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7.09-NATURAL HARMONY (Byrds)

Byrds

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[Intro]

Falling free
me and you

     Happening so graciously.
     You can't hurry natural harmony.

Feel so free,
wider than me.

     Seems just like the day of birth,
     our first awakening to this earth.

          Dancing through the streets side by side
          Head thrown back, arms open wide.

[Break]

Going home,
almost gone,

     Merging with a grain of sand.
     Try hard to catch us if you can.

          [Chorus]

[Coda]


Natural Harmony is one of the earliest songs to feature a Moog synthesizer in pop music. Instead of being used to imitate orchestral instruments, the Moog is used as a droning instrument, similar to the sitar. But the Moog does not imitate the sitar—rather, the drone is used to suggest “good vibrations” or “getting in tune” with the cosmic sphere in a way that is more explicit and space-age than it would have been on sitar. Oddly, although there is an acoustic guitar in the song, the effect is not “natural” but abstract as if a harmony found in mathematics rather than in the human heart.

The Moog synthesizer is said to have been used before the release of Natural Harmony in songs by the Rolling Stones found in Their Satanic Majesties Request and songs by the Doors in Strange Days, but in both cases it’s used for the same effect as a mellotron and is therefore indistinguishable. The first use of the Moog in pop music is reported to have been on a Mowtown record in July 1967. According to Wikipedia its earliest use in a successful pop record was for Diana Ross & the Supremes’ Reflections. (Reflections was Motown’s first attempt at a psychedelic record. It would be the last such attempt by Diana Ross. In my opinion this first attempt failed miserably. Reflections is not included in the Psychedelic Masterworks, but I here mention the pioneering attempt.)

Though written by Chris Hillman, the song strongly reflects David Crosby’s writing style with its dreamy jazz inflected space. But it also appears to show compositional development from a previous Hillman tune, Thoughts and Words, included in the album Younger Than Yesterday. There are three brief melodies in different time signatures brought together without juxtaposition, smoothly going through rounds that echo LSD consciousness, with a chorus that captures some of the spirit of their psychedelic seed, Mr. Tambourine Man.

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