The Byrds

All I Really Want to Do

Composed by Bob Dylan

Song Review by

In the summer of 1965, the Byrds were flying high coming off of their debut Number One single, "Mr. Tambourine Man", and were about to embark on their first British tour -- where they were greeted like visiting royalty by the fans -- when Columbia Records decided to issue a follow-up single. Believing that what worked once could work again, they pulled out an alternate take of the group's version of another Bob Dylan song, "All I Really Want To Do", which had appeared on the Mr. Tambourine Man LP, as the second album. Here, however, was where the embarrassment of riches that the Byrds' sound represented actually cost them some success. In contrast to many groups that achieve chart-topping status, who might be touring and performing to difference audiences each night at widely spaced venues, the Byrds were doing shows five nights a week at Ciro's in Los Angeles long after the release of that debut single, playing to an audience of better heeled teenagers and college students and lots of entertainment industry people, many of them on the make for songs themselves -- they were essentially playing their hand in the open, and giving away the inspiration informing their best stuff to anyone who paid the cover charge. Among the latter was Sonny Bono and his wife Cher, who'd begun recording careers separately and together and were always looking for a new sound or a song that would be good for them that they hadn't thought of -- that was what "All I Really Want To Do" became. The Byrds' danceable rendition of a song that Dylan had sung as not much more than a plaintive field holler (he had been as amazed as anybody to hear the Byrds' rock & roll version at the club) became the basis for Cher's recording, which was released in May of 1965 and had already charted before the Byrds' single was issued. The actual Byrds single had a hotter mix than the one that was heard on the accompanying LP, with a quicker tempo and the tambourine very forward in the mix, and a rougher lead vocal -- Roger McGuinn's voice and jangling 12-string dominate until the chorus, where the harmonizing by the rest of the group becomes more obvious. The overall effect is far more distracting and, if you will, hypnotic than on "Mr. Tambourine Man", as the totality of the sound (voice, guitars, percussion) overwhelms the words and displaces for the song's duration any thought of the original. Unfortunately, the single never cracked the top 30, while Cher's version did better, getting into the top 20 -- for most groups, the result wouldn't have been more than a bump in the road, but as the follow-up to a Number One single "All I Really Want To Do" was a serious break in the band's commercial momentum. The record was better received in England, where the group was touring at the time of its release, but even there it never did as well as it might have.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Mr. Tambourine Man 1965 Friday Music
The Byrds' Greatest Hits 1967 Sony Music Distribution
The Byrds 1973 Flashback Records / SOI
X2: Mr. Tambourine Man/Sweetheart of the Rodeo 1975 Legacy 2:07
Original Singles, Vol. 1 (1965-1967) 1980 Sbme Special Mkts.
Classic Rock: Rock Renaissance 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:04
20 Essential Tracks from the Boxed Set: 1965-1990 1991 BMG / Columbia / Sony Music 2:04
Collection [Castle] 1992 Castle Music Ltd.
No Image 1992 Sony Music Distribution
Rockline 1992
Various Artists
Columbia 2:01
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
The Byrds Play Dylan [1995] 1995 TriStar Music
Definitive Collection 1995 Sony/Columbia 2:04
Full Flyte (1965-1970) 1998 Raven
Ultimate Byrds 1998 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy 2:03
Birdy 1999 Akarma
Best of Rock, Vol. 2: The Ultimate Collection 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:03
Love Songs of the 60's [Sony] 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:06
The Byrds Play the Songs of Bob Dylan [European Import] 2001 Columbia 2:04
The Byrds Play Dylan [2001] 2001 Columbia/Legacy 2:04
The Byrds-The Album 2002 Surprise
No Image 2002 Timeless 2:03
The Essential Byrds 2003 Columbia / Legacy 2:04
The Collection [Sony] 2004 Sony Music Distribution 2:03
Greatest Love Songs of the 60's 2005
Various Artists
Marks & Spencer 2:04
Very Best of the Byrds [2006] 2006 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:05
There Is a Season 2006 Legacy / Columbia/Legacy / Sony BMG 2:05
Collection [BMG/Camden] 2007 Sony Music Distribution 2:05
100 Hits: 60s 2007
Various Artists
DMG / DMG TV 2:06
The Byrds Play Dylan: Collections 2008 Sony BMG 2:05
Original Album Classics [2008] 2008 Columbia 2:07
The Complete Columbia Albums Collection 2011 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment 2:07
100 Hits: 60s Originals 2013
Various Artists
100 Hits 2:06
The  60s: The Byrds 2014 BMG / Sony Music Entertainment 2:05
100 Essential Tracks: Love Songs
Various Artists
Sony Music
100 Hits: 60s [2015]
Various Artists
100 Hits
Dreamboats & Miniskirts: Young and in Love
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:02
Eight Miles High: The Best Of The Byrds Camden / Camden International 2:05
blue highlight denotes editor's pick