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Posts Tagged ‘The Byrds’

Last Sunday my wife and I were watching a drama on the BBC called A Song For Jenny, about a young woman who was killed in the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London. During the funeral scene there was a reading which I recognised as being from the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, by The Byrds. I then said that, although the song was sung by The Byrds, that it was written by Bob Dylan. My wife, on the other hand, recognised the words as being from the Bible.

It turns out that I was partially correct, and she was completely correct. The words were, indeed, from the Bible, and they are also in the song “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as the song quotes directly from the book of Ecclesiastes. But, the song was not written by Bob Dylan as I thought, but rather by Pete Seeger.



The Byrds released Turn! Turn! Turn! in October 1965, but the song was written by Pete Seeger.

The Byrds released Turn! Turn! Turn! in October 1965, but the song was written by Pete Seeger.



In my defence, The Byrds did record several songs written by Bob Dylan, and also Dylan did use the phrase “turn, turn, turn” in his 1963 song “Percy’s Song” (which was an outtake from his sessions for the Times They Are A-Changin’ album, but the song did not appear on an official Dylan album until the 1985 triple album Biograph. Those of you familiar with the Dylan biopic Don’t Look Back will know that Joan Baez performs a version of Percy’s Song during that film, singing it backstage whilst Dylan and his entourage sit around relaxing.)


To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!


Here is The Byrds’ version, which got to number 1 in the US and to number 26 in the Disunited Kingdom.





Here is the original Pete Seeger version, with which I was not familiar until I prepared this blog.





Had you ever heard the (original) Pete Seeger version before?

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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 10 best Bob Dylan songs is “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which was on his 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home”. The song itself was actually written in 1964, and when later recorded by The Byrds, it became a massive hit reaching number 1 in both the US and the Disunited Kingdom. It also brought Bob Dylan’s music to a new audience, once people found out that he was the original composer; and led to the birth of so-called “folk rock”, with The Byrds’ version of the song being an electric version of Dylan’s original acoustic version. It may also have helped influence Dylan to “go electric” himself, although it is also fair to say he was moving in that direction anyway, even before The Byrds’ version of his song.



At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 10 greatest Bob Dylan songs is "Mr. Tambourine Man"

At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 10 greatest Bob Dylan songs is “Mr. Tambourine Man”. The comments accompanying the song are written by David Crosby of The Byrds.



I first heard this song when I was about 15 or 16, and one of the things which struck me most forcibly was the complex internal rhyming; something which reminded me of much of the Welsh poetry I had read, particularly poetry written in cynghanedd (which I explain here). The song is obviously about drugs, and the surrealistic imagery in this song became a hallmark of Dylan’s songwriting during this 1964-66 period of his career.


Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

This song is one of my favourite Dylan songs, and is on one of my favourite albums of his. I highly recommend listening to “Brining It All Back Home”, it is one of the great albums of the 1960s, and has been referred to as one of the most influential albums of its era. There is a great variety of songs on “Brining It All Back Home”, from the “early-rap” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” to the apocalyptic “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” to the beautifully cutting “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”.

For once, I have managed to find a wonderful version of this song, so difficult to do with most of Dylan’s songs which get removed from YouTube. This version is from the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, many months before the song was released in its recorded version. Enjoy!





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