The Byrds (photo by By, Copyright : Sony Music Entertainment, 1965 (then CBS, Inc.), Fair use,

A Homage to THE BYRDS’ “Eight Miles High”

Text by Bruce Gallanther (DMG Newsletter for February 16th, 2023)
Photograph of The Byrds (1965):, Copyright : Sony Music Entertainment, 1965 (then CBS, Inc.)

“Eight Miles High” written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn & David Crosby. Released as a single on March 14, 1966. Performed by The Byrds, from their Fifth Dimension LP,

Eight miles high, and when you touch down
You’ll find that it’s stranger than known
Signs in the street, that say where you’re going
Are somewhere just being their own
Nowhere is there warmth to be found
Among those afraid of losing their ground
Rain gray town, known for its sound
In places, small faces unbound
Round the squares, huddled in storms
Some laughing, some just shapeless forms
Sidewalk scenes, and black limousines
Some living, some standing alone

And thus began The Age of Psychedelic Rock Music! The Byrds were from
L.A. and were one the first American rock bands to soar in 1965,
influenced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as folk, country,
bluegrass, jazz, ethnic and assorted rock music streams.

The Byrds are/were longtime favorites of mine, up there with The Mothers of
Invention, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Kinks. Their first
single was “Mr. Tambourine Man”, written by Bob Dylan and some say it
was the beginning of what would become folk-rock.

The above song, “Eight Miles High” was unlike anything else that was released at the time (early 1966, blending rock and psych and influenced by Ravi Shankar’s sitar and John Coltrane’s modal/spiritual jazz. Jim/Roger McGuinn’s 12-string electric guitar introduced a new sound to rock while David Crosby’s voice and songs pushed them in more progressive directions plus their lyrics often involved science-fiction themes, both serious (“I Come and Stand at Every Door”) and silly (“Mr. Spaceman”).

The first Byrds record I bought (in the summer of 1967) was Fifth Dimension in mono at a cut-out bin for three bucks. It completely blew me away so I soon became a Byrds fan-addict. Their
first five albums are consistently superb for me but my favorite is their fifth, Notorious Byrd Brothers, a masterpiece of psychedelic rock with some jazz, country & folks influences all found within.

A few weeks ago David Crosby passed away. This saddened me since I felt he was an important & influential singer, songwriter and musician, completely unique and quite influential. Each of his songs whether for the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or his first great solo album, are extraordinary and in a class of their own. I know he was tossed out of the Byrds during the Notorious Byrd Bros. sessions for his big mouth and he had major drug and attitude problems throughout his long life, but who really cares…?!?! His music was his contribution. I just listened to the Fifth Dimension album the other day at the store and it still sounds incredible to me more than a half century later.

There is a song on it that really gets to me called, “What’s Happening?!?!”, in which David Crosby is questioning life. He starts off each verse with “I don’t know…”. I know how he feels since I often feel the same way, asking questions about the ridiculousness of life which can’t really be answered but do make us think. In the last few weeks, we have also lost guitarists Jeff Beck and Tom Verlaine, both of whom are big musical heroes of mine and many of you out there as well. I played the first Jeff Beck album Truth and Television’s Marquee Moon recently and both still leave me astonished, smiling and inspired.

A toast to the loss of three heroes of Rock, David Crosby, Jeff Beck and Tom Verlaine. I hope they are jamming up in Heaven together right now.