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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)
Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities
The "Safe and Sound" duo started out writing jingles. Sebu takes us through some tracks on their debut album and explains the upside to working on music for commercials.
Dino Cazares of Fear Factory
The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.
Jon Foreman of Switchfoot
Switchfoot's frontman and main songwriter on what inspires the songs and how he got the freedom to say exactly
what he means.
Little Big Town
"When seeds that you sow grow by the wicked moon/Be sure your sins will find you out/Your past will hunt you down and turn to tell on you."