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Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds' Gene Clark (Book) Paperback – February 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879307935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879307936
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"For Gene, it was all about the lyrics," states Einarson at the outset of his latest book on rock music. Einarson devotes several pages to exploring Clark's gene pool, dwelling on the singer's Native American blood. The tale spins on through Clark's recording of "Blue Ribbons" at the age of 14 to his move to California in 1963, when he joined the New Christy Minstrels. Einarson gives background on the musicians who, with Clark, would form The Byrds, focusing on their influences and the Folk music scene that brought them together. About a third of the volume is devoted to Clark's time with The Byrds, their formation, internal power struggles and reactions to sudden fame and fortune, often describing Clark as the "country boy in the big city." The rest of Einarson's story covers less familiar territory, including Gene Clark & The Group and the singer/songwriter's time with the Firebyrds in the 1980s, as Clark swam uneasily through the music world, keeping his head above water until his death from alcohol at the age of 46. The chatty prose is easy to read, and much of the book is quoted material from interviews with Clark's friends and relatives, who gave detailed accounts of personal relationships and contributed previously unpublished photographs. What emerges is a portrait of a talented, troubled man who was underappreciated as an artist, which Einarson attempts to remedy by stressing Clark's songwriting achievements. It's ironic, then, that Einarson chose his title from a song Clark did not pen. 30 b&w photos.
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Gene Clark not only made great music, he also had a complex and often tragic life story.
Amazon Customer
This book was very interesting, very factual, and very difficult to put down once I started reading it.
Alias
I just finished reading this book and would highly recommend it for any Gene Clark/Byrds fan.
Rod W. Cook

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I was listening to the radio a week ago, I heard the Byrd's, I'm Going to Feel a Whole Lot Better." It was a totally Proustian moment for me, and I was suddenly transported back years to when I first heard that wonderful song. I thought about the handsome singer/ writer who wrote it, and suddenly wanted to find what I could about him, and the Byrds. I found this wonderful book, and read it in one sitting.

Gene Clark wrote that tune, and many, many others. He was one of the founding 5 members of the Byrds, a group that was often referred to as the "American Beatles" when they starting performing in the mid 1960's.

Clark left the Byrds dramatically after just a couple of albums, both because of internal problems within the group, and because of emotional problems of his own. (i.e. His notorious "fear of flying," made ironic in a group called the Byrds.)

In this book, Einarson argues that Clark was probably bipolar, and may have improved given proper medications. But at that time, on his own, with all his fame and money, he self-medicated himself with drugs and booze. Lots of booze.

Although he wrote so many wonderful songs, because of all of his problems Clark was unable to turn his genius into commercial success. As you read the story of his life, you can't help but feel frustrated with his string of bad luck, but more so with his behavior that caused him to burn so many bridges and sabotage any chances he had.

This is a terrific biography, and highly recommended for anyone who has wondered about what happened to Gene Clark. One small complaint is that I would've liked to have seen more pictures of family and friends.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Brad Averill on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I notice that, as of the time I write this short review, John's biography of Gene Clark gets 5 stars from 6 of 7 reviewers and 1 star from 1 reviewer. Don't let the 1-star review mislead you. He is not really disappointed by the book. He is disappointed by the reality of Gene Clark's life. And that is what this book does an excellent job of conveying. John Einarson goes into the minute details of Gene Clark's life. It wasn't pretty, but the story is compelling. John does not glamourize the rock star life. He doesn't editorialize nor hyperbolize. He simply tells the story. I am truly impressed by the research that John did for this book, and he does an excellent job of laying out the story. The book is readable. It never seems like a star "tell-all". It is simply the story of Gene Clark. I recommend it highly. I have read several of John Einarson's books about folk rock and country rock artists, and I think this is his best.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Gene Clark seemed like a lost soul. One of the guiding lights of The Byrds and the best songwriter/singer in the band, Clark left the band due to ego, conflicts and infighting. Unfortunately, after his soaring success with The Byrds his solo career and later bands never quite took off. John Einarson's terrific biography of Gene features vintage interviews with Clark (he died in 1991), new interviews with his former bandmates, family members and managers to create a picture of a restless creative spirit who clearly wasn't comfortable with the trappings of fame or his own skin for much of his life.

Originally the most prolific songwriter in The Byrds and their main focal point, Clark was pushed out of the band by Roger McGuinn and David Crosby as they wanted to write more and sing more. It didn't help that their manager saw McGuinn as the "voice" of the band (he did sing on their most popular singles). After a disasterous reunion in 1973, Clark continued his solo career producing the legendary "No Other" album (which still has mixed reactions to this day). The lack of self confidence and set backs that Clark faced (including his stalled solo career) kept him from achieving a sense of balance in his life.

My only criticisms of the book is a lack of a detailed discography (particularly of the numerous unreleased tracks that Clark recorded)and a list of all his published songs. Also, the book could have used more photos. Despite this minor flaw, Einarson (who has written for Mojo, Uncut and other music magazines)creates a complete picture of this frequently troubled but talented musician.

Music to listen to while reading this: The first three Byrds albums, Clark's Echoes, Roadmaster, White Light (aka Gene Clark), No Other, So Rebellious a Lover (with Carla Olson)and the reissue of the Clark-McGuinn-Hillman album.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nina Bennett on September 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was hooked from John Einarson's statement in the introduction that for Gene Clark it was all about the lyrics. Einarson's meticulous research into Gene Clark pays homage to the introspective, troubled soul who produced some of the most haunting, memorable lyrics to come out of the 60s and 70s. Clark was unable to maintain the success achieved by the Byrds, and his efforts to throw off the label of "ex-Byrd" continued throughout his life. Einarson explores Clark's impoverished childhood and the impact it had on his inability to cope with fame and fortune. He details Clark's frustration with the music industry, as well as his continual struggle with substance abuse. Einarson makes no attempt to excuse or romanticize Clark's drinking and drugging as part of the times, but instead portrays the reality of a musical genius destroyed by his own demons.

Einarson has amassed an incredible number of interviews which offer a great deal of insight into Clark. Clark family members, including his two sons, are quoted frequently. Although many legendary musicians were interviewed, Einarson maintains his focus on Gene Clark. It is fitting and ironic that the spotlight Clark so studiously avoided shines directly on him in this amazingly detailed biography.

Those of us who spent hour after hour listening to the Byrds and dissecting their music found it incomprehensible that Gene Clark could have simply walked away. The perspective of time, life experience, and this book helps us to empathize with the desire of an insecure singer/songwriter to be heard and appreciated.
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