I have a hobby that drives my wife Carol absolutely nuts. I like to make mix CDs. I’m a sucker for Greatest Hits albums, but they almost invariably leave out a favorite song or two. So with the power of technology, I can make my own “greatest hit” CDs for my car or at work, especially work since I can’t take my iPod there.
One such mix CD is of The Byrds. Their first hit was in 1965 with a Bob Dylan song called Mr. Tambourine
1. Eight Miles High – from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. The Byrds recorded this song, about The Byrds’ trip to
2. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) – from 1965’s Turn! Turn! Turn! LP. This is an old Pete Seeger folk tune adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
3. 5D [Fifth Dimension] - from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. Roger McGuinn, who wrote the song, was a science fiction geek. He thought the universe was “height, width, depth, time, and something else.” His point is that the universe is infinite, that the Fifth Dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge. Whatever. Too much to think about in a 2 ½ minute song. I just think it’s a good tune.
4. Mr. Spaceman - from 1966’s Fifth Dimension LP. Roger McGuinn’s expression of hope to communicate with friendly aliens. Sometimes NASA uses this song to wake up the Shuttle astronauts.
5. So You Want To Be a Rock 'N' Roll Star – from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Co-written with Roger McGuinn, this is one of five songs from the pen of bassist Chris Hillman. Some rock critics think this is a song about the Byrds’ cynicism about manufactured pop groups like The Monkees. What these same critics failed to realize was The Byrds were the same kind of group when they came together in 1964. Trumpeter Hugh Masekela males a guest appearance. Later covered by Patti Smith and by Tom Petty on his Pack Up the Plantation live LP.
6. Have You Seen Her Face - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Another Chris Hillman song.
7. Time Between - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. From Chris Hillman, this country-sounding song features the guitar playing of Clarence White, who would become a full member of The Byrds in later years.
8. Everybody's Been Burned - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. This song was written by David Crosby. It sounds a lot like his song Guinnevere from the
9. My Back Pages - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Another song from the Bob Dylan catalog. This song has been seen by many as Bob Dylan’s kiss-off the the folk “protest song” community with which he was becoming disillusioned. This was the last Byrds song to reach Billboard’s Top 40. A great tune.
10. Lady Friend - from 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday LP. Originally a single, but later included as a bonus track on the remastered Younger Than Yesterday. Another song from David Crosby. Chiming guitars, complex vocal harmonies, and brass. It didn’t chart very well as a single, but I like it anyway.
11. Goin’ Back – from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. This song is from Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
12. Natural Harmony - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Chris Hillman once said he wrote this while taking an LSD trip. I believe it. It’s sufficiently trippy.
13. Draft Morning - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. A song started by
14. Wasn’t Born to Follow - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Another King/Goffin tune. This one has more of a country influence, given there is a pedal steel guitar trading lead with Clarence White’s Telecaster.
15. Change Is Now - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. A McGuinn-Hillman song that Roger McGuinn describes as “another one of those guru-spiritual-mystic songs that nobody understood.” Significant for being the only Byrds song to feature both David Crosby and Clarence White.
16. Old John Robertson - from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. Written by McGuinn and Hillman, this was the flip side to the Lady Friend single. Another country-type song, it’s about a retired movie director who lived in Chris Hillman’s native
17. Tribal Gathering – from 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP. This is a jazzy song played in 5/4 time by David Crosby. The song was inspired by a hippie gathering in
18. Triad – the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. Among other things, this is the song that got David Crosby fired from The Byrds. This is a song about a ménage à trois. Another very fine lead vocal from
19. You Ain’t Going Nowhere – from 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo LP. Enter Gram Parsons. With
20. This Wheel’s On Fire – from 1969’s Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde LP. Exit Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, enter Clarence White. As the title suggests, the record has a split personality between country rock material and hard-edged psychedelia. This Bob Dylan/Rick Danko song falls in the latter category. This song sounds like the apocalypse is coming, and the ending is complete with an atomic bomb explosion and searing feedback. Cool stuff this one.
22. Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man - from 1969’s Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde LP. Before Gram Parsons left The Byrds, he wrote this song with Roger McGuinn. Played in country 3/4 time, the subject of their ire is Ralph Emery, who didn’t treat The Byrds very well on his radio show when The Byrds were trying to plug their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in
23. Lover of the Bayou [Live] – from 1970’s [Untitled] LP. Roger McGuinn and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy had an idea to take Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt story and transpose it from
25. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) – the other Dylan song from 1970’s [Untitled] LP. The Dylan songs and Lover of the Bayou ably demonstrate The Byrds’ newfound prowess as a live band.
27. Farther Along – from 1971’s Farther Along LP. One of the few Byrds songs sung by Clarence White. Two years after the release of Farther Along, Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver in
These are all the songs I could cram into a single 80 minute CD. If I could put one more song on it, it would be Gene Clark’s I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better from The Byrds’ 1965 Mr. Tambourine Man LP.