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Many people believe this song is about drugs, but the band claimed it was inspired by a flight where singer Gene Clark asked guitarist Roger McGuinn how high up they were. McGuinn told him 6 miles, but for the song they changed it to 8. The band had been doing a lot of drugs at the time, including LSD, which this is probably about. If the band admitted the drug references, they knew it would get banned by radio stations, and that's exactly what happened when a radio industry publication reported that it was about drugs and stations should be careful about playing it. As soon as one station dropped it, others followed and it quickly sank off the charts.
In his book Echoes
, Gene Clark said that he wrote the song on his own with David Crosby coming up with one key line ("Rain gray town, known for its sound"), and Roger McGuinn arranging the song with help from Crosby. In the Forgotten Hits newsletter, McGuinn replied: "Not true! The whole theme was my idea... Gene would never have written a song about flying. I came up with the line 'Six miles high and when you touch down.' We later changed that to Eight because of the Beatles song "Eight Days a Week
." I came up with several other lines as well. And what would the song be without the Rickenbacker 12-string breaks?" (Thanks to Kent at the Forgotten Hits newsletter, which you can join at The60sshop@aol.com.)
This created a genré known as "Acid Rock," which was a kind of psychedelic music that became popular in the late '60s. Unfortunately for The Byrds, it also killed their Pop career.
The band recorded this on their own, but Columbia Records made them re-record it before they would put it on the album, partly because they had contracts with unions. The Byrds liked the first version better.
Don McLean referred to this in his song "American Pie
," which chronicles the change in musical style from the '50s to the '60s. The line is "Eight miles high and falling fast- landed foul out on the grass." McLean could be sardonically implying that the song is about drugs, since "foul grass" was slang for marijuana. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
Husker Du recorded a Noise-Pop version in 1985. (thanks, Paul - Glasgow, Scotland)
The renown Texas songwriter has been at it for 40 years, with tales to tell about The Flatlanders and The Clash - that's Joe's Tex-Mex on "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."
Shaun Morgan of Seether
Shaun breaks down the Seether songs, including the one about his brother, the one about Ozzy, and the one that may or may not be about his ex-girlfriend Amy Lee.