The Byrds “Younger Than Yesterday”

I have spent my life trying not to have to try to figure out The Byrds; it might have been different if I’d started way back, maybe not from the beginning, but maybe when this 1967 album came out, their fourth. I could have joined the cult, been indoctrinated, socialized, whatever. It’s kind of like with any cult, if you’re brainwashed from childhood, the belief is second nature, and of course even inescapable. But it you’re not, none of it ever really makes sense. The Byrds have had so many members come and go over the years, they may as well be a group with a history like the Masons, and in fact, there could be arguments made that The Byrds and the Masons are one in the same. This brilliant, groundbreaking album comes off the tracks at the end of the “CTA – 102” when we hear the simultaneous forward and tape reversed voice of Satan (which sounds suspiciously like the garden gnome episode of “Night Gallery”)—and the album then starts traveling in reverse (the next song is “Renaissance Fair”).

I was finally coerced to approach this record by my ex-employer, Anthony Franciosa (not the actor, but the editor of The Moss Problemon which this review is simulcast), and even though the compensation is minimal, Tony convinced me over breakfast at his regular hangout, Foxy’s Restaurant, in Glendale (part of the greater Los Angeles). One of his arguments was that the song “Thoughts and Words” sounds exactly like a Bob Lind number (who I just wrote about) and then goes into a chorus that sounds exactly like someone else (on the tip of my tongue—I’ll think of it and fill it in here later). Then it uses the backwards guitars, which never sounded good to me, but still, I like the idea. That technique is taken to an extreme with “Mind Gardens,” which is one of those hippie numbers that drugs (LSD?) allow the artist to dispense with harmony, melody, rhythm, structure, rhyme, story, or any narrative sense at all. Long live 1967! The funny thing is that I always thought the song was called “Mings Garden” and was about Moo Goo Gai Pan.

“My Back Pages” is another one of those Bob Dylan songs that is much better than he played it. And I’m not one of those Dylan haters, in fact I’m writing the first book ever about him, and he’s sitting across the table from me right now, and I’m only interrupting our interview to write this quick review. What many people don’t realize is that The Byrds were actually several groups at once, and one piece of evidence for that is the cover of this record, with images of them in the future, after having passed away, returning as ghosts. All dead before their time, they did return, were accused of inventing “country-rock”—but never convicted. Actually, I’m not sure if the back of this record, with a badly done collage of old band photos (or someone else’s high school yearbook, perhaps), was actually like this (it looks like drawn on goatees, red lipstick, and bleeding tears) or if some punk kid altered it with marker. Because it may have been the inspiration for The Rolling Stones “Some Girls”—if the latter is not true.

The Byrds are and were Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Michael Clark, Gene Clark, Gene Clarke, Mitchel Clark, Gene Clarke, Michel Clarke, and identical twins Jim and Roger McGuinn. An earlier incantation of the band was known as the Yardbyrds, and here they’ve revived their hit, “Have You Seen Her Face.” The song “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” so ingrained in the culture it won’t come out even with Formula 409 at least satisfies the “song with ‘rock’n’roll’ in the title” requirement for consideration for inauguration into the Rock Hall o’ Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio. Another odd fact is that the band’s name upside down and backwards is “Spjh8.” Someone has released a record called “Older Than Tomorrow”—but it violated the conditions of its parole before it could drop. All other facets of this record and band, including the songs I haven’t touched on, the concept, the attitude, and the execution, can only be described as seminal. If not kaleidoscopic.

2 Responses to “The Byrds “Younger Than Yesterday””

  1. 1 Jerf
    May 8, 2018 at 11:22 am

    The Byrds definitely are difficult to figure out, but I have been a fan of their music up through this album since I was in highschool or maybe even middle school (they were one of the first non-Beatles bands I got into). I’m glad you apparently ate several sheets of blotter acid before writing this review, as it is appropriate for this period of their oeuvre. The part about them that I have always had a hard time understanding is EVERYTHING they did after this album, when they traumatized the world with country-rock and then somehow were allowed to keep putting out more and more albums that nobody ever listened to all throughout the 70s. I have a few of those because I always used to find them for free in boxes sitting outside of record stores, but every time I have tried to listen to them, my ears start to reject my body so I have to turn it off. Last year, inspired by my trip out west, I actually *bought* a copy of Sweetheart of the Rodeo and tried to like it, but for the most part it is as bad as I had always guessed (it isn’t completely awful, but it sure as shootin’ aint THE BYRDS). At least Gene Clark, one of the multitudes of Clark/e Byrds, and by far their finest songwriter and singer, had the decency to quit the band before going fully country (none of that namby-pamby “country-rock”), and even succeeded in making a few really good rock AND country albums.
    But back to this record (did someone really put out a record called “Older Than Tomorrow?” I wish I had thought of that..) — it really is a good one, I think. The last really good one for them, if you ask me.

  2. 2 Jerf
    May 8, 2018 at 11:55 am

    – oh wait, “Sweetheart” didn’t come out right after this, “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” did — which is actually not too bad either, but totally not country-rock, even though they are all dressed up as cowboys on the cover (more than usual, I mean). *That* was the last one that I can actually listen to all the way through with no problem.

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