The First Psychedelic Rock Song by The Byrds

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Byrds were one of the most influential bands of the 1960s. They were the first band to successfully blend the genres of folk and rock, and their music still sounds fresh and relevant today. One of their most famous songs is ‘Eight Miles High’, which is often cited as the first psychedelic rock song.

The Byrds

“Eight Miles High” is a song written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, and David Crosby and first recorded by The Byrds in 1966. The song was a hit in the United States and United Kingdom and was one of the first psychedelic rock songs.

The Byrds’ first album

The Byrds’ first album, Mr. Tambourine Man, was released in 1965. The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and spawning the hit singles “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want to Do”. The album also marked the beginning of the band’s signature sound, which combined elements of folk, pop, and country with a distinctly psychedelic sensibility.

The Byrds’ first psychedelic song

The Byrds were one of the first American rock bands to embrace the psychedelic sound of the mid-1960s. Their 1966 hit “Eight Miles High” was a groundbreaking track that blended the band’s folk-rock sound with elements of jazz and Indian music. The song was inspired by a cross-country flight the band took from Los Angeles to New York City. Guitarist Roger McGuinn later recalled that the experience was “like being on another planet.”

The song

“Eight Miles High” is a song written by Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby and recorded by the American rock band The Byrds. The song was first released as a single in March 1966 and later appeared on the album Fifth Dimension, which was released in July of the same year. The song’s musical style and structure were influential on the development of psychedelic rock, and its lyrics, which refer to drug-induced hallucinations, were considered controversial at the time of the song’s release.

The song’s meaning

The Byrds’ song “Eight Miles High” is often cited as the first psychedelic rock song. The song was inspired by a cross-country flight the band took in December 1965 from Los Angeles to New York City. The experience of flying at such a high altitude and seeing the Earth from above had a profound effect on the band, and they attempted to capture that feeling in their music.

The song’s lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but they seem to be about the feeling of being disconnected from reality and floating weightlessly through space. The song’s iconic guitar riff is also said to be inspired by the experience of flying.

Whether or not “Eight Miles High” was actually the first psychedelic rock song is debatable, but it is certainly one of the most influential and iconic songs in the genre.

The song’s influence

Over the years, The Byrds’ version of “Eight Miles High” has been cited as being influential to many different musical artists across a wide variety of genres. In 1967, Jimi Hendrix was asked in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine if he had any comments about “Eight Miles High”. Hendrix replied, “It’s beautiful. It’s really a good record… a gas”. In the same interview, when asked what kind of effect The Byrds’ music was having on him, Hendrix replied, “The Byrds? They’re doing fine. I like them. They’re great”, before adding, “Roger McGuinn is one helluva guitar player”.

In a 1971 interview, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant stated that “Eight Miles High” was his favorite song from 1966 and that it was an important influence on him. He said:

It was the first psychedelic song and it still retains all its power today. When we did our version [of the song], we changed it round a bit and used acoustic guitars to give it that travelling feeling – because when you’re eight miles high, you are travelling… It was also the first ever song to use Feedback as its main riff – that definitely had an effect on us.

In a 1977 interview with Tony Glover, Bob Dylan commented on “Eight Miles High”, saying:

It [the song] always made me think of somebody going higher than eight miles high… I always thought it was a beautiful piece of writing – all of Roger McGuinn’s work is just unbelievable… He [McGuinn] always came up with these images that were truly innovative and far out there. And yet at the same time they were images that everybody could identify with; McGuinn’s work just seems to transcend everything else.

The Byrds’ later work

The Byrds were a popular and influential American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent several lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member, until the group disbanded in 1973. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

The Byrds’ later psychedelic work

The Byrds’ later work saw the band experimenting with a more psychedelic sound, as evidenced by the use of sitars on “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”. The latter song, in particular, is often cited as the first psychedelic rock song. The band’s use ofstate-of-the-art recording techniques also helped give their music a more textured, multi-layered sound.

The Byrds’ later work in general

The Byrds’ later work in general is often overshadowed by their earlier hits, but there are still some great songs to be found. “Eight Miles High” is a good example of their later work and is considered to be the first psychedelic rock song. It’s a bit more experimental than their earlier work, but still has the same great harmonies and melodies that made The Byrds so popular.

Other notable songs from The Byrds’ later years include “What’s Happening?!?!”, “Draft Morning”, and “Wasn’t Born to Follow”. While these songs may not be as well-known as some of The Byrds’ earlier hits, they’re still great examples of the band’s talent and creativity.

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