Perfect Sound Forever

Johnny Rogan's Byrds Requiem For The Timeless Vol 2


Uh... You Left Out A John, Johnny
An Intense Review
Part 1 by David Chirko

In 2017. Byrds bard Johnny Rogan released his latest document detailing the Byrds saga, entitled, Byrds Requiem For The Timeless Volume 2, The Lives and Tragic Deaths of Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Kevin Kelley, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin. This book is the follow-up to his 2011 tome, Byrds Requiem For The Timeless Volume 1 (which I reviewed at amazon.ca in 2012). The second Requiem installment was a long time in the making because, as Rogan earlier indicated publicly, it was originally slated for publishing in 2014.

Byrds Requiem For The Timeless Volume 2 is 1,248 pages long and divided into chapters for each of the six Byrds highlighted, complemented by exhaustive and informative notes. For eleven of the 12 Byrds that flew, there is a comprehensive US/UK discography, with albums and tracks listed--before and after their stint in the Byrds, plus a cursory mention of albums with the Byrds (directing the reader to refer to Requiem 1 for complete information); a list of copyright registrations for songs; a section on unreleased songs; and a listing of all their compositions that are known. Lastly, this is a thorough index. The photo galleries on the inside of the volume are impressive, in that, there are offerings I have heretofore never espied. However, I believe that there could have been more photos, maybe something of a familial nature.


John Guerin

It is Rogan's Requiem 2 book's shimmering, monochrome cover photo of the aforementioned six alumni that immediately intrigued me. Their faces appear almost ghost-like--plucked from a dream sequence, and carefully juxtaposed with one another for a recent and incongruous family photo, because not one Byrd pictured ever played with every other Byrd shown. This is understandable, considering the flock underwent an incessant morphing during its flight. But, wait, someone was absent from the nest for the photo session: John Guerin! 1 If you flip back to the Requiem 1 photo portfolio, between pages 592 and 593, there is a picture of him, with a caption beneath, announcing, "John Guerin replaces Gene Parsons. Backstage rehearsal... September 1972." On page 843, we find Rogan attesting, "Although technically a Byrd (if we accept that he was appointed before their break-up) he never recorded an album with the group and was only a member for a few months..." Actually, he was a member for about eight months, and the below comments substantiate my claim that Guerin was a documented Byrd.

In July, 1972, Guerin did record--although not a full long player--a studio recording of "Bag Full of Money," a bonus track for the Byrds' 2000 Farther Along remastered reissue on Sony (which bought CBS/Columbia in 1987) CD.

Further, in Christopher Hjort's book, So You Want To Be A Rock'N'Roll Star The Byrds Day-By-Day 1965-1973 (2008) we read that, in the studio, under August of 1972, "Drummer John Guerin fills the vacancy left by [Gene] Parsons" (p. 303). The latter, whom John Nork of the absolute sound [1991] termed "... the best of the Byrds' drummers" [p. 174]-- indicates even more about the dexterity of Guerin, their new acquisition back then. And, still with Hjort, under September, 1972, we read "John Guerin debuts as a drumming Byrd..." (p. 304). In January, 1973, Guerin also recorded, albeit live, "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Roll Over Beethoven," later included on the 1977 Banjoman soundtrack, as part of a tribute concert to Earl Scruggs. Therein, according to Hjort, "Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin, and John Guerin dress up as the Byrds again..." (p. 312). Under February, 1973, Hjort states, "John Guerin played with the group on the recent Midnight Special TV taping..." (p. 313). Lastly, Hjort, regarding the demise of former members long after the Byrds' breakup, declares, perhaps paradoxically, "The enlarged Byrds family also suffers casualties... John Guerin, the drummer who never really was a proper Byrd, dies in 2004" (p. 324). Oh, "... never really was a proper Byrd..."? Then why even mention him in a "... Byrds family..." context?

