Monday, November 22, 2021



Hey Joe by the Byrds on their1966 Fifth Dimension album. This song was recorded by too many bands over the decade, and there is not much difference among the 50 or so versions I'm aware of. But the Byrds version is unique concerning the tempo, which is jacked to nearly punk-pogo dynamics and David Crosby's vocal, which is breathless and sounds winded and excited on adrenaline as would a criminal who had, as the lyrics let on, shot his wife. Forget sultry and soulful writer of the ballads Everyone's Been Burned or Guinivere, the tunes of sensitive minstrels rhyming away life's ironies. Hey Joe is a blunt revenge fantasy, and Crosby sounds wicked, a man who wants blood. But the biggest payoff is Roger McGuinn's twelve-string work, which aligns itself with that Coltrane-inspired note clustering he did for Eight Miles High. He riffs throughout the tune, swift, jabbing riffs, odd chord accents, more jabbing and dissonant riffing, a busy counterpoint to the pulsing bass, the earnest cowbell throughout, the bated vocalisms: this has the drama that comes at that moment when watching a two-story house on fire and the structure collapses in unredeemable sparks. This is the best version of the song ever released.

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