Story of the Day for Tuesday July 10, 2012
Step Out on Our Own
Each one should examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to someone else.
Roger McGuinn was bowled over the first time he heard the Beatles. McGuinn, trained on folk guitar and banjo, was a songwriter for Bobby Darin. His job was to listen to the latest hit recordings, learn them, and try to mimic the sound. When the first Beatles hits topped the charts, McGuinn noticed they used folk-style passing chords with a rock & roll backbeat.
He loved the unique combination and employed it in his performances in Greenwich Village — so much so that one owner billed his gigs as “Beatle Imitations.”
McGuinn moved to California and helped form the Byrds. But the new band so adored the Beatles that their earliest recordings sounded eerily similar to the sound of their idols. When they watched the movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” McGuinn noticed George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker 12-string, and immediately bought the same guitar.
The Byrd’s manager, Jim Dickson, however, was troubled by the band’s desire to be like the Beatles, and pushed them to create their own style. So, McGuinn began experimenting with a brighter tone and longer sustain on his Rickenbacker, and developed a simultaneous flatpicking and banjo-style fingerpicking technique to create his famous “jingle-jangle” sound.
The Byrds’ first English tour, hyped as “America’s Answer to the Beatles,” was a disaster. The critics dashed off scathing reviews.
But one night, two musicians attended a Byrds concert. Afterward, they went backstage and introduced themselves as John Lennon and George Harrison. They were fascinated with the Byrds unique sound and creative harmonies. They invited the Byrds to their homes and shared musical ideas.
The harsh reviews of the Byrds were tempered when the Beatles publicly announced that the Byrds were their favorite band.
Soon after their visit, George Harrison sent press officer, Derek Taylor, to California to hand deliver to McGuinn a recording of his latest song, “If I Needed Someone.” Harrison, in tribute to McGuinn, had imitated Roger’s guitar work from “Bells of Rhymney.”
The Beatles, whom the Byrds originally sought to emulate, turned out to be the ones who encouraged the Byrds to continue exploiting their own unique style.
We learn by imitation. The great comic writer, S. J. Perlman said, “You must learn by imitation,” and adds he “could have been arrested for imitating Lardner” in his early writing style. Just as all great artists begin by copying the styles of others, one of the best ways to grow in our Christian faith is through role models.
While we may learn by imitating others, however, eventually we must step out on our own. The Byrds began by trying to emulate someone else, but found their greatest strength was to discover their own creative potential.