"John and Michi were getting kind of itchy, just to leave the folk music behind."
As every 1960s schoolboy probably knew, the line opened Creeque Alley, a quirkily pleasing Mamas and Papas song which, when not bidding farewell to folk, generally name dropping or commenting on Cass Elliot's weight, told us of the effects of exotic substances on Roger McGuinn and Barry McGuire.
It may or may not have been possible McGuinn and McGuire to get higher in LA ("you know where that's at") than as described in the song. But to fans of 1960s West Coast music, they didn't come much cooler. Already into folk and folk-rock, I liked McGuire and loved McGuinn's Byrds.
And recently I was reminded of how much I loved them when Eileen Jennifer, administrator of a Facebook group I belong to, 60s 70s Folk Music, posted an audio clip of the band's track Just a Season. This appeared on the 1970 Untitled album and as the flip side to Chestnut Mare, a great single cruelly overlooked in the USA, where it didn't even make the top 100, though it reached 19 in the UK. I was reminded again by Bill Taylor's stronger memory (see Comments below) that, with him and another friend, Alan Sims, I actually saw the band at Newcastle City Hall. I do remember Rita Coolidge opening for them but recall nothing else of the event.
Here, I shall concern myself mainly with the folk-rock material the Byrds pioneered.
The debut album, Mr Tambourine Man, naturally included that terrific Dylan song or the shortened version of it that, as a single, would be hailed as folk-rock's earliest mega-hit, preceding the album and topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
I would always choose the original. But by making it almost another song altogether, the Byrds deserved their success. I say "their" although, as an American reader, Stan Wilson, once pointed out here, McGuinn was alone among band members to be trusted by Terry Melcher, its producer, to play on the single.
McGuinn's jangling 12-string Richenbacker was crucial to the performance and, happily enough, Melcher accepted in time for the album's recording that the rest of the band were competent enough to be heard, too.
That first album had three other Dylan songs: Chimes of Freedom, All I Really Want To Do and Spanish Harlem Incident.
Room was found, too, for The Bells of Rhymney, a powerful Idris Davies poem from the South Wales coalfield that drew inspiration from a Welsh mining disaster and the failure of the 1926 General Strike to achieve real advances in the treatment of working people.
Set to music by Pete Seeger, the song as recorded by the Byrds - or Bryds according to the YouTube clip's image - may not be the best version you'll find, but it worked well in its way.
I detect some inconsistency in McGuinn singing a song in honour of a left-wing, humanitarian cause and later becoming a card-carrying Republican.
But at least he saw through every Brexiter's US hero, Trump. As for the Byrds, two original members - Gene Clark and Michael Clarke - died in the early 1990s and the band eventually eventually petered out after the last of a series of reunions, reformations and contractual squabble.
The last formal appearance was a well received but one-off concert in honour of an LA music shop owner Fred Walecki, then fighting cancer, in 2000, though there were some 2018 performances by McGuinn and another founder member, Chris Hillman, tied to the 50th anniversary of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album.
"No, I don't want to do that [another full-scale reunion]," McGuinn said a few years after the 2000 Walecki tribute. "I just want to be a solo artist. The Byrds are well documented. I don't think we need any more from the Byrds."
But since I was mentioning earlier that the extent to which he was getting high was considered worthy of inclusion in Mamas and Papas lyrics, I will end with a bonus track, from the same Byrds era and probably my favourite piece of theirs, not remotely folk.