This song peaked at #29 in 1967 in the Billboard 100. 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 talked about until the ’70s, when it became a way to describe the most glamorous and intriguing artists.
The song was written by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. It was written asa tongue-in-cheek look on fame and the pop music industry.
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.
Many interpreted it as a swipe at the success of manufactured rock bands like The Monkees, but Roger McGuinn has confirmed that he and Chris Hillman were not writing about The Monkees, but instead the whole music business.
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.
So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
So you want to be a rock and roll star?
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time
And learn how to play
And with your hair swung right
And your pants too tight
It’s gonna be all right
Then it’s time to go downtown
Where the agent man won’t let you down
Sell your soul to the company
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware
And in a week or two
If you make the charts
The girls’ll tear you apart
The price you paid for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game?
You’re a little insane
The money, the fame, and the public acclaim
Don’t forget who you are
You’re a rock and roll star
La, la, la, la, la, la, la