I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (as made famous by The Byrds)

“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” is a song by the Los Angeles folk rock band the Byrds, first released in June 1965 on the B-side of the band’s second single, “All I Really Want to Do”.[1] It was also included on the Byrds’ debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man.[1] Written by Gene Clark, who also sings the lead vocal, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” features some of the Byrds’ early musical trademarks, including Jim McGuinn’s jangling 12-string Rickenbacker guitar; Clark’s pounding tambourine; McGuinn, Clark, and David Crosby’s complex harmony singing; and a country-influenced guitar solo.[2][3][4]

Although it was initially released as a B-side, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” was itself heavily promoted by Columbia Records during the time that “All I Really Want to Do” spent on the Billboard charts.[2] As a result, the song actually managed to chart in its own right at number 103.[2] Since its release, the song has become a rock music standard, inspiring a number of cover versions over the years.[5] It is also considered by many critics to be one of the band’s, as well as Clark’s, best and most popular songs, with Rolling Stone magazine ranking it at number 234 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[6][7]

Music critic Mark Deming has noted that lyrically, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” takes a sardonic view of romance, with Clark undecided about whether to break off a relationship with a woman who hasn’t been entirely honest with him.[3] The song dates from the Byrds’ pre-fame residency at Ciro’s nightclub in Los Angeles, as Clark explained during an interview: “There was a girlfriend I had known at the time, when we were playing at Ciro’s. It was a weird time in my life because everything was changing so fast and I knew we were becoming popular. This girl was a funny girl, she was kind of a strange little girl and she started bothering me a lot. And I just wrote the song, ‘I’m gonna feel a whole lot better when you’re gone,’ and that’s all it was, but I wrote the whole song within a few minutes.”[6]

The song is built around a pounding riff that Clark later admitted was based on “Needles and Pins” by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono.[6] The song’s refrain of “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when you’re gone” betrays Clark’s uncertainty about ending the relationship and whether such an act would be the answer to his problems or not.[3][6] Mark Deming has pointed out that the use of the word “probably” in this refrain is key and lends the track a depth of subtext that was unusual for a pop song in the mid-1960s.[3] Jim Dickson, the Byrds’ manager, has noted that this level of subtext was not unusual in Clark’s songs of the period. Said Dickson, “There was always something to unravel in those songs, the non-explanation of the complex feeling. For instance, if you remember I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better, it doesn’t say: “I’ll feel a whole lot better”, but “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better.” For me, that makes the song. There’s a statement followed by a hesitation.”[2] Dickson would later work as a producer on Clark’s 1984 album Firebyrd, which featured a re-recorded version of “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”.[2][8]

So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star (as made famous by The Byrds)

“So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” is a song by the American rock band The Byrds, written by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman and included on their 1967 album, Younger Than Yesterday.[1] The song was released as a single on January 9, 1967 (see 1967 in music) and reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 but failed to chart in the United Kingdom.[2][3] The song was inspired by the hype surrounding the creation of The Monkees, whose television series had recently debuted in America and had launched the pre-fabricated band to international fame.[4] The manufactured nature of the group caused Hillman and McGuinn to look upon the current state of the pop world with more than a little cynicism.[4]

Musically, one of the song’s main hooks is provided by McGuinn’s striking 12-string Rickenbacker guitar riff, while Hillman’s driving bass-line forms the core of the song.[5][6] Hillman has stated that he composed the song’s bass guitar part during a recording session for South African musician Hugh Masekela.[6] The song also features the trumpet playing of Masekela, which represents the first use of brass on a Byrds recording.[6][7] In addition, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” features the sound of hysterical teenage pop fans screaming. These screams were recorded at an August 15, 1965 Byrds’ concert in Bournemouth by the band’s publicist, Derek Taylor, at McGuinn’s request.[4][8]

Rolling Stone editor David Fricke has noted that although the song’s lyrics are heavily sarcastic, beneath the playful cynicism there is a deeper, implicit irony to the song; The Byrds had, themselves, achieved almost overnight success with the release of their debut single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”[9] However, the band’s members all knew, from their common bitter personal experiences, that the most difficult part of success was in staying successful, staying ahead of the curve artistically, and staying sane under the immense pressure of stardom.[9]

During an interview with music journalist Pete Frame, McGuinn noted, “Some people have accused us of being bitter for writing that song, but it’s no more bitter than ‘Positively 4th Street.’ In fact, it isn’t as bitter as that. We were thumbing through a teen magazine and looking at all the unfamiliar faces and we couldn’t help thinking: ‘Wow, what’s happening…all of a sudden here is everyone and his brother and his sister-in-law and his mother and even his pet bullfrog singing rock ‘n’ roll.’ So we wrote ‘So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ to the audience of potential rock stars, those who were going to be, or who wanted to be, and those who actually did go on to realize their goals.”[7]

