YOUNG AS TODAY

It’s incredible to think that 1967 saw the release of the fourth album by The Byrds.

The Fourth! How could they have been around that long? No longer known mainly as the janglifying popularizers of Bob Dylan songs, Messrs McGuinn, Crosby, Hillman, et al had expanded their palettes and musical interests for the preceding Fifth Dimension, leading to the diverse and entertaining Younger Than Yesterday, released in February 1967.

The LP opens at a gallop with the deliciously satirical “So you want to be a rock ’n’ roll star”.

So you want to be a rock and roll star?

Then listen now to what I say

Just get an electric guitar

Then take some time

And learn how to play

And with your hair swung right

And your pants too tight

It’s gonna be all right

Despite (or perhaps because of) being a pot shot at The Monkees, the single was successful. It’s an odd record; a punchy instrumental opening by the band, then Mariachi band brass and dubbed audience screaming—a little disconcerting, yet the rollicking pace and compact 2:05 length mean the song certainly doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Byrds Younger Yesterday

Have you seen her face” is one of four Chris Hillman songs—David Crosby has two plus there are four co-writes—and my favourite of his contributions. There is a Beatle-ish flavour to this terrific song; it sounds totally of its time and yet transcends it effortlessly.

cta-102

Studio experimentation was compulsory in ’67 and on this album “CTA-102” is the Byrds’ entertaining contribution. It is entertaining, but not especially memorable (apart from it being one of relatively few pop songs about quasars*). But the next song, Crosby/McGuinn’s “Renaissance Fair” is unforgettable. A soaring melody, trademark harmonies, neat doubled up guitar line, an infectious lyrical hook—“I think that maybe I’m dreaming”— touching both wonder and melancholy; this is not only classic Byrds, but quintessential 1967. Worth a ticket for this 1:50 alone.

We’re in Hillman country for “Time between”. I can hear this song is a competent example of the emerging genre of Country Rock but as I’m not a fan I’ll pass swiftly over this and “The girl with no name”.

Final song on side one is Crosby’s gorgeous “Everybody’s been burned”. Reflective lyrics carried on a pure, understated vocal; McGuinn’s guitar solo is subtle and swaying—superbly complementary; it’s the complete package.

Younger Than Yesterday back cover

Side two opens with one of my favourite songs on the album, the mysteriously psychedelic “Thoughts and words” (Chris Hillman) where a gently insistent melodic hook receives exotic counterpoint from the backwards guitar solo. Those who dismiss psychedelia as being heavy-handed could do worse than listen to this song as part of a reappraisal.

Then comes Crosby’s “Mind gardens” which hasn’t traversed the decades quite so well, despite having even more freaky backwards guitar. Unfortunately it sounds a bit twee and quite a lot pretentious. Still, the eastern drone foundation is diverting, especially when it distracts you from David’s philosophising.

Dylan continues his song-providing role with “My back pages”, providing another solid vehicle for Roger and the boys to do their harmony driven thing. McGuinn’s guitar part is fabulous though it must be said this fine song sounds a trifle pedestrian in the context of the album.

So, as Younger Than Yesterday concludes, we find ourselves asking “Why”? The last song, another McGuinn/Crosby collaboration, has a vaguely counter-culturish lyric—big on questions, light on insight—counter-balanced by a robust arrangement, including a terrific guitar-as-sitar solo from Roger McG and harmonies as smooth as layered angel cake. It’s an uptempo and positive end to an LP that deserves its ‘classic’ status. This was my entry point for the Byrds, which might suggest a bias towards the album, yet you could do a lot worse than taking flight with Younger Than Yesterday.

Byrds Younger Yesterday vinyl

The Byrds — Younger Than Yesterday 

Label: Columbia

Released 6th February 1967

Duration: 28:27

Byrds LP + CD

* If you know another song about quasars, do post a link below.

*

30 comments

  1. Interesting – My Back Pages was the track that really resonated here for me, while some others felt closer to pedestrian, if only triflilingly so 🙂
    Pavement has a great tune named ‘stereo’ – with the line, “we’ll focus on the quasar in the mist” but I don’t believe the whole song is necessarily about it.
    This was one firmly in the ‘like’ category for me but your review here (and I remember your comments at the time of my review) have convinced me to not close the door on the album just yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just re-read our interchange on your YTY post, Geoff. I think I’ll stick by those comments and optimistically (based on your undoubted good judgement and open mind) await the inevitable re-appraisal. Or not. (smile).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. great opening to a landmark album… nice recall

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the finest Byrds albums – The missing link between the early and late stage of the band around Jim “Roger” McGuinn.

