On Jan. 9, 1967, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” by The Byrds was released as a single in the US. It would go to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the band’s first Top 30 hit since “Eight Miles High” in March of ’66. The song did not chart in the UK.
“So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” written by guitarist Roger McQuinn and bassist Chris Hillman, is from the band’s fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday.
The song slams the simplicity associated with “what it takes” to be a successful band. Lyrically, it swipes at fame and the music industry, sarcastically using the cliches and jargon of the record labels and radio, while musically it drives home jangle-pop goodness in just over two minutes.
In addition to McQuinn’s distinct 12-string guitar riffs, the song features a guest appearance by South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela – and underlying it all are recordings of screaming teens and applause from a 1965 Byrds concert in England.
In six months, The Byrds would help kick off the Summer of Love at The Monterey International Pop Music Festival. But a lack of harmony would lead to changes in the band. Original members David Crosby (guitar) and Michael Clarke (drums) would leave before their next album was completed.
The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1991.