Perfect Sound Forever


Byrd, Dreamer, Madman, Part 2
by David Chirko
(February 2018)

"Tribal Gathering"

She'll hand to you a stick of sandalwood
A little smile and then she'll disappear
Back into a crowd of happy people
Looking like they never came from here
Strange thing, gathering of tribes
Strange thing, gathering of tribes

Regarding the opening stanza and echoing what Fine opined earlier, Geza Roheim, in Psychoanalysis and Anthropology tells us that "...symbols are potentially universal" (1950, p. 443). With this in mind, let me begin the analysis of the first stanza by describing the symbolic significance of "sandalwood" from various historic eras and areas of the world. From South Asia, sandalwood as a symbol could be found in Biblical times 10 when it was, along with jewels and gold, offered to, and by, kings. The wood was employed to construct their palaces, temples and musical instruments. As well, ancient religions used it in their worship ceremonies and for everything from that which would be capable of warding off anxiety, to focusing, in meditation--which would increase a worshiper's propinquity to a deity. Another 1968 song which alluded to sandalwood was "Who Will Answer" 11, sung by Ed Ames.

Here, its scent is described as having a mollifying and/or stimulating affect for those immersed in the world of drugs. This is no coincidence when Ric Menck, in his work, 33 1/3 The Notorious Byrd Brothers, examined "Tribal Gathering," where we are reminded of Crosby's espousal of the counterculture through a handsome pharmacopoeia--integral to all of the Byrds' modus operandi (not to forget his libertine lifestyle, replete with sultry femmes). Sandalwood is also utilized in aromatherapy and for ablutions because it possesses soothing, protective, medicinal properties. Sandalwood, then, is tantamount to flowers, cf. "Renaissance Fair," for its uniting and tranquil characteristics, which, enchantingly, puts a halt to strife. And, Roheim explains that "A symbol is the outward representative of a latent repressed content" (p. 444). Therefore, sandalwood can be symbolic of many wholesome, pleasurable things that someone else, i.e., society, does not want us to have or enjoy, which was altered irrevocably with the advent of the 60s. In the final analysis, what David meant by the girl handing a visitor a stick of sandalwood was her presentation of a peace offering, or "peace pipe," if you will.

Exultation was everywhere--hinted to by the girl with "a little smile" who returns to a "crowd of happy people." The following line, "Looking like they never came from here" segues into the tribal group's munificent diversity, espousing, heretofore, an unprecedented unity of people--the refrain pertinent to the "Strange thing" occurring when "tribes" gather. What unites all of the disparate elements? Freud, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, tells us, alluding to Gustave Le Bon, " well justified is the identification of the group mind with the mind of primitive people. In groups, the most contradictory ideas can exist side by side and tolerate each other, without any conflict arising from the logical contradictions between them. But this is also the case in the unconscious mental life of individuals, of children and of neurotics, as psychoanalysis has long pointed out" (1921, p. 15). Referring to William McDougall, Freud says a group could be described as a "crowd"' (p. 21). Said group comes together at any time when the essentials of an organization are evident. More specifically, the individuals forming a group must share a commonality, be it interest invested in an object or an affective tendentiousness in certain scenarios, which have an impact on one another. In this case it was free love, getting stoned, enjoying the beauty of the moment and bucking the establishment, uniting all of the unique characters. The psychological group, if you will, is constructed from this cerebral sameness and the more solidified, the more demonstrative is the group mind and ego. Fine reminds us that Freud said in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, "In the individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as a helper, as an opponent; and so from the very first individual at the same time social psychology...."(Fine, 1979, p. 493). The folks in this group have a common superego--where identifications with, first family, later, other individuals, are ensconced--incorporated in a leader or ideology. In the end, they eschew intolerance. Their hedonistic pursuits originate in the id.

A Macedonian and a pilot comes
A' laughing at a German jest or joke
A friendly motorcycle angel comes
To sit and talk awhile and share a smoke
Strange thing, gathering of tribes
Strange thing, gathering of tribes

As for the second stanza, ethnologically, the "tribes" are identified: Slavs or "Macedonian(s)," mingling with Teutons or "German(s)." But they could be anybody and regardless of their linguistic differences and how they, or anyone else, arrive--by air, as a "pilot," or by land, on a "motorcycle," they all share the peace pipe or "smoke," mentioned above. Therefore, this stanza is a corollary of the previous one, wherein the "crowd" materializes. Expanding on this, from The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, Maurice Freedman informs us that a "tribe" (Bullock and Stallybrass, 1977, p. 646) contains a homogeneity through language and culture, though the political facet here seems nebulous, however, when people of various tribal backgrounds assemble in a specific area--which, temporarily at least, is owned by the inhabitants--one of the groups will be labelled a tribe, regardless of the fact they may be bereft of any organized politicization. Further, the word "tribal," as it follows, for our purposes, carries a primitive connotation. "Primitive" (Bullock and Stallybrass, 1977, p. 496) according to John Willett, meant illiterate, not technologically savvy or large in scale, but always burgeoning. The evolutionary aspects he says may be played down. However, when one examines the social development of popular music, it has, indubitably, evolved accordingly. Menck tells us, in his aforementioned monograph, that in the midway segment of the song a psychedelic salvo is issued.

