PRAISE doesn’t come much higher than a personal nod from The Boss.

On a live DVD which accompanies Roger McGuinn’s Stories, Songs & Friends collection released earlier this year, Bruce Springsteen thanks The Byrds for helping him discover Bob Dylan. “I had not heard Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man before. I was a child of Top 40 radio and I heard it through Roger and The Byrds. It was an amazing creation.”

Whether Springsteen knew what former Byrds talisman McGuinn was singing about or what Dylan wanted to say is another matter.

Speaking to The Guide ahead of a solo tour, McGuinn remembers debuting Mr Tambourine Man as The Byrds’ first single.

“Most people had no idea what Mr Tambourine Man was about, what Bob Dylan meant when he wrote it or what I meant when I sang it.

“I have to confess I had no idea what Bob meant when he wrote it. But I know what I meant when I sang it. It was kind of like a prayer of submission to a higher power.”

McGuinn sings in the first verse, “Take me for a trip upon your magic swirling ship, all my senses have been stripped and my hands can’t feel to grip...”

“It was sincere coming from me,” he reveals. “I had no idea what Bob meant – he might have been on an acid trip or something.”

Dylan never discusses song meanings. But he did admire what McGuinn, The Byrds guitarist and talisman, had done to the song.

“He came to a rehearsal with Bobby Neuwirth and they said wow, ‘you can dance to it’. It opened their eyes that what he was doing could be converted into something danceable, which is something he wasn’t doing at the time.”

McGuinn’s adaption of Mr Tambourine Man three months before Dylan’s electric set at Newport Folk Festival connected folk and rock. It laid the foundation for the folk-rock and space rock sound.

But, as McGuinn says and is a well-thumbed leaf of rock history, The Beatles were his inspiration, especially the techniques (such as passing chords) they’d honed in their early days as skiffle band, The Quarrymen.

“I heard folk music in The Beatles which was probably sub-conscious for them. But it gave me the idea of putting folk and rock together. So that was a conscious effort and I was deliberately trying to sound a bit like John Lennon and Bob Dylan on the vocal of Mr Tambourine Man.”

As The Byrds moved to jazz rock, with one of the first psychedelic-rock albums, 1966’s Fifth Dimension, they borrowed from free-jazz and Indian music.

Eight Miles High, 5D (Fifth Dimension) and Mr Spaceman were the album’s singles.

“It was something we got exposed to,” explains McGuinn, referring to the new influences.

“Like how we got exposed to John Coltrane. I tried to emulate John Coltrane with my Rickenbacker 12-string. So that was what Eight Miles High was about. Then we got interested in country music.”

Eight Miles High was meant to be a jazz fusion project but people misinterpreted its lyrics. That helped turn The Byrds into one of first bands banned in America.

“The radio did the math – they figured out commercial airliners did not fly eight miles high, so they concluded we must be talking about some other kind of high.”

Commercially, Eight Miles High was a disaster. Though it probably spelled the end of the group’s chart success their legacy remains intact.

“It destroyed us,” admits McGuinn.

“I felt misunderstood and misinterpreted. It was injustice. It was a knee jerk reaction from right wing people in radio, the powers that be.”

Dominic Smith