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In The Beginning
The First Sessions - 1964

(Acoustic Version)

(P) & ©1988 Rhino Records Inc. 222S Colorado Ave., Santa Monica. CA 90404

All Tracks Courtesy of Jim Dickson

Produced by JIM DlCKSON


COLLECTOR’S NOTE: These are not the highly crafted Byrds classics familiar from their innovative Columbia recordings, but early "diamond-in-the-rough" demos and work tapes made while the band was forming and rehearsing. They document an earnest, talented group of young musicians collaborating for the first time sharing their influences, honing their skills, searching for a unique and "magic" sound.

Most of these tracks are from the same sessions documented on the now out-of-print Preflyte album released by Together Records (and later reissued on Columbia) in the early Seventies. Rather than simply reissue that collection, we started from scratch by going back to the original 1, 2, and 3-track masters preserved by producer Jim Dickson, evaluating takes for sound quality and performance. "The Only Girl I Adore" (the earliest track here, recorded when McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark had first united as The Jet Set) was previously issued only on Together Records' rare Early LA album. "It Won't Be Wrong" and "Please Let Me Love You" are alternate versions of tracks on the band's first commercial single (on Elektra, who dubbed the group The Beefeaters). "Tomorrow Is A Long Ways Away" has not been previously issued in any form.


It was really magic time, like high school for the couple of months you really loved it. There wasn't any reason to think anything was wrong or would ever go wrong. Our days were filled with daily stuff and our nights were filled with The Byrds.

They brought it all back home, as the first important American rock group to follow the British invasion led by The Beatles. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was their first single and it went right to the top of the charts. It was Columbia Records' first Number One single in something like two years, since Steve Lawrence's daringly double-voiced "Go Away Little Girl.' And the marriage of rock 'n' roll with Dylan's lyrics created that enormous shift in pop music that is still felt two decades later. Back then, Billboard's Eliot Tiegel named it "folk rock" the merger of a driving beat and lyrics about personal freedom and social in-justice. Today, it would be laughable to apply the term "folk rock" to Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp, The Bangles, U2, Dire Straits, REM ... yet their debt to The Byrds is obvious. Writing about The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Dillard & Clark, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, Robert Christgau said that The Byrds had made many things possible, and "if every broken group can produce as much good music as The Byrds, then rock will be alive for a long time to come."

The seeds for those groups and for countless tawdry imitators sucked into the trend were planted in the studios of World Pacific Records, with these very recordings. If you enjoy works-inprogress, if you like to watch growing things, then you will like this collection.

The Byrds came together because each of them was ready for something new – as were we all. Jim McGuinn, who'd worked with Bobby Darin and toured South America for the State Department with The Chad Mitchell Trio, had decided The Beatles were the way to go. Early in 1964, when he first performed some of their tunes as an opening act for Hoyt Axton at Los Angeles' Troubadour folk club, just about the only person in the crowd who liked what he heard was Gene Clark. Gene had left The New Christy Minstrels, and wondered if Jim would be interested in writing songs with him.

Soon thereafter, David Crosby caught Jim and Gene singing together one afternoon at the Troubadour, and immediately set to convincing them to let him sing harmony with them. Impressed with their initial efforts, Crosby introduced them to producer Jim Dickson, with whom David had been recording rock 'n' rollish versions of traditional material. Interested in how they would sound on tape, Dickson recorded their first collaboration: "The Only Girl I Adore." Excited with the results, the three decided to form a group – McGuinn suggested The Jet Set as a moniker, though they weren't sure it was appropriate for a folk trio ... or even if being a folk trio was where it was at ...

Crosby had seen Michael Clarke playing conga drums with Dino Valente in Big Sur, and when he ran into him in L.A. (again at the Troubadour), he asked him to sign up. By this time David had discovered that playing the bass and singing harmony was not happening for him, and switched to guitar. Dickson had just completed producing a bluegrass album with Chris Hillman (and the Gosdin Brothers, who would later back Gene Clark on his first solo effort), and Chris was prepared to invest $40.00 into a Japanese bass and try switching from mandolin so he could join the group.

No longer a folk trio, the band began writing and rehearsing at World Pacific Studios. Dickson charted their progress on tape, recording new arrangements and demos he hoped would show record companies what the group could become. All the while, "Jet Set" was sounding too much like the Peter Lawford crowd, but the group wanted to stay with McGuinn's interest in flight. "Birds" sounded good-though Cockney slang for "chicks:' changing the "i" to a "y" did the trick. The Byrds were born.

As months passed, the group continued practicing, writing, and searching for sound. By the summer of '64, Jim Dickson had managed to interest Elektra's Jac Holzman in The Byrds, and the group recorded a potential single: "Please Let Me Love You" with "It Won't Be Wrong" (first titled "Don't Be Long"). With the group still gelling, session musicians Ray Pohlman (bass) and Earl Palmer (drums) were enlisted to ensure a strong, solid beat. Gene Clark strummed acoustic guitar, and McGuinn was featured on the electric 12-string.

