The Byrds Play “Eight Miles High”

Listen to this track by folk-rock janglers and supposed progenitors of ‘raga-rock’ The Byrds. It’s their 1966 hit record “Eight Miles High”, released as a single in March of that year, and eventually was featured on their third record Fifth Dimension. It would be their last top 20 hit, and a single that would mark the end of their original incarnation.

This song is like a wormhole back to a mythical period in pop music and cultural history of the mid-60s, a time when things really were a-changin’ in all sorts of ways, including the variety of influences that were having an effect on how bands and artists were approaching their work. This song helped to shape what a pop record came to mean later into the decade.

Nineteen Sixty-Six in particular was an epicenter for this kind of artistic evolution, what with this track, the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”,  The Yardbirds “The Shapes of Things”, and The Stones’ “Paint It Black” all exploring darker, and more inward-looking regions of human experience lyrically speaking. Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Soft Machine all formed in 1966, among other more sonically expansive-minded bands.  It was a year which heralded a more experimental approach to the sound of those records too with tape loops, exotic instruments, and distortion being important elements.

On “Eight Miles High”, elements of “new thing” jazz, and the influence of Ravi Shankar’s Indian classical music all play into the sound of this song. Writers Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby created this song under those musical influences, and from varied experiences ranging from airplane trips, to trips of other sorts that eventually caused some controversy, with this song being among the earliest songs about drugs recognized as such, although with claims otherwise by the band at the time in the face of a radio ban.

But, there is another reason why this song was so significant. Read more