Today I heard the Byrds' version of Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man played in the background of a CBC Radio One history of the music business. I realized that it had been a very long time indeed since I'd heard the original version by Bob Dylan himself. This, I thought, is how things fade into the past. To invoke the revolutionary music scene of the 1960s, the producers of the radio show thought it sufficient to play the Byrds. They perhaps thought that this would remind their audience – and CBC radio has a rather old audience – of Dylan's music. But as a matter of fact, how many listeners had ever heard the Dylan version? I don't recall it getting a lot of airplay; that's why the Byrds version was important. Dylan's unique style and voice went off like a bomb, but the initial explosion was rather a small one,and his influence was exercised through cover versions. And now nearly 50 years later even they are fading into obscurity. Some old-timers and dedicated music fans still recognize the Byrds in the background, but I am sure that lots of others only vaguely recognize the 1960s style and react as they think they should react to a discussion of music in the 1960s. And then one of these days, it will really be obscure. Maybe that day is almost here.
If you have never heard Bob Dylan do Mr. Tambourine Man, listen to this. It is really quite something.