The band performed the song on a number of television programs, including Popside, Top of the Pops, Drop In, The David Frost Show, and Beat-Club.[10] The band also performed “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” as the final song of their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, with the help of guest musicians Hugh Masekela and Big Black.[11] The Byrds’ performance of the song at Monterey is included on the 1992 The Monterey International Pop Festival CD box set.[12]

In addition to its appearance on the Younger Than Yesterday album, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” also appears on several Byrds’ compilations, including The Byrds’ Greatest Hits, History of The Byrds, The Original Singles: 1965–1967, Volume 1, The Byrds, The Very Best of The Byrds, The Essential Byrds, and There Is a Season.[13] Live performances of the song are included on the live portion of The Byrds’ (Untitled) album, as well as on the Live at the Fillmore – February 1969 and Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971 albums.[13]

The earliest covers of “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” were an instrumental version on The Royal Guardsmen’s 1967 album The Return of the Red Baron and the British band The Move’s version on their 1968 EP Something Else from The Move, which was recorded live at the Marquee Club in London.[14] Hookfoot, the British group who served as Elton John’s backing band for a number of years, also released the song as a single in 1974.[15] The song was covered by Scottish hard rock band Nazareth, as part of the track “Telegram” on their 1976 album Close Enough for Rock ‘n’ Roll.

In 1979, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” was recorded by The Patti Smith Group and released as the third single from their album Wave.[16]

The song was also covered by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers during their Southern Accents tour, and it appears on the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live![17]

Black Oak Arkansas covered the song on their 1977 The Best of Black Oak Arkansas album, with the song later being included on the Hot & Nasty: The Best of Black Oak Arkansas compilation album in 1993.[18][19] The Swedish pop group Roxette included the song in their 1993 MTV Unplugged show.[20] In 2006, Les Fradkin released a cover version of the song on his album Goin’ Back.[21] Also, the Dutch rock band Golden Earring covered the song as a bonus track on their This Wheel’s on Fire CD single.[22] Jon Bon Jovi has also covered the song in live concerts.[23]

Mr. Tambourine Man (as made famous by The Byrds)

“Mr. Tambourine Man” is a song written, composed, and performed by Bob Dylan, who released his original version of it on his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. The Byrds also recorded a version of the song that they released in the same year as their first single on Columbia Records, reaching number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, as well as being the title track of their debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man. The Byrds’ recording of the song was influential in popularizing the musical subgenres of folk rock and jangle pop, leading many contemporary bands to mimic its fusion of jangly guitars and intellectual lyrics in the wake of the single’s success.

“Mr. Tambourine Man” was the debut single by the American band The Byrds and was released on April 12, 1965 by Columbia Records.[34] The song was also the title track of the band’s debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, which was released on June 21, 1965.[35] The Byrds’ version is abridged and in a different key from Dylan’s original.

The single’s success initiated the folk rock boom of 1965 and 1966, many acts imitating the band’s hybrid of rock beat, jangly guitar, and poetic or socially conscious lyrics.[13][36] The single, the “first folk rock smash hit”,[37][38] gave rise to the very term “folk rock” in the U.S music press to describe the band’s sound.[39][40]

This hybrid had its antecedents in the American folk revival of the early 1960s,[41] The Animals’s rock-oriented recording of the folk song “The House of the Rising Sun,”[42] the folk-influences present in the songwriting of The Beatles,[43] and the twelve-string guitar jangle of The Searchers and The Beatles’s George Harrison.[44][45] However the success of The Byrds’ debut created a template for folk rock that proved successful for many acts during the mid-1960s.[13][46]

Most of the members of The Byrds had a background in folk music,[38] since Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby had all worked as folk singers during the early 1960s.[47][48] They had also spent time, independently of each other, in various folk groups, including The New Christy Minstrels, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and Les Baxter’s Balladeers.[47][49][50][51] In early 1964, McGuinn, Clark, and Crosby formed The Jet Set and started developing a fusion of folk-based lyrics and melodies, with arrangements in the style of The Beatles.[48][52] In August 1964, the band’s manager Jim Dickson acquired an acetate disc of “Mr. Tambourine Man” from Dylan’s publisher, featuring a performance by Dylan and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.[2][48][53][54] Although the band members were initially unimpressed with the song, they eventually agreed to begin rehearsing and demoing it.[55][56] In an attempt to make it sound more like The Beatles, the band and Dickson elected to give the song a full, electric rock band treatment, effectively creating the musical subgenre of folk rock.[38][54][55] To further bolster the group’s confidence in the song, Dickson invited Dylan to hear the band’s rendition.[57] Dylan was impressed, enthusiastically commenting, “Wow, you can dance to that!” His endorsement erased any lingering doubts the band had about the song.[57] During this period, drummer Michael Clarke and bass player Chris Hillman joined,[48] and the band changed their name to The Byrds over Thanksgiving 1964.[54] The two surviving demos of “Mr. Tambourine Man” dating from this period feature an incongruous marching band drum part from Clarke but overall the arrangement, which utilized a 4/4 time signature instead of Dylan’s 2/4 configuration, is very close to the later single version.[58][59]

