The Byrds were barely a band for this album, The Notorious Byrds Brothers, with various members leaving, being fired, in 1968. David Crosby, in particular, was considered to be speaking too politically between songs in concerts, waxing about the JFK assassination, and even suggesting giving LSD to all politicians. As well, Crosby’s composition, Triad, about a “menage a trois,” failed to get space on the record given its subject matter.
Infighting among band mates is hardly new in rock music. One of the most effective songs on the album is Draft Morning, about a more consequential battle, in Vietnam. Incorporating war noises in the arrangement makes it resemble Sky Pilot, by Eric Burdon and the Animals. But the Byrds convey a more direct rejection of conscription in the final verse: the narrator wonders why must he wake up to action, to go and kill.
The emphatic lyrics are tempered by one of David Crosby’s prettiest, lilting melodies, and given the dynamic Byrd’s harmony treatment. Yet Crosby wasn’t around to complete the tune. A guitar measure picks out Taps, the horn song played at U.S. military funerals, at the fadeout.
In popular art once again, a horror, that of war, nonetheless inspires transcendent beauty.
Also note that other songs on the Notorious Byrds Brothers addressed environmental concerns, and even, philosophically, man’s very place in the universe!
See also by the Byrds (Bob Dylan), Chimes of Freedom, from this blog.