40 Years Ago: The Byrds’ ‘Byrds’ Album Released
By 1972 the Byrds had pretty much become a vehicle for Roger McGuinnâs solo recordings. The original quintet began falling apart in 1966, after Gene Clark, who penned most of the groupâs original early songs, left.
Over the years, one by one, the founding members â David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke — departed. So did their replacements, including Gram Parsons, the country-rock pioneer who made one album with the band, 1968âs âSweetheart of the Rodeo.â
McGuinn retained the Byrds name, releasing five albums between 1969 and 1971, none of them very memorable. So after the group he was fronting on tour started complaining about pay, among other things, McGuinn hatched a plan to reunite the bandâs original five members. It wasnât too hard: Clarkâs solo career was a bust; the Flying Burrito Brothers had broken up, leaving Clarke without a band; Crosby, Stills and Nash were on another hiatus; and Hillman, working with Stephen Stills in Manassas, was in between projects.
In the fall of 1972, the original Byrds got together in a Hollywood studio and recorded approximately a dozen songs for the album, simply titled âByrds,â which came out on March 7, 1973. Clark wrote a couple of songs, including the opening âFull Circle,â the albumâs highlight. Crosby and McGuinn each wrote two, and Hillman penned one. The remaining three songs consisted of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young covers.
Those expecting a return to the Byrdsâ mid-â60s output were no doubt disappointed by what they heard. For starters, the groupâs signature jangly guitar songs were missing. And the five members, who hadnât played together in six years, sounded disconnected. The harmonies were no longer soaring, the musical camaraderie no longer a constant.
Still, âByrdsâ became the bandâs highest-charting LP since their second, 1965âs âTurn! Turn! Turn!â But the No. 20 showing couldnât keep the reunion moving forward. Soon after the albumâs release, the band broke up again. A few months later, McGuinn released his first solo album. Even though there have been a few reunions since, âByrdsâ remains the last album released under the groupâs name.
Listen to the Byrds’ ‘Full Circle’