Friday, February 1, 2013

The Byrds: Old John Robertson

One of my favorite bands of the 1960s was The Byrds – a group that started as a folk-rock band and evolved eventually into one of the early country-rock bands. The first single that I purchased with my own money was The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” and the first cassette that I bought was their album “The Notorious Byrd Bothers.”

Today’s Friday Flipside selection comes from that very album; however, the single that was issued previous to the album has a different mix. The single version eventually appeared on the CD version of the “Younger than Yesterday” album and is immediately followed by a David Crosby guitar instrumental titled “Mind Gardens.”

While Crosby was fired during the recording of “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” and does not appear on all of the cuts; however, he is on “Old John Robertson” playing bass while Chris Hillman plays rhythm guitar and sings lead. The song’s bridge was quite different from other Byrds’ recordings as it included a string quartet break that almost sounds baroque influenced.

Hillman and Roger (i.e., Jim) McGuinn wrote the tune about John Stuart Robertson who had lived in the same town (Escondido, California) as Hillman and always sported a Stetson cowboy hat. His vintage look gave the appearance that he was straight out of the old west. Robertson, a retired film director, died in late 1964 almost three years prior the release of the single during summer 1967.

“Old John Robertson” would be a foreshadowing of The Byrds’ country sound of later albums and it was relegated to be the flip of “Lady Friend” a David Crosby song that would not appear on a US Byrds’ album until 1982 when it appeared on “The Original Singles: 1965-1967, Volume 2.” “Old John Robertson” also appeared on this volume. “Lady Friend” only charted at #82.

Album Version

The album version introduced flanging to the mix – a technique that was found on several songs on “The Notorious Byrd Brothers.” There is also a fiddle on the cut that wasn’t present on the single. The fiddle player was not credited on the album.

No comments:

Post a Comment