Formed in 1963 and originally called The Thunderbirds, West Drayton’s The Birds had shortened their name to avoid confusion with Chris Farlowe‘s backing band.
Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire . . .
When The Byrds arrived in Britain in July 1965 – following the success of Mr Tambourine Man – the LA quintet were served with a summons by their rather less-successful UK equivalents just as they stepped off the plane.
Although the case was never seriously pursued, the legal notice complaining of loss of earnings got the group front page headlines in Melody Maker – for the first and only occasion.
The Byrds were so aggravated that the following year’s Eight Miles High – the lysergic travelogue of their London trip – alluded to the incident in the lines “Nowhere is there warmth to be found/among those afraid of losing their ground”.
Thankfully, the succeeding lines – “Rain grey town, known for its sound/in places small faces abound” – contained a more positive reference to another London group.
But the legal challenge wasn’t The Birds last stand. They also featured in the 1966 movie The Deadly Bees but after their fourth single (released under the new name Bird’s Birds) the group split.
Bassist Kim Gardner died of cancer on 24 October 2001. He was 53 years old. Singer Ali McKenzie passed away on 30 April 2021.
Pete McDaniels (Hocking)