Just When Was “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” Released?

Apparently not on the same day as the Byrds’ “Younger than Yesterday”

Neal Umphred
Jun 27, 2019 · 9 min read
For this fantastic image of the former Byrd, I took a jpeg image of the original stereo copy of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers and altered the color balance using GIMP. (Image: personal collection)

GENE CLARK’S FIRST SOLO ALBUM came almost a year after his final record with the Byrds. For a long time, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers was considered rather lightweight, especially from the man who wrote songs such as “She Don’t Care About Time,” “Set You Free This Time,” and “Eight Miles High” while with the Byrds. The passing of time has been kind to Clark’s first album and now many long-time fans (such as me) and thousands of younger listeners consider it a gem!

It was one of the most remarkable recordings in rock and pop music history, a progenitor of jazz-rock (or fusion) and the first psychedelic record to be a major AM radio hit. This only made the commercial failure of Clark’s solo records all the more puzzling, at least to fans of Clark and the Byrds in the ’60s.

Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers was ignored by all but a few diehard fans for years. Fortunately, it has grown from having a small hardcore fan following to having a much larger critical and fan following over the past few decades.

When I researched this album for my previous article (“Why Isn’t Gene Clark in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame”), I came across one of two statements in almost every article that I read. They were:

  1. Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers was released on February 6, 1967, the same day that the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday was released.
  2. The simultaneous release of the Byrds and the Clark albums ruined any chance that Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers had for exposure and sales.

The first statement is incorrect, although not by much. The second statement is conjecture that really doesn’t hold up under any kind of scrutiny. I will address both of these below.

Let’s use Wikipedia as an example: The editors played it safe and merely listed February as the date of release for Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. They did state that it “appeared very close to the scheduled release date for the Byrds’ album Younger Than Yesterday in both the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Wikipedia also opined that the proximity of Clark’s album to the Byrds’ album was responsible for “hampering its possibilities for commercial success.”

Christopher Hjort’s So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star is a day-by-day account of the Byrds from 1965 through 1973. Hjort used hundreds of sources for his chronology, which is a must for Byrds aficionados. (Image: personal collection)

Tried so hard

Tracking down the exact date for the release of a record from the ’60s is difficult. Unless it was an artist like Dylan or the Beatles who received attention from the major media, there is little data to rely on.

Even paperwork from record companies can be inaccurate, as they tend to give the company’s scheduled release date. The actual release date was often delayed for various reasons.

The most reliable method today’s researchers have for establishing a release date from that decade is suing the notifications in the pages of trade publications. Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World generally listed a record as released only when they had a copy of the record on hand for review.

The major record companies usually released new records by major artists on a Monday. Given time to ship the records to reviewers and for the magazines to be published and shipped to stores, most of these records were reviewed in issues of Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World that were cover dated the second Saturday after the record’s release.

So the first review of an album in the trade magazines usually indicated that the album had been released twelve days earlier. That album would usually debut on the publication’s best-selling LP charts two or three weeks after being reviewed. That is, a new album by a major artist usually debuted on the best-selling album surveys approximately one month after being released.

So it was to these magazines that I turned for information on these albums. Let’s look at Younger Than Yesterday first, as it received a lot more attention than Gene Clark’s album.

Younger Than Yesterday (Columbia CL-2642, mono, and CS-9442, stereo). The stereo version of this album is my personal choice for the most beautiful cover design on any rock album. Ever. (Image: personal collection)

All this time between

Younger Than Yesterday was reviewed in the main review section (simply titled “Reviews”) in the March 4, 1967, issue of Billboard. (It is interesting to note that of the nineteen albums reviewed, only two others were rock album: The Electric Prunes and Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade.)

Here is the Billboard editor’s capsule review: “The Byrds will be riding high on the LP charts again with this top rock package. Their current hit single ‘So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star’ is included along with easy folk-rock treatments of ‘Time Between’ and ‘Back Pages’.”

Younger Than Yesterday debuted on Billboard’s Top LP’s survey on March 18, 1967, two weeks after being reviewed. Based on these two dates, Younger Than Yesterday had a probable release date of February 20, 1967.

In So You Want To Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star, Hjort listed the release date for the Byrds album as February 6, 1967 (page 119). But he noted that this was the stated release date and that “it’s likely the real issue date is not until the end of February at the earliest.”

Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (Columbia CL-2618, mono, and CS-9418, stereo). While I have always liked this cover photo and design, I’m not certain it was the best way to present an artist with little name recognition in 1967. A reference to the Byrds on the front cover might have made this more attractive to record buyers. (Image: personal collection)

Keep on pushin’

Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers was first listed in the January 28, 1967, issue of Billboard. It appeared in the New Release Inventory Checklist, which listed the first releases of 1967 from the major record companies.

It was first reviewed in the February 11, 1967, issue of Cash Box in the Pop Best Bets section. The editor wrote, “Gene Clark, formerly with the Byrds, is joined by the Gosdin Brothers on this set. The sound is folk-rock. Chanter Clark is backed up by guitars, bass, drums, and piano and harpsichord. The arrangement makes for compelling listening, and the disk should attract a large following.”

A week later, it was listed in the Four-Star Albums section of Billboard. That section was reserved for “new albums with sufficient commercial potential in their respective categories to merit being stocked by most dealers and rack jobbers handling that category.”

