After discovering that channels for cheap used vinyl still existed in this blighted era, my thoughts turned to other albums worth owning that I’d passed over during the early Nineties. I wasn’t looking for long-players subbing for singles, as often did during the old days, but records that could be listened to from beginning to end in the cozy confines of my living room.
Throw it on the turntable, lie back on the sofa, and let the experience wash over me until it was time to get up and flip it over.
I compiled a preliminary list of potential selections in the notebook next to my work computer. At the top of it was Mr. Tambourine Man, the Byrds’ 1965 debut album.
My Byrds fandom goes way back to my junior high days, when I turned my back on Big Pop and hair metal and embraced the sounds of Sixties soul, surf, and psychedelia. There wasn’t any single factor behind my embrace of the band, but rather a cluster of roughly coterminous things that coalesced into a deep and abiding love. There was my father’s love of Easy Rider and its soundtrack, which featured the stellar “I Wasn’t Born to Follow.” The band’s cover of “Turn, Turn, Turn” became both an anthem and commercial jingle for mid-Eighties Boomer nostalgia. The Coltrane-influenced acid trip of “Eight Miles High” was prominently featured on one of the bargain bin cassette comps I listened to while biking around Woburn.
Also, Roger McGuinn’s shaggy mane and granny glasses offered my decidedly unhip teen self a look that both aspirational and achievable. It still remains one of the extreme poles of my eternal oscillation between punk and sixties pop hairstyles, much to Maura’s chagrin.
I had a Bob Dylan fan phase during my junior high years, but it was cut short my discovery of the Byrds. Their copious catalog of Dylan covers resonated with me in a way the originals never could, the nasally whine modulated into stunning harmonies backed up by McGuinn’s 12-string jangle-scapes. Any force lost in these reinterpretations was made up for in dreamy wistfulness, sentimental yet never schmaltzy.
The Byrds’ music has functioned as a universal balm for my psyche over the decades. It’s a sobering influence when I’m feeling excessively exuberant and uplifting during those times when darkness overtakes me.
As a result, the Mr. Tambourine Man LP has seen a lot of plays these past thirteen months.