Hardcover-5 pages of Acknowledgements, 20 page Preface, 851 pages of text, 142 pages of Notes (which, if you want to learn even more, are worth reading), 21 pages of Byrds Sessionography, 5 pages of Byrds Unreleased Material, 43 pages of Byrds Discography, 58 pages of Byrds Bootlegs, 14 pages of Television Appearances/Videos/DVDS, and an Index. There's also 32 pages of b&w and color photos. Befitting a book of this size, there's a place-mark ribbon sewn into the book-a nice (and needed) touch.
If THE BYRDS are one of your favorite bands, chances are you've read (or at least heard about) author Johnny Rogan's previous works on the band. Rogan has spent many years researching the band, their music, and the period when THE BYRDS were making some great pop/rock/folk/folk-rock/country/country rock, that stands as some of the best music from that era. It's even more amazing when you consider that the group was made up primarily of "folkies", a died-in-the-wool bluegrass player, and a drummer who, in the beginning, played on cardboard boxes.
Rogan's previous works were seemingly about as in depth as a fan could wish for. But with this book (Vol. 1), Rogan has delved even deeper into the world of THE BYRDS and the never to be repeated era of the mid/late 60's (especially), when music (and just about everything else) was either changing or was ripe for change. From there Rogan looks at the changes in music-both in the band and other artists of the period. In a nutshell-if you've read his previous works on THE BYRDS (as I have), you'll still want to purchase this great book for Rogan's in depth look at the evolution of the culture of the times, the music industry, the bands, the musicians, and of course, the music.
Along the way Rogan looks at other important bands of the time-THE BEATLES, Bob Dylan, and other artists who were likewise recording great,influential, timeless music-both in Los Angeles and Britain. Beginning with the early life of THE BYRDS, first known as THE JET SET, (and for about a second THE BEEFEATERS), Rogan goes into some detail concerning their early music and performances, the early concerts, the zany people who followed the band-along with being almost forced into recording Dylan's "Mr Tambourine Man" (they didn't see it as a hit record), and Dylan's efforts to win the band over and release it as a single.
From that point Rogan delves deeply into all the areas of the band-the first British tour, coming home and realizing that folk-rock was on the way out. The chapter on the making of the band's second album is very telling-going into great detail concerning various band members and producers, and the conflicts that arose. The band's work in the studio, the various musical influences (rock, folk, jazz, country, electronic, East Indian, etc.) their albums and singles, the rise of the "LP", Gene Clark's departure from the band, the Monterey Pop Festival, the so called "Summer of Love", inter-band squabbles, the jealousy over Gene Clark's many fine songs, Crosby's attitude towards songs, money, leadership, and his eventual firing is looked at very deeply here, the change in sound-from pop/rock to something closer to country-rock and then pure country (Crosby has said that this new sound wasn't THE BYRDS-the original five guys was THE BYRDS), the various band members who floated in and out of the band (Gram Parsons, Skip Battin, Gene Parsons, Kevin Kelley, Clarence White, etc.) changing the band's sound along the way, their eventual dissolution and reformation (to no avail), and finally, the band's role as examples and elder statesmen of the 60's era of rock music.
One of the major points Rogan has laid bare is that THE BYRDS were a group of people who came together to explore this "new" music that was happening, not a band in the truest sense of that term-people who had known each other for years (perhaps growing up together), and knew each other well. The various personalities of virtually every member of THE BYRDS, from the beginning through the next 2-3 years sparked some fine songs but also led to squabbles amongst the various members of the group, and to several key people leaving.
This first volume ends with the last three chapters-"Survivors", "The Reaper's Blade", and "Epilogue"-a fitting way to wind up the era of such great change, when old age/death was seemingly so far away, and everyone and everything was so new, exciting, and vital. Here (as in the rest of the book) Rogan has done everyone who has followed THE BYRDS and that wonderful era, a great service. His years long studies of the band and that time period, his first hand interviews, and having the perseverance to put it all together into this book (and Vol. 2) gives us a real view-something approaching "clear light"-into that now, hazy world.
But along with the story of THE BYRDS, the author takes a deep, informative look at all the changes that happened during this exciting period. And that's where this great book takes a step further than the previous editions on THE BYRDS. The idealism of the 60's counterculture, which slowly morphed into a "me first" lifestyle, the rise (and fall) of various performers, and the difficulty of trying to adapt to the changing public's idea of music-that and more are here, but never straying too far from THE BYRDS, in an intelligently laid out, easy to read, chronological style. Rogan has spent many years interviewing the many people who were there at the time-including members of various bands, and those in the studio. These portions of the book are invaluable, partly because a number of these people are now no longer living. And with everyone who falls by the wayside, we are that much more removed from the actual events as people witnessed them.
The choice of photographs was astutely done. Pictures from the beginning-a great informal color portrait of the band and the various dancers ("Vito's group") from the early days, THE JET SET from 1964, THE BYRDS in the studio-dressed in (then standard) coats and ties, a great early shot of a smiling David Crosby in a suit holding a Rickenbacker guitar, the band on stage in Britain with Crosby wearing his green cape, a strikingly beautiful color portrait of the original group, Crosby in the studio with THE BEATLES during the "Sgt. Pepper's..." sessions, plus several photos of THE BYRDS over the years with Kelley, both Parsons, White, and York, a shot of the band on stage at their last performance in 1973, plus many other interesting, telling photographs.
This book (and Volume 2) will stand as one of Rogan's very best. This is not only about THE BYRDS, but about a certain period of time that will never be repeated again. If you came of age (as I was lucky enough to) during this era, and thought it was exciting, you know what I'm talking about. I was fortunate enough to hear the band both when they opened for THE ROLLING STONES (1965, who were late), and as a trio (1968, and we didn't know who would show up)-and I still remember the sound of the original group's harmonies, and, as a trio, McGuinn's 12 string ringing out, and Hillman's fluid bass work. If you weren't lucky enough, this great book will take you back when it was all happening-good and bad. Everyone who has an interest in 60's culture, the music, the bands, and all the various happenings will want to read this book. I can't wait for Volume 2. So put on your favorite BYRDS' album and delve into this fine look at one of the best bands from an era of exciting music and cultural change.