‘Everything we did was creative’: The Byrds look back on music and fashion | Music

B.ands select members for many reasons, but I’d like to think that the ability to play is at the top of the list. When the Byrds were finalizing the lineup, it didn’t go well. With four highly talented members already in place, the only thing missing was a drummer. Fate struck Roger McGuinn recently when he spotted Michael Clarke strolling by the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles. “He looked like two Rolling Stones in one!”

Specifically, Clark boasted Brian Jones’ thick bangs and Mick Jagger’s lush lips, not to mention the classic-rocker’s slim build of the time. The mere fact that one of music’s most important and respected bands appreciates such a feature is conclusive proof of the power of popular looks, style and fashion in his music. I’m here. While that may be obvious in the modern world of pop, such elements were much more rarely acknowledged in the rock and roll world of the ’60s.

However, McGuinn said: To that end, visual style has always been very important,” he said.

A gorgeous new photo-driven book titled The Byrds 1964-67 aims to make the case that the Byrds were as resonating in the realm of style as they were of sound during that era. History has rightly recorded The Byrds as the band that pioneered folk rock by inspiring Dylan tunes like Mr. Tambourine Man and Pete Seeger’s Turn with their dizzying turns! ! Turn! contributed to the creation of psychedelic rock and raga on songs such as Eight Miles High and So You Wanna Be a Rock’n’Roll Star, and his country music on the pivotal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. It set the rock trend. Through extensive interviews with his three surviving original members (McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby), the book reveals many interesting details about the development of these sounds, as well as the band’s acerbic remarks along the way. Characterized by interpersonal relationships. But the photos tell a different story. “Tom Petty once said, ‘The Byrds were a good-looking band,'” says Hillman. remembered with a smile. “He said, ‘They had great hair and clothes.’ We did!”

David Crosby paired an Ushanka-style hat with a Russian shirt for a photo shoot. Photo: Sonyscan/Sony Music Archive

That angle was hardly lost in mid-’60s teen magazines. Holly George-Warren said, “Before the constant influx of visual imagery via social media, we needed a band like the Byrds to appear in teenage magazines and American television to provide a gateway to new ways of dressing.” There was, who co-wrote the book Rock in Fashion with designer John Varvatos: “The Byrds were the band that brought Anglo Cool to America, introduced by the Beatles and the Stones.”

In fact, when the Byrds chose their first wardrobe, their template was the early Fab Four. In that vein, they adopted a unified look, equipping members with tab collar shirts and tight black suits trimmed with velvet. “We didn’t like the fit,” Hillman said.

No wonder they were relieved when their suits were stolen one night at the club they were playing in. According to Hillman, the culprit was a member of Little Richard’s band. “When Roger McGuinn told John Lennon about it,” recalls Hillman. our suit! ‘”

In fact, the Beatles suit was the second look adopted by the Byrds. In their formative years, still known as the Jet Set, early players wore crisp white shirts to look as pretty as a choir boy. I’ve been working and they looked like that,” McGuinn said. “Groups like the Kingston Trio started that college style and we followed suit. Gradually it became bohemian.”

“They started adopting very individual looks,” said George Warren. “What we saw in that era was an early signpost for what would later become the ‘countercultural look.’”

The Byrds photo shoot at Chris Hillman's house in 1965
A photo of the Byrds at Chris Hillman’s home in 1965. Photo: Jim Dickson Archive, courtesy of Henry Diltz Photography

One of the most notable and imitated early style choices was McGuinn’s use of small rectangular wire-rimmed glasses. This is an inexpensive accessory available at drug stores. McGuinn tricked them with cool blue lenses to make them stand out. He was inspired by the round cobalt his blue glasses worn by Lovin’ Spoonful singer John Sebastian, whom McGuinn met in his scene in Greenwich Village’s Folk. “I said, ‘Great shade!'” recalls McGuinn. “He said, ‘Try it on, look up at the streetlights, move your head.’ It looks really groovy! So I put in the blue lenses. I didn’t mean to wear them all the time.” But a British TV producer saw them and said, ‘Everyone needs a gimmick.

“Not since Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison has a pop star had such an impact on spectacles,” said George Warren. “Later, I was able to see John Lennon in his grandmother’s glasses.”

The book initially features an image of an audience boy with glasses at Ciro’s, a club on the Sunset Strip where the Byrds first built a scene with an audience. Equipped with old Vegas-style booths, the club thrived in the 1940s when crowds came for acts like Tony Bennett and Sinatra. By the ’60s, it was falling into hard times. Booker revived it by booking the Byrds. “We filled the place,” said David Crosby. “It was so packed, people were queuing up at the bottom of the block to get inside.

