Archive for the 'Gene Clark' Category

05
Aug
08

Spanish Guitar

One last Gene Clark song before I get back to serious writing. Like all his best songs, the melody is haunting and the lyrics rise to the level of true poetry; at his best he was every bit Dylan’s equal in this regard.

Unfortunately, the YouTube video can’t be embedded. Naturally. But click here to go to the video. It may be the best 5 minutes and 15 seconds you spend all day.

Just trust me on this one, ok?

Enjoy.

-smith

The dissonant bells of the sea
Who are ringing the rhymes of the deep
As they sing of the ages asleep
not so near or so far

And the old masters wind of the waves
Sped forth for the free men and slaves
Whispers of secrets it saves
and about whom they are

And the workings of sunshine and rain
And the visions they paint that remain
Pulsate from my soul through my brain
in a spanish guitar

The beggar whom sits in the street
On his miserable throne of defeat
Envisions no wealth there to meet
Thinking nowhere is far

And the laughter of children employed
By the fantasies not yet destroyed
By the dogmas of those they avoid
knowing not what they are

And the right and the wrong and insane
And the answers they cannot explain
Pulsate from my soul through my brain
in a spanish guitar

To play on a spanish guitar
With the sun shining down where you are
Skipping and singing a bar
from the music around

Just to laugh through the columns of trees
To soar like a seagull in breeze
To stand in the rain if you please
or to never be found

–Gene Clark 1971

01
Aug
08

set her free this time

I’m not in the mood to write, but I have something in me that needs to come out. So, just this once, I’m going to let me old friend Gene Clark speak for me. These words he wrote so long ago capture how I’m feeling these days far better than I can do it myself at the moment.

Not the greatest video in the world, but the only one I could find that allowed embedding.

-smith

The first thing that I heard you say
when you were standing there set in your way
was that you were not blind
You were sure to make a fool of me
cause there was nothing there that you could see
that could go beyond your mind
Now who’s standing at the door
remembering the days before
And asking please be kind
It isn’t how it was set up to be
but I’ve set you free this time

I have never been so far out in front
that I could ever ask for what I want
And have it any time
Knowing this you found a thought for me
that told you just what I should be
And there I stood behind
With all the ones that went before
and memories that always seems to
Tear me from my mind
In front of what it is you see me to be
I’ve set you free this time

I could never find a chance to choose
between a way to win or a thing to lose
because there was your stand
On top of all the love you took
There was always something you could look
at lying in your hand
Now who’s wondering what has changed
and why it can not be arranged
To have each thing work fine
It isn’t how it was set up to be
but I’ve set you free this time

-Gene Clark
1965

24
May
08

In memorium: Gene Clark

Today, May 24th, is an important one in the history of rock ‘n roll. Not only is today Bob Dylan’s birthday, but it is also the day of the passing of someone who was often compared to him, Gene Clark.

Gene who, you ask? It is amazing to me how obscure this immensely talented songwriter has become. He is, perhaps, the greatest songwriter no one has ever heard of.

You have, of course, heard him sing. When you listen to The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, the voice you’re hearing is Gene Clark, double tracked. Oh, you say, HIM! Sure, I know him. That was his name?

Gene Clark’s all too short life ended on May 24th, 1991, from a bleeding ulcer brought on by a lifetime of alcohol abuse. During his life he was overshadowed by bandmates David Crosby and Roger McGuinn. But in a 27 year career, first with The Byrds, and later as a solo artist, he gifted the world with some of it’s finest songs.

His best songs were marked by a mournful beauty. Here is a list of some of my favorites. For those of you with an iTunes account, every one of them is well worth the price of the download.

To begin with some of his work with The Byrds:

“Feel a Whole Lot Better”: Easily his most famous song. Gene didn’t write love songs, he wrote breakup songs, and no one did it better. David Crosby once quipped that every time Clark broke up with a girlfriend The Byrds got a new song out of it. Ironically, it was Tom Petty’s cover of this song in 1989, and the subsequent royalties it generated for Clark, that ultimately led to an acceleration in his bad habits which contributed to his untimely death.

The World Turns All Around Her: An early, far more obscure Byrds tune. What makes this song interesting is how Clark deftly changes keys, entering into a moody, almost modal minor key by the third line. One of his early gems.

My Love Don’t Care About Time: A classic. One of the hallmarks of the Byrds style at that time was their strong vocals. Unlike many rock ‘n roll bands, these guys could sing, and they harmonized like a church choir. It’s all here: interesting lyrics (he was often compared to Dylan as a lyricist), gorgeous instrumentals, and very strong vocals. One blogger has called it “the perfect song”.

“Set You Free This Time”: One of my all time favorites. By the time he wrote this, he was already showing signs of moving beyond the archetypal Byrds sound, and creating something uniquely his. Once again demonstrating that the comparison to Dylan was justified, the biting lyrics provide an interesting twist on the classic breakup song.

“Changing Heart”: The Byrds did a reunion album in 1973. While most critics found the album disappointing, they agreed that Clark’s two songs, “Full Circle”, and “Changing Heart”, were easily the album’s high points. “Changing Heart” is a catchy, rock/country fusion number that shows Clark’s melodic gifts at their best.

His solo career was marked by critical acclaim, but not a whole lot of commercial success, largely due to his reluctance to tour due to a fear of flying. Here are some of my favorites:

“Lady of the North”: The solo album “No Other” was neither a critical nor a commercial success. This had a crushing effect on him, as he (rightly, as it turned out) regarded it as his magnum opus. Ironically, nowadays it is regarded as a lost masterpiece. “Lady of the North”, while perhaps a little over produced, is still one of his finest songs, with its soaring vocals and poetic lyrics. On his gravestone, the words “No Other” form his only epitaph.

“Gypsy Rider”: Late in life he teamed with Carla Olson to record an album entitled “So Rebellious a Lover”, which turned out to be his best selling album. He had also recorded this song several years earlier a a demo (released posthumously on the “Gypsy Angel” album), and the two versions played side by side offer a striking comparison of his voice in his earlier and later years. By the time he recorded this version, the years of self abuse had had their effect. But in some ways, his voice is actually better, at least for this song. It is deeper, rougher, and tinged with the world weary melancholy that was at the core of his soul. Olson’s harmonies are haunting in this version.

“Kathleen”: In 2001, Evangeline Records released a collection of demo’s on an album entitled “Gypsy Angel”. While inconsistent, as one might expect a collection of demo’s to be, there are two truly standout songs here. “Kathleen”, while yet another song about lost love, is unique in Clark’s output in that it is told from a third person perspective. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful ballad about a woman who waits for her husband to return from sea. The starkly simple arrangement of Clark’s voice, guitar and harmonica perfectly convey the woman’s anguish and sorrow. Probably my favorite Clark song.

“Your Fire Burning”: Fair warning: the recording quality is not great on this, as it, too, was a demo from “Gypsy Angel”. Clearly this was a work in progress, as it does tend to meander a bit. No doubt Clark would have cleaned it up had he lived. But for all that, Clark’s uniquely mournful and melancholy style is on full display in this song. Knowing what we know about his life and death, when he sings the lyrics, “I can never replace/The time that I didn’t know/You were trying to love/Someone out of control”, it is almost too painful to listen to.

Every one of these songs, and many others as well, is worth a 99 cent download. He deserves to be more well recognized. Someday, I hope he will be.

-Smith




taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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