Byrds Still ‘Cringe’ at Parts of ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’
Chris Hillman admitted that he and Byrds colleague Roger McGuinn are still uncomfortable with parts of the band's groundbreaking album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which was released 50 years ago.
But he said revisiting the songs on their current anniversary tour – which finds the pair reuniting alongside a new band – was a positive experience.
“It’ll be a lot better listening to [Sweetheart songs) when we play it on this tour,” Hillman told The Worcester Telegram & Gazette in a new interview. “The songs have seasoned out, and we’ll perform them a lot better. There are things on the record that Roger and I both cringe at. My own performances were not up to what I wanted – I was still learning to sing.”
As he noted, the 1968 LP wasn't the band's "biggest-selling record … but critically it probably got the best reaction of all the Byrds albums and definitely got more praise down the road. I’ve said before: It was a good record. It wasn’t my favorite Byrds album, but it was a good, noble experiment. And I think it did open the floodgates in a sense.”
McGuinn, who recently told how he’d kickstarted the reunion, said he's "very nostalgic about that wonderful time in the early-to-late ’60s. I came out to L.A. in 1960 and recorded with the Limelighters at Ash Grove, I played as a kid at Hollywood Bowl. I remember driving around at night in a convertible, smelling the orange blossoms. I loved to hang out at the Troubadour. It was a great time.”
Sweetheart of the Rodeo became a milestone album in the country-rock movement in the years after its release. It was recorded after the band recruited Gram Parsons following the firing of David Crosby the previous year. “I know we probably would have figured something out,” Hillman said. “We had just done The Notorious Byrd Brothers record, which was a real labor of love and came out better than we anticipated.”