GENE CLARK’S FIRST SOLO ALBUM came almost a year after his final record with the Byrds. For a long time, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was considered rather lightweight, especially from the man who wrote songs like She Don’t Care About Time, Set You Free This Time, and Eight Miles High while with the Byrds. The passing of time has been kind to Clark’s first album and now many long-time fans (such as me) and thousands of younger listeners consider it a gem!
It was one of the most remarkable recordings in rock and pop music history, a progenitor of jazz-rock (or fusion) and the first psychedelic record to be a major AM radio hit. This only made the commercial failure of Clark’s solo records all the more puzzling, at least to fans of Clark and the Byrds in the ’60s.
GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was ignored by all but a few diehard fans for years. Fortunately, it has grown from having a small hardcore fan following to having a much larger critical and fan following over the past few decades.
Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers has grown from a small hardcore fan following to a larger fan and critical following over the past few decades.
When I researched this album for my previous article (“The Echoes in Your Head Continue Showing”), I came across one of two statements in almost every article that I read. They were:
1. GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was released on February 6, 1967, the same day that the Byrds’ YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY was released.
2. The simultaneous release of the Byrds and the Clark albums ruined any chance that GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS had for exposure and sales.
The first statement is incorrect, although not by much. The second statement is conjecture that doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny. I will address both of these below.
Let’s use Wikipedia as an example: The editors played it safe and merely listed February as the date of release for GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS. They did state that it “appeared very close to the scheduled release date for the Byrds’ album YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY in both the United States and the United Kingdom.”
Wikipedia also opined that the proximity of Clark’s album to the Byrds’ album was responsible for “hampering its possibilities for commercial success.”
This article was originally published as “Just When Was “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” Released?” on my Tell It Like It Was on Medium (June 27, 2019).
Gene Clark’s first album sported this attractive cover that did not indicate that the music within was full of the country music we all loved to hate back in the ’60s because the country fans had been hating us since forever.
Tried so hard
Tracking down the exact date for the release of a record from the ’60s is difficult. Unless it was an artist like Dylan or the Beatles who received attention from the major media, there is little data to rely on. Even paperwork from record companies can be inaccurate, as they tend to give the company’s scheduled release date. The actual release date was often delayed for various reasons.
The most reliable method today’s researchers have for establishing a release date from that decade issuing the notifications in the pages of trade publications. These magazines generally listed a record as released only when they had a copy of the record on hand for review.
The best thing Columbia could have done was make as many connections between the Byrds and the Clark album as possible!
The major record companies usually released new records by major artists on a Monday. Given time to ship the records to reviewers and for the magazines to be published and shipped to stores, most of these records were reviewed in issues of Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World that were cover-dated the second Saturday after the record’s release.
So the first review of an album in the trade magazines usually indicated that the album had been released twelve days earlier. That album would usually debut on the publication’s best-selling LP charts two or three weeks after being reviewed. That is, a new album by a major artist usually debuted on the best-selling album surveys approximately one month after being released.
So it was to these magazines that I turned for information on these albums. Let’s look at YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY first, as it received a lot more attention than Gene Clark’s album.
The back cover of Gene Clark’s first album sported this unflattering photo of Rex and Vern Gosdin along with some verse by Clark. More interesting was the fact that it also listed the musicians who played on the record, a very unusual move in 1967.
All this time between
YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY was reviewed in the main review section (simply titled “Reviews”) in the March 4, 1967, issue of Billboard. (It is interesting to note that of the nineteen albums reviewed, only two others were rock album: THE ELECTRIC PRUNES and CHUCK BERRY’S GOLDEN DECADE.)
Here is the Billboard editor’s capsule review: “The Byrds will be riding high on the LP charts again with this top rock package. Their current hit single So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star is included along with easy folk-rock treatments of Time Between and Back Pages.”
YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY debuted on Billboard’s Top LP’s survey on March 18, 1967, two weeks after being reviewed. Based on these two dates, it had a probable release date of February 20, 1967.
In So You Want To Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star, Hjort listed the release date for the Byrds album as February 6, 1967 (page 119). But he noted that this was the stated release date and that “it’s likely the real issue date is not until the end of February at the earliest.”
I think that the front cover of Younger Than Yesterday may be the most beautiful cover on any rock album I have ever seen.
Keep on pushin’
GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was first listed in the January 28, 1967, issue of Billboard. It appeared in the New Release Inventory Checklist, which listed the first releases of 1967 from the major record companies.