Some asseverate that Guerin was but a session drummer 2--which he performed as, as well (as did Clarence White, as a session guitarist, while he was a Byrd). Moreover, beestie, Byrds one by one at rateyourmusic.com, explains, "He was only official member of three bands: The Byrds (1972-1973), Muleskinner and the L.A Express... John is not on every gig of The Byrds due to session obligations." The author then lists a number of recordings by sundry artists, including Byrds bootleg recordings, Guerin appeared on. Guerin listed as a Byrd can also be found in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (1983, p. 78) and The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Updated) (1995, p. 139). Also, in Mike Clifford's The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock (1988), within the California Country Rock Family Tree by group genealogy expert Pete Frame (p. 38), Guerin is listed as the drummer, playing with McGuinn, Battin and White, under Byrds #7, September, 1972 January, 1973. Unfortunately, Guerin is not listed in "Byrds Tree: An Historical Timeline" from the booklet accompanying the 1990 box set, The Byrds. Regarding, and referring to Guerin as a Byrd, I once e-mailed (August 9, 2004) a query to former Byrd, John York: "... had you ever met any of the other former Byrds..." and his response to me, Chirko, D. (personal communication, August 10, 2004), was, "I have had the pleasure to meet all... except John Guerin..."

Finally, the encomium for Guerin's prowess with the drumsticks is copious. In fact, in Requiem 1, Rogan quotes Byrds' roadie Carlos Bernal, discussing group co-founder Roger McGuinn's interest in Guerin, averring, "... He was on The Tonight Show and Roger said, 'I want that guy! He's the best money can buy.' At that time the hottest drummer in the nation was John Guerin" (p. 595). Further, Rogan (2011) elaborates, "As a studio musician, he had already worked with White and Battin... He was pleased to join the Byrds in order to get some gigging experience,' Battin confirmed. 'I think he wanted a break from session work for a while'" (p. 595). Unfortunately, later on, as Rogan states, McGuinn expressed how he derived pleasure in working with Guerin, but concluded he was overly jazz-oriented, believed the pay was not sufficient, and was not sincere--holding a condescending attitude toward the other Byrds. Surprisingly, McGuinn inevitably confessed his acquiescence of Guerin's attitude, saying he was "... perhaps too good a drummer for what I wanted" (p. 605). I ponder how much verisimilitude was contained in those utterances concerning style when I read elsewhere of Guerin that, "His enviable technical skills and his ease in a variety of musical styles allowed him to work in genres other than jazz..." Allmusic. 3

I will now comment on not only the background, life, personality, addictions, artistic virtuosity and historical impact, but some of the now resolved contentious issues, of each of the six Byrds sequentially presented in Rogan's book. There will also be a psychological synopsis, where feasible and appropriate.




later day Gene


Harold Eugene Clark November 17, 1944 May 24, 1991


In the beginning was the word

Gene, or "Geno," came from a somewhat rural family of 13 children in Tipton, Missouri, later moving to Kansas and was known for his robust physicality and sometimes pugnacious demeanor, from childhood into adulthood. All in his family labored hard to make ends meet. Gene was sensitive, imaginative and spiritual--even entertaining an intrigue with the extra-terrestrial--which all impacted on his music. His family was musical and he began playing first with a mandolin, later upright bass and then guitar. He recorded his first tape at age 14 and belonged to various ensembles and sang in state music competitions.

It was at the Troubadour, Hollywood, June of 1964, Gene Clark founded the Jet Set, and the trio--Clark, David Crosby and Jim (later adopting the sobriquet "Roger") McGuinn--with Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman waiting in the wings, later recorded as the Beefeaters and by Thanksgiving Day became what was to fly as the Byrds. He is therefore the first person Rogan chronicled, and deservedly given the most space (pp. 9-407), in his text.

Raven Records released an archival Byrds CD in 2004 entitled, Set You Free: Gene Clark in the Byrds 1964-1973. It included 22 songs, 21 composed by Clark, but missing five others he wrote and recorded with "The Famous Five." Back in 2006, I reviewed the aforementioned CD at amazon.com, wherein I asseverated, "All of the torch ballads and songs by Gene Clark--rock's most underrated 'songwriting genius' (what rock expert Michael Fremer called him, as quoted in senior audio reviewer John Nork's article, "The Byrds Box Flying Again," in the March/April, 1991 issue of The Absolute Sound)--on this CD are exquisitely mellifluous, with their enchanting harmonic modulations; embellished by romantic, yet simplistic, poetic lyricism." This (may I currently add), complemented by his sonorous vocalizing which aches with heart-rending feeling. No one knew where Gene's poetic and musical knack came from, as he was not that erudite. Recently, there has been a concerted effort to get him into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rogan (2017) would share my aforementioned extolment, when he delivers exquisite descriptions of each opus Clark (and the other Byrds herein) penned and recorded, which usually conjures a tantalizing soundscape that enraptures the reader's sense organs. For instance, comparing a Clark solo love ballad he enjoyed from that time called "The Same One," he states, "Like 'Set You Free This Time' it is a song of loss played out like a session on a psychiatrist's couch" (p. 75). Speaking of the latter, Rogan gushes that its "... word-packed lines and tortuous dissection of another broken relationship testified to an astonishing maturity" (p. 54). The latter song, scheduled to be released February 1966 in the UK, was so lyrically and musically cogent that it could have been coincided by, and complemented, the first ever rock video, which was commissioned by Columbia and financed by the BBC. It was never completed because--following the success of the Byrds' hit, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"--on a beach where the filming took place, there was a dicey situation, instigated by Crosby (who, along with McGuinn, were resentful of Gene's tunesmith talents, which made the latter a cynosure), who goaded Michael Clarke into seeking more attention, leading to a famous donnybrook.



