Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review of The Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers by Ric Menck

The Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers (33 1/3) The Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers by Ric Menck

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book took a bit to grow on me, but I ended up really enjoying it. This was less heavy on the analysis and more about the interplay of personalities that made up the Byrds. David Crosby is cast as the willful villain, consumed by his lusts whereas Roger McGuinn is portrayed as the quiet genius around which the group revolves. I've always liked the sound of Byrds but thought them a little lightweight as a band, given their propensity to cover Dylan so much, but I supposed it is impossible for me to understand the impact Dylan had on society at the times. Author Ric Menck was the drummer for Velvet Crush, the band responsible for the stellar power pop classic album Teenage Symphonies to God, so he knows the ways of band dynamics, and bears the most sympathy for the Byrds drummer Michael Clarke, who found his rudimentary skills were unable to keep pace with development of the band's sound, and who also dropped out of it when it wasn't fun anymore.

Menck manages a rare thing in fan-oriented music writing - he loves the band without idolizing the members. The Byrds bore the weight of being the American band holding their own against the Beatles, torn by competing factions with and managers that just wanted another hit record. No one comes out particularly dirty in the story, but no one is totally clean either. The gist of the book is this: bands are complicated situations populated with difficult personalities, but the real reason we love them is what happens when the friction therein creates that spark.

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