The Byrds - Eight Miles High

The Byrds - Eight Miles High

‘Eight Miles High’ is a song by the American rock band the Byrds, written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn (a.k.a. Roger McGuinn), and David Crosby. It was first released as a single on March 14, 1966. Musically influenced by sitar player Ravi Shankar and jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, the song was influential in developing the musical styles of psychedelia and raga rock. Accordingly, critics often cite ‘Eight Miles High’ as being the first bona fide psychedelic rock song, as well as a classic of the counterculture era.

The song was subject to a U.S. radio ban shortly after its release, following allegations published in the broadcasting trade journal the Gavin Report regarding perceived drug connotations in its lyrics. The band strenuously denied these allegations at the time, but in later years both Clark and Crosby admitted that the song was at least partly inspired by their drug use. When asked in 2016, if the song was really about drugs, McGuinn replied: "Well, it was done on an airplane ride to England and back. I'm not denying that the Byrds did drugs at that point - we smoked marijuana - but it wasn't really about that."

The Byrds

The failure of ‘Eight Miles High’ to reach the Billboard Top 10 is usually attributed to the broadcasting ban, but some commentators have suggested the song's complexity and uncommercial nature were greater factors. ‘Eight Miles High’ reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 24 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was also included on the band's third album, Fifth Dimension, which was released on July 18, 1966. ‘Eight Miles Hig’ became the Byrds' third and final U.S. Top 20 hit, and was their last release before the departure of Clark, who was the band's principal songwriter at the time.

According to Gene Clark, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had a hand in writing this song. In a 1983 interview, he said, "I wrote the song and presented it to McGuinn and Crosby on tour - we were on a bus tour at the time, and we were listening to a lot of John Coltrane, a lot of Ravi Shankar, and they helped me finish the song. The melody and lyrics I wrote myself in a hotel room with Brian Jones in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Asked if Jones wanted a credit, Clark said, "He didn't care. It just came out of a conversation."

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Label – Columbia
Songwriters – Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, David Crosby
Producer – Allen Stanton


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
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