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Turn! Turn! Turn!


The Byrds
Turn! Turn! Turn!

Columbia Legacy
CDK 64846


(Original Album Liner Notes, Rel. 1965)

Well, here it is. And about time, too.

Didn’t our old grannies wag their wise and withered heads and tell us that good things are worth waiting for?

This album was as long in the making as a President. But, as Jim McGuinn trusted it would, everything’s worked out all right. Personally, I think it’s a beautiful piece of work, and maybe The Byrds were right to linger over it. After all, a great record album is to the 1960’s what a piece of sculpture was to the Middle Ages. Isn’t it?

The Byrds think it should be, and I agree with them because I agree with them on most things.

So do the Beatles, by the way. They’re Byrd-watchers. Two of the Fab Four came to the recording sessions at Columbia’s Hollywood studios when they could have been sprawling beside their Bel Air pool gazing at Joan Baez.

Some choice.

Anyway, down from the hills rode George and Paul because they’d liked The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and they know that a record like that doesn’t happen by accident. (“Ho,” John had said, “The Byrds have something,” and the others had nodded.) So there they were, at Columbia – bachelor Beatle two-some, denims and fringes and so much experience, head bent to pickup the sound-subtleties of the Los Angeles Byrds, whom The Beatles publicly named as their fab gear fave rave American group.

Well, that was one glamorous night.

Much of the time it was bark and bite, struggle and retape, battle and reshape, experiment and reject.

“Just once more,” said famed producer Terry Melcher a thousand times. And with so many once-mores and The Byrds’ creativity and a capful of other ingredients, we now have this most splendid album.

Why is it so good? Mainly because The Byrds are so good.

The great quality common to all The Byrds is that they really care about their music. I don’t want to be boring about this – though they will bend your ears for hours on this subject – but the point is worth making because it is this prolonged, exact attention to detail and this involvement with the very best way to make music work for you that set The Byrds ahead, above, beyond and totally out of reach of their competitors.

The Byrds, you see, are not prepared to be imprisoned by their music. They know that if material is good, it can be molded and fashioned at will. Any material. Any music. They proved this in their first album when they took a sentimental British keep-your-chin-up-and-our-upper-lip-stiff war song (“We’ll Meet Again”) and by investing it with a beautiful blend of barely discernible humor and Byrd harmony, produced a wonderfully fresh interpretation. And tasteful, too, for The Byrds are nothing if not aesthetic.

Similarly, in this new album, they reach back to Stephen Foster for a song. They pluck out Oh! Susannah and make it, suddenly pure Byrd. Again they add a touch of humor. Faint, but just enough.

The Byrds rarely overdo anything. The constant artistic conflicts within the group – the striving for a thoroughly argued compromise – ensure that their songs are influenced by the best qualities of each of them. In other words, there is little chance that a song will be recorded without a dozen fistfights and great mouthfuls of awful abuse. For though McGuinn is the leader, each member of his flock is an adroit, individual musician.

This album is eclectic. (No, not electric. Eclectic. Look it up in Webster’s.) Anyone ungenerous enough to suggest The Byrds rely on Dylan – and surprisingly, there are one to two mean people in show business – will be disappointed to see that of the eleven numbers within this gorgeous sleeve, six are by Byrd-members, one is by Pete Seeger, one by S. Foster, another is an old country standard. Only two are by Dylan.

What else is there to say?

The Byrds came out of 1965 very well, their dignity unimpaired. They are admirable people, and I never tire of their musical music. They have their disciples all over the world, and the sky around them is heavy and resonant with the predatory wings of imitators. The Byrds merely wince slightly and smile within themselves.

Folk-rock came and went this year, and the  mortality rate was high. Protest growled briefly and died in great, wheezing gasps. The Byrds, unfettered, looked the other way and sang love songs.

1965, too, brought Hair music and no-room-at-the-inn music. That, too, grew inwards and suffocated itself. The Byrds whistled Oh! Susannah and flew away on their motorcycles – away, away into the night over the Hollywood hills.

Enjoy this lovely album, and give it to grumpy uncles for Christmas. It will help.

 – Derek Taylor
Press and Public Relations
Officer for The Byrds


Turning Point:
“Shindig” Scripture & “Oh! Susannah”

David Fricke, 1996

It is a striking measure of how much pop music has changed over the last 30 years – and with it our notions of what is, or could be, popular – that a simple folk song drawn from Biblical verse would stand only the slimmest chance of becoming a hit single today. As a rock & roll audience, we’re too hungry for extremes. As a nation, we’re too jaded by recent history and hard-bitten by current levels to fall for ancient homily, even scored with boy-choir voices and crystalline guitars.

