The Byrd’s recording of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which was written by Bob Dylan, was the first folk-rock hit single to hit number one internationally; the Byrds formed in Los Angeles, and several of the band’s members had been active in folk music.
The Byrds recorded rock versions of folk songs, and later began writing more of their own songs.
The recording of “Mr. Tambourine Man” featured studio musicians who had played on Phil Spector and Beach Boys records, and therefore it represents a point of convergence for different elements of the music business.
The Byrds adapted “Mr. Tambourine Man” from an acoustic version that Dylan did not release.
Simon and Garfunkel Go Electric
Simon and Garfunkel’s recording of “The Sounds of Silence,” which helped to launch their careers, illustrates the transformation of folk into folk rock.
California Dreamin’: Barry McGuire, the Turtles, and the Mamas and the Papas
New songs were written specifically as folk-rock numbers; among the first of these was P. F. Sloan’s “Eve of Destruction.”
The Turtles successfully covered Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and then recorded a series of more mainstream pop hits.
The Mamas and the Papas found success in Los Angeles; three of the group’s four members had previously sang in folk or pop groups, and they were influenced by early 1960s folk and doo-wop as well as rock.
Sonny Bono worked for Phil Spector’s label, and he brought his girlfriend Cher in to sing backup; the two began performing together in 1963.
Sonny and Cher also contributed to developments in hippie fashion.
Gary Lewis and the Playboys and Johnny Rivers
Gary Lewis and the Playboys were a Los Angeles group with many chart hits.
Johnny Rivers’s success as a live performer led to a contract with Imperial Records; he experimented with folk rock before Dylan or the Byrds had hits, and he made a number of successful records.
Back in New York: The Lovin’ Spoonful and the Rascals
Many folk musicians migrated from Greenwich Village in New York to Southern California in 1964 and 1965; the band the Lovin’ Spoonful formed in New York and released their first major hit on an indie label.
The Young Rascals (later, simply the Rascals) recorded music not unlike that of the British blues bands.
Leiber and Stoller continued to produce hits on their label Red Bird; Bert Berns formed Bang! records with executives from Atlantic Records and had success with the McCoys and Neil Diamond.
New York-based Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons also continued to have hits during the British invasion; the group had a doo-wop vocal style.
Garage Bands: No Experience Necessary
From the Northwest: Garage Bands, the Kingsmen, and “Louie Louie”
Following the popularity of the Beatles, male teenagers across the United States formed bands that were often amateurish and only attained regional popularity.
The first important national garage band hit was the Kingsmen’s cover of “Louie Louie”; rumors that the difficult-to-discern lyrics were obscene led to government investigations.
After the Kingsmen’s success, American record labels put out a series of records by unknown garage bands; some of these groups had one-time Top 40 hits, and a few enjoyed continued success.
TV Rock: The Industry Tries to Take Control Once More
One If by Land: Two If by Sea: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Paul Revere and the Raiders were based in the Pacific Northwest; after their initial success stalled out, they reached a national television audience with the help of Dick Clark in 1965 and had chart hits for the rest of the decade.
The music recorded for the show was produced according to Brill Building-style procedures: it was written by professional songwriters, backed by studio musicians, and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
Some critics dismissed the Monkees’ music because of its commercial production and because the members of the band generally did not play on their early records; “Last Train to Clarksville” demonstrates that their music does have complexity.
The Monkees gained more control over the music they recorded, but their popularity faded.
Following the success of the Monkees, Don Kirschner created a group made up of cartoon characters called the Archies, which was one of several fictitious bands aimed at young teens.