Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Byrds: Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

      The Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn is 69 today....

      Much of what we know as rock music today can be traced back eventually to just a handful of artists. The Byrds, led by Roger McGuinn became a touchstone for what would be folk rock, country rock, psychedelic rock, raga rock, and jangle pop. McGuinn's jangly Rickenbacker guitar became as distinctive a sound as any in rock history.

       His sound derived itself from folk music, but with the coming of the Beatles attempted to bring the two together. The resulting music attracted the attention of Gene Clark, and the two of them formed the early incarnation of the group. Many of rock music's influential artists came through the group. Clark, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Michael Clarke, and Gram Parsons all spent time as a Byrd.  

      Bob Dylan wrote, "Mr. Tambourine Man" in 1964 and was released on his "Bringing It All Back Home" album in 1965. There has been many attempts to interpret the lyrical content, with Dylan himself saying that at least part of his inspiration came from Federico Felllini's movie "La strada". He has always firmly denied as well that the song had nothing to do with drugs. It took Bob over a year to find the right arraignment that would do it justice. 

      In the meantime, the Byrds had been working on their own version based on an acetate copy of the song that was acquired by their manager. Dylan was brought in after the song had been worked up and his enthusiasm about it's sound spurred them to record it as a single. An interesting note about it's recording. The single was recorded first, and at the time, producer Terry Melcher was not convinced on the rest of the group's ability to play their instruments, so Melcher brought in the famous group of studio musicians, "The Wrecking Crew" to play on the single (and it's B-side, "I Knew I'd Want You") along with McGuinn. By the time they began on the album, he felt they were sufficiently ready, so the rest of the album was recorded with the band.


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