But if “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” the Byrds’ second Number One single and the inevitable title track of their second Columbia album, was a song custom-made for its time – late 1965 – it was not for the reasons we now take for granted: the utopian ambitions of a restless post-war generation; the non-violent temperment of most protest politics. The 1960s were, contrary to the reigning nostalgia, a tumultuous, even ugly decade, scarred by war, vicious social argument, urban rioting and assassination. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – music by folk patriarch Pete Seeger, with words adapted by Seeger from the Book of Ecclesiastes – is actually a song of stoic wisdom, a prayer for reason and balance in a world shaken off its axis (“A time of love, a time of hate/A time of war, a time of peace/A time you may embrace/A time to refrain from embracing”). In an era of rage, division and overeager hope, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was a rare thing – a record extolling not only communion but common sense.

During his early ‘60s session days in New York, Roger McGuinn* had arranged the song in a chamber-folk-style for Judy Collins’ third album. The version the Byrds recorded in September, 1965, was more like “Shindig” set to Scripture: the elegant guitar arpeggios swimming in a clear mountain-spring twang; Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke putting gentle muscle into the record’s subtle tempo changes, particularly the samba-like gallop in the verses; and those close-rank voices fanning out into sunshine-harmony formation at the end of each litany. It is, frankly, a striking measure of how much the record industry had changed – atrophied, really – that “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was cut, issued as a single and on the air in just a month’s time, an inspired last-minute substitution for another Dylan cover, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. Today, the marketing meetings alone would have taken that long.

The Turn! Turn! Turn! album, which peaked on the Billboard album chart at Number 17, has never been held in the same high regard as its Top Ten predecessor Mr. Tambourine Man; it does lack some of the crisp energy and dramatic immediacy of the earlier record. But like its namesake hit, Turn! Turn! Turn! is a thoughtful beauty, rich in tone and mood. As Dylan interpreters, the Byrds always preferred the poetic to the pendantic, the compassionate to the combative. Often dismissed as a flat, windy misreading of the song, the languid serenity of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” actually suits the elegiac feel of an album featuring a lament for a murdered President – “He Was A Friend Of Mine,” rewritten by McGuinn in tribute to John F. Kennedy – and closing with the warm sentimentality (albeit revved-up and rocked out) of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susannah.”

Just how much the Byrds had improved as a cohesive, exciting recording unit – even under the pressures that two hit singles in six months can bring – is heard in the crackling remake of “It Won’t Be Wrong,” originally titled “Don’t Be Long” when it first appeared as the B-side of McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby’s 1964 Beefeaters single. What had been a whiney Beatlesque love song was transformed into a stirring expression of passion and need.

With both “She Don’t Care About Time” (the B-side of “Turn! Turn! Turn!”) and “The Day Walk,” a three-minute jewel inexplicably left to gather dust for almost 25 years, restored to what should have been their original, proper place on this album, Turn! Turn! Turn! is a fine testament to Gene Clark’s prodigious achievements as a songwriter in the early Byrds. (Note the “Satisfaction” riff that producer Terry Melcher plays on piano during a June ’65 test run of “She Don’t Care About Time,” included here as a bonus track.) Clark was gone by the spring of 1966, a casualty of band politics and his own exhaustion. But in “Set You Free This Time” and “The World Turns All Around Her,” he left behind two of the finest pop ballads of the decade; romantic folk-rock drama still doesn’t come any better than that.

In both Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!, the Byrds recorded and released in just one year a body of music that, by any other band’s standards then or now, would have sufficed as a life’s work. The real miracle of it all is that this was only the beginning.

Jim McGuinn – Leader, 12-string guitar, vocals
Gene Clark – Tambourine, vocals
David Crosby – Rhythm guitar, vocals
Chris Hillman – Bass guitar, vocals
Michael Clarke – Drums

All track originally produced by Terry Melcher


1. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)
(Words from the Book of Ecclesiastes / Adapt. and music by Pete Seeger)
Rec. Date: 9/10/65
Mono (3:49)

Adapted by Pete Seeger from the Book of Ecclesiastes, this song had previously been featured on the third Judy Collins album, on which Jim McGuinn had played guitar. Legend has it that it took between 50 and 78 attempts to find the perfect take, but all the effort proved worthwhile when it reached Number One on the U.S. charts. The song’s final line “A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late” was a well nigh perfect Christmas message for 1965. McGuinn: “It was a standard folk song by that time, but I played it and it came out rock ‘n’ roll because that’s what I was programmed to do, like a computer … We thought it would make a good single. It had everything: a good message, a good melody, and the beat was there.”

