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The Byrds speak on

Ballad Of Easy Rider



John York - Bill Wasserzieher 1993

Roger really liked Terry (Melcher) who had a lot of ideas about the music. I remember he kept bugging me to play bass with a pick. I didn't want to do it but he persisted. Now when I listen to that record ('Ballad Of Easy Rider') I realise he was right. I think 'Jack Tarr' is just brilliant. It was a collection of ideas of how Terry and Roger thought it should sound. 

We were trying to do something different on that album. We were each supposed to bring in four songs that we really liked. In the shows we were pretty much doing the same 14 songs but after the gigs we'd play all sorts of things because of our different backgrounds. We started to sneak more things into the live shows and to Roger's credit, he was willing. We started to do 'Take A City Bride' and 'Long Black Veil'. In fact Roger asked me if I wanted to do 'Long Black Veil' on 'Ballad Of Easy Rider', but the Band's version had been so good there didn't seem to be any point.

I brought in 'Fido' - I wanted to get some r&b influence on the record. The idea was Gene Parsons would have a chance to do some kind od drum solo. The song's kind of like 'Quinn The Eskimo'. It didn't exactly come off the way I hoped it would - I've never done it since then - but it was an attempt to open things up a bit. I also brought in 'Going Way Behind The Sun' and Pamela Polland's song 'Tulsa County Blue', which I had been singing in our shows. I did one version but it wasn't used. Roger is on the record. My version is probably still in the vaults somewhere. Oddly enough, Terry Melcher owned the publishing on 'Tulsa County Blue' from when he did Pamela Polland's 'Gentle Soul' album.

Yes, 'Gunga Din' is about me. Gene wrote it about something that happened at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York. We always stayed there. In those days it was real silverware and cloth napkins and very snooty. They sure liked our money but they didn't like the boots and leather jacket I was wearing at the time. I wanted to take my mother to dinner but they wouldn't let us in the dining room. Normally I would have let it roll off my back, but because my mom was there I really went off and started screaming at the maitre d'. I don't know why Gene called me Gunga Din. He also used to call me John-Pierre from ze North Woods. He loved to do that in public. He'd yell it out across the room and pretty soon everybody would be addressing me as John-Pierre from ze North Woods. Gene's a great guy. I was always very flattered.