Watch Patti Smith and R.E.M. Cover The Byrds

Paste Vault: Smith jams out and Stipe forgets the words to "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star."

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Watch Patti Smith and R.E.M. Cover The Byrds

Did you know that Paste owns the world’s largest collection of live music recordings? It’s true! And what’s even crazier, it’s all free—hundreds of thousands of exclusive songs, concerts and videos that you can listen to and watch right here at, from Louis Armstrong to The Who to U2 to Wilco. Every day, we’ll dig through the archive to find the coolest recording we have from that date in history. Search and enjoy!

Today in the vault we’re going back to Aug. 1, 1971, the night The Byrds played the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingsford, Conn. By 1971, The Byrds had long since secured their place in pop lore with their pioneering fusion of British Invasion rock and the folk music bursting out of America. Roger McGuinn’s distinctive 12-string jangle never quite took over the ‘60s, but songs like “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” became templates for the generation of rock that followed, including Tom Petty and R.E.M., to name a couple.

The truth is, though, by 1971 The Byrds were barely the Byrds. Gene Clark was long gone. David Crosby and Chris Hillman too. Graham Parsons had joined and left in less than a year. Their best releases were in the rearview, and as it turned out they had two more years left in them. They could still play a great show, though. So by all means, enjoy their version of “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” from that night in Connecticut.

But the great thing about the Paste Vault is our ability to dig around and find even better clips of some Byrdsian descendants paying tribute with live versions of their own.

Here’s a video of The Patti Smith group turning “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” into a bull-dozing, 8-minute guitar jam in 1979, complete with spoken-word interlude from Smith about how she needs to learn to drive. She also shreds on guitar, or at least shreds the guitar.

Here’s a young Elvis Costello doing a gleefully souped-up version in 1984, with those unmistakably Costellian keyboards.

And bringing it full circle, here’s R.E.M.—perhaps the band most often tagged with the “modern-day Byrds” moniker in their own heyday—performing “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” together with guest Roger McGuinn in the fall of 1984. This clip is notable not just for the rare chance McGuinn and Peter Buck’s dueling Rickenbackers, but also for the not-as-rare chance to see Michael Stipe forget the words to a song and look a little guilty about it.

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