Gene Clark — “Elevator Operator”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 1, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

655) Gene Clark — “Elevator Operator”

The first “solo” album by the former Big Byrd contained this lovely “garage-rock ditty” that is “pure groove, jangle, and boogie” (Uncut, https://www.uncut.co.uk/reviews/gene-clark-with-the-gosdin-brothers-9923/), “features blatant drug double entendres and trippy harmonies” (Aphoristic, https://albumreviews.blog/reviews/1960s-reviews/gene-clark/) and “Revolver-era Beatles influence” (https://www.nodepression.com/album-reviews/gene-clark-with-the-gosdin-brothers-self-titled/).

The song’s “about a fickle woman who ‘could make you feel/that you were up to stay’ but then just as quickly ‘she took you down all the way’, was a clear standout on [the album].” (Michael Panontin, http://www.canuckistanmusic.com/index.php?maid=684) I love, love, love it, but Matthew Greenwald tells us that Clark hated it! —

A slightly nasty little rock song, “Elevator Operator” was one of Gene Clark’s least favorite songs from his solo debut album . . . . So much was his disdain for it that when the album was re-mixed and re-released in the early ’70s, he successfully lobbied Columbia to drop it from the album. While Clark certainly had a point here, the song does indeed have a certain period charm as a slightly psychedelic pop-rocker.

https://www.allmusic.com/song/elevator-operator-mt0006122315

As to Clark, Mark Deming tells us that:

[He] will always be best-known for his short stint as lead singer for the Byrds from 1964 to 1966 . . . . [He] helped invent country-rock with 1968’s Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers album [from which today’s song is taken], then teamed with Doug Dillard in the late ’60s to make two records that served as a blueprint for Americana. . . . Clark’s clear and true vocals, his poetic turns of phrase, and his skill at weaving melancholy melodies never wavered. . . . [L]ong after his passing in 1991, has remained influential to each new generation of jangle pop artists . . . .

Clark . . . [was in] the New Christy Minstrels, a well-scrubbed folk-pop ensemble . . . . However, [he] longed to perform his own songs and didn’t care for life on the road; after hearing the Beatles for the first time, Clark decided he wanted to form a rock band and he quit . . . and moved to Los Angeles. There, he met . . . [Roger] McGuinn . . . . Clark quickly became the Byrds’ dominant songwriter, penning most of their best-known originals . . . . [But] the combination of [his] dislike of traveling (including a fear of flying) and resentment that his songwriting income made him the best-paid member of the group led to tensions . . . and in 1966 Clark opted to leave . . . . [I]n 1967 he released his first solo set, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, a pioneering fusion of country and rock.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/gene-clark-mn0000194036

No Depression adds that:

[Clark] infused the [Byrds] with much of its soul and vision, establishing himself as a pivotal folk-rock innovator . . . . Overwhelmed by demands of fame and tired of clashing with the contentious Crosby, Clark left the band in 1966; Byrds manager Jim Dickson landed him the Columbia contract that spawned this album. Recorded with the Byrds’ rhythm section of Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, plus A-list Los Angeles studio musicians Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers . . . [was] a glorious brew of ’60s folk-rock, proto-country-rock and complex, Beatlesque pop . . . .

https://www.nodepression.com/album-reviews/gene-clark-with-the-gosdin-brothers-self-titled/

Alex Stimmel concludes that:

The album contains a number of fine pop-oriented tunes and stellar folk-rock/country-rock numbers . . . a year before the Byrds’ Sweatheart of the Rodeo . . . . [It] failed to make much of an impact, perhaps due to its being released in the same week as the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday . . . . [The album] stands as the one of the best, if not the best, example of how powerful a singer, writer, and bandleader he was.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/gene-clark-with-the-gosdin-brothers-mw0000309530

Here is an alternate take:

Here is a cool version by Canada’s Tomorrows’ Keepsake:

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