Bird & Animal Names In Rock 'n' Roll History - Part 4
The Byrds, Yardbirds
Author: Robert Benson
Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
In our continuing series about "bird" and "animal" groups in rock 'n' roll, let's explore a couple of the most famous and influential "bird" groups in rock.
And to start off, one must include one of the most inventive and legendary "bird" groups of the 1960's, appropriately named the Byrds. With jangling guitars and exceptional harmonies, band members' Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Mike Clarke had a number one hit with the Bob Dylan penned "Mr. Tambourine Man" in 1965. That same year the song "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)" also reached number one on the Billboard charts and remained there for three weeks.
Inspired by the success of the Beatles, Roger McGuinn had been playing Beatles songs in Los Angeles folk clubs when Gene Clark approached him to form a duo. David Crosby subsequently joined them in a group they called the Jet Set, and soon they were joined by drummer Michael Clarke and mandolin-player-turned-bassist Chris Hillman in a band they named The Beefeaters. In November 1964 the group signed to Columbia Records and a few days later renamed themselves the Byrds.
Alas, even with all this splendid talent and spellbinding music, tensions were high and the group saw members leave; one by one. Ironically, Gene Clarke quit the group in 1966 after the hit "Eight Miles High" partly due to his intense fear of flying. David Crosby also left the band and soon formed one of the greatest rock and roll "super groups" of all time: "Crosby, Stills & Nash," a group that Neil Young would later join.
McGuinn kept the band going amid these personnel changes and even rebuilt the band, hiring Gram Parsons on keyboards. Chris Hillman departed in 1968 and formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, with Gram Parsons joining him. McGuinn, Clark and Hillman also recorded songs as a trio. Mike Clarke later went on to join Firefall.
All five original Byrds briefly reunited in 1972 to cut a reunion album called "Byrds." The album was released in March 1973, and earned mixed reviews, and a planned tour with the original five Byrds to support the LP never materialized.
The legendary and iconic magic that was the Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and still influence musicians to this day.
With Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck all in the group at one time or another, the Yardbirds were another prolific "super group" and influenced many musicians in the 1960's and still are an influence to this day.
The bulk of the band's conceptual ideas, as well as their songwriting, came from the quartet of singer/harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, and bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith, all of whom co-wrote the Yardbirds' original hits and constituted the core of the group, with Beck, Clapton and Page joining at various times.
While Beck's time with the band lasted only about eighteen months, it is believed that Beck did more to influence the sound of 1960's rock guitar than anyone except the peerless Jimi Hendrix. Although the group had just a handful of hits, including "For Your Love," "Heart Full Of Soul," and "Shapes Of Things," among others, the progressive psychedelia of the Yardbirds was unsurpassed. Beck was voted #1 lead guitarist of 1966 in the British music magazine Beat Instrumental and his tenure with the Yardbirds was viewed by many as the group's "golden era."
Clapton left the band after "For Your Love," not liking the direction of the music and went on to superstardom. Beck and Page, along with new band members, recorded the tune "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," which peaked at number 30 on the Billboard charts in 1966. After a few more unsuccessful singles and band mismanagement, members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty left and formed the beginnings of the band Renaissance. Page fulfilled the band's contractual obligations by forming the New Yardbirds, which would later change their name to Led Zeppelin, a group that has made rock 'n' roll history.
In the 1980s Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja and Paul Samwell-Smith formed the rock outfit called Box of Frogs, which occasionally included Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, plus various friends with whom they'd all recorded over the years.
One could argue that the music created by the Yardbirds is among rock's best and we certainly know that three members of the group went on to superstardom. The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
In the next article, we will continue the series of famous "animal" and "bird" names in rock and roll, again focusing on more "bird" bands and names.
In October 1969 the band released the Ballad Of Easy Rider. The single from the album was "Jesus Is Just Alright," which was also a hit for The Doobie Brothers four years later.
In 1971 they released Byrdmaniax, which was a commercial and critical disappointment, largely due to inappropriate orchestration which was added by producer Terry Melcher to many tracks on the album without the band's approval.
Though both Hillman and Crosby have expressed an interest in working with McGuinn again on future Byrds projects, no such reunion has occurred and all three have successful individual careers.
The first episode of the 2007/2008 season for "The Simpsons" featured The Yardbirds' "I'm A Man" from the CD "Live At B.B. King Blues Club."
In addition to their six Top 40 songs, the Yardbirds will be remembered as having produced the top three English blues-based guitarists of the '60s: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
July 7, 1968: The Yardbirds broke up in July of 1968 and guitarist Jimmy Page formed the New Yardbirds and changed the group's name to Led Zeppelin, allegedly on the advice of the Who's Keith Moon. (who said the band who go over like a 'lead zeppelin.'