♫ Mr. Tambourine Man ♫

I have only played this once before, back in August 1919, and tonight I was sifting through songs of my youth (thanks for the suggestion, Erika!) when I came across this again.  And so  … 

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, Clive and Scott all 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

40 thoughts on “♫ Mr. Tambourine Man ♫

  1. Yes, I did know, but as I wasn’t following your blog back in 1919 (!) this is the first time I’ve seen the song here. I’m in the same camp as most, in that I’m a huge Byrds fan but didn’t like the way their version cut out half of Dylan’s lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1919???????? Oh … oops! I proofread this twice and missed that both times 🙄 Methinks it was actually 2019, and you weren’t following my blog yet then, either! I added your name last night, for I was sure you would have known it! Yes, that seems to be the general consensus … I wonder why they did? For brevity, clarity, or they just didn’t like them?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with rawgod on the Byrds version – it’s a bastardized version. And while Dylan’s version is good, for me there’s only ONE version of this song, and that’s the version sung by Melanie Safka, then known simply as Melanie. I have aphantasia, which means I can’t create mental images and also alexithymia, which means I’m not consciously aware of emotions, but Melanie’s version gives me an insight into what I presume most people experience all the time. I wrote about how that version affects me in Musical Monday (2021/10/25) – Mr Tambourine man Listen to melanie singing Mr Tambourine Man and just maybe feel the shiver I experience every time I hear it. Next time you play Mr Tambourine Man you MUST include Melanie’s version.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, thanks for the shout out. I thought it was more known that Dylan wrote this. It is classic Dylan filling a lot of words into a stanza, but since he won the Nobel Prize for poetry, they were good words. I had not realized The Byrds cut some lyrics. My guess is the studio’s Wrecking Crew, who were on huge numbers of songs, did this song as well as they were far better musicians than the bands had. Glen Campbell was one of its members as he was an excellent guitarist. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hadn’t realized the the Byrds cut some of the lyrics, either, until I researched the song the first time I posted it. I wondered why they might have done that, figured maybe to shorten it, or that the additional lyrics didn’t make sense? Indeed, Glen Campbell was a great guitarist, and Clive had mentioned him a couple of times, so I keep meaning to play something by him but keep forgetting! Glad you enjoyed this one!


  4. Next redux of this, Jill, please add the words actually written by Bob Dylan. His original song is much more interesting than the bastardized version sung by The Byrds.
    Don’t get me wrong, The Byrds version is great, but incomplete. Whoever decided to shorten the song did the world a misdeed, in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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