The story of how a bounty of British bands bombarded the airwaves in 1964 and rewrote the rules has been told so often that it’s become as familiar as the tale of George Washington and the cherry tree.
After a year of such revolutionary excitement brought to us from our overseas relatives, it was only a matter of time before the game was changed once again. And so, in the spring of 1965, the Byrds from Los Angeles, California, surfaced on the scene and scored a No. 1 hit with an astounding version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” that daringly wedded folk music markings to rock and roll rhythms. Aside from its immense appeal, the song kicked off a whole new genre of music — appropriately labeled folk rock — that blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon.
No warm and cuddly teen idols were the Byrds, as their music provided an intellect and maturity not commonly practiced by pop acts. Although the band’s debut album, duly called “Mr. Tambourine Man,” was freighted with Bob Dylan covers, their electrified treatments of the enigmatic folk singer’s poetry glistened with astonishing beauty and grace. The band’s original material additionally testified to be impressive, possessing a depth beyond typical pop fare.
Late 1965 saw the Byrds rack up another No. 1 winner by way a reading of Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” which was adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes. Armed with a message of faith and hope, the spirited anthem emerged at an ideal moment, with war raging in Southeast Asia and growing turmoil on the home front. The chart-busting single appeared on the band’s second album, also titledTurn! Turn! Turn! (Columbia Records) that akin to “Mr. Tambourine Man,” ran smoothly on high-grade folk rock fuel.
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