I only ever have felt the need for one Byrds album. It is the Byrds Greatest Hits, originally released in 1967. It is compiled from the first four albums and is the perfect distillation of those albums. Yes there are deeper tracks and cosmic voyages waiting to happen on the albums as Crosby may say, but for sheer joy Greatest Hits has it.
This is why I am so happy this evening as I came home with a great copy. I was driving past the thrift store promising myself I would drive by but then mysteriously found myself parking and going in and then seeing this on the shelf. There I was hoping for no scratches or scuffs or I would have a nice cover for the wall. It is in excellent condition and plays through wonderfully.
So why this Byrds album, a compilation that has only 11 tracks from 4 albums, no Chestnut Mare, Ballad of Easy Rider or other great tracks?
It lies in the associations that go along with it for me. Sitting on the floor of a bedsit in ’85 with a cassette copy listening to those chiming guitars and harmonies and realizing that maybe every band with a guitar in Liverpool at the time had based their sound on this one album. Later on we figured out the American’s all had it playing too from R.E.M to Petty. It must be one of the most influential albums of all time. We listened to every word and decided that what the world needed was more tinted glasses furry hats and bizarre facial hair.
This has been a constant in my life like After the Goldrush by Neil Young or Harper’s Stormcock. It has accompanied me through heartaches and joy. When my sons came home after being born we played and sang Rock’n’Roll Star to them, because that is what they are.
We spent hours arguing about so much crap listening to this album before going out to raise hell. We once thought we understood what Eight Miles High was really about and then forgot, who knows that may have been a truly illuminating idea we lost that night. When someone declared they were relaxed and paying attention we knew it was time to go home regardless of how much we thought we knew better.
So tonight as I listened I had a real rush of nostalgia. So I sat down and emailed some friends and told my children they are rock stars and somehow those guitars and harmonies made the night so much more cheerful.