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the Byrds were now a family friends. Joan again "I remember meeting them inside Ciro's - at first they had seemed older than the English groups. But up close it was clear that they were very young and very poor and may be they did not eat enough.

My question is why "had seemed"? For me it seems strange as "meeting them in Ciro implies that it was the beginning of the band. (it was told before in the text that they took a residency at Ciro's in the beginning of the band, so we already now that it is in the past of the past before they were a family friends so there is no need to indicate it a second time.

I think that using the past perfect emphasizes the contrast between at first and it was clear that this first impression was wrong.

Am I wrong thinking that?

Extract from Inside the Byrds/ personnal reflections

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  • Yes, I think you're right. The past perfect is not needed, but it sets the temporal viewpoint to a later time - specifically, the time when she got close to them and formed a new opinion.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 19:22

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The past perfect is used because the time when they seemed older is before another past time being discussed. That nearer past time is when it was clear that they were very young.
It's not a question of emphasized contrast, just sequence of tenses.

For example,
Last week, my car broke down and I had to buy a new one. I had wanted a car for a long time, but had put the decision off.

In that example, the speaker talks of something he did in the past, and of his desire, which was even further in the past.

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