The Long Ryders: “Still Get By”
For a time in the mid-’80s there was a wave of roots/country-rock-inspired bands (they tended to look to the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Gram Parsons, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, among others) finding a place in the hearts of fans on the college-rock scene. Among the best of those were Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers, the Beat Farmers, and the Long Ryders. They also bore something of a relation to the Los Angeles “Paisley Underground” scene that featured such bands as Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Green on Red, and the Three o’Clock, although where those bands launched off from the sounds of Love’s Forever Changes, these others began with something more along the lines of the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Somewhere in there was a common ground, but only these country-rockers reveled in their twang.
The Long Ryders’ first full-length album, 1984’s Native Sons, is one of the highlights of this country-punk wave. On it, primary songwriters Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy ran with their influences and created a post-punk blend that gave the music a type of energy not found in the music of their forebears. One listen to “Still Get By,” one of the most rocking, infectious songs from the album, and it’s obvious that they had the talent to go places. Unfortunately, America may simply not have been ready to look back to the late ’60s in quite the same way that the Long Ryders wanted to — they were perhaps too pure in their affection for those times to bring it into the New Wave-heavy ’80s. It would take R.E.M.’s updating of the Byrds influence to break through to that. As it was, the Long Ryders disbanded in 1987, after their third full-length album failed to go anywhere. But if you’re a fan of the Byrds and/or Buffalo Springfield, delving deeper into the Long Ryders’ albums is well worth it.