♫ Mr. Tambourine Man ♫

I had a song in my head all day today.  It wasn’t this one, but was Turn, Turn, Turn, also by the Byrds.  I opted for this one instead, for a couple of reasons that … I shan’t disclose!  I have to keep a few secrets tucked away, right?  Anyway … when I went digging for information about this song, my jaw dropped.  Even my daughter, who is a musical guru, did not know who wrote and first recorded this song.  Do you?  I’m betting that Keith and Scott both know that Bob Dylan wrote this song and recorded it on his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home on March 22, 1965.  But it was the Byrds cover, released later in 1965, that brought the song to the #1 spot, and is the only song Dylan ever wrote that went to #1 in the U.S.

Dylan wrote this on a road trip he took with some friends from New York to San Francisco. They smoked lots of marijuana along the way, replenishing their stash at post offices where they had mailed pot along the way.

The Byrds’ version is based on Bob Dylan’s demo of the song that he recorded during sessions for his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It was The Byrds’ manager Jim Dickson who brought in the demo and asked them to record it – the group refused at first because they thought it didn’t have any hit potential. When The Byrds did record it, they took some lyrics out and added a 12-string guitar lead.

Only three of the five members of the Byrds performed on this song: Roger McGuinn sang lead and played lead guitar; Gene Clark and David Crosby did the vocal harmonies. Session musicians were brought in to play the other instruments, since the band was just starting out and wasn’t deemed good enough yet by their management.

This was the Byrds’ first single.  According to Roger McGuinn …

“To get that sound, that hit sound, that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ sound, we just ran it through the electronics which were available to us at that time, which were mainly compression devices and tape delay, tape-sustain. That’s how we got it, by equalizing it properly and aiming at a specific frequency.

For stereo-buffs out there who noticed that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ in stereo isn’t really stereo, by the way, that’s because when Terry Melcher, the producer, first started mixing records he didn’t know how to mix stereo, and so he made all the singles up to ‘Turn Turn Turn’ mono. The label is misrepresentative. See, when Columbia Records signed us, they didn’t know what they had. So they gave production to someone low on the totem-pole-which was Terry Melcher who was Doris Day’s son who was getting a token-job-in-the-mailroom sort of thing. They gave him the Byrds and the Byrds were supposed to flunk the test.”

I was only planning to play the Byrds’ version here, but when I saw the one of Dylan playing guitar and harmonica plus singing, I just had to include it, too.

Mr. Tambourine Man
Song by The Byrds

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m goin’ to
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

Take me for a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
All my senses have been stripped
And my hands can’t feel to grip
And my toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’

I’m ready to go anywhere I’m ready for to fade
On to my own parade cast your dancin’ spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m goin’ to
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man lyrics © Audiam, Inc

31 thoughts on “♫ Mr. Tambourine Man ♫

  1. Jill, good piece. While the same song, The Byrds and the twelve string guitar give it a different sound. Dylan’s songwriting ability far exceeds his singing ability, but his version has more sincerity.

    I like them both, but might lean toward Dylan on this one. But, Dylan’s songs will outlive both Dylan and The Byrds. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’m with you there. I was far more familiar with the Byrds’ version, and did not even know that Dylan had written this. But, when I heard his, I was torn, for as you say, his seemed more sincere.

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  2. The number of Bod Dylan tracks that hit the charts, mostly when covered by other groups, was incredible. The Turtles started out doing Dylan, Hendrix loved Dylan, I cannot count how many people covered “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” I find it exceeding hard to believe this was the only Dylan song to hit #1 in the USA. I’m going to have to get back to you on this one…

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  3. The first time that I attended the famed Newport Folk Festival was in 1963 with my eldest sister. I went because of my love of all things folk in general and Peter, Paul and Mary in particular. She had gone with her friends the previous year, being they were all fans of Bob Dylan. Most memorable song for me of the Festival in 1963 was PPM, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan singing “Blowin’ in the Wind”. It may not surprise you that eldest sister and I, along with our boyfriends, returned for the 1964 Newport Folk Festival for 3 of the 4 days on July 24th, 25th and 26th to see amongst the many other performers, Johnny Cash, The Chad Mitchell Trio (one of her favorites), Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and of course my favorites PPM. It was the last day, a Sunday evening that I recall most clearly hearing Dylan perform this song at Freebody Park along with a couple of other songs and ending with the singing of a song ( title not remembered) with Joan Baez. Eldest sister returned again in July of 1965, but I had just graduated high school and had other things planned. SHE and some college friends were there to see and hear the still famous “Electric” Dylan that was not well received at the Folk Festival (she talked about this momentous event forever!) and this song was played then too. If memory serves me correctly, Dylan did not return to the Folk Festival until the early 2000’s. Need I add, Bob Dylan and “Mr. Tambourine Man” belong together in my heart and mind…no matter how much The Byrd’s version is preferred by the vast majority! The Byrds late 1965 release of “Turn, Turn, Turn brings back memories for me too! Thank-you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! You have so many awesome memories, my friend! I am trying to imagine PPM, Dylan & Baez singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” together, and thinking that must have been pure magic. Thank you for sharing those memories, for letting me close my eyes and imagine, for just a moment …

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      • The early to late 60’s hold many bittersweet memories, including some of the very best, as well as some of the very worst. There are many songs that, by simply hearing their titles, will transport me across time to a moment that became an unforgettable memory. The best seem even better, and the worst have dulled to the point of tolerability. Time has a way of doing just that. The Newport Folk Festivals are undoubtedly amongst the former! So glad that you enjoyed my trip down memory lane! Thank-you!

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        • Yes, my friend, time has a way of dulling the bad things, of creating a fog over them. I always enjoy your trips down memory lane!!! You have lived far more fun things than I even dreamed of!

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