Four Suns Productions Paul Kendall & sons : "The Byrd who flew alone" (US,2013)***
-The Triumphs And Tragedy Of Gene Clark-
In Europe, Gene Clark as a solo artist or songwriter wasn't too known, while everybody until now still remembers the Byrds, who were perfect counteract for The Beatles, it was especially for their guitar sound combinations and its vocal harmonies and a couple of highlights that they are for ever engraved in our collective memories. The Byrds sound with which also Gene Clark became associated, he started to consider it a bit like a burdon of expectations for which he did prefer not really to fall back upon to too likely or too much, it still followed him for much longer than he expected. A lesser number of people also still remember Dillard & Clark. But as far as I know in Europe, hardly anybody followed the rest of his career.
The documentary quickly makes clear that there definitely is something of let's say an Americana singer-songwriter approach present in nearly every song, with also a returning tragic, terminating and lonely tone that penetrates its whole life and career. In that way, the documentary title, “the byrd who flew alone” couldn’t be better chosen. Throughout the documentary this title get a whole lot of layers of meanings: it refers to the highlight with the Byrds that was a bit too much to bear, where he falls back upon his insecurity, then it could also refer to his 100 % dedication to music, not wanting to focus upon the loudest performance or upon a full focus on the ego, in a way he could also not go too far in it either. There always was this element of escapism louring, the desire to fly high on drugs and alcohol so that this flow could carry away that insecure part. The title also literally shows another reference, which is his being afraid to fly, which made touring with the Byrds difficult for him. While the Byrds might have shown him the high winds, the country ground of reality had its own tendency to bring him down, so that this, once again, needed to be compensated. This sort of reality clearly showed a very dualistic and tragic influence to his character. His friends seem to have loved him, even adored him, while the Hollywood scene spoke high about the lows. This documentary makes this all very clear. It is also a bit kind of sad, this sort of dramatic side in a human being, with his exiled escape which even pushed him deeper into being the 100% musician, ever on the road, ever further on the run of life, that becomes life...
You might remember how I have described before the life of Cream’s bassist Jack Bruce when reviewing the book about him (also on this page). Both musicians do not show too much of a different the way their lives were lived. For Gene Clark, it seems as if his life was almost forced to it to be filled up constantly, at the same time this still feels like being surrounded by all that is empty and boring, like a desert environment simply is, as if life is like a bottle of booze without a bottom; it just gets you drunk easily where you forget why you started drinking it after all, but then in this same life, you also still learned to share this part with others, and that is in the end what people most liked about you as well.
From the documentary I can also conclude that Gene himself saw himself as a singer-songwriter mostly. And that everything that became associated with it, in song and singing, it still never really became totally de-attached from its surroundings. It became like a life form for all the people that were involved without really direct reference to the things themselves except for really being with these things, sharing them directly, just like sharing a bottle.
The DVD includes interviews with David Crosby, members of the Clark family, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Carla Olson, Taj Mahal and Jerry Moss and in the background shows some music from Gene’s career from the 50s until the late 70s until he crossed over, driven forth from the consequences of the kind of life he lived.