Home' Rhythms Magazine : July August 2018 Contents Rhythms 51
DON’T GO BAROQUEING MY HEART.
LOST AND FOUND.
It’s only taken 50 years, but Gene Clark’s lost year of 1967
has finally been rediscovered.
It’s not a smile as such. But the Gene Clark gaze of 1967 is
a confident one. And so it should’ve been. He’d just turned
22 and was already a star in Los Angeles. A good looking
fellow who could sing like a bird and write deep, dignified
songs. It’s just nobody got to hear some of the best of them
from that lost year of ’67. ’Til now.
The backstory is this: in February ’66, Gene Clark departed
The Byrds at the peak of their fame and soon after writing
their greatest triumph, ‘Eight Miles High’. He put together
a new band called the Gene Clark Group that imploded
after some much-hyped June shows at L.A .’s Whisky a
Go Go. Undaunted, Gene released a single – the dense
psychodrama ‘Echoes’, arranged by Leon Russell and
seemingly aimed at the other Byrds, in November ’66 that
didn’t do much, commercially. In Feb ’67, he finally released
his debut solo album, With the Gosdin Brothers, but that
also failed to capture an audience despite its eccentric
brilliance. And with that, Gene Clark was dropped from
Columbia and didn’t release another record for a good 18
But, we’ve known for a long time the setbacks didn’t stop
him from writing or recording.
“I got into a real poetic kind of writing,” Gene told writer
Domenic Priore in 1985. “There were two or three hundred
songs I wrote over that period. I have no idea what I was
thinking about, just images. I used to lock myself in my
house and just work for days on songs.”
One legendary acetate was Gene Clark Sings For You
recorded at Gold Star Studios in late ’67 and rediscovered
in the vaults in the ’80s. It gained its own mythology
as the great, lost document in a similar vein to other
fabled sessions like The Beach Boys’ SMiLE and Buffalo
Springfield’s Stampede. Another tantalising three-song,
full-band session was produced earlier in the year by South
African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela.
Part of their allure was neither of these recordings were ever
bootlegged. Indeed, only a select few had actually heard
them. The rest of us pouring over the copyrighted songs
listed in Johnny Rogan’s 1998 Timeless Flight Revisited and
described in tantalising short-hand in John Einarson’s 2005
Gene Clark biography, Mr. Tambourine Man.
Writer Tom Sandford was another who documented the
unreleased tracks in lengthier dissertations on his popular
Clarkophile blog. Of course, it wasn’t a lone effort but
Sandford’s force of will – one that aptly represented the
passion and patience of deep Gene Clark fans – helped get
these records finally released.
“We fought so long and so hard to make this happen,” he
admits. “But you can understand why it took so long. If it
was difficult when Gene was still a big star, how does one
justify it now, when it's hard for everyone to sell records?
Gene's music was never about sales. He always put art first.”
What we missed hearing at the time was Sgt. Pepper style
baroque pop – recorded months before Pepper was released
crossed with mariachi horns and a Dylan-style singer out
“There is something stately, soulfully dignified in Gene's
approach on ‘Back Street Mirror’,” says Sandford. “Listen to
the commanding presence—the gravitas—in his voice. The
juxtaposition of his Dylanesque phrasing with the glorious
chamber-pop backing is a masterstroke.”
Masekela also arranged another baroque gem, ‘Yesterday,
Am I Right’ and a fabulous R&B stomper in the vein of The
Beatles’ ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’, called ‘Don't Let It
Then there’s Sings For You, which, despite the ramshackle
recordings, is alive with possibilities. Highlights include
the brooding ‘Doctor, Doctor’, the gleefully abandoned ‘Past
Tense’ and the Beatles-like coda on ‘Past My Door’.
The crazy part is that Gene burned through these songs. He
didn’t go back to them later in his career. There’s no lyrics
or melodies that pop up on later albums. He wrote and
recorded them fast. He soon forgot them too. As listeners,
we’re just catching up.
By the end of ’67, Gene had re-joined and already left The
Byrds for a second time during the recording of Notorious
Byrd Brothers. It added another raft of possibilities for buffs
to mull over. But the upshot is this: it’s never been a better
time to be a Gene Clark fan.
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