Love Byrds

Rogan describes how the less-than-urbane Gene Clark pursued the Hollywood lifestyle, as a fast driver of snazzy cars and a spendthrift, he became more ensconced in the pricey extravagances than anyone else in the Famous Five. Dancer Jacqui Levy was a woman he was enamored with and who would show him around Tinseltown.

He soon developed a hushed dalliance with carefree sophisticate Michelle Phillips, back in April of 1966. It all became public June 4th at Melodyland Theatre in Anaheim, California, where the Mamas and the Papas were performing, when Michelle made open overtures from the stage to Gene, who was in the front row, donning vermillion. When husband Papa John Phillips descried this, he became livid, facilitating Michelle's temporary exit from the group. Chip Douglas (later a Turtle and producer for the Monkees), from Gene Clark & The Group (Gene's first band, after leaving the Byrds), believed Gene's song "If I Hang Around" pertained to her (Byrd Parts 2 booklet , 2003, p. 5).

Gene then married former dancer and later record production manager, Carlie Lynn McCummings, and had two sons by her, Kelly Eugene, and Kai Taylor. Later on, she became an addict. Terri Jean Messina, a film editor when she met Gene again after a decade hiatus following her initial contact with him, became a longtime girlfriend of his. She unsuccessfully tried to sue Gene's estate which took a long time to settle for the recipients, which turned out to be Carlie and the boys; the latter whom, according to some, Terri never did much for. She experienced issues concerning her salubrity and was taking methadone, making her become corpulent. Even though she did much to help Gene personally and professionally, she was, understandably, alienated from the family. Rogan elaborates, "On 21 August 2007 Terri took her own life. She was 61. Even in death she could not escape cruel vilification" (2017, p. 324). Moreover, Rogan says, the internet trolls (probably on Byrds and/or Clark related sites) were on her case, spewing rancor.

Karen Johnson, a publicist and artists' relations officer, came into Gene's orbit the last six weeks of his life. She had cared for, and gotten close to Gene but was not trusted by some, regarding her motives.



The Byrd who couldn't fly

Gene's fellow bandmate in the New Christie Minstrels, Barry McGuire (who played with former Byrd John York in Trippin' The 60s in the '90's and 2000's), described Gene's enigmatic personality as "... stoic..." (Rogan, 2017, p. 39) because he was irritable and not so easygoing, but could warm up to some people. McGuire remarked on Gene's discomfiture with flying, because of a traumatic plane crash he witnessed in his childhood, which didn't help his career, either. Gene remembered an incident in a Kansas City airport when he was 14--a commercial airliner crashing with the accompanying conflagration engulfing passengers who were fleeing the craft. Rogan (2017) explains that no aviation records regarding said incident were promulgated. What probably occurred then was, according to local news, in December 1958, a pilot husband and his wife in a private airplane stopped off at the Kansas City airport to refuel and soon after taking off had their engine catch on fire. The pilot unsuccessfully endeavored to emergency land but the aircraft crashed and they instantly perished. Falling within feet of a property, the plane wreck did damage to a house, where a couple of children were slumbering (p. 21). This event incessantly haunted Gene and February 22, 1966 at Los Angeles airport, en route to New York, a terrified Byrd was shaking and departed the airplane the rest of the Famous Five were on. Present at the scene, Byrds' publicist Derek Taylor, declared (pp. 56-58) how he found the nonchalance of Gene's bandmates--regarding his decision to leave the nest--astounding, confirming their dearth of appreciation for him. David and Roger were, indubitably, resentful of the ensuing royalties he received from the first two Byrds albums on Columbia. As Rogan (2011) attests, Gene "... became 'The Byrd Who Could Not Fly' but as an explanation for his departure, it was... inadequate. Nevertheless, there was an unintended... truth in McGuinn's related quip: 'To be a Byrd, you have to fly'" (p. 271). Rogan, in Requiem 2 maintains that there was no conspiracy engineered by others in the flock to drive Gene from the nest. He alludes to his first Requiem, wherein he says he earlier explained Gene's reason for why he flew the Byrds' coop. Apart from aerophobia, there was his "... nervous condition, Hollywood lifestyle, intense relationship with dancer Jacqui Levy, and much more" (2017, p. 56). Levy, like Michelle Phillips, was strong-minded and she might have been arduous for a free, creative spirit like Clark to deal with.



