“It was Dylan meets the Beatles,” said Roger McGuinn of The Byrds
Their application of a dreamy jangle sound to Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!" and Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” meant that they came close to being equals to their heroes rather than one of thousands of pale imitators
Their greatest moment was probably “Eight Miles High,”, raga-rock, Coltrane-rock, that prophesised the psychedelic movement that was to come.
Their most surprising moment, however, was the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in 1968, one of the earliest full-blown country-rock albums ( along with Bradley's Barn by The Beau Brummels, John Stewart's California Bloodlines, the Everly Brothers' Roots, Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding and Safe at Home by The International Submarine Band), the album that included the country's Kurt Cobain, Gram Parsons.
McGuinn ended up re-recording 3 of the vocals tracks done by Gram. Their producer recalls.
“McGuinn was a little bit edgy that Parsons was getting a little bit too much out of this whole thing.... He didn't want the album to turn into a Gram Parsons album. We wanted to keep Gram's voice in there, but we also wanted the recognition to come from Hillman and McGuinn, obviously. You just don't take a hit group and interject a new singer for no reason.... There were legal problems but they were resolved and the album had just the exact amount of Gram Parsons that McGuinn, Hillman and I wanted."
If you love Ryan Adams or even Neil Young, Wilco or James Taylor you are indebted to this historial album; if you love straight up country you can thank the Byrds for helping rock fans realise that it's not all Kris Kristoferson and Dolly Parton.
Long-live the Byrds and long live Sweethearts of the Rodeo.