Here sings Bob Dylan at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. This performance launched his fame. He says is, not aint which, while I prefer the oomph of this usage, does not sound as well as the later usage. Note that his voice here, while not sweet, lacks cigarette-ravage.
Next, we turn (turn) to the Byrds a bunch of kids. David Crosby is in front. Gene Clark, he of the f me face, is in the center. Roger McGuinn is to the left, and Chris Hillman is to the left rear and a little fuzzy. Despite the juvenility of it all, they have already picked up the brightness of sound which formed the Byrds trademark.
From Wikipedia: While tracking the Byrds' first single, "Mr. Tambourine Man," at Columbia studios, McGuinn discovered a key ingredient of his signature sound. "The 'Rick' (a 12 string guitar) by itself is kind of thuddy," he notes. "It doesn't ring. But if you add a compressor, you get that long sustain. To be honest, I found this by accident. The engineer, Ray Gerhardt, would run compressors on everything to protect his precious equipment from loud rock and roll . He compressed the heck out of my 12-string, and it sounded so great we decided to use two tube compressors [likely Teletronix LA-2As] in series, and then go directly into the board. That's how I got my 'jingle-jangle' tone. It's really squashed down, but it jumps out from the radio. With compression, I found I could hold a note for three or four seconds, and sound more like a wind instrument.
Here they play as a bunch of boys with birdhouses:
Please feel free to cut it off early.
Here stand the Byrds a couple of years later performing their first big hit. Note that they have taken away Gene Clarks Guitar. Wikipedia suggests that he had a better voice than Roger McGuinn, but I have no way to know that is true. He remains pretty. Roger McGuinn with the triangular face has acquired bizarre square blue sunglasses (and he should not have).
While I know it is expected of professional musicians, I am amazed that in none of these recordings do any of the musicians muff a beat or a note.
This next recording, even though it may be the prettiest, is included almost solely to spotlight the 4th verse which appears in none of the other recordings. I love the lines, and before the sky, there are no fences facing and skipping reels of rhyme. To only hear this part, skip ahead to about the two minute mark and then end with the chorus. At the 5:38 mark if you like, hear the harmonica.
Lastly, a Byrds reunion tour.
After the Byrds, David Crosby went off and joined/formed Crosby, Stills and Nash. Roger McGuinn went into country which (IMHO) was far more creative than rock in the 70s and 80s. I do not know what Hillman did. Gene Clark died at age 46 from an excess of drugs and groupies and alcohol (can you tell that I am jealous?).
A quarter century later in this 1990 reunion concert, they absolutely nail the song. Please hear the whole thing.
David Crosby appears old and fat. Chris Hillman is furrier than years prior. Roger McGuinn now has a rectangular face. They bring in a second singer to help him.
McGuinns voice, while not quite sweet and clearly a masculine tenor, nonetheless rings melodic. The second singers voice can most charitably be described as harsh.
Roger McGuinn is a boy from the city of Chicago. He now has a mountain accent as you would expect of someone with such a good Scotch-Irish name. He must have gotten it from his years in country music; he did not have it earlier. The second singer grew up in the Mesabi Range, but all you can hear is Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Chicago, and Detroit.
They twine the voices together like honeysuckle around an iron fence.
I do not think David Crosby is mugging for the camera; he is just trying to stand as close as he can to something so perfect.
There is a two second cameo appearance between verses two and three of a lady in the audience who could be my wife or my ex-wife or any other woman of my generation.
At the end of the song, I have never seen musicians so pleased with themselves.
I would have been pleased too.