Ignored Obscured Restored
Carole King and Gerry Goffin were one of the most successful songwriting teams of the early 60s. As part of the Brill Building songwriting stable, they worked alongside the teams of Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil and Ellie Greenwich-Jeff Barry, and solo songwriters like Neil Diamond and Shadow Morton.
You already know most of the hits written by Goffin-King, but I’ll list a few anyway:
Chains – Cookies (covered by The Beatles)
Go Away Little Girl – Steve Lawrence
I’m Into Something Good – Herman’s Hermits
Locomotion – Little Eva
One Fine Day — Chiffons
Up On the Roof – Drifters
Take Good Care of My Baby – Bobby Vee
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – Shirelles
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
But by the mid-‘60s the times had changed and pop/rock music had moved on from teen pop written by specialist songwriters to self-contained bands that wrote their own music with more adult themed lyrics.
By 1967, the duo reacted to these trends and embraced some of the trappings of the hippie culture. They rejected suburban life and wrote “Pleasant Valley Sunday” to express their new values.
Around this time they also wrote two of my favorite recordings by The Byrds – “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born to Follow.”
Both songs were on the outstanding album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968). The drama during the recording of The Notorious Byrd Brothers may match the well-documented soap opera that surrounded the production of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.
David Crosby and Michael Clarke quit the band during the album sessions, leaving only Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman in the band. (The recently deceased session drummer Hal Blaine replaced Clarke on some of the tracks.) When Crosby left, McGuinn rehired one of the original, founding Byrds – Gene Clark – to come back on board, but that lasted for only a matter of weeks.
Still, the album stands up today and so do “Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born to Follow.”
“Goin Back” reflects on the theme of exchanging adult responsibilities for the innocence of childhood.
Let everyone debate the true
I’d rather see the world the way it used to be
A little bit of freedom’s all we’re lack
So catch me if you can
I’m goin’ back
In his review of “Wasn’t Born to Follow” on AllMusic, Thomas Ward writes:
Sung by Roger McGuinn, the song is a lovely moment in The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and it reflects the group’s more rural influence which has dated far less than their more psychedelic leanings. The lyrics are tremendous, commenting on the need for escape and independence.
By 1969 Goffin and King were divorced, but the legacy of their songwriting partnership will never be broken.
Enjoy… until next week.
The break in Goin’ Back gives me chills every time.
I don’t know what Thomas Ward is talking about. Wasn’t Born To Follow is every bit as psychedelic as it is rural, both elements make it what it is, and neither element has dated at all.
Nils Lofgren has a terrific cover of “Goin’ Back” too, on an early solo album. There’s also a great McGuinn/Hillman song on “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” that sounds better every time I hear it, “Change is Now”.
It’s a great song, and in my view The Byrds’ version is the definitive or best one. Everything about the production is stellar, from the guitar work to the ethereal vocals and the great mix. The Dusty Springfield version I’ve heard, the one that I think was more of a chart hit, is very poor by comparison despite DS’s fantastic voice. It’s badly over-produced, cloying and mixed in a weird fashion. The partial lyrics printed above are NOT in The Byrds’ cover, fortunately. (It also has garbled wording in the line starting “A little bit of freedom…” Those are the most sentimental and cringe-worthy lyrics in what was otherwise a good set of lyrics. The Byrds’ instead used only the strongest lyrics by from the original composition. I’ve seen some printed lyrics online that contain several errors as well.