The Byrds gained further attention for their female friends acting as go-go dancers in Chilo’s. At the same time, the band members’ demeanor remained cool. “As a performer, the Byrds are aloof,” said Hillman. “We weren’t a show band moving around and laughing.”

In order to maintain an equally cool look, Hillman faced quite a challenge. He worked hard to straighten his natural curly hair because he wanted to blend in with other guys. “I had all that work done, and the moment I got to the Midwest in the summer, it was so humid, my hair was ‘boing’ in the spring.” ”

Roger McGuinn in 1965
Roger McGuinn in 1965. Photo: BMG

Inspired by Dylan’s proud curls, Hillman eventually let his hair go wild. changed rapidly. No wonder McGuinn likened The Byrds to an “electronic magazine” designed to reflect the ever-changing world. Crosby introduced the band’s quirkiest style, with a focus on headwear.In early 1967, he made his statement by reworking the classic Borsalino his fedora. “I saw Borsalino in the store and loved the color,” he said. “Cowboy he decided to squash the top of it to make it look like a hat and it worked really well.”

Six months later, he donned an ushanka-style hat to match the Russian shirt he chose for the photo shoot. “If you want to see something really silly, wear a cape and ride a motorcycle,” Crosby said with a laugh.

“David looked like a hippie superhero running through the Hollywood hills,” McGuinn said.

McGuinn himself, on the other hand, preferred conservative jackets and ties, but went gaudy with psychedelic colors. “So that look was normal to me.”

McGuinn made another statement for growing a beard. This was a popular style among beatniks in his ’50s, but fell out of fashion by his mid-’60s before being revived by McGuinn. The appearance was accidental. “I smacked my lips,” McGuinn said as he rode his Razor scooter one day. “I had a TV show the next week, so I grew a beard to hide my bruise.”

The Byrds also had a strong visual impact on the album cover. Photographer Barry Feinstein used a fisheye lens to capture his 1965 debut image. This is one of his first uses of the technology that would later become a psychedelic cliché.

The Byrds photo shoot at Chris Hillman's house in 1965
A photo of the Byrds at Chris Hillman’s home in 1965. Photo: Jim Dickson Archive, courtesy of Henry Diltz Photography

The band member that cameras loved the most was Gene Clark. A talented singer, he was also the band’s most prolific songwriter in its early years. Clarke is Hollywood handsome and completely shredded, as the photo of the man in the bathing suit reveals. I was. “The guy had never been to the gym, but he looked like him. When the curtains opened, all the young women in the house focused on him.”

Unfortunately, Clark had mental health issues, as well as a fear of flying, which led to him quitting the band twice. “He kind of came out of nowhere,” McGuinn said. (Clark died of alcohol-related problems when he was 46, and Michael Clark died when he was 47.)

The 1968 album The Notorious Byrd Brothers, completed after the group lost both Crosby and Clarke, was both sonically and visually It was also a creative triumph that pushed them in a more naive direction. The musician’s flair for style continued beyond his three years covered in this book. When Hillman left the Byrds in his 1969, another former Byrd, Gram, he flew with Parsons when he formed the Burrito Brothers, in a style made famous by country stars such as Hank Williams and Porter Wagoner. Became the first rocker to wear a certain “nudie suit”. Created by Nudie Cohn, these costumes featured elaborate rhinestones and intricate embroidery featuring images chosen by the buyer. Parsons’ outfit featured marijuana leaves. Great Peacock.

The image Hillman chose highlighted one of the most innovative aspects of 60s rock style. Like the peacocks of the aviary world, Locke’s culture focused on men as sexual objects rather than women. This change was as disruptive in her sixties as the music itself. “It was for the female gaze,” George Warren said. “Men would never want to admit it.”

It was an era when changes were seen not only in the spread of the sexual lens, but also in the class of people involved in rock music. “Before there were bands like the Byrds, rock ‘n’ roll musicians didn’t come from the upper middle class,” said the 1960s editor of the teen magazine Datebook before discovering Iggy Pop. said Danny Fields, who managed the Ramones. “They were either Elvis in the South, or working-class Italian kids singing doo-wop in the Northeast, or black people. They were one of the first bands, we adored them because they made beautiful music and they were the first cool American band to have hits, and they were hot!

Despite all of the Byrds’ visual appeal and musical depth, McGuinn described the experience of reading the book as “a little sad. It all fell apart in the end.”

But Hillman sees a more positive side. “People who weren’t alive then can now look at these photos and get a new perspective on the group and how different we were,” he said. We were creative in every way.”

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