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The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)

November 27, 2018

[Album 620/1001]

When it comes to interpreting tunes by world-class songwriters, does anyone do it better than The Byrds?

On each of their 1001-listed records that I’ve heard so far, the band has also included at least one cover by a legendary songwriter/songwriting team.

And 100% of the time, those covers have been the album standouts.

Sure, it’s pretty good source material that they’re working with, but these are not merely reasonable facsimiles of the originals.

In my books, they’ve become the definitive versions of the songs.

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But could such flattery be unintentionally interpreted as a backhanded compliment?

For those who believe that songwriting is paramount, for those who insist that the true artists must write their own material/all their own material/and nothing but their own material, maybe it would cause offense.

I say: You do great covers!220px-NotoriousByrdBrothers

They hear: So you don’t like our originals?

(awkwardly tugging at shirt collar)

With The Byrds, the majority of the tunes on their 1001-listed albums are originals.

And with these original Byrds tunes, the majority are just fine, nothing I would consider offensive.

Overall, I do like their originals, including many of those found on The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

I’m just an even bigger fan of their covers.

…..

Verbalize the Positive

The sound of a jangling Rickenbacker will invariably put me in a good mood!

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From → 1960s

35 Comments
  1. A lot of bands thorough the years have made a ton of dough over the years on covers. I just hope the original artists like the Byrds got paid…

    • I hope the royalties were shared appropriately!
      I’m now interested in hearing their 5th album from the 1001 list (5th dimension) – they did a version of “Hey Joe” a year before Hendrix, I’m curious how it will sound!

      • You hope they were shared appropriately but more often than not thats not the case…
        I have said it before and I’ll say it again but Billy Squier is the smartest man in Rock in regards to Royalty Rates. Ask the Rap artists that sample his music…

      • It’s not good…..

  2. I just hope Donald Byrd didn’t mind them covering his surname.

    • Admittedly, I had to look him up.
      But when I saw that one of Byrd’s middle names was “L’Ouverture” – I think they covered the wrong name!

  3. That’s four of their first six, and I agree those are generally the standout tracks. The title track, written by Pete Seeger, is my favourite on ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, but Fifth Dimension bucks the trend with ‘Eight Miles High’, written by Clark, Crosby, and McGuinn.

  4. jprobichaud permalink

    Nobody covers Dylan like The Byrds. I can’t imagine anyone arguing that point. But I defy them anyway. *beats chest half-heartedly* Love me some Byrds jingle jangle.

    • I don’t think I’ve heard/will hear too many complaints about their Dylan interpretations!

    • Fairport Convention have some really good Dylan covers, especially Percy’s Song.

      • And I quite liked the fairport that I’ve heard so far, I imagine a fairport + dylan would be equally appealing!

      • Right; Fairport have done several Dylan covers.

        Best version of “Percy’s Song”? Joan Baez (Dylan’s girlfriend at the time) singing it while Dylan bangs away at his typewriter in Don’t Look Back.

    • I’m gonna go take you up on that invite. I’m gonna go suggest Rod Stewart and Bryan Ferry have covered Dylan better than anyone.

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Whoa! Not Ministry?! Haha. Not sure I know the ones you mean. I can be bended…

      • Haha!

        I don’t think there’s a better cover than Ferry’s version of A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, though Rod’s Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind and Girl From the North Country are brilliant, too.

        … and note that I avoided going into Johnny Cash covering Dylan. I think that’s pretty restrained. Hahaha.

      • And I suppose that Hendrix fellow did an OK job at a Dylan cover too!

      • Yeah, that version wasn’t bad, eh?

      • Besides the distinctive cover of A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall from the 70s mentioned by J , Bryan Ferry also released a mellow set of Dylan covers called Dylansque (2007)-I really liked that album

      • Dylanesque is a very fine album. Not just a selection of Dylan tunes, but tunes that Ferry is clearly connected to.

      • Ferry’s got my attention with that album name, Dylanesque!

  5. Starting from a low-appreciation base, I’ve really come to appreciate the Bryds more and more, especially those first clutch of albums.

    And count me in for Rickenbacker cheeriness, Geoff!

    • I think there’s a correlation between the more I like the strong cover & the more I like the album – with My Back Pages/Younger than Yesterday @ #1, Tambourine @ 2, this @ 3, and Rockies/Sweetheart at 4.
      Though Turn Turn Turn might be my favourite of their tunes overall (in no small part due to the delightful jangling cheeriness), its parent album didn’t make the list alas!

  6. I’m very very fond of this one, Geoff. Loads on here to love and it’s one of my favourite Byrds albums (Sweetheart being numero uno)… but no denying the Dylan cover is one of the highlights.

    • Interesting to read Sweetheart’s your #1 – perhaps I heard it at the wrong time, as it didn’t move me a great deal. I’ll have to revisit when the listening context is more favourable!

      • You know me – I’m a wee bit country music daft, so that’s maybe why that one appeals to me so much. Plus, Gram Parsons is on there.

  7. The Byrds’ Dylan covers are great. I like the jangle-pop phase. But that’s it. Recently read a 100-page special issue of some magazine on them, bought a best-of compilation. Only the jangle stuff is good. I just don’t get the country stuff. It’s not Eagles-like country/soft rock, which might be OK while driving, but real down-home “there’s a tear in my beer” country of the worst sort.

    Intentional pun on covers? Like the one with a horse?

  8. These guys turn up in every Mix Of The Decade set, and I always find them wishy-washy. I mean, I get it, but there’s no teeth. Probably that’s the point because byrds don’t have teeth.

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