The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #12, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”

“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” (2:31)
Written by Gene Clark
Produced by Terry Melcher
From “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Columbia Records, June 21, 1965. Also released as the B-side of the “All I Really Want to Do” 45-single on June 14, 1965

Song #12 on our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown has garnered increasing respect and admiration over time. Gene Clark was the Byrds’ primary songwriter during his short tenure with the band from 1964 to 1966. Most of his songs were laments over broken romances, including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better.” This gem was released as the humble B-side of the single, “All I Really Want to Do,” but acquired a following of its own and managed to peak at #103 on the Billboard charts.

Over the decades, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” has become increasingly recognized by fans and music critics alike as one of the Byrds’ best songs from their early period. The recording has a high degree of musical energy with Crosby’s rhythm guitar, McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker lead guitar, Hillman’s bass, and Clarke’s drums synchronically driving the beat. Clark’s lyric, “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when your gone,” ambivalently masks a degree of pain, regret, and uncertainty over the romantic betrayal and upcoming breakup. Music critic, Mark Deming, wrote that the use of the word “probably” in the refrain lends the track a depth of subtext that was unusual for a pop song in the mid-1960s. “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” definitely sounds like a 1965 pop record in contrast to several of the Byrds’ time-transcendent hits, but it’s a great 1965 pop tune.

“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” has been covered by many artists, but most importantly by Tom Petty on his 1989 solo album, “Full Moon Fever,” which introduced a new generation to the song (and to the Byrds) and boosted its cachet tremendously. Rolling Stone magazine actually ranked “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” as song #234 on its 2006 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” quite a feat for a humble B-side.

14 thoughts on “The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #12, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”

    1. Thanks, David! Yup, it definitely sounds like Gene caught his girlfriend cheating on him. Most of Gene’s songs were laments about romantic break ups. Crosby remarked at the time that he got excited every time Gene had a new girlfriend because the inevitable breakup would mean another good song. In private, the other Byrds were crazy jealous of Gene because he had substantial songwriting royalties compared to their meager Columbia contract paychecks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I “probably” would have rated this song lower if left to many own preferences, but I wanted to acknowledge its strong popularity. Tom Petty covered it in 1989 and that gave the song a huge and enduring shot in the arm. Hmm. That’s an important fact and I’m going to add it to the post. What a Byrds nerd I am!

      Liked by 1 person

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