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  4. Janglifying! Great descriptor, as that’s how I often think of Roger McGuinn’s guitar playing: a jangly, California rock sound. As with all stuff released in 1967, I discovered it quite a bit after the fact. “So you want to be a rock ’n’ roll star” has always been one of my favorites of theirs (along with Eight Miles High), but had never known that it was a barb directed at The Monkees. How catty of them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops, forgot to mention that The Smashing Pumpkins had a song called Quasars, but it doesn’t seem to be *about* quasars. Also, a group called Arp issued an EP called Pulsars e quasars, including an eponymous title song….but again, I don’t think the subject matter was actually quasars. Both of which beg the question, I suppose, “So you included quasar in the title because….why?”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why thank you for that gap-filling research, JDB. It’s a really good word, isn’t it? Despite being tricky to drop into conversation (or, as your report demonstrates, a song lyric).

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    2. Everyone was pretty snippy about The pre-fab four when they first appeared. (Except a whole bunch of teens and pre-teens, of course). But few turned the barbs into ‘art’!

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  5. This and Notorious Byrd Brothers are my favourite Byrds albums. They’re a more textured and varied than their early albums.

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    1. NBB is fabulous, for sure. I’m pretty partial to 5th D too. One of my friends calls this group the ‘holy trinity’ which isn’t bad, I reckon.

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      1. 5D is definitely similar, just feels a little more uneven with the songs. Crosby had a more distinctive songwriting voice by Younger than Yesterday, and Hillman started writing as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good points, all. Guess how you feel about (what was to become) country rock might be a key part of the experience.

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  6. I’m like JDB and also had no idea “So You Want…” was directed at the Monkees. Love it! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you scored a smile, Marty. 🙂

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  7. Quasar little thing called love – Queen

    Quasar in love – Beyoncé

    I’ll get my coat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just leave your hat on. Please.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Just listened to the album with your post opened in another tab. Definitely enhanced my appreciation for this LP, which I hadn’t heard to all the way thru in years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to have provided an enjoyable re-visit, Rick. Cheers.

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  9. That opening also reminded me of BTO’s Takin’ Care Of Business (“get a second hand guitar, chances are you’ll go far if you get in with the right bunch of fellows.”

    Excellent post, sir. Thanks for shining a light on this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much obliged, Mr KMA.
      There sure could be an extensive series on songs about the rock and roll life, couldn’t there?

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      1. Yup, a 2CD set, surely. CD1 could be all songs about go get a guitar and do it for yourself! And CD2 would be all about the pitfalls and hardships of life as a musician…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Like your thinking, Mister. Bonus DVD of live versions of songs on 1 and 2?

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  10. I only ever had Turn! Turn! Turn! of the early Byrds — note past tense as I lost it when some mentally-ill person sold off my vinyl — and must admit that Sweetheart of the Rodeo is my favorite Byrds. I hope we can still be friends….

    A great read as always, this. As many others here, I had no idea “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” was aimed at the (fabulous) Monkees. Interesting that the song subsequently seems oft-heard not as a negative, sarcastic take on manufactured bands but instead as a positive call to follow rock ‘n’ roll dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sweetheart is (as you no doubt knew from my dossier) rather too country for these urban ears. But that certainly shouldn’t put a cactus on the saddle of a beautiful friendship. (See how country I am?)

      Now, is anyone listening in? Good. Just between us, there was a wee bit of poetic licence with the Monkees comment. It would be more accurate (but less entertaining) to state that the song was inspired by all the hoo-ha about the Monkees being fake, which was in full swing at the time. There’s no smoking gun re the pre-fab four, but McGuinn and Hillman certainly played off the controversy and turned a satirical eye on the whole pop-TV-marketing thang. I just read a 1967 UK music press article on the two visits to England that year by the newly minted stars. The ‘are you playing your instruments?’ question was central to almost every interview.

      What you said about current ‘interpretation’ of ‘So you want…’ is very funny. Like people playing ‘Every breath you take’, a song about stalking and obsession, at their wedding.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for prompting me to revisit The Byrds. I only really knew the singles: Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn!, Turn! Turn!, etc. I had no idea they had released so many albums in the late sixties and early seventies. The treasures of 1967 are piling up fast and I’m sure there’s lots more to come.

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  12. Enjoyed reading this but it’s definately not a Mariachi band on Rock’n’Roll Star but Hugh Masakela and some other South African musicians. Early world music?

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  13. I may have said this before, but I don’t own much by The Byrds anymore. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and The Notorious Byrd Brothers are my personal favourites, so they’re really the only two I bothered to keep hold of. Other than singles, I haven’t really bothered much about picking up the early stuff. Seems I might be missing something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well J, this and 5th Dimension are definitely worth (re-)considering in addition to the two you mention. So much music, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. Some might say too much.

        Liked by 1 person

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