It was first reviewed in the February 11, 1967, issue of Cash Box in the Pop Best Bets section. The editor wrote, “Gene Clark, formerly with the Byrds, is joined by the Gosdin Brothers on this set. The sound is folk-rock. Chanter Clark is backed up by guitars, bass, drums, and piano and harpsichord. The arrangement makes for compelling listening, and the disk should attract a large following.”
A week later, it was listed in the Four-Star Albums section of Billboard. That section was reserved for “new albums with sufficient commercial potential in their respective categories to merit being stocked by most dealers and rack jobbers handling that category.”
Using the Cash Box review, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS had a release date of no later than January 30, 1967. Of course, the Billboard checklist indicates that it could have been issued even earlier.
In So You Want To Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star, Hjort merely, and accurately, stated that the album would be released in January 1967 (page 109).
The back cover of Younger Than Yesterday featured with moderately interesting collage. Had this been cropped and placed at the top of the cover with liner notes below it I would have been a happier Byrds fan in 1967.
Thoughts and words
If my conclusions are correct—and I welcome anyone with better data or even a better “theory” to contact me via the comments section below—then GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS and YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY were not released on the same day. They appear to have been released at least three weeks apart. Of course, a few weeks or the same day are still close together.
It is this proximity that forms the basis for the argument that the Byrds album hampered the possibilities for the commercial success of the Clark album. In his excellent biography of Gene Clark, John Einarson stated:
“In a bizarre marketing move, Columbia released [YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY] two weeks after Gene’s album, thereby dividing fans loyalties and dooming Gene’s chances to stand alone in the marketplace. Quite simply, his album was overwhelmed by the much better-known Byrds and Gene lost in the shuffle.” ( Mr. Tambourine Man, page 116).
This argument has been bandied about for decades, although I never understood the rationale. Why would a new Byrds album have any effect on a Gene Clark album? The loyalties of Byrds fans would have made them more likely to purchase Gene’s album or any solo Byrds venture at that time!
Mono copies of Gene Clark’s first were shipped to radio stations for airplay, although few stations anywhere played the damn thing. These copies often included having a paper banner with the song titles and time lengths affixed to the front cover.
There was no celebrity media
It would seem to me that the best thing Columbia could have done was make as many connections between the Byrds and the Clark album as possible—to make people aware that Gene Clark was an original Byrd.
During the ’60s, there was no “celebrity media” as we know it today. Aside from the Beatles (who were more popular than you-know-who) and maybe Mick Jagger, very few people knew the names of the members of even the most successful pop groups.
For example, while Brian Wilson has been a familiar face for decades, even disc-jockeys failed to recognize his name on his first solo record (“Caroline No”) in 1966. And that was at the height of the Beach Boys’ popularity with radio stations and record buyers!
In 1967, the response of people who ran a record store when asked to order copies of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS would have been, “Who the heck is Gene Clark?”
It certainly wouldn’t have been, “Why should I stock a Gene Clark album when I already have the new Byrds album?”
Gene Clark posing for photos that were sued to promote his first single Echoes, released in late 1966 to almost no airplay and fewer sales.
I found you
There are many reasons for the lack of acceptance of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS, notably that it didn’t feature a hit single. It was also one of the first forays into what would later be called country-rock, a year before Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
This was a time when rock music fans abhorred redneck music almost as much as country music fans hated longhair music. Except for an appreciation of Buck Owens and His Buckaroos due to the Beatles, most people who bought rock albums wouldn’t have touched a country album with the proverbial ten-foot pole!
Rather, a host of poor decisions appear to have hampered the success of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS, from its title to its packaging. As few people knew Clark and no one but their family knew the Gosdins, why wasn’t the album titled something that hinted at Clark’s past, like First Flyte? Instead of listing the titles of eleven unknown songs on the front cover, why not a blurb calling attention to the first solo album by a member of the Byrds?
It is obvious that Columbia did not do a lot to promote Clark or the album. Perhaps Columbia had already thrown in the towel after the huge flop that was the album’s lead single, “Echoes.”
Perhaps the same problems that caused Clark to leave the Byrds manifested itself in his relationship with his record company. (Problems that would manifest themselves with almost every record company he worked with.)
Without name recognition, a hit single, or a big promotional campaign, why would anyone that owned a record store spend any of their limited budget on an unknown artist? We don’t need a magic bullet to explain the lack of success of GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS anymore than we need one to explain JFK’s assassination. (And whoo boy is that another topic for another story.)Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers has grown from a small hardcore fan following to a larger fan and critical following over the past few decades. Click To Tweet
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 (cropped chin) and the other (full chin) as the featured image for “The Echoes in Your Head Continue Showing.”