Song of the Day #1,351: ‘Spanish Harlem Incident’ – The Byrds

Mr. Random iTunes Man resisted the temptation to go for a Dylan performance two weeks in a row, but he did choose a Dylan song.

The Byrds basically made a career out of covering Dylan. Their debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, and first single (of the title song) launched them to stardom and became the template for folk rock in America. Four of the 12 songs on that record, including today’s SOTD, were Dylan covers.

Legions of artists have covered Dylan over the years, but The Byrds did so most effectively. Because of that signature jangly guitar sound, they managed to make his songs sound like a whole new creation all their own.

It’s interesting that The Byrds chose to cover so many Dylan songs (on this album and future ones) given the strong songwriting talent in its own lineup. Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby are certainly no slouches when it comes to penning memorable songs.

The folk tradition is to cover the standards alongside your own material (Dylan himself has done this throughout his career) so perhaps The Byrds decided to shake things up a bit and instead cover one of their peers who was clearly writing songs destined to be standards.

Gypsy gal, the hands of Harlem
Cannot hold you to it’s heat
Your temperature’s too hot for taming
Your flaming feet burn up the street
I am homeless come and take me
Into reach of your rattling drums
Let me know babe about my fortune
Down along my restless palms

Gypsy gal, you got me swallowed
I have fallen far beneath
Your pearly eyes so fast and slashing
An’ your flashing diamond teeth
The night is pitch black, come and make my
Pale face fit in to place,ah, please!
I gotta know babe, I’m nearly drowning
If it’s you, my lifelines trace

I been wond’rin’ all about me
Ever since I seen you there
On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding
I know I’m ’round you but I don’t know where
You have slayed me, you have made me
I got to laugh halfways off my heels
I got to know babe, will you surround me?
So I can tell if I’m really real

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,351: ‘Spanish Harlem Incident’ – The Byrds

  1. pegclifton says:

    Since last week marked the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s first album, it’s fitting a Dylan song should show up on this blog soon after ;)

  2. Dana says:

    GIven how much I love the sound of the Byrds as channeled through REM and Petty, I really should go back and listen to more from the Byrds.

    I am familiar with some of their Dylan covers, but not this one, nor am I really familiar with the original from Dylan. Good stuff.

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