McGuinn ups the distortion on his 12-string, producer Gary Usher ignites his compressor, bassist Hillman and session drummer Hal Blaine, snatch the beholder with a rhythm section that rocks unearthingly. It sounds like the LSD is permeating the recording studio.

Pretty little whirling butterfly
All the prettiest girls go dancing by
Caught up in the sound of talking drums
Lost herself out in the wheel of sound
Strange thing, gathering of tribes
Strange thing, gathering of tribes

The stanza that ends the piece talks about the "butterfly," which comes into the world through a metamorphosis, as a pure, fresh, natural yet ephemeral, state emerges, which is what Crosby was symbolizing here with them "whirling" into a new age. Menck explains, "One can almost picture the young revelers dancing through Elysian Park, beating on drums, chanting messages of peace and love, blown sky high out of their minds on God knows what...." (2007, p. 119). He says that, in this piece, there is an innocence imbued with youth, eg., "prettiest girls," that has left us. The "talking drums" and "Lost...wheel of sound" are metaphorical, because that's what mind-altering substances contributed to conversation.


First, I would encourage anyone wanting to experience the full impact of the Byrds' songs, "Renaissance Fair" and "Tribal Gathering," described above, to listen to them on Sony/CBS compact discs. This is because any song lyrics can seem jejune, sans melody. I have exemplified how the aspirations of creators, i.e., "madman" David Crosby and the Byrds, through wishful dreaming and the articulation of said in conscious life, as well as picturing what they conceive sensorially and deduce with their own dreamy phraseology, can be studied in relation to groups they join and develop to assist in endeavouring to fashion a new, benevolent world order. To their chagrin, it seems as though the reality principle won out in the end. However, most apropos as parting words (to especially David) are from Freud's Civilization and its Discontents, that somebody "...receptive as a...pleasure and consolation....and....try to re-create the conformity with one' Reality is too strong.... He becomes a madman...through his delusion" (1929, p. 18).


1. Reuben Fine (page 10) tells us that Freud, in his The Interpretation of Dreams, apparently quoted the words of Kant.

2. Salman Akhtar, in his Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, under the "Narcissistic personality types" category, refers us to Heinz Kohut and Ernest Wolf, who devised five subtypes of this kind of personality. Two of them might apply to David Crosby here: "(1) mirror hungry personalities, who are constantly impelled to display themselves and seek admiration to counteract their inner sense of worthlessness;" (2009, p. 182) and "(3) alter-ego personalities, who need a relationship with someone conforming to their own values and thus attesting to the veracity and significance of their selves" (p. 182). With (1) David clashed with the other Byrds over his flamboyant and obnoxious behaviour, endeavouring to convince them of his creative abilities, or, to react to their rejection of his artistic proposals. This must have hurt him, because he was trying, as in (3), to make some semblance of connection. Further regarding (3) he no doubt found his soulmates when he later joined what became Crosby Stills Nash & Young and therefore, perhaps, the former category did not any longer apply. Space precludes me from outlining the plethora of creative and personal conflicts which existed between David and the other Byrds at that time, which are discussed in Rogan's work.

3. Eric Burdon and the Animals' song, "Monterey," was a tribute to (but written and recorded after) the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, June 16-18, 1967. It used, from the Byrds' song "Renaissance Fair," the line, "I think that maybe I'm dreamin'" (and earlier in the [Animals] song, their own intriguing lines "Others gave flowers away" and "The Byrds and the Airplane did fly"). Coincidentally, the Byrds (as did the Animals, earlier) appeared at the Monterey festival June 17, playing "Renaissance Fair."

4. The particular Bible verse I am alluding to is found in The Song of Songs (Solomon), chapter 4, verse 14. To get the gist of what cinnamon (among other spices here) exemplifies, i.e., a woman, I will quote verses 12 to 14 (NAB): "You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed. You are a park that puts forth pomegranates, with all choice fruits; Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all kinds of incense; Myrrh and aloes, with all the finest spices."

