the MC&H three­some. He did con­tribute two songs to the album, singing on both. Like the pre­vious album, they are the stand­outs, es­pe­cially Won’t Let You Down.

Mem­o­ries: Like the first one, I paid $2 for a copy at a swap meet and had the same re­sponse to this one as to the first one.

All Music Mo­ment: “Pleasant, late-’70s, Byrds-influenced rock.” (Bruce Eder)

 

1984

GeneClark Firebyrd LP 600

Every time I see this de­sign I think that it looks like it be­longs on the collar of an SS of­ficer in a WWII movie.

Gene Clark
Fire­byrd
Takoma TAK-7112 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮

Gene’s first solo album in seven years seemed a re­mark­able event at the time. With Takoma, he prob­ably could have done any­thing he wanted. In­stead, he gave us FIREBYRD, a solid album that pleased the old fans and prob­ably even found a few new ones.

Mem­o­ries: By the ’80s, stores selling used records, im­ports, and collector-oriented im­prints like Arhoolie and Takoma could be found throughout the country. Gold­mine mag­a­zine was at its height, so those fans who didn’t have ac­cess to such a store could buy spe­cialist records through the mail. And by the ’80s, Gene Clark had begun to de­velop a fol­lowing, so this album was easy to find.

All Music Mo­ment: “An artistic tri­umph and a com­mer­cial dis­aster — re­leased to rave re­views and an en­thu­si­astic re­sponse as one of the finest solo projects ever to come from an ex-Byrd, it was killed by poor dis­tri­b­u­tion.” (Bruce Eder)

 

1987

GeneClark SoRebellious LP 600

I like the photo but not the border.

Gene Clark and Carla Olson
So Re­bel­lious a Love
Rhino RNLP-70832 (stereo)
Rating: ✮ ✮ ✮ ✮

I bought this upon re­lease and thought it a nice if un­ex­cep­tional set. This is now con­sid­ered to be the first “Amer­i­cana” album, a genre that can be dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand for be­gin­ners:

Amer­i­cana is con­tem­po­rary music that in­cor­po­rates el­e­ments of var­ious Amer­ican roots music styles, in­cluding country, roots-rock, folk, blue­grass, R&B, and blues, re­sulting in a dis­tinc­tive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic in­stru­ments are often present and vital, Amer­i­cana also often uses a full elec­tric band.” (Amer­i­cana Music)

I con­fess that I have only be­come a con­vert to this album’s beauty in the past few years. Give me some more lis­ten­ings and I may want to add a star to my rating.

Mem­o­ries: I found this album dis­played at the Tower store. This was one of the easier Gene Clark al­bums to find in reg­ular re­tail racks, no doubt due to the fact that by the late ’80s even large chains were catering to the wants of spe­cial­ized mar­kets and genres.

All Music Mo­ment: “An ex­quisite pairing of talent. The feeling of spon­taneity and close­ness of spirit en­gulfs all of the cuts here. This record is im­por­tant not only for what it is but for what it could have be­come.” (Matthew Green­wald)

 

GeneClark Induct HallOfFame 1000

While we’re at it, let’s get Gene Clark in­ducted into the Song­writers Hall of Fame. Click on over to Get Gene In! and sign the pe­ti­tion. “Mul­tiple re-releases of his back cat­a­logue prove that a true artist’s worth is not gauged in dol­lars, but in the ability to cap­ti­vate the imag­i­na­tions of suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions.” (Tom Sand­ford)

I’ll feel a whole lot better

That’s it! No hit sin­gles. No gold records. Ex­cept for the quality of the record­ings and that has played a marked role in the in­duc­tion of some artists—or at least seems to have played a marked role. Need­less to say, there are many artists in the Hall of Fame that did not re­lease six al­bums as good as Clark’s. Hell’s Belles, some of them didn’t even re­lease six al­bums pe­riod!

Most of the re­leased record­ings of Gene Clark have been reis­sued in var­ious forms—including sev­eral fac­sim­iles of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. Clark was a pro­lific writer and recorded many of his songs in demo form that were close to per­fec­tion. Most of these have been making the rounds of col­lec­tors’ cir­cles as tapes for years. many have been re­leased le­git­i­mately, such GENE CLARK SINGS FOR YOU and HERE TONIGHT – THE WHITE LIGHT DEMOS, both from Om­ni­vore Records.

A lot has been written about Gene Clark since his death in 1991: he has mor­phed from a minor cult figure among fans and col­lec­tors to an artist widely valued for his cre­ativity and achieve­ments.

As for the sub­title to this ar­ticle, “Byrds founder a piv­otal in­flu­ence in folk-rock, psy­che­delia, country-rock, singer-songwriter, and Amer­i­cana”:

•  In 1965, Clark was a founding member of the Byrds and their first single, Mr. Tam­bourine Man, and first album, MR. TAMBOURINE MAN, played a key role in de­vel­oping the sound/form that would be dubbed folk-rock in 1965.

•  In 1966, the Byrds’ recording of Clark’s Eight Miles High was the first psy­che­delic record to be a na­tional Top 20 hit.

•  In 1967, Clark’s first solo album, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS, was a prog­en­itor of the country-rock move­ment.

•  In 1968, Clark’s THE FANTASTIC EXPEDITION OF DILLARD & CLARK was one of the first full-fledged country-rock al­bums.

•  In 1971, Clark’s WHITE LIGHT was one of the first singer-songwriter al­bums, the term having been coined to ex­plain the phe­nom­enal and un­ex­pected suc­cess of James Taylor’s SWEET BABY JAMES album the year be­fore.

•  In 1987, Clark’s SO REBELLIOUS A LOVER, a se­ries of duets with Carla Olson, kicked off the Amer­i­cana move­ment. (And this was ten years after most of us wrote Gene off as a drunk, a junkie, and a has-been.)

There are sev­eral promi­nent in­ductees in the Hall of Fame who also didn’t rack up hit sin­gles or Gold Records but were in­ducted due to their “in­flu­ence.” This in­cludes the Velvet Un­der­ground, the Stooges, and the Sex Pis­tols. (Where are the MC5 and the Dolls?) A rea­son­able ar­gu­ment can be easily made that Gene Clark was more in­flu­en­tial than those three groups com­bined.

In fact, I may have just made it and it was easier than I thought …

 

GeneClark Colombe ps 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was copped from the pic­ture sleeve that Sun­dazed Records in­cluded with their re­lease of the with­drawn 1967 single, The French Girl / Only Colombe. It’s not the most flat­tering photo of Gene Clark, is it?

 

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Nice job Neil!