top of page

Lady Friend - the Byrds

Taking time to properly remember Jeff Beck (see last nine posts), has left a small queue outside the Pearly Gates, headed by David Crosby who died on January 18th "due to complications from COVID 19".

Curiously, for a guy famously known for being awkward, argumentative and annoying, Crosby was one of the most liked musicians of the sixties and seventies West Coast music era.

Of the groups he was with, he was never anywhere near being the finest songwriter. In the Byrds, Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and even Chris Hillman were more prolific and wrote better songs; and if the supergroup in which he became most famous were to order the bandmember names in order of finest songwriter, it would probably be Young, Stills, Nash and Crosby.

This is not to say he didn't write some very fine songs - he just kept good songwriting company. And the reason for this was that he was an incredibly good at harmonising. His beautiful tenor and his treble harmonies were the knitting ingredients that glued together the disparate voices of both the early Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) into their distinctive sounds.

While the Beach Boys were often touted as the US's answer to the Beatles, the Byrds were more of a group and as such had more character about them, with four songwriters and arrangers (as opposed to the dominating presence of Brian Wilson). Crosby quarrelled with the other Byrds about all kinds of things, including his behaviour on and off stage, but the major bone of contention that caused his dismissal from the group after 5 albums in 1967, was that he wanted the band to record only their own original material. Presumably this would have meant that more of Crosby's songs would have made their albums.

His argument wasn't helped when the band released "Lady Friend", their first and only single solely penned by Crosby, which bombed, only reaching number 82 on the US chart.

The public were wrong. They should've gone out and bought it by the bucketload. The wonderful "wall of sound" of acoustic guitars, intense and flurried as a Flamenco, is counterbalanced with an urgent tune, signature Byrds harmonies and a Baroque brass section. I say "signature Byrds harmonies", but Crosby, in a typical huff , removed McGuinn and Hillman's vocals from the tape and did them all himself, and a damn good job he did too.

"Lady Friend" is basically an extended panic attack as the singer realises his lady friend is leaving him. It certainly makes the heart beat faster:

"Here it comes again it's going to happen to me here it comes I should have learned to duck she's going to say she's going away

and I will have to live without her and survive.....

.....Here it comes again the night is going to fall here it comes she's going to say good-bye she's going to go and leave only me

and I will have to live without her and survive."

Looking back, it's right up there with the best of 1967, no mean feat.


bottom of page