5. Ann Faraday, in her book The Dream Game, offers this caveat: "A final word of caution about dreams in general: remember that they are always focused on your own personal life.... It is...rare...for people to dream about general subjects like politics, science, social affairs, or religion, except in so far as the dreamer is personally involved with such matters in the intimacies of his own life. As Calvin Hall says, A dream is a personal document, a letter to oneself. It is not a newspaper story or a magazine article'" (1974, pp. 70-71). This would, of course, pertain to David Crosby, as he has shared with listeners.

6. Calvin S. Hall reflects Faraday's comments in note 5, in his work, The Meaning of Dreams: "There may be a few symbols that are shared by a number of people but even these are probably not timeless or universal in meaning. That is why we caution against the mechanical interpretation of dreams by using dream books.... Let the dream...say what it has to say without trying to force a meaning on it from some outside source" (1953, p. 108). As well, he elaborates, "There are symbols in dreams garnish...ideas with beauty and taste" (p. 108) (regarding Crosby, see note 5).

7. Also see Erich Fromm's The Forgotten Language and Ernest Jones' "Psychoanalysis and Anthropology," - Essays in Applied Psychoanalysis, 1924. The former, apprises us that there are "...three kinds of symbols: the conventional, the accidental, and the universal...." (1951, p. 13). The conventional represents words for objects in language used every day. The last two apply to dreams. In the accidental, the symbol has nothing to do with what it symbolizes; it's just an association, very subjective, of an experience with a place or object that assists one in merely remembering something emotional, which can be found in dreams. The universal symbol, on the other hand, is not coincidental, because what it represents is intrinsic to an emotion or thought, having a rapprochement with a sensory experience, which is often shared by mankind.

8. Charles Reich, in his volume, The Greening of America, discusses three phases of consciousness. "Consciousness I" (loss of reality) involved the ravages of avarice visited upon an industrialized society. Bereft of awareness, it viewed such problems as but moral dilemmas, i.e., that man was individually responsible for accidents, not engineering. Because of the failure of this scenario, "Consciousness II" made its appearance. It promoted a more socially responsible approach on behalf of the business sector, improving matters for the public interest. Reich believes this was, in reality, pessimistic. Man was still seen as aggressive and a seeker of omnipotence. He says, "Freud took a somewhat similar view in Civilization and Its Discontents" (1970, p. 70). Ergo, law + reason = freedom, in a technological reality, that is. "Consciousness III" (the new generation) considers the highest good in life friendship, love and community. Emanating from this is energy, with an unprecedented awareness. Reich, importantly, says that "Music has become the deepest means of communication and expression for an entire culture" (p. 260). Later, he elaborates, "...rock music has been able to give critiques of society at a profound level ("Draft Morning," by the Byrds....)" (p. 267) (the aforementioned Byrds song is, like "Tribal Gathering," also on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album). Pertinent to the festival atmosphere contained in the two songs under review in this disquisition, is Reich's pronouncement: "For Consciousness III...lying in the grass, humor and play, new forms of community, art, literature, knowledge and mystery are all freshly created" (p. 285). I think that all this was what Erich Fromm was driving at in his book, To Have Or To Be? where he outlined the dichotomy existing between the "Having Mode"--man defined by what he physically possesses in an overly materialistic world; and, the "Being Mode"--man defined by his experiences and sharing with others. Regarding the latter--which, it appears, was the philosophy behind pop festivals--he proclaims that such an activity, " socially recognized purposeful behavior that results in corresponding socially useful changes" (1976, p. 90).

9. Elysian Park, named after Elysium, which, in Greek mythology, was the paradise for the moral and the heroic.

10. The specific Bible passage referred to is from 2nd Chronicles, Chapter 9, Verses 10-11 (TLBP) and says: "King Hiram's and King Solomon's crews brought gold from Ophir, also sandalwood and jewels. The king used the sandalwood to make terraced steps for the Temple and the palace, and to construct harps and lyres for the choir. Never before had there been such beautiful instruments in all the land of Judah."

11. The entire 6th stanza of "Who Will Answer?" (composed by Luis Eduardo Aute & Sheila Davis; 1968), where the reference to sandalwood is mentioned, reads:

In the rooms of dark and shades,
The scent of sandalwood pervades.
The colored thoughts in muddled heads,
Reclining in the rumpled beds,
Of unmade dreams that can't come true,
And when we ask what we should do,
Who... Who will answer?


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Bullock, Alan and Stallybrass, Oliver, eds. (1977). The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought. London, England: Fontana Books, 1980.

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__________. Younger Than Yesterday CD reissue liner notes--"Fame and Misfortune: The End of the First Golden Era." New York: Columbia Records, 1996.

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Wales, Jimmy. (2011). Wikipedia. San Francisco: Wikipedia, 2011.

In case you missed it, here's Part 1 of the David Crosby article

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