One of the first bands I ever fell in love with was The Byrds. I will never forget the jingle jangle morning when I bought a ‘best of’ from Woolworths thanks to Janis Long playing ‘Everyone’s Been Burned’ on the radio the night before. I had never heard a band soar with three singer songwriters creating harmonies for the stars. Sky kissing glorious melodies, music aimed right at the soul. Shimmering perfect pop which went deep, each song stuck in your head for all eternity.
As time passed I delved further into their incredible discography and was soon entranced by the extraordinary music of Gene Clark, author of the band’s best songs on the first two albums. Gene’s extensive back catalogue offered a lifetime of listening.
I recently managed to catch up with the world’s biggest GC fan, New Yorker Neon Brambles, to pick up what’s she’s putting down. Neon has worked tirelessly to get Gene Clark inducted into the 'Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame'.
Welcome back to Underground Playground Neon! Many readers of the blog are big fans of both The Byrds and Gene Clark. Where and when did you first hear Gene ‘s music?
I first heard of Gene Clark when I was about 15. I love 60s music (Beatles, Dylan, Stones, etc.) and had heard The Byrds on the radio and decided to buy Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! at the old Tower Records store in Greenwich Village, NYC. This was in the 80s when CDs were becoming the ‘thing’ so I was able to buy a lot of vinyl cheap. I noticed that all of the songs that I loved the best were written by “G. Clark”! From that point on I was hooked!
Sounds familiar! What is about Gene that so captivates you?
Well other than the fact that he’s absolutely gorgeous and has a beautiful and unique singing voice, I would say it’s his song writing and the emotion that comes through in his singing. I’ve always found his early songs so sophisticated compared to what was out at the time. His lyrics can be so beautifully poetic like in “Only Colombe” or “Shooting Star” or they can weave little stories like “The Virgin” or mystical like “From A Silver Phial”.
The common thread running through all of Gene's songs is his delivery. He sings from the depths of his soul and you can hear it and feel it.
Amen to that. It’s been a passionate labour of love to get Gene inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Can you tell our readers a bit more about the project?
Well it all started about a year and a half ago when there was some discussion amongst Gene’s fans about what the best way to honour him would be. The conclusion was reached that honouring his song-writing seemed the most appropriate. So I started a petition on Change.org last year and received well over 2,200 signatures from all over the world, including some well-known supporters in the music industry who knew Gene or worked with him (Carla Olson, Leland Sklar, John York, James Talley and Andrew Loog Oldham to name a few).
Unfortunately, even with all this wonderful support and well over 2,000 signatures, we were unable to get him nominated. This year I’m picking up where we left off and am continuing to campaign for Gene with events like the #GeneClark50 concert series. I’m very hopeful that he’ll be nominated this year so please keep those signatures and comments coming and spread the word!
Colour Is Sound will support you all the way.
I wish I had the plane fare to fly over to New York for the #GeneClark50 show in February. Can you tell us who’s playing, why you put on the event and what’s likely go down?
The #GeneClark50 shows grew from a seed of an idea of how to bring awareness to Gene’s songs. February will mark the 50th Anniversary of the release of Gene’s solo debut Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers. When Gene’s solo album originally came out, it was released at virtually the same time as The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday which left him competing with his old band. Also, the addition of “with The Gosdin Brothers” to the title of his solo record was misleading and only confused people. It was Gene’s album – and it should have been marketed that way. Part of the reason for having these events is that I’m trying to correct a wrong that was done 50 years ago!
The South Pasadena show was organized by Saul Davis, (who happens to be Carla Olson’s manager and husband). That show’s lineup will have Carla Olson, John York (who was in The Gene Clark Group with Gene The Byrds and also Gene’s Byrds Tribute Group in the ‘80s), Peter Lewis from Moby Grape fame and Gene’s younger son Kai Clark, a musician and songwriter in his own right.
For the NYC event, Edward Rogers, who is also a musician, stepped up to organize the show. This show turned into something really special with artists like Marshall Crenshaw, The Kennedys, Cait O’ Riordan (The Pogues), Amy Rigby, Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Don Fleming, Deni Bonet, Stephanie Seymour, The Kennedys and so many more! I can’t tell what it means to see how many other singer-songwriters and musicians love Gene’s work.
Oh man, I really want to be there!! It’s going to be amazing.
What’s your favourite Gene Clark story?
There are actually quite a few Gene Clark stories or ‘legends’ that I like. One is the legend of Gene being able to break open a coconut with his bare hands! Another is when he saved Roger and David from being beat up by a couple of rednecks while on tour just by coming out of the shower with his shirt off! But I think one of the best is the story of how Gene witnessed a car accident and stayed with the girl who was injured holding her hand until the ambulance arrived. He even called the hospital the next day to check on her which is so touching.
I can’t even open a coconut with a hammer. What’s your favourite Gene Clark album and song and why?
That’s an impossible question to answer as it changes all the time depending on my mood and there are simply too many good ones to choose just one! My top 3 albums would have to be Echoes, the 1991 compilation of Gene's songs with The Byrds and the songs from Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark and White Light. I really can’t choose a favorite song so I’ll give you my top 3 from each of those Only Colombe, Something’s Wrong and The Virgin. (That was tough!)
What can the community of Gene Clark fans do to support your efforts to ensure Gene's legacy is secured in its rightful place as one of the best songwriters of all time?
It’s very simple really. For starters please sign the petition if you haven’t already and pass the word around. Tell your friends! You can also ‘like’ and follow our Facebook page Induct Gene Clark into theSongwriters Hall of Fame and/or follow Neon_Brambles which is my Twitter handle for all things ‘Gene Clark’. Colour is Sound has been a great support to this cause, so I thank you for all that you do and have done to help. This is exactly the kind of support we need to #GetGeneIn!
Thanks for your time Neon, its been brilliant as always, you can count on us to help #GetGeneIn!
So folks- lets spread the word!
Until next Friday
All the very best