The Byrds spearheaded the folk rock movement with the jingle jangle sound of this proto-psychedelic classic. The group formed when acoustic folk regulars Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby came together onstage. Clark remembers: "McGuinn and I started picking together in The Troubadour bar which was called 'The Folk Den' at the time ... We went into the lobby and started picking on the stairway where the echo was good and David came walking up and just started singing away with us doing the harmony part ... We hadn't even approached him."
After a one-off single on Elektra Records, ("Please Let Me Love You" with "Don't Be Long") the band signed with Columbia Records. Their debut album 'Mr. Tambourine Man' was recorded during the first four months of 1965 at Columbia Studios in Hollywood with producer Terry Melcher. "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "I Knew I'd Want You" were recorded with musical backing of The Wrecking Crew session team: Jerry Cole on rhythm guitar, Larry Knechtel on electric bass, Leon Russell on electric piano, and Hal Blaine on drums. McGuinn played guitar and sang and Clark and Crosby did the harmonies. The rest of the album featured Jim McGuinn on lead guitar and vocals; Gene Clark on rhythm guitar, tambourine, and vocals; David Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals; Chris Hillman on electric bass; and Michael Clarke on drums. The album would peak at number seven in the UK and six in the US.
'Mr. Tambourine Man' featured four songs written by Bob Dylan. Crosby considers: "[Dylan] changed my head the way he changed everybody's head, because he elevated the dialogue. lt wasn't, 'Ooh baby', it was, 'It's all right ma, l'm only bleeding'. It was the important stuff, and that stuck with me. When we had a chance to do Mr.Tambourine Man later, I was all for it...When Dylan came to the studio in LA to hear what we were doing with his song, he heard that there was something going on. When he listened to it you could hear the gears whirring in there. He was strongly impressed. I mean, Roger McGuinn is enormously talented; he took Mr. Tambourine Man and turned it into a great record. I did a good harmony but he's the one that made that record what it was. And it was the first time that I know about that anybody put good poetry on the radio. Shortly thereafter, possibly within days, Bob had an electric band and was offending people at the Newport Folk Festival. He knew exactly what he'd heard and I think he was pleased by it and I think his reaction was, 'Give me an electric guitar.'"
'Mr. Tambourine Man' was hugely influencial in the development of folk rock. McGuinn describes the Byrds' legacy: "I guess you’d have to focus on the main points, which would be that jingle-jangle sound of the Rickenbacker electric twelve-string, the pretty harmonies, the melodies—the folk-based melodies—and combining the folk songs or style of folk songs with the energy of the Beatles, kind of combining the two because that had not been done prior to “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Now some people say it was the Animals, but that was a blues song, but (jokingly pauses), ok, anyway ... We were doing it, then exploring different territories, like country and jazz, and what they called psychedelia, which was really our jazz exploration."
The single "Mr. Tambourine Man" was a number one smash in the UK and the US. McGuinn reveals: "To get that sound, that hit sound, that 'Mr. Tambourine Man' sound, we just ran it through the electronics which were available to us at that time, which were mainly compression devices and tape delay, tape-sustain. That's how we got it, by equalizing it properly and aiming at a specific frequency. For stereo-buffs out there who noticed that 'Mr. Tambourine Man' in stereo isn't really stereo, by the way, that's because when Terry Melcher, the producer, first started mixing records he didn't know how to mix stereo, and so he made all the singles up to 'Turn Turn Turn' mono. The label is misrepresentative. See, when Columbia Records signed us, they didn't know what they had. So they gave production to someone low on the totem-pole-which was Terry Melcher who was Doris Day's son who was getting a token-job-in-the-mailroom sort of thing. They gave him the Byrds and the Byrds were supposed to flunk the test."
"The Bells of Rhymney"
'Mr. Tambourine Man'
"Mr. Tambourine Man" (Bob Dylan) – 2:29
"I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" (Gene Clark) – 2:32
"Spanish Harlem Incident" (Bob Dylan) – 1:57
"You Won't Have to Cry" (Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn) – 2:08
"Here Without You" (Gene Clark) – 2:36
"The Bells of Rhymney" (Idris Davies, Pete Seeger) – 3:30
"All I Really Want to Do" (Bob Dylan) – 2:04
"I Knew I'd Want You" (Gene Clark) – 2:14
"It's No Use" (Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn) – 2:23
"Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe" (Jackie DeShannon) – 2:54
"Chimes of Freedom" (Bob Dylan) – 3:51
"We'll Meet Again" (Ross Parker, Hughie Charles) – 2:07