2. It Won’t Be Wrong
(R. McGuinn – Gerst)
Rec. Date: 9/18/65
Stereo (1:58)

This had originally been recorded in 1964 as “Don’t Be Long” and released on Elektra under the pseudonym Beefeaters, in what was intended as a dry-run for the soon-to-be-formed Byrds. McGuinn retained the original lyrics and music but this revised version was far superior, confirming the extent to which the group had progressed musically in just over a year. As producer Terry Melcher enthused: “We were all satisfied with “It Won’t Be Wrong.” The production was really tight.”

3. Set You Free This Time
(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 9/16/65
Stereo (2:49)

Having already established himself as a master of the torch ballad, Gene Clark found fresh inspiration here with a densely-worded lyric, clearly influenced by Bob Dylan. The song had emerged during the Byrds’ ill-fated British Tour after an evening spent at a London club with Paul McCartney. Gene Clark: “When I reached my room I got out my acoustic guitar and started picking out a tune. In a couple of hours I was finished, literally. I slept for a full 12 hours after that.” Without question, the song was a giant step forward for the Byrds and certainly the most sophisticated lyric to emerge from their own camp. According to manager Jim Dickson, the song caused such an impact outside America that the British Broadcasting Corporation contributed money toward the production of a promotional film for the track.

4. Lay Down Your Weary Tune

(B. Dylan)
Rec. Date: 10/22/65
Stereo (3:30)

While other groups tackled Dylan’s sparkier, pop-oriented material, the Byrds were never afraid to interpret his more abstract work. On this occasion, the master was suitably impressed by their audacity. McGuinn: “It was ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune’ that finally convinced Dylan that we were really something. I was at this apartment in New York and Dylan came up to me and said: ‘Up until I heard this I thought you were just another imitator … but this has got real feeling to it.’ That was the first time he’d realized that I could do something really different to his material.”

5. He Was A Friend Of Mine

(Additional Lyrics: R. McGuinn)
Rec. Date: 11/1/65
Stereo (2:30)

This traditional tune had been performed by many folk singers, including Bob Dylan, who recorded his version in 1962. Jim McGuinn provided a contemporary slant one year later when the world was shocked by the slaying of JFK. “I wrote that song the night John F. Kennedy was assassinated [November 22, 1963]. I suppose you could say it’s one of the earliest Byrds songs. The arrangement used was as I’d always sung it. I just thought it was a good idea to include it on the album.”

6. The World Turns All Around Her

(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 8/23/65
Stereo (2:13)

This was a return to Gene Clark’s tortured songs of teen romance, with the Byrds adding their distinctive harmonies and jingle-jangle guitar work for good measure. It was already evident to the other members that Clark’s complicated love life played a key part in inspiring his muse. Manager Jim Dickson: “David Crosby was very aware of that. He would even kind of promote it and say, ‘Well, as soon as he breaks up with her we’ll get another song,’ and stuff like that.”

7. Satisfied Mind
(R. Hayes – J. Rhodes)
Rec. Date: 9/17/65
Stereo (2:26)

Bassist Chris Hillman chose this former country hit by Porter Wagoner. Byrds manager Jim Dickson had also produced a cover of the song on an album by Hamilton Camp. It serves as the earliest example of the Byrds’ excursion into country music.

8. If You’re Gone

(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 10/20/65
Stereo (2:45)

This lyrical admission of emotional insecurity from Gene Clark featured an unusual, almost raga-inspired harmony. Producer Terry Melcher: “McGuinn had this good idea for using a fifth harmony to create a droning effect, like that of a bagpipe or a drum. On the album it really does sound like another instrument.”

9. The Times They Are A-Changin’
(B. Dylan)
Rec. Date: 9/1/65
Stereo (2:18)

This was probably the strangest and most wayward of the Byrds’ Dylan cover songs. Originally intended as a possible single, the group attacked the song in a sardonic manner, subverting the commitment evident in Dylan’s acoustic protest and replacing it with an ambiguous and decidedly ironic reading.

