1001 Albums: Mr. Tambourine Man

#57

Album_57_Original.jpg

Artist: The Byrds

Album: Mr. Tambourine Man

Year: 1965

Length: 31:35

Genre: Folk Rock

 

“Words in my head keep repeating
Things that you said when I was with you
And I wonder is it true
Do you feel the same way too
It’s so hard bein’ here without you,
Bein’ here without you”

 

What better way to say “Welcome To Toronto” than getting into a nice collision on the street. Oh boy was that something I really needed. Especially since I was on my way to visit apartments, guess I wasn’t doing that anymore that day. I knew from all the troubles I was having, the difficulty settling in and dealing with being alone, I really needed to get into a collision on top of it all. That’s exactly the thing I was missing in my current life to set things right. The perfect moment for the perfect week.

On a more positive note, Sandra came up to visit me the same day the collision happened and stayed for a few days. So that easily got my mind off it all. You always hear people saying that long-distance relationships won’t work and it’s so difficult. To be honest, I don’t understand where these people are coming from who feel this way. It’s been way easier than I expected it to be. Sure, I miss the actual intimacy and having her physically there in front of me, but we talk regularly everyday, have Skype conversations and are always on the phone. It’s not like we’ve suddenly disappeared from each other’s lives. I guess for those who it didn’t work out it’s because the relationship just wasn’t meant to be to begin with.

“But won’t you be tempted by other girls and her by other boys and it’ll be difficult because they’re not there?”

No. Not at all. That’s stupid, there’s no other girls that would tempt me because there’s no other girls who are Sandra and also I’m not a cheater. I’ll never understand the concept of cheating on someone. If it’s gotten that bad that you need to cheat, dump them first, that simple. The long distance is definitely a new challenge, but totally an easy one. No worries there.

It took me about three times to get through this album with everything going on. I wanted to make sure I really listened to it from start to finish (and even then I couldn’t successfully do that in one sitting). I have to say, this was everything I expected and not what I expected all thrown into one album. The only exposure I have had to this album was Mr. Tambourine Man, which would play continuously in the house on one of my dad’s 60s compilation CDS. I knew this song very well and that’s part of what made me a little hesitant about this album. It’s not a bad song in any way, but it had been ingrained in my head and became part of my musical nightmares. If I had to suffer through an entire album of songs like that, I’d shoot myself.

Surprisingly, I was both right and wrong with this. Let me explain this contradiction. I was right in the sense that, the music overall really has it’s style and sound that fills up the whole album and never really deviates from it. But wrong in the sense that I actually enjoyed what they did with it following the Title song. It seemed my pain was more to the specific song itself rather than what they did with it. Of course, when you’ve heard something on repeat one too many times, it can really get to anyone.

Mr. Tambourine Man itself is interesting. Originally a Bob Dylan song, the vibe changes considerably when put into the hands of The Byrds. Whereas Bob’s version feels like a typical Dylan song, filled with remorse, sadness and the deeper psychological thoughts of a lost bohemian wanderer trying to understand life, The Byrd’s version comes across as some hippie fun love song. I can just imagine a bunch of shirtless hippies dancing in a circle with their tambourines and flower power get-ups, shaking their heads to the love of the music. Same song, but totally different vibes.

Speaking of which, they seem to have quite a few Bob Dylan covers on this album, almost to the point that it seems they might be relying a little too much on Dylan to give them material. In future albums they would prove this to not be true, but I can imagine someone picking this up when it first came out and being like “These guys are a little bit of a Dylan knock-off, eh?”

They would be half true. The true spirit of this album is almost the perfect blend of both Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Remember that famous meeting they had together? Well, imagine if that meeting produced an offspring. That offspring would be The Byrds. They seem to mash the lyrical and philosophical content of the Folk genre with the beats, harmonies and instrumental work of the rock genre The Beatles made famous. At times it’s really hard to tell if The Byrds are trying to do their own thing or just emulating the two other bands. A song like You Won’t Have To Cry sounds more like an homage to The Beatles than their own piece and the singer even goes as far as to try and imitate Bob Dylan’s voice on Spanish Harlem Incident and Chimes of Freedom.

But when they do blend the two styles together perfectly and become their own thing it really shines through. The harmonies at times come together really nicely and add almost a haunting feel to the songs their in. When they’re not trying to emulate the harmonies of The Beatles, they really create their own atmosphere that is kind of chilling in a fun way. At times, the album does feel a little repetitive as they never deviate from the sound  they created, often re-using the same formulas from previous songs and just continuing what worked on the precedents, but its’ never enough to really take you out of it.

This albums can also be marked as the beginning of the Folk Rock movement. Although other artists had dabbled in mixing rock elements into folk and folk elements into rock, it’s really The Byrds that mashed them together perfectly in a way that pleased both rock lovers and folk aficionados. The musical work on this album would go on to define the sound of Folk Rock and even heavily influence other artists into incorporating the sound into their work (notably Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher and even REM). The Byrds may not have known it at the time but in trying to blend two of the biggest musicians into one, they single-handedly created a whole new style.

And to think the producer wanted session musicians to play because he didn’t feel confident in the band’s musical expertise. Would have probably been a whole different album.

 

Song of Choice: I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better

-Bosco

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