I see Pete Seeger, the man who wrote the wonderful ’Turn! Turn! Turn!’ (with the helping hand of God, some might say) has died. It’s a sad day. Of course most people know the song thanks to the glorious and (some would say, and I would agree) definitive reading by The Byrds, so let’s celebrate that.
What turned you onto The Byrds? I bet you all have your stories. For me there was the photo on the back of a copy of 'Hungry Beat' that Kevin had sent me; the words from ‘Why?’ quoted by Matt in a copy of 'Are You Scared To Get Happy?’ and the title of another fanzine out of Yeovil called ‘Turn!’. Before that I had heard ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ on the radio certainly, but I am sure that would have been about it. It seems alien to say this now, but there was a time when you could not simply type something into a ‘search’ box and instantly access just about anything. Second hand stores, charity shops and the Royal Mail were the Internet of our day. I would say they were much more social places too, but that’s only partially true and I would certainly not turn back the hands of time.
Times moves quickly when you are young and it must have been a matter of weeks from first becoming interested in The Byrds to hearing ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ for the first time. I recall it was in my dad’s car on the way to Glasgow one morning. Radio Clyde of all things. I recall being blown away and being desperate for more. I recall rushing into a second hand store near Buchanan Street on the way home and plucking a cheap copy of a ‘Best Of The Byrds’ from the racks. I recall playing it on that Pioneer turntable and Rotel all-in-one stereo in my bedroom and falling utterly, hopelessly in love. As one naturally would.
Over the years of course I explored the myriad avenues that The Byrds opened up. McGuinn’s fascination with the history of Folk; Crosby’s weird and wonderful dalliances with Stills, Nash and Young; the odd, edgy dark magic of ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’; the dalliances with Country and the whole other world of Gram Parsons - itself a story in and of itself; the numerous magical moments supplied by Gene Clark, but especially the awesome ‘No Other’, a record that I would certainly place on the top shelf of classics. Looking back it’s all been so valuable. Such an essential part of my existence.
Now my dad told me back in October last year that the song he wanted played at his funeral was ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. I asked if he had heard The Byrds version and he hadn’t. So I put it on the iPod I had just bought for him, along with a bunch of other soft pop and folk rock/pop treasures. Being in thrall to California and the American West Coast he loved it. Of course he did. So we had that playing as people left the chapel just two weeks ago. You may not be surprised to hear that ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ had played as we entered. More precious memories tied up in song.
So thanks Pete. Thanks all the myriad members of The Byrds over the years.