Gene Clark "Back Street Mirror" (2018 Record Store Day EP)

On Record Store Day 2018, a limited edition EP was issued containing six recently unearthed tracks by Gene Clark. This 12-inch, 45 rpm EP, titled Back Street Mirror, was pressed in 180g vinyl, and was limited to 1,500 numbered copies. As of this writing, 18 months after its RSD release, Back Street Mirror is still not available digitally.

The six tracks on the Back Street Mirror EP were Clark compositions recorded before the 1967 release of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, the short but solid debut solo album from the late co-founding member of the Byrds.

The three tracks on the first side of the EP were recorded during the Russell-Masekela Sessions in January 1967, so called because they were arranged by Leon Russell and South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. The title track was intended to be the A-side of a non-album single, but it was rejected by Columbia, and instead became the basis for a 1967 recording by actor David Hemmings. Hemmings’ version used the same recorded baroque instrumentation, but Clark’s lead vocal track on this version is more Dylanesque – to an excessive degree that sometimes gets in the way of his phrasing. Still, it is a good Clark composition about suicidal heartbreak, done very much in the style of the Byrds covering Dylan. By contrast, the single’s intended B-side “Don’t Let It Fall Through” has a more upbeat rhythm-and-blues flavor, due in large part to its horn arrangements. Both of those two tracks were previously issued on the 2016 release The Lost Studio Sessions 1964-1982. The third track, “Yesterday, Am I Right”, appeared in acoustic demo form on the 2018 Gene Clark Sings For You album. This version gets a more baroque treatment, with a full horn arrangement that underscores the song’s melancholy lyrics. It’s not necessarily better than the acoustic version, especially since its sound quality seems a bit distorted, but it certainly gives the song a different presentation than expected.

The three songs on the second side were drawn from the Chip Douglas Tape, a set of 1966 demos that were once in the possession of Turtles bassist/producer Douglas. These three tracks were apparently the only ones from those demo tapes that were previously unreleased as of 2018. It’s hard to believe these tracks were kept secret for so long, because – demos or not – they are first-rate acoustic folk numbers. “If I Hang Around” previously appeared on the 2003 Australian various-artists CD Byrd Parts 2 in a “duet” version, with vocal and bass overdubs by Douglas. This original recording by Clark alone is equally pleasing in its simpler demo form. Although the closing track “That’s What You Want” is marred by a few noticeable sound anomalies which probably originate from the source tape, these three Chip Douglas Tape tracks display Clark’s talents equally as well as the fully formed songs on his debut solo album.

Back Street Mirror is certainly a worthwhile EP. One complaint: We did not need to hear a whole minute-and-a-half of false studio starts at the beginning of the first track.

Gene Clark “Back Street Mirror” EP (EntrĂ©e EP 1006) 2018

Track Listing:

The Russell-Masekela Sessions, January 1967

1. Back Street Mirror
2. Don’t Let It Fall Through
3. Yesterday, Am I Right

The Chip Douglas Tape

4. If I Hang Around
5. She Told Me
6. That’s What You Want