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

Estimated reading time is 26 minutes.

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.

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

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 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.

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

This terrible cover leaves me with one burning question: 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 and for a marvelous record!

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 a 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 is 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 is 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 a promo copy of this album at a local record store 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

Whatever 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 on the right side.

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 cropped 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?

 


 

2 thoughts on “why the hell isn’t gene clark in the hall of fame? (gene clark part 4)”

Leave a Comment