written by Steve Roeser
from Goldmine June 28, 1991
Gene Clark's last performance took place about a mile or so from the spot
where the Byrds took off from 27 years ago- Ciro's nightclub on Sunset
Boulevard in Los Angeles. Clark was booked for a five night stint in
mid-April at the Hollywood Cinegrill in the Roosevelt Hotel, right across
the street from the celebrated Chinese Theatre. Fresh from his January
induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the five original
Byrds (hotel marquee above Hollywood Boulevard had only Clark's name without
associating him with the famed group), this extended gig should have been a
memorable one for this outstanding singer/songwriter. But for whatever
reason, hardly anyone came to see him.
When I saw Clark's appearance advertised, never having seen him perform
before, I knew that I had to make it my business to go. On opening night, a
Tuesday, Clark was scheduled to do two shows. (Admission was $15.). I showed
up about mid-way through his first set, inquired about a ticket to the
second show, and sat in the hotel lobby. As I listened to the strains of
"I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" and other familiar tunes through the
nightclub door, I realized that no crowd was gathering for the second set at
10 P.M. When the music stopped, the club manager came out and informed me
that the second show had been canceled due to the attendance. To call it a
low turnout would be an understatement. It was almost as if no one had been
informed that Gene Clark was playing here.
I walked inside the club, where Clark--decked out in gray tails and tie
over jeans and cowboy boots-- was mingling with a few friends. There were
maybe two or three dozen people all told inside the room, including
documentary filmmaker Andrew Solt and his girlfriend and Steve Hochman, a
music writer from the Los Angeles Times. "By this weekend, this place'll be
packed," I overheard Clark, his eyes twinkling, say to his friends.
The next night, I showed up again-- this time for the opening set. I had
no problem getting a table up close to the small stage. Just like the night
before, attendance was at a minimum. But it wasn't until Clark walked up
there with his acoustic guitar that I realized it didn't matter what number
of people were there to hear him play. This man was an artist and he had a
job to do. Maybe precisely because so few people had come to see him. Clark
seemed content on giving his all for those who had.
Joined by his lead guitarist playing softly and tastefully beside him,
Clark began his set with several slow and mournful songs about lost love.
One of these was "Here Without You" which, like "I'll Feel A Whole Lot
Better," appeared on the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man album. In spite of the
sadness Clark was communicating, his singing was so heartfelt it was
uplifting. When he'd completed this group of tunes, Clark took off his
guitar and cracked offhandedly: "All right, let's get the band up here. Come
on, band." The drummer, bass player and keyboard player who then joined
Clark and his guitarist on stage were unknown to me, but I will say this:
these guys were the definition of what the word "band" means. And Clark was
one hell of a bandleader.
They launched into a rollicking uptempo number that had Clark, thin as a
rail and coiled like a spring. bouncing like a jackrabbit to music that was
absolutely irresistible. From that point on, Clark had every person in that
room entranced by his gigantic talent. Here was a performer who could
sincerely take you from the depths of sadness to the core of unbridled rock
'n' roll joy in the space of a few minutes-- and make you feel the essence
of those two extremes. He paced the rest of his soulful hour- long set like
that, pouring out the full complement of human emotions.
Clark's brooding, almost dirge-like, reading of "Eight Miles High" was
certainly a highlight, as was his careful interpretation of Dylan's "I Shall
Be Released." But nothing topped his singing on "Don't Let Me Down," one
of the finest renditions of a Beatles song I've ever heard anyone do. Only
a songwriter as gifted as Clark could fully appreciate John Lennon's
sentiments as he sang the lines: "I'm in love for the first time, don't you
know it's gonna last/ It's a love that lasts forever, it's a love that has
Clark rocked out a bit more with the band on some of his underrated solo
material, before closing with, "Mr. Tambourine Man." Someone suggested that
Clark's friend, actor David Carradine (seated out front), join him in
singing the Dylan song the Byrds had helped turn into a classic. "No, I want
to hear you sing it," Carradine said. But Clark got everyone to sing along
with him anyway.
No doubt the turnout was a little better for Clark's weekend shows. But
they should have been adding shows, turning people away and extending his
engagement. It was a shame. It's hardly possible that a live performer that
week in Los Angeles had as much to give an audience as Clark did and was so
completely willing to give.
Certainly Clark was luckier than many '60's rockers, in that he'd written
a handful of memorable songs that were still favored by recording artists
right up to the present. Tom Petty included "Whole Lot Better" on his Full
Moon Fever album (Johnny Rivers also did it on his Blue Suede Shoes album)
and Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey recorded "Here Without You" for their
recently- released Mavericks album. The inclusion of ten of Clark's songs
on the Byrds boxed set also ensured that he wouldn't starve. But it was
obvious that Clark's business about protecting the rights to his songs was a
separate issue from the passion he had for his music and playing that music
for people. He proved that during his last stand in Hollywood, the place
where the Byrds made it big.
from Goldmine June 28, 1991
written by Steve Hochman
from the Los Angeles Times
Ex-Byrd Soars on his Own at Cinegrill
Wearing gray tails and tie, Byrds co-founder Gene Clark looked as if
he'd come straight from the group's January induction into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame as he began a five-night run at the Cinegrill on
You couldn't blame him if he wanted to draw attention to the accolade.
He's been largely shut out of the Byrd's glory over the years--a
secondary figure to Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby, even
though he was at least as integral to the band's pioneering folk-rock in
its formative heyday.
But the show Tuesday wasn't about the past. Clark did make a couple of
references to Ciro's, the Hollywood club where the Byrds played in the
mid 60's, and made a territorial claim on "Eight Miles High" and "I'll
Feel A Whole Lot Better," the only two Byrds songs he performed in the
But that was it for the Byrds ties. Where McGuinn's recent music has
invited us to bask in the eternal youth and freshness of the Byrds,
Clark instead reminded of the toll of the time between then and now--his
craggy face and tired eyes matched his weathered voice and weary tunes.
Yet there was a sense of triumph, confidence and even freshness in his
First, acoustic, then with a loose but solid four-piece band and later
to duet with sometimes collaborator Carla Olson, Clark concentrated on
material from his 25 post-Byrd years, a catalogue of involved, involving
and evocative folk-country songs that may be the richest of the various
The biggest toll on the years may be obscurity, the opening-night show
drew only a few dozen people. But Clark, who continues through Saturday,
took that in stride. Before singing Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" to
end the show, he noted, "I remember Ciro's the first night. The Byrds
walked out on stage and there were about 10 people, and they all left.
But two weeks later, there were lines down the street."
written by Steve Hochman
for the Los Angeles Times