The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man: #332 of best 1,000 albums ever!

So why is The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I’ve talked a lot about how I spent my high school years immersed in the glories of “classic rock,” but I wasn’t really fully tuned into the folk rock side of things at that point.

Classic rock for me meant crushing guitar chords a la Led Zeppelin or psychedelic blues rock by way of The Doors or Jimi Hendrix or Cream.

Bob Dylan’s music – and especially his 1960s stuff – was kind of the gateway for me that opened up an entirely new side of what is certainly “classic,” and that eventually lead me to The Byrds.

Speaking of Dylan, it’s kind of wild that while he wrote and released the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” in 1965, The Byrds went ahead and not only covered it in 1966, but also named their entire album after it.

Both versions of the song are pretty great, though The Byrds’ cover version has more of an iconic and gloriously pretty sheen to it, I’d say. And if Spotify plays have anything to say about it, The Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” trails only “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” as their most popular song of all time.

“All I Really Want To Do” walks right up to the line of being overly earnest, but doesn’t cross it and instead is a gorgeous slice of folk rock Americana. And check out how precise and intricate the vocal parts are.

This album is also packed with incredible deep cuts, all of which boast incredible vocal harmonies and worldclass song writing. I’m finding “It’s No Use” to be particularly mind blowing at the moment, which leans into The Byrds’ rock side a little more.

And for more pure folk rock with vocal harmonies that are pure bliss, I give you “I Knew I’d Want You.” I also like that this one is in more of a minor key.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man

I have a vague recollection of a childhood friend putting on The Best of The Doors a few times, but it was really the Oliver Stone-directed movie, The Doors, that was my first full blown exposure to that band.

While I wasn’t even sure how much I liked the movie (an open question that still sort of remains open for me), there was something about The Doors’ music that hit some visceral sweet spot that has never gone away over the years.

There’s a scene where The Doors are at that classic point of a band’s ascendence when they’re ready to sign with a record label (The Doors end up signing with Elektra Records, a smart move on the part of both sides).

Someone advises The Doors that while they are talented, they need to warm up their sound and make it more commercial, a la The Byrds. Figure this was 1966, an era when folk rock had crossed over to mainstream radio in the U.S., with fellow Los Angeles-based band The Byrds considered to be a major hit maker.

What’s funny, of course, is that what is “mainstream” changes all the time, and trying to predict what will be a hit tomorrow versus what’s a hit today is as much a guessing game as a science.

Some stats & info about The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Bands, SoCal Bands, Folk Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #287
  • All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Mr. Tambourine Man released? 1965
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #332 out of 1,000

The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come following you.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.