BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles
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GENE CLARK
White Light and Roadmaster: 1970-1972




Gene Clark Discography

Gene Clark Bibliography



Close Up the Honky Tonks. Courtesy A&M Records.


Detail from Roadmaster. Courtesy A&M Records.



To read about Clark's activities from 1968 to 1969, see Dillard & Clark. To go back to his prior solo work, see Gene Clark, With the Gosdin Brothers and the Gene Clark Group: 1966-1968.


Full Circle: Byrds and Burritos

Having left Dillard & Clark in December of '69, Gene Clark began the new year and the new decade at loose ends. After a few months of regrouping, Clark went into the studio in May with Jim Dickson producing and recorded what would become the first and the best Byrds "reunion" -- the single sides "She's the Kind of Girl" and "One in a Hundred." It was a reunion only in theory; all five original Byrds played on both tracks only through the magic of overdubs. Label legalities prevented the issuance of the single at the time, but the two cuts were eventually released on the Dutch album Roadmaster (Ariola, 1973) (which was reissued in the UK on Edsel in the '80s). Ironically, this ersatz reunion produced far better results that the real reunion on Asylum in '73.
During the summer of 1970, Clark contributed vocals to the Flying Burrito Brothers' single version of his own composition, "Tried So Hard." The Burritos were down to a quartet, having just fired Gram Parsons, so the recording raises the tantalizing possibility that Clark might have joined the Burritos. Instead, the band hired the young unknown Rick Roberts. When their next album, The Flying Burrito Brothers (A&M, 1971), appeared, Clark's vocal had been replaced by Roberts on "Tried So Hard." Nonetheless, the song was a highlight of that album.
In January of '71, Clark recorded another of his own compositions with the Burritos, including Roberts. "Here Tonight" was also eventually released on Roadmaster, and on the Burritos compilation Close Up the Honky Tonks (A&M, 1974).


White Light

Clark then began his solo career in earnest. In March he went into the studio with Taj Mahal guitarist Jesse Ed Davis producing. There he recorded the tracks that were released in August on White Light (A&M, 1971) (sometimes also called Gene Clark, since A&M deliberately omitted the LP's title from the front cover). The album contained nine tracks of quiet, acoustic balladry, highlighted by "The Virgin," "With Tomorrow," and "Spanish Guitar." "One in a Hundred" is redone here, though it's not quite as good as the Byrdsy original version. Clark also covers Bob Dylan's "Tears of Rage."
The album attracted favorable notice in the US and the UK, but failed to find an audience (except in the Netherlands, where the LP was voted album of the year by Dutch critics).
In spring of '71, Clark wrote another pair of tracks, "American Dreamer" and "Outlaw Song," for a Dennis Hopper film. They appear on its soundtrack album, American Dreamer (Mediarts, 1971). They are most easily found today on American Dreamer (Raven, 1992), an Australian compilation covering 1965 to 1972. These songs were later used in a second film, The Farmer (1977).


Roadmaster

In April of '72, Clark assembled a country rock dream team for his next A&M sessions. In attendance were Clarence White, Michael Clarke, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Byron Berline, and Spooner Oldham. This team recorded eight tracks. With the exception of the tedious title track, an uncharacteristically uptempo rocker, the songs were more classic Clark balladry, played with sympathetic arrangements. The selections look forward and back: a later version of "Full Circle Song" was issued on the Byrds reunion album in early '73, while "She Don't Care About Time," the old Byrds B-side, reappears here as a slow lament. For some reason, these high-quality sessions were never officially released in the States. But Ariola, A&M's Dutch subsidiary, issued them in Holland, where Clark had enjoyed greater critical and commercial success. The album, Roadmaster (Ariola, 1973) contained eight tracks from the spring '72 sessions, plus both sides of the aborted 1970 "reunion" single and "Here Tonight" with the Burritos. Although cobbled together from three different periods, the album holds up well and is regarded by many as one Clark's best solo works.


Detail from Roadmaster. Courtesy A&M Records.

In the spring of 1972, Clark also helped Jim Dickson overhaul Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers for Columbia, by cutting the song "Elevator Operator," rerecording various vocal and instrumental tracks, remixing the album drastically, and adding annotation. Clark's wonderful 1966 sessions were transformed into an album of mild country rock and released under the name Early L.A. Sessions (Columbia, 1972). Most fans prefer the original version, which Columbia reissued in the '80s and as part of the anthology Echoes in the '90s.


Full Circle Again: The Byrds v. 7.0

In late 1972 and early 1973, Clark, no longer on A&M, took part in the ill-starred reunion of the original Byrds. The resulting album, Byrds, was a disappointment, but what good moments it contained were nearly all the work of Clark, who wrote two of the better songs and sang lead on the two Neil Young covers.
Of all the Byrds, Clark had the most to gain from a reunion tour, but the touted tour never materialized, in part due to the album's poor critical reception and in part due to the other commitments of McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman. Clark did perform with the Adventures of Roger McGuinn during a two week stand at the Troubadour in June of '73. Clark actually lived with McGuinn during this period.



There will be more about the 1973 Byrds reunion in the forthcoming Byrds History Section. To continue the story of Clark's solo career, see Gene Clark, 1974-1977.

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Band Members | Gene Clark | 1970-1973

Welcome | News | LPs | History | Members | Spinoffs | Related | Reference | Sanctuary | About | NEXT SECTION

McGuinn | Clark | Crosby | Hillman | Clarke | Kelley | Gram Parsons | White | Gene Parsons | York | Battin | NEXT CHAPTER

1957-1964 | 1964-1966 | 1966-1968 | D&C | 1970-1973 | 1974-1977 | MC&H | 1980-1991 | NEXT PAGE






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