♫ 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