♫ 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

♫ Kokomo ♫

I liked the Beach Boys well enough in their heyday, the 1960s, but then their “fifteen minutes of fame”  (actually around 4 years) came to an end, and for me, life got real very fast, and by 1988, I had been married, divorced, and was struggling with three jobs trying to support three children, one severely disabled, and earn a Master’s degree.  It had been years since I had even thought about the Beach Boys.  But then came a new song from the Beach Boys … somehow more mature than some of their previous work, yet still bringing to mind the carefree existence of the beach days.

This song came together when the music producer Terry Melcher was hired to work on a song with The Beach Boys for the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. The Beach Boys’ glory days were behind them, and they had been playing fairs and nostalgia shows. They were one of the most popular bands of the ’60s, and had a bunch of songs dealing with recreation and fun, which is why they were asked to record for the movie.

Melcher was the son of actress Doris Day. In 1964, he worked as a staff producer at Columbia Records, where he teamed up with future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston on the hit “Hey Little Cobra,” which was credited to The Rip Chords. He was a producer on the first two Byrds albums and went on to work with Paul Revere And The Raiders. He knew The Beach Boys and contributed to some of their work, including backup vocals on Pet Sounds. Through Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, he met Charles Manson and worked on some projects with him before thinking better of it. In 1969, Manson and his “family” murdered five people at a house Melcher rented to director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Polanski was away filming, but Tate, who was pregnant, was one of the victims. After the murders, Melcher went into seclusion. This was a big comeback for him as well as The Beach Boys.

Brian Wilson was the creative force behind The Beach Boys, but he had nothing to do with this song.  Terry Melcher wrote this song with the help of John Phillips, who was a former member of The Mamas And The Papas, along with Beach Boy Mike Love, and Scott McKenzie, who had a hit in 1967 with “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair).” Phillips’ daughter Chynna was in the group Wilson Phillips with Brian Wilson’s daughters, Carnie and Wendy.  Small world, isn’t it?

According to Mike Love …

“The verses and the verse lyric was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. He wrote ‘Off the Florida keys, there’s a place called Kokomo, that’s where we used to go to get away from it all.’ I said, ‘Hold on. We used to go sounds like an old guy lamenting his misspent youth.’ So I just changed the tense there. ‘That’s where you want to go to get away from it all.’ So that was the verse. And it was very lovely. But it didn’t have such a groove, I didn’t feel.

So I came up with the chorus part: ‘Aruba, Jamaica, ooo, I want to take you to Bermuda, Bahama, come on, pretty mama. Key Largo, Montego…’ That’s me, the chorus and the words to the chorus was Mike Love. The verse was John Phillips. The bridge, where it goes, ‘Ooo, I want to take you down to Kokomo, we’ll get there fast and we can take it slow. That’s where you want to go, down to Kokomo,’ that’s Terry Melcher. Terry Melcher produced the Byrds and Paul Revere & the Raiders, very successful producer. But he actually produced that song and he wrote that bridge part, which Carl Wilson sang beautifully. And I sang the rest of it. I sang the chorus and the verses on that particular song.”

Kokomo
The Beach Boys

Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take ya
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go, Jamaica

Off the Florida Keys, there’s a place called Kokomo
That’s where you want to go to get away from it all
Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand
We’ll be falling in love to the rhythm of a steel drum band
Down in Kokomo

Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take you to
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go
oh I want to take you down to
Kokomo, we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow
That’s where we want to go, way down in Kokomo

Martinique, that Montserrat mystique

We’ll put out to sea and we’ll perfect our chemistry
And by and by we’ll defy a little bit of gravity
Afternoon delight, cocktails and moonlit nights
That dreamy look in your eye, give me a tropical contact high
Way down in Kokomo

Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take you to
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go
oh I want to take you down to
Kokomo, we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow
That’s where we want to go, way down in Kokomo

Port au Prince, I want to catch a glimpse

Everybody knows a little place like Kokomo
Now if you want to go and get away from it all
Go down to Kokomo

Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take you to
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go
oh I want to take you down to
Kokomo, we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow
That’s where we want to go, way down in Kokomo

Aruba, Jamaica, oh I want to take you to
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go

Songwriters: John E.A. Phillips / Mike E. Love / Terry Melcher / Scott J. Mckenzie
Kokomo lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company