Mar 122011

Happy Monday! Coming down’s a bitch, ain’t it? As much as I am turned off by Roger McGuinn, I feel bad for the guy in these early ’70s performances, watching him try to hold onto his dream of The Byrds—and all the knowing, mop top, granny glasses insights that came with the band’s initial territory—with a group of musicians who couldn’t care less.


  15 Responses to “The End of the Line”

  1. Did you read some of the comments? This was recorded in Memphis in 1970 for a local TV show when The Byrds and Steppenwolf came through town to promote the easy rider soundtrack.

    My wife and I were just thinking about all of the early 1970’s Jesus songs the other night.

  2. shawnkilroy

    better than Chestnut Mare

  3. BigSteve

    Lip-syncing is a bitch.

  4. misterioso

    Talk to me, shawnkilroy. I know Chestnut Mare is vaguely ridiculous, but I find it tremendously compelling and I get caught up in it every time I hear it. Plus, when I was a kid, the first time I heard it I thought for sure it was by Tom Petty.

  5. I’m with you, misterioso. It’s one of the most-compelling bad songs ever, although I was pleased that this post got shawnkilroy thinking about that song. I know how much he hates it, and as I watched these performances, from around the same time, I thought of kilroy slamming “Chestnut Mare.”

  6. If it’s compelling, how can it be “bad”? Compelling is about as much as we can expect from a pop song.

  7. BigSteve

    I guess a song about a horse is vaguely ridiculous, but I saw the version of the Byrds in this video clip play live (72?), and I guarantee you it brought the house down. When I saw McGuinn play later in his Thuderbyrd incarnation (77?), same thing.

  8. misterioso

    Hank Fan, I agree that there is an apparent paradox here. Mod can say what he means, but for me, the badness lies in the–I guess one would call it–pretentiousness/silliness/sexism of the extended horse-as-woman or woman-as-horse conceit. (Whether this can be blamed on McGuinn or co-writer Jacques Levy, who later co-wrote most of Desire with Dylan, is anyone’s guess. And I realize, too, that the horse/woman thing is not an original sin of this song.)

    But compelling for the beauty and grandeur of the performance.

    Original version, with nice pictures of horsies, here

    Interesting but truncated live version, with floating German fraulein talking over the opening, here McGuinn seems like he may be floating, too, but in a different way.

  9. BigSteve

    I don’t think it’s a metaphor. The song is about a cowboy and a horse. Sometimes a mare is just a mare.

  10. Sorry, I missed this comment by Hank Fan until now. I hate having to resort to the dictionary, but in case I didn’t understand my choice of words I did:

    1. Evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.

    So for me, I think it’s about as proud and enthusiastic a last stand by an artist whose time has passed as, say, “Kokomo.” It’s almost as catchy as any great Byrds song from their peak years, but then McGuinn sings, “And we’ll be friends for life/She’ll be just like a wife,” and I crack up. That’s just a BAD line. If I could write a line that bad purposely I would, just so I could make the world smile. I don’t think that was McGuinn and Levy’s plan, but for me it brings healing, empathetic laughter. Life can be a joke, sometimes, and this song embraces it.

    I also admire loyalty and commitment to vision, even an artist’s vision that’s waning. I honestly find the song sad and feel more in tune with Roger McGuinn, an artist who usually bugs the crap out of me, than ever. In this way the song is also compelling, if “bad.” In my opinion.

  11. shawnkilroy

    i’ve only seen that live TV version of it. i don’t object to the song itself or it’s premise (the horse). I object to the drug addled beard rockers who are noodling all over it and the notion that Roger thought it was alright to call them The Byrds.

  12. shawnkilroy


  13. shawnkilroy

    the word “jerk” above is out of context. it didn’t land where i wanted it to. hahahaha, sorry bout that.

  14. shawnkilroy

    and yes, i too think it’s “kokomo” bad.

  15. Sometimes you just need the line to rhyme.

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