Monday, December 3, 2007

LADY FRIEND

Listen to LADY FRIEND by The Byrds.

Hi folks,

Corbett here...I'm back and doing the topic that's nearest and dearest to my heart. This week we'll be feauturing "Folk Rock Redux--Blowin' Minds". I'd like to post a few songs that are in the idiom but are maybe a little less well known (though no less deserving). I'll try and be brief, but it will be tough!

Folk Rock--It's a term that's been thrown around a lot since its marketing heyday in the 60's, and it's been despised by many of its avatars (that's you, Bob). Anyway, Richie Unterberger and others have devoted a lot of well-meaning scholarship to exploring what ties these artists together (see Turn! Turn! Turn! and Mr. Tambourine Man). Despite slogging through these books, I was left thinking that Folk Rock was nothing more than American musicians schooled in the styles and ideals of the early 60's collegiate folk boom who unexpectedly had their minds blown by the Beatles.

So, the listener gets a heady brew of traditional American styles (country, bluegrass, blues) combined with tight vocal harmonies, and spiced up with Rickenbackers, economic song structure and adventurous arrangements. Add in some exotic instruments and a warped new sensibility and you're left with a new style of pop.

That brings us to today's song, 1967's "Lady Friend" by the Byrds. I want to tell a little anecdote about this song. A lot of music gets played around our apartment, with varying levels of patience from my wife Laura (especially when she's trying to go to sleep). One evening, I put this song on while she was trying to sleep--Rather than the explosive "Shut that off!" I expected, she excitedly said "Wow, you're taking me back to the 60's with that bridge. I feel like I'm actually there!" The fact that my wife was transported by this song (while attempting to sleep) definitely caught my attention.

Indeed, this song is mind-blowing. It's a classic example of its form. It's also a great example of the amazing achievements engendered by intra-band rivalries in the 60's. "Lady Friend" was David Crosby's attempt to show McGuinn (and probably Clark) that he could also write a pop masterpiece. This he does with this song. Rather than the gratuitous instrumental decor of "Mind Gardens", Crosby is totally focused with this one, combining an upbeat, catchy tune with lyrics about lost love and disappointment (a lesson learned from the departed Gene). In addition, there are amazingly chimey guitars, an amphetamined brass section in the bridge and a few "bah-bah-bah's"...just enough to leave you wanting more. One last thing--listen to Chris Hillman's bass line. Hillman takes a typical country bass line, speeds it way up and plays it with a thunderous, propulsive force. Totally killer, and a great example of what makes this song quintessential folk rock. Enjoy.

Photo: Storm Over the Sunset Strip.

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2 comments:

Laura said...

Actually what I said was: "this song makes me see the 60's".

Bill said...

you know i just realized that this track is on the '20 essential byrds tracks' that you made me get back freshman year of college. i knew i knew it somehow. so good.