Mr Tambourine Man
Release Date: April 12th, 1965
Words by: Adam Wilding & Sam Pethers
April 14th, 2015
The Byrds first single, "Mr Tambourine Man", was released on 12 April 1965. It was also the title track for the band's debut album. Only three weeks earlier it had been included on Bob Dylan’s fifth studio album titled Bringing It All Back Home.
The Byrds' first exposure to the song was via a discarded studio outtake which featured Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on vocals in the chorus. The outtake had originally been intended for release on Dylan’s 1964 album Another Side Of Bob Dylan, but was instead re-recorded and held back until Dylan's next album.After listening to Mr Tambourine Man, Dylan responded, “Wow, you can dance to that!”
Only three of the original Byrds band members were present for the recording of the single because their manager wasn’t yet confident in the group’s ability to record the track unassisted. Roger McGuinn sang lead vocals, he was also the only original band member to play an instrument on the recording. The rest of the parts were performed by a group of session musicians who later became known as The Wrecking Crew.
The mix of sustain and reverb in the guitar tracks is now considered a pioneering sound. Some even argue that it represents the first example of folk rock.
In March 1965, The Byrds’ band manager, Jim Dickson, invited Dylan to hear The Byrds' pop rendition of his song. After listening to Mr Tambourine Man, Dylan responded, “Wow, you can dance to that!” He then made an unannounced appearance at Le Ciro’s Le Disc, where The Byrds had taken up residency to rehearse for their upcoming recording sessions. Dylan shared vocals with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark on Jimmy Reed’s "Baby What You Want Me To Do".
Dylan remained a fan of Roger McGuinn’s interpretations of his songs for some time. In 1969 when Dylan was asked to write a song for the Easy Rider soundtrack, he instead quickly wrote down on a tissue: “The river flows, it flows to the sea/Wherever that river goes, that's where I want to be/Flow, river, flow”. Roger McGuinn used these lyrics as the foundation for "Ballad of Easy Rider", which Dylan requested not to receive credit for.
And yet, in the famous interview between Bob Dylan and A.J Weberman in 1971, when asked for a response to Roger McGuinn’s comments about him in Creem magazine, Dylan responded ‘You can just say, Fuck him Man.’ So as always where Bob Dylan is concerned, who knows what to believe?