The Byrds Songs Ranked

The Byrds was an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn until mid-1967) remaining the sole consistent member. Although they only managed to attain the huge commercial success of contemporaries like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and The Rolling Stones for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds are today considered by critics to be nearly as influential as those bands. Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar was “absorbed into the vocabulary of rock” and has continued to be influential.
Several former members of the band went on to successful careers of their own, either as solo artists or as members of such groups as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Desert Rose Band. In 1991, the Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an occasion that saw the five original members performing together for the last time. Gene Clark died of a heart attack later that year, while Michael Clarke died of liver failure in 1993.[ McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman remain active. Here are all of The Byrds songs ranked.

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20. He Was a Friend of Mine (Turn! Turn! Turn!, 1965)

“I think its kind of obvious that this song is about the JFK assassination. I’m pretty sure Dylan had a song titled the same, but I think it had different lyrics. Either way, this is a great song, and even though its about a very sad thing, it still sounds happy.”

19. Nashville West (Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, 1969)

“This song would actually prove to be only the beginning of the later-period band doing songs about dogs. Gene Parsons & Clarence White chime in with a two-step number called “Nashville West”.

18. You Ain’t Going Nowhere (Sweetheart of the Rodeo, 1968)

“The cover of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” is an outstanding opener with McGuinn once again illustrating his knack for interpreting him. McGuinn also does an appealing reading of Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”. “

17. Jesus is Just Alright (Ballad of Easy Rider, 1969)

“This has some good singing and guitar-playing, but the lyricism isn’t really too impressive and it comes off as repetitive.”

See more: The Byrds Albums Ranked

16. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (Fifth Dimension, 1966)

“To me, this song describes perfectly that wonderful, peaceful feeling you get when you’re high on pot. When I’m high, and I play this song, it fills me with an indescribably beautiful peaceful wonderful emotion. Do you know? When everything is alright, when you can feel love and beauty in everything, when you’re in such a beautiful, peaceful mindset, and the sheer beauty of the music just makes you wanna cry? That’s what this song means to me. It’s a beautiful song, and it’s totally underrated.”

15. I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“This is my favorite Byrds song…great hook and McGuinn’s jangle rickenbacker sound. Essential listening for the roots of the California style.”

14. All I Really Want to Do (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“Good thing the A-side’s harmonies have their act together, complete with a glorious chorus reach for the sky; otherwise I’d have to grouse about McGuinn repeating his attempted sabotage of “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Seriously, he sucks all of the knowing humor out of the text, to the point where intentionally cutesy rhymes read as unerringly sincere. This isn’t the singer for that.’

13. Chestnut Mare (Untitled, 1970)

“Musically, Chestnut Mare is lovely folk-rock jangle, combining spoken word verses with a melodic chorus. Lyrically, it is one of the oddest things to come out the Flower Power era, which is really saying something. Far from being some life-affirming hippie anthem, as is claimed in some quarters, it is like something out of a Freudian analyst’s nightmare. How does it transgress songwriting norms? “

12. It’s No Use (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“It’s No Use”, then, shows the way to a harder-rocking soundscape, reminding me of The Beatles, and someway also of a ‘pre-Eight Miles High.'”

11. Ballad of Easy Rider (Ballad of Easy Rider, 1969)

“Some good tracks on this country style album and I love the title track. Maybe cos I was there when the Easy rider movie came out. Being a biker that film changed my life.”

10. Buckaroo (Live at the Fillmore – February 1969, 2000)

“I really couldn’t care less about The Byrds as a live band. The album cover is the only thing here that will leave any impression on you either way.”

9. Why (Fifth Dimension, 1966)

“Why,” meanwhile, contains an ENORMOUS bottom line that dominates the song. I actually probably prefer the “Younger Than Yesterday” version (surely in a minority here), which is lush rather than brash and features excellent harmonies on the song’s great refrain. But both recordings are wonderful. Apparently Roger McGuinn suggested changing the first line from “Keep saying no to me since I was a baby” to “her/she”, which alone justifies his co-writing credit (though I’m sure he contributed more than that to the song). The lyrics are sufficiently ambiguous to facilitate free tossing-about of pronouns, in any case.”

8. My Back Pages (Younger Than Yesterday, 1967)

“I’m probably more with the faction that thinks the Byrds right from day one had more than enough songwriting talent in the group not to keep raiding Dylan’s song-book (unlike say, Manfred Mann), but there’s no denying the polished beauty they bring to this admittedly great song with one of old Bob’s best and most perceptive lyrics.”

7. Mr. Spaceman (Fifth Dimension, 1966)

“Really great song, which proves that you can be Folk and Psychedelic at the same time, and make it very good! No doubt about it, “Mr. Spaceman” as a great rocker with wonderful country western overtones, sung and played to the max, yet still laden with that jangling sweetness only the Byrds could deliver.”

See more: George Harrison Albums Ranked

6. Chimes of Freedom (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“But redemption is never far away with so many Dylan songs to plug in, and redeem themselves they do with an excellent version of Chimes of Freedom. It’s the last thing on this record that you need to hear”

5. So You Want to Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star (Younger Than Yesterday, 1967)

“Certainly the single “So You Want To Be A Rock n’ Roll Star” was the high point of the album, a straight ahead rock song with no country overtones, featuring the brassy hot riffs of trumpeter Hugh Masekela (the first use of brass on a Byrds’ song) hailing from South Africa, which embodied the number with an unexpected jagged jazzy edge. The song is laced with a nearly a relentless bass-line hook, all backed by the jangling circular driving Rickenbacker guitar sound of Roger McGuinn, complete with hysterical fan screaming, not so much to make the song sound live, but to incorporated the rock vision, which were taken from the Byrds concert at Bournemouth, a costal town on the east coast of England, on the 15th of August 1965.”

4. Eight Miles High (Fifth Dimension, 1966)

“One of the first instances of what would soon be labeled “psychedelia,” “Eight Miles High” was a game-changing single for The Byrds; and arguably pop music as a whole. A far cry from the jangly folk rock of the Los Angeles band’s earlier work, the song would dramatically expand the acceptable parameters for a pop single, and help to usher in a period of bold experimentation in rock music.”

3. Here Without You (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“The originals are pretty equal quality to most of the covers, albeit none of them are overly memorable outside of “Here Without You”, which was my personal favorite track. They follow similar sounds to the covers, and they also are pretty alright.”

2. Turn! Turn! Turn! (Turn! Turn! Turn!, 1965)

“A beautiful vocal harmony, and perhaps the loveliest folk rock chorus ever. If I didn’t realize that the lyrics were based on a book from the bible, I’d like it even more. Otherwise, what’s there to complain about? That solo is a ride in a beautiful blue sky even on its own.”

1. Mr. Tambourine Man (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)

“The man himself Dylan had already “gone electric” a few months before this came out. Yet still, Jim McGuinn 12-string guitar combined with the inscrutability of Dylan’s lyrics made “Mr. Tambourine Man” stand out in a major way over the radio. And with it, rock music could start feeling free to get a little bit more intellectual.”