Gene Clark’s story is one that legends in modern music, any genre or style are built upon. From humble background to fame and fortune, to substance abuse (quite a few of those), to recovery, back to substance abuse and a premature departure. From co-founding a legendary band like The Byrds, becoming one of the progenitors of country-rock and americana music as it is today, to brilliant solo artist, with on and off downfalls along the way.
Whichever way you look at it, Gene Clark’s songwriting legacy is one of the strongest in americana music. Picking just ten songs that can be characterised as his best is actually more about trying to find weak ones. That actually turned out to be a bigger problem when making this selection.
Number 10: ‘Rain Song’ from ‘Firebyrd’ (1984)
Even in his late eighties output, which showed signs of personal wear and tear, Clark was able to come up with strong songs that would be considered among the best for lesser artists, like this nugget from ‘Firebyrd’ (1984), his penultimate album.
Number 9: ‘Roadmaster’ from ‘Roadmaster’ (1973)
Soulful Americana? Got it here for sure. The title song from his initially neglected album from 1973 is now hailed as the masterpiece that it is.
Number 8: ‘For A Spanish Guitar’ from ‘White Light’ (1971)
If there was an artist whose solo albums didn’t get the attention they deserved at the time they were released (or not released at all), then it is Gene Clark. ‘White Light’ (1971), from which this exemplary tune comes from is now considered to be one of the best singer/songwriter albums ever.
Number 7: ‘Tried So Hard’ from ‘Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers’ (1967)
‘Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers’ (1967) is always (and should be) on the list of albums that are considered as key to the development of Americana music as it is today. Clark at his songwriting best.
Number 6: ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’ from The Byrds ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ (1965)
How do you give The Beatles sound an American feel and come up with one of the best jangle pop songs ever? Easy, if you are a songwriter like Gene Clark, coming up with one of the biggest hits for The Byrds.
Number 5: ‘Past Addresses’ from ‘Two Sides to Every Story’ (1977)
Even in his later output, again from one of his initially neglected classic albums, ‘Two Sides To Every Story’ (1977), Clark exemplifies what it means to transfer personal experiences into a brilliant song.
Number 4: ‘Silver Raven’ from ‘No Other’ (1974)
No wonder Clark’s son picked up this song as the title track for his recent tribute album to his father. One of the best tracks from ‘No Other’ (1974) is one of the best americana albums recorded so far.
Number 3: ‘Train Leaves Here This Mornin’ from Dillard & Clark ‘The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark’ (1968)
From ‘The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark,’ (1968) another classic americana album and certainly one of the most covered of Clark’s songs, and rightfully so.
Number 2: ‘Eight Miles High’ from The Byrds ‘Fifth Dimension’ (1966)
Practically all of the original members of The Byrds claim they wrote this one, so they settled to credit it to McGuinn, Crosby and Clark, although the stories go that Clark had the biggest hand in it. Whatever the case, it is one of the best psychedelic tunes around.
Number 1: ‘No Other’ from ‘No Other’ (1974)
The title song from his best solo album and a certain contender for one of the best americana albums made so far. It is Gene Clark at his masterful songwriting best, as simple and as uncomplicated as that.
So what got left out of the list? It is actually a practically endless list itself – ‘Here Without You’, ‘I Knew I’d Want You’, ‘Set You Free This Time’, ‘She Don’t Care About Time’, ‘She Darked the Sun’ and it goes on…
I think Gene is one of those rare artists who justifies a second Top 10 with no real drop in quality. Just a thought Ljubinko.
I totally agree, Martin!
Life’s greatest fool!
I grew up on Gene Clark and the Byrds in the 60’s what great music. It was sad to see what addiction can do to a person. He died way too soon.