Former frontman with The Byrds, Roger McGuinn is a big, big coup for Glasgow's Big Big Country festival. He speaks about his legendary status.
Words: Kenny Mathieson
While Mayfest has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Big Big Country. master-minded by ex- Mayfest music director Billy Kelly. is notching tip excellent advance sales for a stronger than ever programme. The line-up includes a coup to place alongside last year‘s triumphant John Prine debut. in the shape of a solo gig from Roger McGuinn.
Before we get any further. the rumours that McGuinn will be accompanied by Teenage Fanclub are definitely spurious. The singer and guitarist will play a solo show which he says will be along the same lines as his recent Live Front Mars album. which is to say. an amusing guided tour through a long and colourful career.
If McGuinn‘s name inevitably conjures up the jingle-jangle Rickenbacker twelve-string sound of the classic Byrds records. there is a lot more to be explored. The show grew out of work on an autobiography he has been writing ‘for
these last several years‘. and it provides a number of
useful correctives to any Byrds myopia in its chronicle of his early days in the folk scene. and as a commercial songwriter working for Bobby Darin in the Brill Building. as well as his post-Byrds career.
‘I think it lets you see where I came from. and also where the sound of The Byrds came from.‘ he says. ‘That was certainly one of the more interesting
'I never tried to get away from that Byrds sound, because I always thought that it was my SOUl'Id.' Roger McGuinn
Roger McGuinn: a reputation with The Byrds
parts of my career — I enjoyed the experience. and hopefully we made some good music. but it wasn't really difficult to make the transition to being a solo artist.
‘I never tried to get away from that Byrds sound. because l'always thought that it was my sound. It was my twelve-string and my vocals. and I can’t get away from what I do. I’ve been touring steadily over the years. working mostly solo. although I did a band tour with the Back From Rio album in 1991. and I might do it again sometime. I don’t miss the band environment. though — my wife and I go on the road. and we have a ball.’
In the context of this festival. The Byrds’ historic role in the development of country rock is inescapable. launched by the .S'weetlieurts ()f The Rodeo album in 1968.
‘We started experimenting with that as far back as the Younger Than Yesterday album. Chris Hillman was very much into country and bluegrass. and I knew about it from folk music. When Gram Parsons came along. he and Chris wanted to do an entire album of country music. and I went along with that idea. The odd thing is that I hired Gram because he could play piano like McCoy Tyner — l was into that ‘Eight Miles High’ kind of Coltrane-influenced jazz sound. and he was pretty good. but then he turned into a country singer on me.
"l‘here was a great deal of resistance to it. both from the rock community and the country community — they didn‘t like it at all. They do now. though. Better late than never. I guess. You know. (‘larence White was a wonderful musician. and I sometimes worry that he doesn‘t get the credit he deserves. because everybody focuses on Gram Parsons.‘
Roger McGuinn, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Thurs 5 Jun.
preview MUSIC Bigmouth
From the mouths of babes . . .
'Although I accept the honour, in the name of rock 'n' roll, I decline to take part in this TV presentation and be trotted out like some cheap awards show. There are already too many of them.’
Neil Young, just says no to his second televised induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
'When I was a teenager I loved Venom, I loved Slayer. It was so fucking cool to be fourteen years old, smoking tons of pot, listening to Slayer and Venom and giving yourself a pentagram tattoo.’ Head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl relives those all too common adolescent experiences.
’I wound up in hospital one time. I just got totally beat up. I remember coming out of the hospital and the sky had this apocalyptic rust hue. Both my eyes were black, but you know. . . I didn't have many options at the time.’
Beck, believe it or not, recalls less ha/ycon days when gangs from the Lower East Side would jump him after poetry readings.
’l’m not interested in how many Quaaludes Iggy was taking. I don't want to hear about Keith Moon’s excess or Jerry Lee Lewis', because I can hear it in the music.’
Jason Pierce of Spiritual/zed
success fully dodges another question as to whether or not his new album is about his own life.
'D'ya wanna know what they do in Norway when it’s too expensive to drink? They get a tampon, soak it in pure alcohol and stick it up their arse.’
Dominic Aitchi'son, bassist with Glasgow’s Mogwai, shares some tips for DIY arse anaesthetics which he picked up on a recent trip to Norway.
‘50 Bob, do you still feel you’re the last of the rock 'n’ roll renegades,’ asks The Face.
‘You‘re taking the piss,’ replies Bobby Gillespie.
Primal Screain’s main man refuses to take himself too seriously. Primal Scream play Glasgow Green on Saturday 2 August with an option to play another date the next day as well.
3o May—12 Jun 1997 THE usus