Holzman was sure the group was on to something. He liked what he heard but wasn't sure what to do with it. Undecided about signing the band, Elektra purchased the masters and released the single as "The Beefeaters" – so labeled by Holzman, not The Byrds (who had no intention of adopting the name). The single flopped, but the band finally had enough money to pay rent and buy instruments: Gretsch guitar for Crosby, Guild bass for Chris, Rickenbacker for McGuinn and real drums for Mike Clarke (he'd been playing with cardboard boxes and a tambourine substituting for snare).

Electrified, the group continued working on their material. The performances here sound young and sometimes imprecise but have this incredibly airy innocence about them. You can hear traces of Byrds influences much more easily than you can on their Columbia albums: a little Beatles, some Everlys and – can it be? – Johnny Rivers, or that Memphis/Chuck Berry feel. Yet it still somehow sounds fresh, and unique. The ingredients were conventional, but the mixture created a new sound.

World Pacific, though primarily a jazz studio, was where The Byrds were exposed to Ravi Shankar and were visited by Bob Dylan and Lenny Bruce. Lenny's mother got them their first paying gig: East Los Angeles College (they were paid $50.00). Meanwhile, practice and recording continued. Dickson introduced the group to a friend, the late impresario Ben Shapiro ... and when Clark, Crosby and McGuinn sang live to a set of demos (thereby doubling their voices), Ben's teenaged daughter Michelle absolutely raved about it. The next day, when Shapiro related the story to Miles Davis, Miles promptly got on the phone with Irving Townsend at Columbia Records – Townsend referred the matter to A&R man Allen Stanton – Stanton met with Dickson, heard these recordings, and signed the group to Columbia in November, 1964 ... a few months later, CBS staff producer Terry Melcher recorded "Mr. Tambourine Man" and The Byrds graduated from demos and $50.00 gigs to The History Of Rock Music As We Know It.

Jim Dickson (who, with Eddie Tickner, went on to manage The Byrds, and who later produced The Flying Burrito Brothers, among others) says these cuts are sort of like baby pictures – and it takes a while before you feel comfortable showing them. A few details
catch my attention. In "She Has A Way" you begin to hear how pretty Crosby could sing. Gene Clark's voice has a nice peach fuzz quality to it. "You Won't Have To Cry" really gets to me; damned if I know why; there's this peculiarly serious aura about the whole thing. I guess it's the same thing Dwight McDonald was referring to when he wrote about a good movie: "Did it change the way you look at things? The ... question is whether ... the director has imposed his personal vision strongly more real than the common light of day. The hallucination soon dissipates like a dream but, also like a dream, it may be significant. Perhaps such films ... make some change in one's subconscious that lasts long after the visual effect has vanished; certainly they have cast a poetic spell on me ... "

The Byrds cast that poetic spell on us all and the extremes seemed ordinary. I remember trying to track down the daughter of Berkeley's chief of police (or was it a councilman?)-they all had reason to believe she'd run away from home to be with Crosby ... Michael threatened to leave the group between sets one night ... I got the story of a fist fight (between Dickson and Crosby?) during a photo session at the beach ... McGuinn and his toys. He started with robots, walkie-talkies and CB – and moved on to synthesizers and seven television receivers that do funny things ...

When Dylan was in town he stopped by Ciro's where the faithful gathered and The Byrds held forth. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison came to a recording session. That's the first time I heard young rock musicians talking about sitars. Crosby told me to check out two groups because they were going to be big: Jefferson Airplane and Lovin' Spoonful. Ciro's, on the Sunset Strip, was the center of the scene, the place to be for the advance guard – Teri Garr, Toni Basil and Vito's free-form dancers; Carol "Five Easy Pieces" Eastman, Helena "maggots and riots" Kallaniotos and Jack Nicholson; John Altoon, Wally Berman and all the easy riders. These days Gene performs with Carla Olson; Crosby and McGuinn are solo acts; Michael has become a painter and his work is starting to sell and Chris has Desert Rose. And Ciro's is The Comedy Store.

The Byrds was the first American supergroup, before hippies, riots, the Haight, love-ins, freak-outs, VCRs, DAT, Moog, Dolby, Hair, rap music and psychedelic bubble gum. I haven't been caught up in anything like it since.

Billy James


Produced by JIM DICKSON

Produced for Compact Disc by BILL INGLOT
Compilation/Art Direction: DON BROWN
Photography: BARRY FEINSTEIN and others
Digital Prep & Transfers: BILL INGLOT and KEN PERRY/K·DISC
Project Assistance: GARY STEWART

All Songs Published by Tickson Music. except "Mr. Tambourine Man" Published by Warner Bros. Inc. – ASCAP and "Please Let Me Love You" Published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. – BMI.

©1988 Rhino Records Inc. 2225 Colorado Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90404
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