Using the Cash Box review, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers had a release date of no later than January 30, 1967. Of course, the Billboard checklist indicates that it could have been issued even earlier.

In So You Want To Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star, Hjort merely, and accurately, stated that the album would be released in January 1967 (page 109).

For this fantastic image of the four Byrds (Chris Hillman, Michale Clarke, David Crosby, and a Roger McGuinn), I took a jpeg image of the original stereo copy of Younger Than Yesterday and altered the color balance using GIMP. (Image: personal collection)

Thoughts and words

If my conclusions are correct—and I welcome anyone with better data or even a better “theory” to contact me via the comments section below—then Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers and Younger Than Yesterday were not released on the same day. They appear to have been released at least three weeks apart. Of course, a few weeks or the same day are still close together.

It is this proximity that forms the basis for the argument that the Byrds album hampered the possibilities for the commercial success of the Clark album. In his excellent biography of Gene Clark, John Einarson stated, “In a bizarre marketing move, Columbia released [Younger Than Yesterday] two weeks after Gene’s album, thereby dividing fans loyalties and dooming Gene’s chances to stand alone in the marketplace. Quite simply, his album was overwhelmed by the much better-known Byrds and Gene lost in the shuffle.” ( Mr. Tambourine Man, page 116).

This argument has been bandied about for decades, although I never understood the rationale. Why would a new Byrds album have any effect on a Gene Clark album? The loyalties of Byrds fans would have made them more likely to purchase Gene’s album or any solo Byrds venture at that time! It would seem to me that the best thing Columbia could have done was make as many connections between the Byrds and the Calrk album as possible—to make people aware that Gene Clark was an original Byrd.

During the ’60s, there was no “celebrity media” as we know it today. Aside from the Beatles (who were more popular than you-know-who) and maybe Mick Jagger, very few people knew the names of the members of even the most successful pop groups. For example, while Brian Wilson has been a familiar face for decades, even disc-jockeys failed to recognize his name on his first solo record (“Caroline No”) in 1966. And that was at the height of the Beach Boys’ popularity with radio stations and record buyers!

In 1967, the response of people who ran a record store when asked to order copies of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers would have been, “Who the heck is Gene Clark?”

It certainly wouldn’t have been, “Why should I stock a Gene Clark album when I already have the new Byrds album?”

The back cover of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers graciously listed the musicians, including Glen Campbell, Michael Clarke, Chris Hillman, Van Dyke Parks, Leon Russell, and Clarence White. Unfortunately, few record buyers knew who any of these guys were in 1967. (Image: personal collection)

I found you

There are many reasons for the lack of acceptance of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, notably that it didn’t feature a hit single. It was also one of the first forays into what would later be called country-rock, a year before Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

This was a time when rock music fans abhorred redneck music almost as much as country music fans hated longhair music. Except for an appreciation of Buck Owens and His Buckaroos due to the Beatles, most people who bought rock albums wouldn’t have touched a country album with the proverbial ten-foot pole!

Rather, a host of poor decisions appear to have hampered the success of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, from its title to its packaging. As few people knew Clark and no one but their family knew the Gosdins, why wasn’t the album titled something that hinted at Clark’s past, like First Flyte? Instead of listing the titles of eleven unknown songs on the front cover, why not a blurb calling attention to the first solo album by a member of the Byrds?

It is obvious that Columbia did not do a lot to promote Clark or the album. Perhaps Columbia had already thrown in the towel after the huge flop that was the album’s lead single, “Echoes.”

Perhaps the same problems that caused Clark to leave the Byrds manifested itself in his relationship with his record company. (Problems that would manifest themselves with almost every record company he worked with.)

Without name recognition, a hit single, or a big promotional campaign, why would anyone that owned a record store spend any of their limited budget on an unknown artist? We don’t need a magic bullet to explain the lack of success of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers anymore than we need one to explain JFK’s assassination. (And whoo boy is that another topic for another story.)

This ghastly cover for Collectors Series: Early L.A. Sessions adorned Columbia’s otherwise noteworthy effort to introduce Gene Clark’s earlier work to a new audience in 1972. (Image: personal collection)

Reissues

In the wake of the critical success of Clark’s second solo album White Light in 1971, Columbia reissued an altered version of the Gosdin Brothers album as Collectors Series: Early L.A. Sessions. Refer to “Why Isn’t Gene Clark in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” for more on that title.

Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers has been reissued several times on vinyl to meet the growing demand for the record. Those reissues include:

The Sundazed version includes three bonus tracks: an acoustic demo of “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” plus both sides of the unreleased single “The French Girl” and “Only Colombe” from later in 1967.

Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers has also been issued on compact disc in various countries. The Sundazed CD (still in mono) has two additonal bonus tracks, both outtakes from the original album.

Postscript

Thanks to Frank Daniels for research assistance and spiritual guidance.

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Thanks for reading! Below are links to a pair of articles that are essential to knowing what the Tell It Like It Was publication here on Medium is all about — mostly rock & roll music of the ’50s and ’60s.

Tell It Like It Was

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Neal Umphred

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Mystical Virgo and pragmatic liberal likes long walks alone in the rain at night with an umbrella and flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig.

Tell It Like It Was

Articles, essays, conversations, and reviews of music and records from the ’60s and beyond.

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