As the story goes, the Byrds invented country rock in 1968 with the arrival of new guy Gram Parsons, the album known as Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It didn’t sell that well. There were no big deal hit singles. Mr. Parsons himself would be gone before the next album, chasing his own particular dreams and oblivions. But it seemed to stick anyway – the notion of putting country’s yearning and twang in service of the rock. It certainly worked for You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, a Bob Dylan nugget from perhaps the world’s most famous basement, wherein winter’s a-howling and Genghis Khan is running low on sheep for his kings, but the times are good regardless.
Los Angeles, 1969, murder, mayhem, earthquakes, rumors of Armageddon, the whole city of angels falling into the Pacific, such that even on the 33rd Floor, beyond the gold plated door, the Lord’s almighty flame would find the wicked, and soon. Meanwhile, country rock was getting invented by a curious crowd of drugged out hippies in cowboy suits calling themselves the Flying Burrito Brothers. Good times.
“The experts say that Gilded Palace of Sin, the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, more or less invented so-called Country Rock. I say, it’s simply one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, pretty much flawless from beginning to end, with Christine’s Tune the twang-driven rocker that kicks it all off. And f*** you, heroin, for derailing what Gram Parsons was so gloriously up to.” (Philip Random)
Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway. Great song from a highly overlooked jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)
Apparently, the Goose Creek Symphony were rather a thing for a while, though what that thing was is still hard to figure. Not exactly country, not exactly rock (southern-fried or otherwise). Perhaps best to just drink a little wine, maybe mix it with other weird concoctions outa the holler, such that an easy little backwoods groove devours itself, goes all psychedelic, stumbles off unto imponderable dimensions, other important places.
“It must’ve felt very weird when the Flying Burrito Brothers first hit in 1969. Out of all the psychedelicized weirdness and envelope smashing wildness of the previous years comes … country rock!?!? My friend Motron’s theory is that it was all tied to the assassination of Martin Luther King – that up until springtime 1968, the big dream of All You Need Is Love was alive and well and thus the white man’s pilfering of the black man’s music was all just part of the shiny happy game. But after that – it just didn’t feel right anymore. And thus Nudie suits and pedal steel and so-lonesome-I-could-die ballads suddenly felt somehow relevant – the white man’s soul music, as it were. Bob Dylan, of course, was ahead of the game as usual, but it took Gram Parsons and crew (by way of the Byrds) to really make it a fact. And it’s all there on Gilded Palace of Sin – one of those albums that truly does not have a weak moment.” (Philip Random)
They called Rank + File cowpunk at the time of their first album, because key members, Chip and Tony Kinman had previously done time in punk contenders The Dils. But it was really just kickass countrified rock and roll. Big beat, lots of twang, and in the case of The Conductor Wore Black, a train to hell, like there’s anywhere else for a train to go.
Mike Nesmith being the Monkee that had genuine songwriting talent and thus a meaningful solo career, Some of Shelly’s Blues being a countrified ballad to make grown men (and women) weep.