Mood swing in flight

John Einarson, in his biographical book, entitled, Mr. Tambourine Man The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark (2005), indicated from his research that Gene was probably suffering from manic depression (bipolar disorder). Einarson attests that Gene's parents and some of his siblings struggled with mental illness. Tradesman and learned confidante of Gene's, Philip O'Leno, declared, "There is a will to death, as Freud calls it, and it's an ugly thing when it gets the better of you" (Einarson, 2005, p. 199). It seemed as if Gene, insecure over being any band's frontman and, for that matter, never having an affinity for doing interviews, was perfervidly in pursuit of fame, but when he got it within his clutches, he killed his quest. O'Leno believed that this was the brooding, mysterious dark side to Gene, as others opined.

Further, regarding bipolar disorder, Rogan (2017, Gene Clark: Notes, pp. 369-372), incredulous, thought such notions were conjectural. He reminds us that Gene never visited any therapist, therefore was never diagnosed with bipolar disorder--a term that has been overused. Besides, misdiagnosis of someone long dead was always a possibility. Rogan, not ignoring Gene's depressive episodes, says he may have suffered from a milder form of bipolar disorder "... cyclothymia... which combines a milder form of depression with episodes of mania or hyper mania [sic]" (p. 371). 4 Therein, creativity would be feasible, Rogan opines. He believes that, if Gene was taking psychoactive drugs to combat his depression, this would have stifled his artistic creativity. In any event, he further avers that bipolar disorder does not encourage creativity.

Psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., in her volume, Touched With Fire (1993), explains that there is an augmented rate of bipolar disorder, depression and suicide prevalent with various artists (naming numerous poets, writers, composers, et al, in the Appendix B, pp. 267-270). She contends that there is another type of humanistic vocabulary, perspicuity and empathy derived from the creator's melancholic state, periodically dotted by episodic mania, with all of its intense and expansive dimensions. Such fluctuations affect one's affective and perceptual condition--even with milder cases of bipolar illness, i.e., cyclothymia. She argues that it is during/at the hypomanic, or milder manic level, that artistic activity burgeons. Further, one then is symptomatically more robust and heightened in mood, thereby possessing a lower desire for slumber, not to mention having a greater opinion of oneself, emboldening their confidence--all leading to a quest for efficacy in creative thought. This would apply to Gene, as he was often up till the wee hours of the morning, composing his songs and demonstrating his bravado by being pugilisitc. Regarding the impact of the aforementioned traits on the personality, she asseverates, this all "... speaks to the seriousness with which the association between mild mania and creativity has been taken by even some of the more rigorous clinical scientists within the field of academic psychiatry" (p. 103).

Rogan alludes to Einarson (2005), who thought that Gene medicated himself to mollify his depressive attacks, whereas Rogan thought he may have become depressed after consuming alcohol. Gene only attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a few years and, as Rogan reasons, that drink was the main culprit in creating Gene's mental health issues, not drugs. Rogan explains that there is no evidence Gene had had prescribed for him any type of drug to control his drinking, nor that he was ever registered for any rehab program. Moreover, Rogan explains, Clark was far more addicted to alcohol than any other drug. It is known that he took, or purportedly took, drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, LSD and marijuana, which could have instigated obstreperous behavior.


See Part 2 of the Byrds book review



Bookmark and Share


Check out the rest of PERFECT SOUND FOREVER

MAIN PAGE ARTICLES STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC LINKS E-MAIL