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The Byrds speak on

Turn! Turn! Turn!


David Crosby - Byrdwatcher 1998

The first time we really talked. He (Pete Seeger) wrote us a letter after we did "Turn, Turn, Turn." McGuinn's got it. It says, (Adopts Pete voice again...) "You know, they used to do everything but burn crosses on my lawn for being a communist. Now they come around and ask for my autograph, and I just can't tell you how much good you've done me in this town, I really appreciate that. People like me again and I just really do appreciate that. You boys are wonderful boys..." (Gives up the impersonation, laughing.) It's a wonderful letter. He was just knocked out, you know.

Roger McGuinn - Modern Guitars Magazine 2006

I was a studio musician in New York. I did quite a few sessions with Elektra Records. And around 1963, Judy Collins was doing a session at the time. So, Jac Holzman (Founder, Elektra Records) had me recording on a Judy Collins album and I started playing on that track (Turn! Turn! Turn!). I ended up coming up with a lot of ideas and by the end of it she gave me a nice, very generous, credit as Musical Director.

Roger McGuinn - Vincent Flanders 1969

I love that song ('She Don't Care About Time'), I really do. I don't know why that never got on. That was for the Turn Turn Turn album, right? I think we had enough stuff already -- except that I'm not too happy with the last four cuts of that album. I'm sorry about Oh Susanna. That was a joke, but it didn't come off, it was poorly told. It was a private joke between Dylan and I, actually.
I was riffing with this song -- we were trying to rock anything and Stephen Foster was a funny thing to rock with. Dylan said, "Yeah, you gotta do that on your next album, right?" He didn't really think I would. He didn't think I had the guts to do it so I said, "OK" and I did it. It was a bomb. As far as I was concerned it didn't come out well. We could have done it much better. If we had, it would have been funny.

Roger McGuinn - HeatBeat 2007

The sound that I have on the electric twelve string came about because I played the five string banjo before I'd played the electric twelve string and so I'd developed a number of rolling pick patterns that I applied to the electric twelve string. So if you listen to the rhythm work on say, "Turn, Turn, Turn", you'll hear a rolling arpeggio pattern underneath. That's me playing the electric twelve string. Then I played the lead break on the G string going up and down the neck. We overdubbed the lead break part.

Roger McGuinn - musicangle 2004

(Jim) Dickson wanted 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' and Melcher wanted 'Turn, Turn, Turn'. Melcher snuck 'Turn' out and released it to the radio and it became a hit. It took about 75 takes to do that song. Michael couldn't keep a beat. That was a problem. Crosby and I worked out the intro; the chords and all that.
I used my fingernails (instead od fingerpicks), but I found that over the years fingernails were not reliable on the road because you'd be out and open the car door and they'd snap off and you'd have to play concerts that night. I used to carry fingerpicks for that kind of emergency, but now I use them full time. I use a Hurkow flat pick, 150. And I use Dunlop fingerpicks.
I remember the Beatles were in the studio for one of them (version of 'The Times They Are A-Changin'). That kinda put a lot of pressure on us. The other take is not a bad sounding track. I prefer the one that's not on the record.
'Oh, Susanna' was too silly and 'Wait and See' is a real bubblegum song, and 'If You're Gone' is kinda slow and boring. 'Satisfied Mind' belongs on a different album. Dylan liked 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune'. He put that on and said, "Hey, this sounds really good. This has some feeling. Before I heard you do this, I thought you were an imitator but this has some soul." It was a nice compliment.
'Turn' is strong, 'It Won't be Wrong' is strong. 'Set you Free', 'Weary Tune', 'He Was a Friend of Mine' and 'The World Turns All Around' are. You could almost leave off the rest of 'em.
Crosby just liked the book and he was writing a song about it ('Stranger In A Strange Land'). I think there were going to be words and he never got around to writing them, or we just didn't record the words. I don't know if there were words or not.

