#627: All I Really Want To Do by The Byrds
Around 1963 a folk trio that named itself the Jet Set, consisted of Roger McGuinn on vocals and lead guitar, Gene Clark on vocals tambour and rhythm guitar and David Crosby on vocals and rhythm guitar. In 1964 the trio released a single that was a commercial failure and credited to The Beefeaters. They added bass (and mandolin) player Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke and became The Byrds. They offered up a fusion of folk-rock and became an instant hit with two #1 hits in Vancouver and the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965: “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The former was written by Bob Dylan and the latter by Pete Seeger. A single between their #1 hits was another Dylan tune titled “All I Really Want To Do”. The Byrds were perennial favorites in Vancouver who consistently had better chart runs in Vancouver than back in their home country of America. Aside from their two #1 hits, they failed to chart other songs into the Billboard Hot 100. But in Vancouver they charted ten songs into the Top Ten.
Roger McGuinn was born in Chicago in 1942. When he was 13 years old he heard Elvis Presley sing “Heartbreak Hotel”. Upon hearing the song he asked his parents to buy him a guitar. When he was 14 years old, he took a five-string banjo course from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Soon after he began to play at coffee houses and got noticed by others in the folk scene. In 1958, McGuinn was hired to tour as a temporary member of the backing band for the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio and Judy Collins, which continued until 1962. He also provided backing vocals on a number of singles released by Bobby Darin from the late 50’s until early 1963. Bobby Darin got ill and quit performing for a few years and founded TM Music out of the Brill Building in Manhattan. Darin hired McGuinn to write songs for $35/week. McGuinn also was a studio musician for both Judy Collins and Simon & Garfunkel.
Gene Clark was born in a small town of about 1,200 people called Tipton, Missouri, in 1944. He was the third of thirteen children and from his childhood began to play harmonica and guitar, after being taught to play by his dad. He started to compose songs by age eleven and at age 15 he was in a band called Joe Meyers and the Sharks. Clark was strongly influenced by The Kingston Trio and later founded a folk group in 1962 called the Rum Runners. Later that year, while playing with the folk group, the Surf Riders, in Kansas City, Gene Clark was discovered by the New Christy Minstrels. He got a place in their folk group in time to add his vocals to “Green Green”, a Top 20 hit for the group in the summer of 1963. After he left the New Christy Mintrels and moved to Los Angeles, Gene Clark met Roger McGuinn at the Troubador Club.
David Van Cortlandt Crosby was born in LA in 1941. While growing up Crosby focused on drama, but developed an interest in music after graduation. In 1961 he and African-American singer, Terry Callier, sought a record deal in New York City. But there wasn’t any interest in signing a record contract with a bi-racial folk duo in America in 1961. So, in 1962, Crosby became a member of Lex Baxter’s Balladeers, a backing vocal group for band leader Les Baxter. Crosby was able to sign a recording contract in 1963 and release some material as a solo artist. In 1964 he met Roger McGuinn in Chicago while McGuinn was a sideman for Miriam Makeba while she was on tour in the USA.
Christopher “Chris” Hillman was born in 1944 in Los Angeles. His family grew up in rural San Diego County and when he was 16 years old, Hillman joined a bluegrass band named The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers who sang traditional tunes like “Home Sweet Home”. When the folk group disbanded in 1963 after recording one album, Hillman moved to LA and formed a folk troupe named the Golden State Boys. The band soon changed their name to The Hillmen. Popular as The Hillmen were in the height of the folk music revival in the early 60’s, they couldn’t secure a record deal. Hillman left the band to join the Byrds, after McGuinn and Clark recruited him.
Michael James Dick was born in 1946 in Spokane, Washington. He ran away from home at that age of 17 and hitchhiked to California. He took on the surname of Clarke. Michael Clarke met David Crosby on a beach in northern LA while playing bongo drums. Crosby offered him a chance to audition and join The Byrds.
The Byrds quickly became known for their strong harmonies and their upbeat guitar sound. They had two #1 hits in 1965: “Mr. Tamourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Between these two hits they released “All I Really Want To Do”.
“All I Really Want To Do” is a song evoking a list of things not to do to someone else if you want to be their friend. The singer promises not to compete, beat, cheat, mistreat, simplify, classify, deny, defy, crucify, fight, frighten, tighten, be a drag or a drain, chain them or bring their friend down. They vow not to shake them up or forsake them. In addition, they are not interested in having the other person “feel” like them, perceive things the same way, or “be” like them. They also vow not to be an armchair analyst and try to “dissect” or “inspect” the hoped for friend. The offer of friendship is open and doesn’t involve either person rejecting the other. The singer also isn’t interested in a serious romance where they “make you spin,” or have things develop to the point of meeting “your kin.”
