BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles
Welcome | News | LPs | History | Members | Spinoffs | Related | Reference | Sanctuary | About | NEXT SECTION

Artists Covered | Other Influences | Associates | Musicians Influenced | Byrd/Not a Byrd | NEXT CHAPTER

A - L | M - Z | NEXT PAGE


MUSICIANS INFLUENCED BY THE BYRDS

M - Z



FAST FORWARD:

The Mekons

Carla Olson

Michael Penn

Tom Petty

R.E.M.

Jules Shear

Richard Thompson

Uncle Tupelo

The Velvet Underground


Rock 'N' Roll by the Mekons. Courtesy A&M Records.


Fairport Convention. Courtesy A&M Records.


The Mekons

The Mekons were a second-generation punk band from Leeds, England. They debuted in 1978 with a series of singles that combined the economical noise of Wire with the angular funk and Marxist theorizing of Leeds scenemates Gang of Four.
The Mekons went on hiatus in 1983, but in '85 leaders Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh reconvened the band -- not as a punk group, but as a roots-rock outfit playing a shambling blend of country, folk and rock. Gram Parsons cast a long shadow over the first few releases by the reconstituted group, with covers including "$1,000 Wedding," "Sin City," and "Sleepless Nights," not to mention songs by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Leon Payne.
Gradually the band added reggae, cajun music, and hip-hop beats to their stylistic repertoire, but the spirit of Gram Parsons still undergirds much of their work -- check out their beautiful cover of John Anderson's #1 country hit, "Wild and Blue" on The Curse of the Mekons (Blast First, 1990).
Mekons Jon Langford and Sally Timms have also recorded country-influenced side projects, while the group appeared and backed several friends on 'Til Things Are Brighter... (Red Rhino, 1988), a tribute to Johnny Cash organized by the band to benefit the fight against AIDS.
The band has set up an official Mekons Homepage.


Carla Olson

See Associates of the Byrds.


Michael Penn

See Associates of the Byrds.


Tom Petty

See Associates of the Byrds.


R.E.M.

Fans of the Byrds will be forgiven for believing that R.E.M. spent a lot of time listening to the Byrds, given the jangle of Peter Buck's guitar on their first album. In fact, McGuinn's influence was filtered through the Velvet Underground, Robyn Hitchcock and the Soft Boys, and Television. Buck, intrigued by the constant McGuinn comparisons, went back and checked out the Byrds more thoroughly after R.E.M.'s early records. By the mid-'80s, the band had actually played behind McGuinn live a few times. In 1987, Buck and Hitchcock played live in a one-off cover band called Nigel and the Crosses, and a number of Byrds tunes were in the band's set. That band recorded a cover of "Wild Mountain Thyme" for Time Between: A Tribute to the Byrds (Imaginary, 1989). A cool way to find R.E.M. websites is to start out with the Perfect Circle Webring.


Jules Shear

See Associates of the Byrds.


Richard Thompson

In the liner notes of the anthology Fairport Chronicles (A&M, 1976), Byrd authority Jim Bickhart writes that three of Fairport Convention's founders -- Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol -- were "hardcore Byrdmaniacs." Fairport applied the methodology of the Byrds to British folk music and produced terrific electric folk rock on early albums such as Fairport Convention (A&M, 1969) and Unhalfbricking (A&M, 1969). These albums featured Thompson's incredible guitar work and beautiful harmonies by Sandy Denny and the rest of the band. The group's version of Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" is a highlight of the BBC sessions from this period captured on Heyday (Hannibal/Ryko, 1987).
Later releases saw the group veering away from rock toward more literal versions of British folk. Thompson left the band and rejoined modernity more or less for good in 1972. He has since covered Byrdsongs such as "Ballad of Easy Rider," "Here Without You," "Hickory Wind," and "Goin' Back." Thompson, a student of McGuinn's guitar style, toured with McGuinn in the '90s. His virtuosic playing is always in service to songs, many of them great. If you haven't heard Thompson before, start with Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal, 1982), his last album with his ex-wife Linda Thompson, or their debut, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (Carthage, 1974). Of his solo albums, the most accessible is probably Rumor & Sigh (Capitol, 1991).


Uncle Tupelo

Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were a pair of punk rock fans in Belleville, Illinois, half an hour from St. Louis. As Uncle Tupelo, they recorded four albums of punky acoustic songs that combined Gram Parsons and Neil Young influences: No Depression (Rockville, 1990); Still Feel Gone (Rockville, 1991); March 16-20, 1992 (Rockville, 1992); and Anodyne (Sire/Reprise, 1993). Uncle Tupelo broke up in 1994, with Farrar forming Son Volt and Tweedy starting Wilco in 1995. Son Volt released the best album of 1995, Trace (Warner Bros., 1995). Wilco's first album, A.M. (Sire/Reprise, 1995) was a good showing, but the following year saw the release of the brilliant Being There (Reprise, 1996) -- easily the best album of 1996. Tweedy has wisely ceded the Gram Parsons sound to Son Volt and concentrated on his area of comparative advantage, a sloppy-but-great rock sound drawing on Exile-era Stones, Faces and Replacements.
All three bands are well-represented in cyberspace. A website called Gumbo has some great recipes for Cajun and Creole food along with a nice Uncle Tupelo site. Warner Bros. has an official Son Volt site, and their corporate cousin Reprise has an official Wilco site.


The Velvet Underground

Though Lou Reed had nothing but contempt for hippies, both he and Sterling Morrison have spoken admiringly about the Byrds. It's certainly easy to imagine Reed listening to Fifth Dimension and thinking that perhaps the world was almost ready for songs like "Heroin" and "Venus in Furs," already written and demo'ed by late 1965. Listen to Reed's guitar work and Morrison's bass playing on the band's debut single, "All Tomorrow's Parties," and there can be no doubt that the two were paying very close attention to the Byrds. There are a lot of VU sites on the web, of which I like electricity comes from other plaNETs: the Velvet Underground Web Page.


[Back to top.]




Related Musicians | Musicians Influenced by the Byrds | M - Z

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

Artists Covered | Other Influences | Associates | Musicians Influenced | Byrd/Not a Byrd | NEXT CHAPTER

A - L | M - Z | NEXT PAGE






This page and entire ByrdWatcher Website Copyright 1997-1998 Tim Connors. All rights reserved.

If you have any questions, comments or bug reports about the content or design of ByrdWatcher, please direct them to: byrds@ebni.com. Please tell me about browser compatibility problems.

The URL of this page is: http://ebni.com/byrds/relinfluenced2.html

This page was last revised on March 10, 1998.