The BYRDS – ” Fifth Dimension ” Released July 18th 1966

Posted: July 20, 2017 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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The Byrds released their third LP “Fifth Dimension” the highly influential, albeit transitional, album released on July 18th, 1966. Most of the album was recorded following the February 1966 departure of the band’s principal songwriter Gene Clark so the majority of the song writing went to guitarists Jim McGuinn and David Crosby. Even with the two writing, they recorded four cover versions and an instrumental. It was however the first by The Byrds not to include any songs written by Bob Dylan, whose material had previously been a mainstay of the band’s repertoire.

Much of “Fifth Dimension”, was recorded after singer-songwriter Gene Clark left the band. “Fifth Dimension” helped introduce fans to psychedelic rock. Critical reviews were mixed but the album demonstrated the Byrds’ evolution from folk-rock to a more experimental style.

“Eight Miles High” was the album’s first single, a collaborative effort between Clark, David Crosby and Roger McGuinn then known as Jim. “The previous year, 1965, we’d been on a trip to England,” McGuinn “It was our first time on a plane, and I had the idea of writing a song about it. Gene asked: ‘How high do you think that plane was flying?’ I thought about seven miles, but the Beatles already had a song called ‘Eight Days a Week,’ so we changed it to ‘Eight Miles High’ because we thought that would be cooler.”

Fifth Dimension was widely regarded as the band’s most experimental album to date and is today considered influential in originating the musical genre of psychedelic rock with tracks like “Eight Miles High” and “Mr Spaceman”. It was also the first time the bands logo appeared with the psychedelic artwork.

Arguably the most famous song on the album was “Eight Miles High”, an early excursion into psychedelic rock. Musically, the song was a fusion of John Coltrane influenced guitar playing courtesy of lead guitarist then Jim McGuinn and the raga based musical structure and vocals, “Eight Miles High” featured guitar work inspired by sitarist Ravi Shankar. The belief that ‘Eight Miles High’ was about drug use had it banned by some radio stations. “‘Eight Miles High’ has been called the first psychedelic record,” McGuinn said. “It’s true we’d been experimenting with LSD, and the title does contain the word ‘high,’ so if people want to say that, that’s great.”

Crosby, meanwhile, said “of course ‘Eight Miles High’ was a drug song. It does refer to the altitude of that flight, but it was a deliberate double entendre.” Written mostly by Gene Clark in November 1965, while The Byrds were on tour in the U.S., the song was pivotal in transmuting folk rock into the new musical forms of psychedelia and raga rock. Regardless of its innovative qualities, however, many radio stations in the U.S. banned the record citing the title to be a reference to recreational drug use ,The song’s lyrics actually pertained to the approximate cruising altitude of commercial airliners and the group’s first visit to London during their 1965 English tour

McGuinn’s mystical lyrics on “5D (Fifth Dimension),” the LP’s second single, signalled to some that it was also a drug song. McGuinn explained its deeper meaning. “What I’m talking about is the whole universe, the fifth dimension, which is height, width, depth, time and something else,”said McGuinn. “The fifth dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge. See, there are people walking around practicing fifth-dimensional ways of life and the scientists are still on two- or three-dimensional levels.

There’s a conflict there. A lot of our world is very materialistic and scientific. It overlooks the beauty of the universe. That’s what the song is about.”

“Mr. Spaceman,” the album’s last single, was written by McGuinn as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to contact any extraterrestrials who might be in the neighbourhood. “I’m interested in astronomy and the possibility of connecting with extraterrestrial life and I thought it might work the other way round, if we tried to contact them,” McGuinn told ZigZag. “I thought that the song being played on the air might be a way of getting through to them.”

“Captain Soul” was a rare instrumental by the Byrds, the result of an in-studio jam between sessions. In The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited, McGuinn attributed the idea to drummer Michael Clarke. “It wasn’t really funky but it was interesting. Essentially, it was Mike Clarke’s trip. He wanted us to do something soul-oriented, so we did that for him.”

Other originals include Crosby’s “What’s Happening?!?!,” McGuinn’s “2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song),” which incorporates the sound of a jet engine and a pilot’s cockpit communication, and “I See You,” a Crosby-McGuinn composition. “That’s an early sessions, bubblegum type of song,”said McGuinn. “I did like the jazzy kind of feel to it. I’d been playing around with that jazz-, Coltrane-type of influence. It kinda seeped into everything I did at that point.”

“Fifth Dimension” featured a cover of Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)” and “I Come and Stand at Every Door,” an adaptation of a Nazim Hikmet poem about the bombing of Hiroshima. The band’s folk-rock roots are evident in McGuinn’s adaptations of traditional songs “John Riley” and “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Notable was the absence of any Dylan songs on a Byrds’ album for the first time. “Perhaps we were consciously trying to get away from it,” McGuinn later reflected. “I guess we were trying to show Dylan we didn’t need him. But that was a mistake because his songs were good for us.”

Fifth Dimension reached No. 24 on the Billboard albums chart but its influence was substantial. Along with the Beatles, whose August. 1966 release of Revolver included tripped-out tunes like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “I’m Only Sleeping,” the Byrds helped create the acid rock trend of the late-’60s.

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