Roger McGuinn - vocals, 6- and 12-string guitar
Roger McGuinn will forever be recognized for his pioneering musical efforts in The Byrds and for being one of the first to recognize the potential of Bob Dylan's songs within a rock music context. However, his greatest and longest-lasting influence may be his development of two innovative styles of playing electric guitar. McGuinn was not only responsible for introducing the jangly highly compressed ringing Rickenbacker sound, based on banjo finger picking, but he was also one of the first musicians to merge the free-jazz atonalities of John Coltrane into popular music by applying it to the electric guitar, a sound clearly heard on the Byrd's classic 1966 single, "Eight Miles High." A gifted interpreter, as well as a talented songwriter, McGuinn has been at the center of several significant stylistic movements, including the initial electrification of folk music and the merging of country and rock 'n' roll music, both long before they were accepted or popular. McGuinn has also been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology, being one of the first musicians to embrace the internet and utilizing it to preserve the traditions of folk music, with his Folk Den Project on his own website. During the 1980's, McGuinn devoted much of his time to touring solo acoustic, performing at intimate venues and college campuses. Without a record label, and traveling without a crew other than his wife Camilla, McGuinn continues to pursue his musical career on his own terms.
In 1984, McGuinn again hit the road as the opener for fellow former Byrd David Crosby, performing a delightfully engaging set primarily comprised of familiar Byrds-era songs. This recording captures one of those 1984 sets in its entirety, when McGuinn opened for Crosby at The Mohopac Auditorium in March of 1984, a venue he had also played 13 years prior with The Byrds. McGuinn's set is structured like a virtual travelogue, featuring engaging monologues between each song. His talent as a storyteller ties all of this material together, taking the listener on a compelling journey through his life and music.
The set begins with "Ballad of Easy Rider," the memorable theme song he composed for the movie, and McGuinn utilizes aspects of the main character to personify the story that unfolds throughout this set. He continues with two Bob Dylan covers. "My Back Pages" perfectly represents the mid 1960s/early Byrds era, when Dylan's thought-provoking lyrics were first penetrating into popular music. Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere" leads the listener into McGuinn's early forays into country music and his initial experiences in Nashville. This naturally leads to McGuinn meeting up with Gram Parsons, which is represented by their songwriting collaboration, "Drug Store Truck Driving Man." "One More Chance," provides a reggaefied opportunity for an old fashioned audience sing-a-long, before McGuinn gets overtly autobiographical with "Gates of Horn." He also throws in a wonderful bluesy interpretation of Bessie Smith's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out," that propels the ongoing story along.
At this point the story veers off into McGuinn's collaborations with theatrical director and songwriter Jacques Levy and their ill-fated musical inspired by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, focusing on the dilemmas of choice, morality, and identity. This sequence is first personified with the Byrdmaniax tune, "I Want To Grow Up To Be A Politician," followed by three of the greatest McGuinn/Levy songs, "Chestnut Mare," "Lover Of The Bayou," and "Just A Season."
The remainder of the set returns to vintage Byrds material and features four of their classic hits, stripped down to their essence, including a delightfully fun reading of "Mr.Spaceman." There's also "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Turn, Turn, Turn," performed back to back (the two songs that initially established The Byrds) and concluding with a mesmerizing "Eight Miles High.