Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Byrds: Mr. Spaceman

Everyone should remember his or her first . . . first 45 rpm record that is. The first record that I purchased with my own money occurred within months of my 11th birthday and was a little ditty by the Byrds called “Mr. Spaceman.” It was September 1966 and I had been staying with my oldest brother in Kentucky when my mother and stepfather were on their honeymoon. Those two weeks were fantastic and I remember it like yesterday.

During that stay, I visited a radio station for the first time up on Radio Hill outside of Grayson, KY when I accompanied my two brothers and their friends to WGOH Radio. Little did I know that I would spend the greater portion of my adult life employed in radio. I also tasted two concoctions that were not available in Pittsburgh at the time and of which I had never heard of before: Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper.

It was also probably the first time that I started paying attention to bands and music. Chuck had just purchased the Byrds’ album, “Fifth Dimension,” and “Mr. Spaceman” was the one song from that LP that caught this ten-year old’s ear.

When returning to Pittsburgh, I headed to Clabers in the Great Valley Shopping Center – a store that had everything – including 45 rpm records. I plopped down my 67 cents and bought this the latest single by The Byrds.

Roger McGuinn, who was known by his first name of Jim in those days, wrote and sang lead on this song. McGuinn is affectionately known as “Mr. Twelve String Rickenbacker Guitar,” as he probably is the best known artist who plays this instrument that was key to the sound of The Byrds. The single’s flip, “What's Happening?!?!,” was penned and sung by McGuinn’s bandmate David Crosby. Crosby would go onto to greater fame in the various incarnations of Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

The Byrds on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: October 1967

“Mr. Spaceman” was officially released by Columbia Records as a single on September 6, 1966 and has been touted by some as the first Country-Rock recording. The record peaked at #36 on the Hot 100 that fall. It’s not the biggest single by the band, and I would venture to say most casual fans of The Byrds wouldn’t remember it – but I can still remember most of the lyrics nearly 44 years later.

Roger McGuinn backed by Wilco

Somehow, I am tempted to make a joke about Roger Wilco - Over and Out, but I won't.

The “B” Side: What’s Happening?!?!

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