Column

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Roger McGuinn on Skiing with Bob Dylan

Nice article. Thanks. Been listening to a lot of Gene Clark of late. He was underappreciated in his day.

Gene Clark was indeed underappreciated, a terrific songwriter...Omnivore has some Gene Clark releases coming out soon...

Enjoyed this very much Gary...nice article...saw Roger a couple of times live, once solo, once with a band that did a lot of Byrd covers...they opened the show and then Roger played with them...both very good shows...

There's a few Clarke/Clark typos need to be fixed (e.g.,"The harmony vocals of Crosby and Clarke...", "Clarke wrote or co-wrote..."). And probably should be a LOL or ...," he chucked, after "...until [Gram] wanted to replace me with a steel guitar player." Funny but some people will actually take that seriously. 

That's probably true...and I did notice the Michael vs Gene juxtaposition myself...

Thanks for pointing out the spellings. I am quite familiar with the different spellings of Gene Clark and Michael Clarke, and they were correctly spelled when I submitted this column. The two similar names may have confused a copy editor. As for the "LOL" you suggested, Roger appeared serious when he made that statement about Gram. Thanks again for your input.

No problem. I totally believe it happened in "editorial." Re: Roger, he's good at appearing serious, but yeah, probably in terms of "let's add steel," I believe that. No way were they going to back this record on the road without someone being Jay Dee and Lloyd, and no one was and we know what the outcome was. The ultimate solution was Clarence White. 

Even though I saw them in concert several times, it is by watching Youtube videos of the last iteration of the Byrds in recent years that I realize the high level of musicianship this most overlooked version of the group had. More jam band than folk rock but still kick ass. I would love a reunion but touring with Crosby....

If by the last iteration you mean McGuinn, Clarence White and Gene Parsons (Skip Battin), that was a great band musically...love Gene Parsons' solo stuff too (Kindling and Melodies are great records)...Clarence White was an incredible guitarist, so yeah, they could tear it up...

 

Best live Byrds period. 

I find it interesting that there is so much disagreement over "Sweetheart of the Rodeo."  Some love it, some hate it.  But no one can dispute how important it was in the course of modern popular music.

There's not too much disagreement with that out here...but yes, the casual Byrds fan and even many passionate Byrd fans were not happy with that record...I wasn't crazy about it when I first heard it either...but it was very important...

Love it, but would file with GP and Grievous Angel before Byrds. 

(Saw Roger McGuinn's one man show at Byron Bay in '98. Best memory is "Eight Miles High" on a twelve string acoustic. Sounded like McGuinn plays Leo Kottke plays Byrds.)

Great to see Kottke included in this line of conversation. 

 

Leo is so underappreciated and unknown these days. What a talent!

I nearly quit playing guitar after seeing him live once (as a matter of fact I stopped calling what I do "playing the guitar", it's more something I do to accompany myself)...incredible musician...

Incredible musician (and a great sit-down comedian). Here's his take on "Eight Miles High".

  "...Tambourine Man became the only Dylan song to ever reach No. 1 on the music charts." Really? What about "To make you feel my love" by Garth Brooks?

I believe McGuinn meant on the "rock music" charts. You are right -- Brooks' cover of that Dylan song hit No. 1 on the country charts. Thanks!

"Like a Rolling Stone" was #1 according to Cashbox... maybe they don't have the gravitas of Billboard? I looked it up because I assumed it was a #1 that summer.

 

(BTW I think I may have that Bob Gibson/Hamilton (Bob?) Camp album on vinyl hidden deep in the stacks, I remember it vaguely as being "too folky" for me at the time so I have hardly ever played it. I know I got it years after the initial release but can't remember anything about that. I think I got it because Camp wrote "Pride of Man" & I saw him in a coffee house, Club 47 I think, around 1970. I will have to dig it out from exile.)

"Like a Rolling Stone" reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

"...Dylan...also long ago sped past McGuinn as a songwriter..."

Singling out McGuinn for this comment seems like a bit of a low blow. Didn't Dylan blow past ALL his contemporaries as a songwriter??

Otherwise enjoyed the article.  Would love to hear a Byrds reunion while Roger and David can still sing!

I saw Chris Hillman a couple of years ago with Herb Pedersen...Hillman can still sing like a bird/Byrd and pick like he did when he was young...as a matter of fact, while it's been a good 15 years since I've seen Roger/Jim live, and since Roger sang lead a lot of the time, his voice was very identifiable as the "Byrd" vocalist...Chris and Herb did several Byrds songs, and Chris sounded great singing the lead on those songs...so I would say he'd contribute as much to a Byrds reunion as Roger and David would truthfully...doesn't sound like Roger is all that interested in nostalgia, but I think the band would sound pretty good, given that Crosby is doing some pretty interesting work right now...they all are still functioning at a pretty high level it would seem...

Wouldn't call it a low blow, because Roger flatly told me he wasn't much of a songwriter, and I felt it was a relatively innocuous transitional sentence. I did find that, Roger, though, was far too modest about his musical abilities and contributions. He is an all-time great musician who will forever hold an important place in rock, folk and country music history.

He is modest about his contributions, though it's really hard to know who did how much on co-writes a lot of the time...he wrote "Mr. Spaceman", co wrote "Eight Miles High" with Gene Clark and Crosby, "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" with Hillman, "Ballad of Easy Rider" with Dylan (un-credited), "Chestnut Mare" was a co-write too...those are pretty darn good songs...

But if you were in a band with Gene Clark, who is greatly underappreciated, Crosby, Hillman, and then later with people like Gram Parsons, those are some seriously talented songwriters who volume wise produced a lot more (not to mention being a contemporary of Bob) ...so I can understand his reticence to promote himself too much...he kept MVP company when it came to songwriting...but he was the face of the Byrds and that Rickenbacker 12 string jangle influenced a lot of musicians that came later...doubt a song like Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" ever even happens without the Byrds...I also would argue that Lindsey Buckingham's arrangements on Fleetwood Mac songs, with all the chiming guitars, are Byrds inspired...a lot of the stuff Lindsey did on those songs was accomplished by stringing a 6 string guitar with the higher pitch  strings from a 12 string guitar...the Byrds' influence is all over... 

Great stuff here on the influences and proper credits. I think John Stewart also showed Buckingham a few tricks along the way, not that this connects to the Byrds conversation. Cannot think of Petty without credit to McGuinn.

I would never consider McGuinn a songwriter, in the league of great songwriters anyway. His best was probably Chestnut Mare and I hate that song. Totally ruined Untitled imo, an album that should have been edited down to the Jacques Levy stuff, and then end the Byrds with a live album with the Untitled live stuff instead of putting it on Untitled. And avoid Byrdmaniax.

Agreed on McGuinn and it sounds like he has a similar opinion of his songwriting....I'd avoid Byrdmaniax too...I believe the co-writer on "Chestnut Mare" is Levy...I rolled with pretty much everything on "Untitled"...in general I liked all of it and loved that version of the band...the Levy stuff was great but I liked the Leadbelly tune too...there is a cut or two that could have been left off...