The master take of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was recorded on January 20, 1965, at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, prior to the release of Dylan’s own version.[60] The song’s jangling, melodic guitar playing (performed by McGuinn on a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar) was immediately influential and has remained so to the present day.[54] The group’s complex harmony work, as featured on “Mr. Tambourine Man,” became another major characteristic of their sound.[61] Due to producer Terry Melcher’s[53] initial lack of confidence in The Byrds’ musicianship, McGuinn was the only Byrd to play on both “Mr. Tambourine Man” and its B-side, “I Knew I’d Want You.”[54] Rather than using band members, Melcher hired The Wrecking Crew, a collection of top L.A. session musicians, who (with McGuinn on guitar) provided the backing track over which McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark sang.[62] By the time the sessions for their debut album began in March 1965, however, Melcher was satisfied that the band was competent enough to record its own musical backing.[38] Much of the track’s arrangement and final mixdown was modeled after Brian Wilson’s production work for the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby”.[63][64][65]

The Byrds’ recording of the song opens with a distinctive, Bach-inspired guitar introduction played by McGuinn and then, like Dylan’s version, goes into the song’s chorus.[54] Although Dylan’s version contains four verses, The Byrds only perform the song’s second verse and two repeats of the chorus, followed by a variation on the song’s introduction, which then fades out.[13] The Byrds’ arrangement of the song had been shortened during the band’s rehearsals at World Pacific Studios in 1964, at the suggestion of Jim Dickson, in order to accommodate commercial radio stations, which were reluctant to play songs that were over two-and-a-half minutes long.[54][55] Thus, while Dylan’s version is five-and-a-half minutes long, The Byrds’ runs just short of two-and-a-half minutes.[13] The lead vocal on The Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was sung by McGuinn, who attempted to modify his singing style to fill what he perceived as a gap in the popular music scene of the day, somewhere between the vocal sound of John Lennon and Bob Dylan.[54] The song also took on a spiritual aspect for McGuinn during the recording sessions, as he told The Byrds’ biographer Johnny Rogan in 1997: “I was singing to God and I was saying that God was the Tambourine Man and I was saying to him, ‘Hey, God, take me for a trip and I’ll follow you.’ It was a prayer of submission.”[54]

The single reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the UK Singles Chart, making it the first recording of a Dylan song to reach number 1 on any pop music chart.[66][67][68] Critic William Ruhlmann has argued that in the wake of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the influence of The Byrds could be heard in recordings by a number of other Los Angeles-based acts, including The Turtles, The Leaves, Barry McGuire, and Sonny & Cher.[13] In addition, author and music historian Richie Unterberger sees the influence of The Byrds in recordings by The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and Love,[46][69] while author John Einarson has noted that both The Grass Roots and We Five enjoyed commercial success by emulating The Byrds’ folk rock sound.[70] Furthermore, a number of commentators, including Richie Unterberger, Scott Plangenhoef, and Ian MacDonald have noted that by late 1965, The Beatles themselves were assimilating the sound of folk rock, and in particular The Byrds, into the material found on their Rubber Soul album, most notably on the songs “Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone”.[71][72][73]

As the 1960s came to a close, folk rock changed and evolved away from the jangly template pioneered by The Byrds,[36] but, Unterberger argues, the band’s influence could still be heard in the music of Fairport Convention.[74] Since the 1960s, The Byrds’ jangly, folk rock sound has continued to influence popular music up to the present day, with authors Chris Smith, Johnny Rogan, Mark Deming, and Stephen Thomas Erlewine all noting the band’s influence on such acts as Big Star, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, R.E.M., The Long Ryders, The Smiths, The Bangles, The Stone Roses, Teenage Fanclub, and The La’s.[75][76][77][78]

In addition to appearing on The Byrds’ debut album, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is included on several Byrds’ compilation and live albums, including The Byrds Greatest Hits, Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971, The Very Best of The Byrds, The Essential Byrds, The Byrds Play Dylan, and the live disc of The Byrds’ (Untitled) album.[79] The Byrds’ version of the song also appears on compilation albums that include hit songs by multiple artists.[79] Two earlier demo recordings of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, dating from the World Pacific rehearsal sessions, can be heard on The Byrds’ archival albums Preflyte, In the Beginning, and The Preflyte Sessions.[80]