Rock music connoisseur, Hans, over at slicethelife is currently presenting a Beatles’ Top 100 Songs countdown. That prompted me to think about doing a Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown. The Byrds were obviously not nearly as successful and popular as the quartet from Liverpool, but they did carve out a significant niche for themselves as perhaps the most influential American rock band of the 1960s. Most folks over a certain age remember the Byrds only for their two iconic singles from 1965, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn,” but their output actually spanned from 1965 to 1973 and they influenced an entire generation of songwriters and musicians (including the Beatles and Dylan). Over the course of those eight years, the Byrds recorded twelve studio albums, which included 130 songs as well as a small number of singles-only 45s. Along the way, they pioneered such genres as folk-rock, jazz-rock, raga-rock, psychedelic rock, and country-rock.
I initially thought it would be difficult choosing my favorite 25 Byrds songs and ranking them, but the process actually went very quickly. My choices admittedly don’t reflect the beaten path consensus – only 9 of my selections were included as part of the 22 songs collected in the The Byrds’ Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 albums. The designation of songs selected for those albums as “Hits,” especially those songs in Vol. 2, was a misnomer. The last time a Byrds tune made it to the AM Top 40 was in March 1967. The band’s roster changed significantly over the years and by 1969 Roger McGuinn was the only founding member still involved. The quality of the music declined significantly at that point, which will be noticeable by the songs that were chosen; only 7 of the 25 songs selected were recorded after the Summer of 1968.
Enough with the wordy introductions. Next Wednesday we’ll begin our The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs series with song #25 and count it down each week to song #1.
Postcript: For the index to my reviews of the Byrds’ twelve albums, see here.