1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #175: Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) 

We’re staying in the US today and we have a song written by Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man. The music legend’s original piece was a long affair with four verses that left many people scratching their heads speculating what it was all about. The song was popular but 1001 Songs has not gone with Dylan’s version. Instead, they have gone with The Byrds who took Mr. Tambourine Man and steered it in a completely different direction to Dylan, using only the second verse and chorus in their interpretation. It proved a big hit and was their breakthrough to stardom. 

What is Mr. Tambourine Man all about? It’s hard to say and various interpretations have been offered. Bob Dylan was sadly not available for comment. The Byrds’ version has the narrator calling on Mr. Tambourine Man to play them a song as they can’t sleep and insist they will follow them. There is then talk of going aboard what sounds like a spaceship and how the narrator’s senses are somewhat nullified by the experience. This section has led to some suggesting Dylan is referring to drugs, an intergalactic trip, but he has denied this. Others have suggested the narrator is referring to a muse they need for inspiration and that this may be Mr. Tambourine Man. Dylan has cited various influences for the song such as poetry and the work of Italian director Fellini, one of my favourites. In a nutshell, this one is pretty perplexing. If you have a better idea, dear reader, feel free to share. 

I’m usually unsure about cover versions of songs, often preferring the original recordings but The Byrds are an example of an artist that go about it the right way. Jeff Buckley is another with Hallelujah. The Byrds do their own thing with Mr. Tambourine Man and even though it is a condensed version of Bob Dylan’s original it deserves the many plaudits that it has enjoyed over the years. Rolling Stone magazine once placed both versions of the song on their 500 greatest ever songs which pretty much says it all.


Favourite songs so far:

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)

The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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