10. Wait And See
(R. McGuinn – D. Crosby)
Rec. Date: 10/1/65
Stereo (2:19)

This was the first Byrds song credited to McGuinn/Crosby, although David could not recall the extent of his contribution. According to co-manager Eddie Tickner: “Crosby and McGuinn wanted to move away from the simple boy/girl songs.” Ironically, this was more in that tradition than even the earliest songs of Gene Clark. Its lyrical shortcomings are compensated by some solid musicianship.

11. Oh! Susannah
(Arr. R. McGuinn)
Rec. Date: 10/4/65
Stereo (3:03)

Another example of the Byrds’ deadpan humour, this continued the tradition of closing their albums on a wry and unexpected note. McGuinn hijacks Stephen Foster’s 19th century minstrel tune and attempts to transform it into pure Byrds by the simple expedient of replacing a banjo with an electric Rickenbacker, speeding up the tempo and singing in that distinctive world-weary drawl.


12. The Day Walk

(Never Before)
(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 9/14/65
Rel: Columbia C4K 46773
(The Byrds Box Set)
Stereo (3:00)

13. She Don’t Care About Time
(Single Version)
Rec. Date: 8/23/65
Released as Columbia single 4-43424
Mono (2:29)

14. The Times They Are A-Changin’
(First Version)
(B. Dylan)
Rec. Date: 6/28/65
Previously unissed/first version
Mono (1:54)

15. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Version 1)
(B. Dylan)
Rec. Date: 6/28/65
Previously unissued/take 1
Stereo (3:03)

16. She Don’t Care About Time (Version 1)
(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 6/28/65
Previously unissued/take 2
Stereo (2:35)

17. The World Turns All Around Her

(Alternate Mix)
(G. Clark)
Rec. Date: 8/23/65
Previously unissued alternate mix/ “bongo version”
Stereo (2:12)

18. Stranger In A Strange Land
(D. Crosby)
Rec. Date: 9/18/65
Previously unissued
Instrumental backing track/take 10
Stereo (3:04)


These additional seven bonus tracks testify to the Byrds’ musical development over a matter of months. During the summer they were still intent on releasing a third consecutive Bob Dylan composition as a single. As it turned out, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” was deemed not strong enough and failed to appear. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” was another contender, and this version is one of several attempts that they rejected.

The Dylan influence was increasingly evident in the work of Gene Clark, whose complex lyrics and alluring melodies were by now something of a trademark. “The Day Walk,” previously assumed to have been cut to a later session, was actually recorded as early as September 1965. In common with his other contributions here, it shows a willingness to move away from the strong Beatles influence evident in his juvenilia. “She Don’t Care About Time” was regrettably relegated to the B-side of “Turn! Turn! Turn,” but it’s reinstated here in its rightful place in this collection. In addition, there’s an earlier version of the song with a more prominent Clark vocal and surprise harmonica solo alongside McGuinn’s memorable lead guitar break. A reprise of “The World Turns All Around Her,” with a discernibly contrasting mix, leads into a final rarity, the backing track of David Crosby’s “Stranger In A Strange Land,” one of the great lost Byrds songs of its time.

 – Song notes by Johnny Rogan, 1996
Author of Timeless Flight: The Definitive Biography Of The Byrds

*Byrdnote: Roger McGuinn was born James Joseph McGuinn III but changed his name during his involvement with Subud, an Indonesian religion.

Produced for Compact Disc by Bob Irwin

Mixed and mastered by Vic Anesini, Sony Music Studios, New York, NY
Project Director: Adam Block
All tracks originally produced by Terry Melcher
Design: Watts Design?
Packaging Manager: Hope Chasin
Liner notes by David Fricke
Song notes by Johnny Rogan
Photos and memorabilia: Bob Irwin and Sony Music Photo Library
Original cover photo: Guy Webster

Special thanks to: Roger McGuinn, Don DeVito, Steve Berkowitz, Mitchell Cohen, Roy Collins, Saul Davis, Tom Donnarumma, Nina Hernandez, Jeff Hurwitt, John Ingrassia, Jeff Jones, and Jeff Smith.

Other 20-bit mastered Byrds releases:
Mr. Tambourine Man CK 64845
Fifth Dimension CK 64847
Younger Than Yesterday CK 64848

What are you going to listen to next?

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Legacy Recordings
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New York, NY 10101-1526


© 1996 Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. / (P) 1996 Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. / Manufactured by Columbia Records / 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211 / “Columbia”, “Legacy” and L Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off. Marca Registrada / Warning: All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized Duplication is a Violation of Applicable Laws.

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