Chris Hillman - Musicangle 2004

'It Won't be Wrong', of course. At the time, I did not appreciate it when we did it. I thought it was kinda dull, and then, I listened to the lyrics, and I thought: what great lyrics. Maybe we didn't cut it right, maybe we didn't give Gene the musical support he needed to really showcase that music.
I think we did a real weak track to his great lyric. 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune': eccch, it doesn't knock me out. 'He Was a Friend of Mine' is pretty good. I'll be honest with you -- I like the way we recut it a lot. I think it's a better song, with the three-part harmony. It was more decent, especially with Roger, when we were older and able to understand the lyric better. I think the box set cut is really good. 'The World Turns All Around Her' is great. 'Satisfied Mind': ecch.
I sort of brought that in ('Satisfied Mind'), but it didn't come out the way it should have. I think we were all used to Hamilton Camp's version, on his solo, folk album. We should have listened to Porter Waggoner. That had a real, better thing on it. The last bunch of songs ... well, there's a couple of killer songs on this record and a bunch of stuff that was quickly recorded without a lot of though put into it.
I remember Jim Dickson did not want us to do 'Turn, Turn, Turn'. He said that that would be our last number one single, and it was. I don't know why, because the song is more known throughout the world for The Byrds, more than "Tambourine Man."
Especially with the Forrest Gump thing. It's really gotten a lot of mileage. 'It Won't Be Wrong' is a pretty good tune. That was going to be the single. That's a great song. 'She Don't Care About Time' I've always loved.
I think we shouldn't have bothered with that song ('The Times They Are A-Changin')
It ('Turn, Turn, Turn') took a lot of takes, but remember that we were in a union room, and these guys ... this was the era when engineers wore white shirts and ties, and they'd take union breaks. As soon as you were ready to do another take, it would be their break time and they would take a half hour break.
 ('Oh Susanna' is) a waste of tape. I mean, it really was. I can safely say that. Why? What does that mean? It meant nothing. But, I could sit here and nit-pick everything I've done. I can always find something. You go, "Why'd I do that?" But this one -- a waste of time. It was a situation where we were under pressure and rushed. Every guy that you would talk to, there's only three of us left, but they would have a different take on this. We remember different things. Everyone you shared an experience with would remember different things. I remember Roger was putting his little book together, and he was saying, "What happened in South Africa?" And I'd tell him things, and he wouldn't remember that. He would tell me things, and I would say, "I don't remember doing that."
I think around Turn... we were probably having some problems. We were all strong, creative people. I'm sure the ingredients were there for us to react. Every other group, every other act -- what, two survived? The Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones just deal with it as straight business. They get together when they want to do something, and the Beach Boys are all candidates for extensive therapy.
My great analogy is: five guys, and everybody has a paintbrush and we're all trying to paint the Mona Lisa. And, it comes out a little differently and tempers flare.
I think I'm on 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune (singing)'. I think in the blend, there.

David Crosby - Musicangle 2004

(Gary) Usher doesn't know his nose from his asshole, okay? And what's his name, the actress' (Doris Day) son Terry Melcher was even worse- a total idiot. They were all idiots and the Columbia union engineers that used to take breaks in the middle of a song and stuff? They were idiots. All flaming idiots! Dickson wasn't much better because he had a terrible temper and an enormous ego and built up such a core of resentment in us, it made a non-functional situation. You'll notice we did the best work by ourselves....Let's see, one of them was still around on Turn! Turn! Turn! right?
What a f....., what a dick! (Melcher) He's the one who put that idiot organ part on 'He Was A Friend of Mine'.
I thought that was a brilliant thing ('She Don't Care About Time'). You got me.
They (the producers) had entirely too much say about that. We had some say. Dickson had some say. And the producers who knew nothing had a lot of say in it.

Roger McGuinn - CD Liner Notes 1996

It (Turn! Turn! Turn!) was a folk song by that time, but I played and it came out Rock'n Roll because that's what I was programmed to do, like a computer..... We thought it would make a good single. It had everything: a good message, a good melody, and the heat was there.
It was 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' that finally convinced Dylan that we were really something. I was at this apartment in New York and Dylan came up to me and said 'Up until I heard this I thought you were just another imitatorn... but this has got real feeling to it. That was the first time he'd realized that I could do something really different to his material.
I wrote that song (He Was A Friend Of Mine) the night John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963). I suppose you could say it's one of the earliest Byrds songs. The arrangement used was as I'd always sung it. I just thought it was a good idea to include it on the album.

Gene Clark - CD Liner Notes 1996

When I reached my room (after an evening spent with Paul McCartney at a British club in 1965) I got out my acoustic guitar and started picking out a tune (Set You Free This Time). In a couple of hours I was finished, literally. I slept for a full 12 hours after that.

Roger McGuinn - John Einarson 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 2005

I was a Pete Seeger fan and a Beatles fand and mixing the two. Actually Pete liked what we did back when we recorded it and sent me a long letter saying that he really enjoyed the arrangement of it. He said' Dear Byrds. I liked your rendition of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" very much. I thought it retained artistic integrity. My only musical query was why you didn't repeat the first verse again?' and obviously the answer to that is because of time. We wanted it playable on the air. As the years have gone by he's been sending me letters that he's really gotten into it. It's totally different from his arrangement, but he loved it.

Gene Clark - John Einarson 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 2005

One of the problems we had by the release of the second album was the animosity growing amongst the group. Especially about me, because I was making a lot more money than anybody else from the royalties.

Chris Hillman - John Einarson 'Mr. Tambourine Man', 2005

"Set You Free This Time" I couldn't figure out until years later how good a song it was. I was honing in on the melody and the groove instead of the lyrics at the time. It was very Dylanesque.