So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star

Album: Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
Charted: 29

Songfacts®:

  • This is a tongue-in-cheek treatise on fame and the pop music industry. Many interpreted it as a swipe at the success of manufactured rock bands like The Monkees, but Roger McGuinn of The Byrds confirmed that he and his bandmate Chris Hillman were not writing about about The Monkees, but instead the whole music business.
  • This is the first hit song to use a variation of the term "rock star" in the title. Rock had been around since about 1955, but the term "rock star" didn't get bandied about until the '70s, when it became a way to describe the most glamorous and intriguing men and women in the genre.

    Even after the term became ubiquitous, it was rarely used in song titles; the Dutch pop group Champagne hit #83 with "Rock And Roll Star" in 1977, but it wasn't until 2007, when the rock era had long since ended, that songs with that title in the term began to proliferate. That year brought us:

    "Party Like A Rock Star" - Shop Boyz (#2)
    "Rockstar" - Nickelback (#6)
    "Do It Just Like A Rockstar" - Freak Nasty (#45)
    "Rock Star" - Hannah Montana (#81)

    It was mostly hip-hop acts that used the term from then on, notably Rihanna with "Rockstar 101" and Post Malone with "Rockstar."
  • The recording was dubbed with the sound of screaming girls, taped at a Byrds show in Bournemouth, England during the band's 1965 UK tour.
  • South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela contributed the clarion trumpet solo.
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers often covered this song. Petty was a huge fan of The Byrds, and also loved a good cautionary rock star tale.
  • A lick that Roger McGuinn learned from Miriam Makeba's guitar player served as an inspiration. When he was around Chris Hillman's house, McGuinn played it to him and they ended up using the riff for this song.

Comments: 9

  • Tim from Los AngelesThe first verse and last verse contain some incorrect lyrics. If you listen closely to the Byrds' recording of the song, you'll hear what I mean. It should be as follows:

    So you want to be a rock'n'roll star
    Then listen now to what I say
    Just get an electric guitar
    Then take some time and learn how to play
    And when your hair's combed right and your pants are tight
    It's gonna be all right
    ---
    What'd you pay for your riches and fame
    Was it all a strange game
    You're a little insane
    Play the game and the public acclaim
    Don't forget what you are
    You're a rock'n'roll star
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22nd 1967 "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star" by the Byrds entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on February 26th it peaked at #36 and spent 7 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was track 1 of side 1 on the group fourth studio album, 'Younger Than Yesterday', the album reached #24 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and spent almost a half-year on the chart (24 weeks)...
    Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "My Back Pages" (#30) and "Have You Seen Her Face" (#74).
  • Brian from Boston, MaThis song rings even more true today then when it was written.With Rap music and hip hop and dance music one need not learn how to play an istrument or know anything about songwriting.
  • Andy from B'ham, AlOk, now I have. And it does have lyrics. Why the Royal Guardsmen didn't put any lyrics to it, I can't figure out. Anyhow, both the Byrds and Royal Guardsmen rock! Long live they!
  • Andy from B'ham, AlI've actually never heard this version that I recall. But I've heard the Royal Guardsmen cover version, which took place roughly in '70. It has no lyrics. I couldn't tell you whether or not this one has any lyrics or is an instrumental as well.
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiIt's just as easy to become a pop act now as it was back in 1967. Look at...Paris Hilton for example.
  • Madison from Norway, MeLooks like not much has changed in the music business.
  • Sean from Chicago, IlI seem to remember seeing Chris Hillman on VH1's "My Generation" years ago, and Peter Noone asked him if it's true that the song is a dig at the Monkees. Hillman said that even though he'd been denying it for 20 years, he admitted it was.
  • Cam from Cambridge, CanadaThe byrds performed this song at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in JUne of 67. Summer of LOve babay!
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