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Verse Chorus Verse: “The Airport Song” – The Byrds

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I have a hunch people of my generation have a very different view of David Crosby than our parents do. For us, Crosby was a walrus-looking dude who seemed like one of those former hippies who liked to be interviewed so he could tell the rest of us what disappointments we were and how much better everything was in the '60s. Maybe I'm the only one who got that vibe, but I took a pretty strong dislike to him.

In college, I worked at a classic rock station and we played some Crosby, Stills, & Nash (as well as CSN&Y) and it really didn't do much for me. I don't like Neil Young for a lot of the reasons I associate with Crosby and I've never been able to like Neil's voice. It didn't work for me and I pretty much chalked them up as one of those legendary bands I just was not going to like.

I still feel that way but I've softened on David Crosby. A little. It was a perfect storm of events that brought it about. I had been listening to a lot of Tom Petty and reading interviews with him wherein he praised The Byrds profusely. Then, in a pricing glitch, ("Satan") Best Buy sold a new Byrds box set There is a Season for $29.99. I decided to take a chance on it.

As I listened, I've got the opportunity to find something to appreciate about Crosby. I still haven't done enough research to make judgments about Crosby the songwriter, but I have heard enough to declare him one of the finest male vocalists ever.

"The Airport Song" is beautifully breezy and melancholy and that can be traced mainly to a Crosby lead vocal that is emotive without being overwrought. It's brilliant singing and this is a song that pre-dates The Byrds. In other words, he was that good that early in his and the band's development. He's a freak of nature. This is California, folk-jazz-pop at its absolute best.

"The Airport Song" would not likely have been a radio hit, but it would have given their great debut Mr. Tambourine Man even more depth. The song finally saw light of day on a rarities collection, and was released on the There is a Season box set.

In bands like The Byrds and CSNY, bands where there are several great voices, it can be hard to focus on one. The Byrds recorded some of the most amazing harmonies and Crosby is a huge part of that. With songs like "The Airport Song," he stepped far enough out front that I was able to appreciate his voice as a lead instrument.

David Crosby, I never knew thee.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Jack Warner

    Crosby wrote all the “weird stuff” while in the Byrds and that was one of the reasons why he was thrown out of the band. After which he went on the greater fame with CNY(&Y). But please check out his solo album from 1971: “If I Could Only Remember My Name”. It’s an exceptional album that still holds up today…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Roger McGuinn was the voice on most of the Byrds hits.

  • Matt

    Supposedly Mr. Crosby’s debut solo album, (suggested already by Mr. Warner), is a sadly overlooked classic. I’ve been meaning to pick it up and give it a spin.

    Regardless of your overall distaste for CSNY, Neil, etc., these were(are) some of the finest songwriters on the planet.

    Also, I remember thinking of Crosby as this walrusy dude like you, but he was quite the pretty-boy in his day, very attractive to the ladies.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Like I said, some of this has to do with the point where you walk in the door. The box set has some vintage pictures of he and the band from way back when and he indeed looks different, not that looks have anything to do with the music.

    I’ve only ever heard the “hits” from CSN and CSN&Y and I couldn’t get myself into them. There’s a difference between not getting into them and thinking they’re bad. I don’t think any of the four of them suck, but I just can’t seem to get into them all that much. I’ll have to check out the first Crosby solo record, though. I might have to give it a whirl and see where I get with it.

    Yeah, McGuinn voiced a lot of the hits and he was great (although the harmonies with the other guys were a big part of what sold them). I’m still a huge fan of the Gram Parsons Sweetheart stuff, although even there McGuinn sang a lot (much to Parsons’ dismay). I’ve got the deluxe edition of that record and got to hear some of the Parsons versions of songs McGuinn sang on the official record. Parsons was tough to beat on that material.

  • zingzing

    “I’m still a huge fan of the Gram Parsons Sweetheart stuff, although even there McGuinn sang a lot (much to Parsons’ dismay).”

    that’s not quite the way it happened. parsons was in the band all of a few months (pretty much just for the recording of the album), and was still contracted to another record company, which threatened to sue if his vocals were heard on the record. so his vocals were erased from the masters and replaced with mcguinn’s. mcguinn himself later pointed people to the box set because they needed to hear the original vocals.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Parsons was, in fact, unhappy about being replaced. I didn’t mean to imply that McGuinn was the villain but he was unhappy about having his voice removed. Parsons was said to not fully believe that was the reason they were removed even though it was true there were contractual issues at play.

    Either way, McGuinn and Parsons are both great. I like the Parsons’ versions of Sweetheart songs but Roger did a good job on the ‘official’ versions and obviously did great work over the course of the band’s career.

  • zingzing

    i’m sure he was unhappy. who wouldn’t be? to have your voice all over a seminal record (i’m sure they knew how important it was even before it was released) and then to see them removed because someone else (happens to be lee hazelwood of nancy sinatra, cowboy in sweden fame) gets greedy? oi. harsh blow.

    but i think parsons was just being paranoid. what with parson’s prodigious drug use and privileged upbringing… it was money that did this, not mcguinn or any other byrd, or at least it doesn’t seem so to me based on mcguinn’s negative reaction.

  • Josh Hathaway

    I have no problem believing chemistry was involved in addition to record company bullshit. There are probably a plurality of factors that led to it.