Music serves as such a timestamp of history. No decade reflects this quite as impactfully as the 1960s. In 1965, LBJ was reinaugurated while the country was tearing further apart following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the ever-expanding Vietnam War. In June of 1965, the Byrds released their initial album, led off and titled by Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”. If you had to choose ten songs that most vividly illustrate this turbulent time, this song has to be on the list. This album is the 287th rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
I had never heard the term “jangle pop” until I read up on the Byrds, but that is the perfect description. Their thin, tinny guitar sound is very distinctive and recognizable, and is a leading influence for subsequent acts like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, not to mention the entire indie rock movement. In addition to famous front-man Roger McGuinn, the Byrds served as a launching pad for the illustrious career of David Crosby, whose high harmony vocals later became a signature sound for Crosby, Stills and Nash.
The influence of Bob Dylan is overwhelming on this album, with four of his tracks, including the title track being performed. When you listen to “Spanish Harlem Incident” or “All I Really Want to Do”, the vocals are remarkably similar to the sound Tom Petty would bring forward a decade later. The guitar and harmony mix are pervasive throughout the album, and truly a signature sound for the 1960s.
Overall, I would say that the title track and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”, which leads off their next album, will always be the high points for the Byrds. Their presence continues to build on California’s growing influence in the musical scene, and we will soon look further north from L.A., home of the Byrds, to San Francisco. The progression and evolution of artists as they collaborate, inspire, and write songs for one another is very communal and a pleasure to revisit.