Billboard #1 Hits: #139: “Mr. Tambourine Man”- The Byrds. June 26, 1965. #1 for 1 week.

  • Single: “Mr. Tambourine Man”- The Byrds
  • Record Company- Columbia
  • Genre- Folk Rock
  • Written by Bob Dylan
  • Time: 2:18
  • B-side: “I Knew I’d Want You”
  • Album- Mr. Tambourine Man
  • Grade: A+
  • Peaked at #1 for 1 week on Billboard Hot 100.  #1 on UK Singles Chart and also in Ireland and South Africa. #2 in Canada.

Bob Dylan as a solo artist- never went to #1 with a single- he has never really been a singles artists but he did get to #2 with 2 singles- “Like A Rolling Stone”- which is certainly one of the greatest rock singles ever went to #2 in 1965 and in 1966 another #2 with “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35.” “Mr. Tambourine Man” a cover of a Bob Dylan song from his 5th album Bringing It All Back Home- is the only song Bob ever wrote that went to #1.

The Byrds played on this album but producer Terry Melcher lacked confidence in their musicianship so he brought in members of The Wrecking Crew to play on their debut album including Leon Russell and the ever present drummer Hal Blaine who seems to have played on everything in the 1960’s.  “Mr. Tambourine Man” was the first song on the first Byrds album and their initial single. While the Byrds had commercial success initially- they didn’t overall have as many hits as they deserved- but they were a big influence on a number of other acts.  The success of “Mr. Tambourine Man” would encourage Dylan to go electric.

8 responses to “BILLBOARD #1 HITS: #139: ” MR. TAMBOURINE MAN”- THE BYRDS- JUNE 26, 1965

  1. Thanks, Hans. Most people don’t realize the huge significance of the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” single. With the single and subsequent album, the Byrds bridged the divide between pop rock and folk. The Beatles and Dylan were paying attention. The Beatles upped their game by writing songs with adult lyrics and themes (see Rubber Soul) and Dylan plugged in as you mentioned. The Byrds would continue to pioneer new musical styles including jazz-rock, raga-rock, and ultimately country rock, but had peaked commercially after “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
    You mentioned that producer Melcher brought in the Wrecking Crew to play on the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single. The Crew also played the instruments on B-Side “I Knew I’d Want You.” However, Byrd Jim (later Roger) McGuinn did play lead twelve-string guitar on both songs and McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke did play the instruments on the other ten songs on the “Mr. Tambourine Man” album.

    • Great comments!. I’ve always thought that the constantly changing line-up hurt their standing as far as history goes- but they were great and influential from start to finish.

    • Thanks, Hans! I’m a huge Byrds fan, as I’ve mentioned previously, and could ramble on for another two-thousand words in reply to your good comments. I’ll keep it short. Yes, after “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and the exit of Hillman and short-timer Gram Parsons, McGuinn opted to go it alone with hired hands. Clarence White was an extraordinarily talented acoustic country guitarist, although a bit out of his element with a Telecaster. McGuinn with his 12-string Rickenbacker was largely relegated to rhythm guitarist. Not good. John York, Gene Parsons, and Skip Battin were unremarkable journeymen at best. McGuinn was not a prolific songwriter although he did some nice work in tandem with Jacques Levy for an unrealized Broadway show including “Chestnut Mare.” Most of the tunes contributed by the hired hands were mediocre or downright clunkers (especially Battin’s songs). McGuinn has said in retrospect that he probably should have folded up the Byrds’ tent after “Sweetheart.”

    • I agree with you- they did lose some steam at the end. Always an interesting band to listen to. Most influential American band of the 60s?

    • RE: Most influential American band of the 60s.
      Yup, I’d have to say the Byrds earned that distinction. The Beach Boys were obviously popular, but not necessarily influential the way the Byrds were.

  2. I’ve dug the Byrds’ cover of that song from the very first time I heard it. In fact, initially, I didn’t even realize it was a Dylan tune.

    Roger McGuinn is the maestro when it comes it comes to the Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar. His jingle-jangle sound will always excite me!

  3. Very interesting post, Hans. I never knew Bob didn’t have his own #1 and the this one was the only one he wrote that did. That’s big! I remember how much airplay Lay Lady Lay got, but no #1 evidently. Also, The Byrds didn’t play on this song?? Wow. It’s such a good tune.

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