“All I Really Want To Do” was written by Bob Dylan and featured as one of the tracks on his 1964 album, Another Side Of Bob Dylan. That album also contained “It Ain’t Me Babe”, a Top Ten hit for The Turtles in 1965, and “My Back Pages” which The Byrds covered in 1967. “All I Really Want To Do” was recorded by Cher in May 1965. Her cover of the song climbed to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on C-FUN. Meanwhile, The Byrds version of “All I Really Want To Do” peaked at #6 in Vancouver on CKLG and #40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“All I Really Want To Do” is written from the perspective of someone who knows the many ways that two people relate is fraught with hazards. There are many obstacles to a life-giving friendship. One person can “fall in love” with the other and build dreams and expectations for a romantic relationship. Once in a relationship, some people can’t control the impulse to “beat” the other person. In 1965, issues of domestic violence were not often on the radar. But Bob Dylan lists “beat you” as the first of many things in the song the singer vows not to do. He also mentions “mistreat” and “fight,” aspects of physical control. Another decision is not to “cheat” and have an affair. They aren’t trying to intimidate the other person by frightening them. They’re also committed to not making the other person be or feel like them. In this, and the other obstacles on the list to a thriving friendship, it is imperative that the two people involved communicate with each other in a non-defensive and clear way. One can speak for themselves about how they feel when certain circumstances arise in a friendship. And it is important to also ask questions of the other person, to observe and inquire. Yet, it is important when observing the other person to not put labels on the other persons behavior, feelings or choices.
In an article on making friends, Stephanie Vozza lists six qualities that enhance the chance of making friends:
- Be Approachable: facial expressions are crucial in letting others know you are open to them. If you want to meet other people check your frown at the door.
- Get Involved in Activities You Enjoy: Meeting others in settings where you already enjoy the activity enhances the chances you’ll have something in common with your new acquaintances.
- Have a positive attitude: “Researchers have found that if you say good things about other people, people tend to remember you as having those positive qualities,”
- Don’t wait for others to make the first move: When you’ve met someone for the first time, if you want to socialize with them again, it is okay to ask if you can have their phone number or email. If there is reciprocity, it can indicate mutual interest in forming a friendship. If they aren’t interested in keeping in touch with you, you’ve learned something important.
- Follow Up: One of the keys to forming a friendship is consistency. Don’t let your new friendship lag for long periods of time.
- Say “Yes” to Invitations (Even When You Want To Say “No”): Be open to opportunities that stretch you and go outside of your comfort zone.
And in her article “How to Become a Magnet for Friends: 7 Mindful Tips,” Mary Jaksch writes that it is constructive to focus on the good in people, let go of grudges, be helpful and be grateful.
“All I Really Want To Do” peaked at #2 in Syracuse (NY), Tucson (AZ) and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It It climbed to #3 in Hartford (CT) and Milwaukee (WI), #4 in Troy (NY), #5 in Flint (MI), Fargo (ND) and Tampa Bay (FL), and #7 in Sacramento (CA) and Winnipeg (MB),
Gene Clark wrote a number of singles the band released in 1965-66 which went on to become Top Ten hits in Vancouver. One of these was “Set You Free This Time”. Clark co-wrote “Eight Miles High” with McGuinn and Crosby. McGuinn wrote “Mr. Spaceman” and “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N Roll Star”. He also wrote and “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”. In the midst of this string of releases after “Turn Turn Turn” came the release of two tracks from the album Turn, Turn Turn: “It Won’t Be Wrong/Set You Free This Time”.
In 1966, the Byrds experienced controversy upon the release of “Eight Miles High”, a song about flying into London, England, while on tour. Eight miles high/And when you touch down/You’ll find that it’s/Stranger than known….Rain gray town/Known for its sound/In places/Small faces unbound./Round the squares/Huddled in storms/Some laughing/Some just shapeless forms. When you fly eight miles high you are about 42,000 feet above ground. Lear Jets were flying that high in the 1960’s and The Byrds often flew in Lear Jets. Gene Clark first thought of giving the song the title “Seven Miles High”. But then he thought of The Beatles hit, “Eight Days A Week”, and liked the sound of “Eight Miles High.” However, some music critics and deejays thought the song must be about drugs and there was encouragement to ban the song. As a result “Eight Miles High” saw little or no airplay in Alaksa, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Vermont and Maine.
In the midst of the controversy Gene Clark decided to quit the band. One of The Byrds final Top Ten hits in Vancouver was penned by Bob Dylan titled “My Back Pages”. The song made the Top Ten in Vancouver in the spring of 1967.
“My Back Pages” was the final Top 40 hit for The Byrds in America. They had another Top Ten hit in Vancouver a year later, also penned by Bob Dylan called “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”. In 1968, Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left the band to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Drummer Michael Clarke was fired from the band at the end of 1967 and went to be a painter in Hawaii. He eventually would join the Flying Burrito Brothers. Then David Crosby left The Byrds at the end of 1967 and by the summer of 1968 formed one third of Crosby, Stills and Nash. After several more changes in membership The Byrds finally disbanded in 1973.
Febuary 27, 2019
Joe Bosso, The Real Story Behind The Byrds “Eight Miles High,” Music Aficionado, Beverly Hills, CA.
The Byrds Biography, The Byrds Fan Site.
David Crosby website, David Crosby.com
Zimmer, Dave, and Diltz, Henry. Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY, 1984.
Einarson, John. Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds’ Gene Clark. Backbeat Books, San Francisco, CA, 2005.
Chris Hillman website, Chris Hillman.com
Hjort, Christopher. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press, London, UK, 2008.
Larkin, Colin. The Byrds Biography, Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press, London, UK, 2007.
Rogan, Johnny.The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited. Rogan House, London, UK, 1998.
Stephanie Vozza, Six Habits of People Who Make Friends Easily: The Secret to Making New Friends is as Simple as Being Open to it. Here are Things You Can Do to Fill your Calendar. Fast Company.com, June 22, 2016.
Mary Jaksch, How to Become a Magnet for Friends: 7 Mindful Tips, Tiny Buddha.com.
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