Gerry Mulligan: Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

 |   |  1 min read

Gerry Mulligan: Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

By the mid Sixties the once-popular jazz had been pushed to the margins of mainstream interest by the arrival of pop culture in the form the Beatles, the British Invasion and then the American response of the Turtles, Byrds and many other bands.

And of course by Bob Dylan whose literary sensibilities and political subtexts proved that popular music could be about something more than just holding hands.

Jazz didn't disappear of course, but many of its practitioners were beleaguered as gigs dried up and audiences diminished.

For some it was a matter of a begrudging, “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em”.

Which was exactly the title of baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan's '65 album on which he played Lennon-McCartney tunes (Can't Buy Me Love, A Hard Day's Night, If I Fell), a couple by Roger Miller (King of the Road, Engine Engine No 9) whom he professed to like (“a very talented guy” and the theme to the film Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte among others.

With his band of pianist Pete Jolly, Johnny Gray on guitar, bassist Jimmy Bond and the great session drummer and Wrecking Crew member Hal Blaine on drums, they delivered an album which is of minor interest to jazz audiences and probably very little to pop fans . . . aside from this idiosyncratic reading of Dylan's classic, lyric heavy song.

“I'm sure Bob Dylan will never recognise it,” said Mulligan in the album's liner notes. “Pete Jolly plays it so pretty in a sort of Erroll Garner style."

You sense there is somewhat condescending quality at work here and in his liner notes Gene Lees says that rather than bemoan the “severe depression of standards” since the Fifties and lamenting the current scene and hoping it would go away, it was time to restore the former excellence. And “it would have to come about through a raising of the standards within this kind of pop music itself. This had happened.”

Lees, also seeming to surprise himself, says that in the previous few years the pop field has begun to produce some good tunes.

It had, but aside from a couple of interpretations by Mulligan and his band here – the unusual take on the Dylan especially – they sound like they are wearily going through the motions and sleepwalking while waiting for those great days to return.

The album title says a lot.

Note: This comes with delightful surface noise. 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Chuck Berry: La Juanda (Espanol) (1957)

Chuck Berry: La Juanda (Espanol) (1957)

Long before Paul McCartney wrote his slightly twee ballad Michelle for the album Rubber Soul, Nat King Cole and Chuck Berry were also addressing the problems across langauge barriers. But while... > Read more

John Lennon: Real Love (1979 demo)

John Lennon: Real Love (1979 demo)

When, in early 1994, the remaining Beatles (aka the Threetles) got together to work on the demo of the late John Lennon's Free As A Bird they at least had the bare bones of a vaguely interesting,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Gladys Knight: Talent with talons

Gladys Knight: Talent with talons

Press conferences are a waste of time and no sensible journalist entertains them. Ask your best question and everyone else gets the great answer. And if you are a print journalist those lazy... > Read more

THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY IN PRINT (2000): Hardback Writers?

THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGY IN PRINT (2000): Hardback Writers?

The Beatles' story has been recounted by those who knew them intimately and those who not only never met them but would seem, after enduring a few pages of their authors recycling press... > Read more