Friday, June 26, 2015

50 years ago: The Byrds hit #1 with “Mr. Tambourine Man”

Mr. Tambourine Man

The Byrds

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released: April 12, 1965

First Charted: May 8, 1965

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 12 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 14.88 video, 71.04 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Mr. Tambourine Man” “elevated [Bob] Dylan from folk hero to bona fide star.” RS500 He partly wrote it “during a drug-fueled cross-country trek in 1964” RS500 and recorded it on January 15, 1965. RS500 Some people interpreted itas being about a drug pusher, but Dylan said the song was inspired by Bruce Langhorne, a guitarist who brought a tambourine to the recording session which he said was “as big as a wagon wheel.” SJ

“If nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, the Byrds at least came close.” MA The band heard a demo and, although they weren’t completely sold on it, recorded their own version five days after Dylan. RS500 The original version “was a multi-versed acoustic meander through typically elliptical wordplay,” TB but the Byrds whittled it down to a one-verse, more conventional three minute single. HL Dylan said of their recording, “Wow, man. You can even dance to that!” RS500

Roger McGuinn said, “I just rearranged it into a Beatles song.” TC Not only did the recording tap ino the Beatles harmonies, but a Beach Boys’ beat, and a bit of Bach in the guitar intro. RP His “chiming twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar became folk rock’s defining sound.” RS500 Interestingly, while fellow Byrds David Crosby and Gene Clark did add backing harmonies, TC McGuinn was the only member to actually play on the hit, RS500 with the other instruments being handled by session musicians.

“The Tambourine Man was the Pied Piper for others to follow.” HL It “started the folk-rock movement” SJ “and the whole singer/songwriter tradition.” TC McGuinn said, however, that “We weren’t really thinking about the folk background. In fact, we were trying to subdue it and become legitimate rock & roll people. Fortunately, we weren’t able to shake it, and the residue is what made us sound interesting.” TC

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for The Byrds
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Bob Dylan
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 59.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 92.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 145-6.
  • RP Robert Palmer (1995). Rock & Roll: An Unruly History. New York, NY; Harmony Books. Page 106.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 78.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 74.

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 4/18/2020; last updated 10/8/2021.

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