Last year, in 2016, the first Psychedelia song was born from the hands of three virtuous musicians that went by the name of “The Byrds”. Fifty years after this event, Psychedelic Rock is stronger than ever and We believe it its time to remember how it all started.
The Byrds, initially a trio composed by Jim McGuinn (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Gene Clark (tambourine/vocals), were one of the shortest Rock Bands to create such an impact in their generation. Starting up in 1964 with this “Wonder Trio” they later added Michael Clarke (drums) just based on good looks since his drummer skills would not go further than the tambourine and Chris Hillman (bass), a friend of the group.
Shortly after writing this break-through song in December 65, that now is their most played original song on Spotify, in February 1966 when boarding a plane to New York from their hometown L.A. , Gene Clark, which was an anxious human being with some social fitting problems, refused to fly over due to a traumatic childhood memory he had of having witnessed a plane crash. To this McGuinn answered “If You can’t fly, You can’t be a Byrd”. Some others say his departure was also due to the the fact that Gene was the wealthiest of the group due to his amazing song-writing skills. Something that did not prove to be true since the solo career he shortly after started never had a great impact.
The Byrds however were already a well established Folk Rock Group within the United States with their covers of “Mr.Tambourine Man” and “Turn!Turn!Turn!” being played on repeat in every Radio Station and heading the name of their first and second album respectively. However it was with “5th Dimension” their third album that Psychedelia got the first signs of life. This dimension was showed to them through LSD, a new drug that was starting to gather a lot of attention in the Art World with the Beatles having later released a great deal of music just based on writing under the influence of it.
Within this not so popular among the charts album, the Byrds had first released as the primary single “8 Miles High”. And this was when Psychedelia was born, February 1966, being promptly banned from a good number of US Radio Stations that considered this song to “promote the use of drugs”. And of course it did. However the band defended itself by saying it was about a flight they had to London. Although this huge ban, the song managed to be in bot the US and UK top 25, which although low for the band (their first non Top 10 single) is nowadays seen as remarkable due to the social context this album was breaking and the lack of divulgation.
Musically Speaking, the band described this song as a tribute to John Coltrane’s free form of Saxophone playing with their guitar solos, in particularly picking up “India” from his album “Impressions”. This was also another important add to psychedelia, the Indian Roots, being this song in particular by the Byrds considered their first Raga Rock song, due to the strong influences withdrawn from the Indian Classical Music derived to the guitar and bass. However there were other songs in the same album, “5th Dimension”, that were more specifically related to it. “8 Miles High” was deemed to be the first Psych-Rock Song of history and could not have had a better story.
In 8 years, The Byrds released 12 Albums, however there was none quite as good as “5th Dimension” with one of the best covers of the Pop-Rock of the 60’s, “Hey Joe”, (which then gained a totally different life when Jimi picked it up) and even “PsychoDrama City”, another Psychedelic song more turned to the use of the instrument as a spaceship.
50 years ago bands were way more fun than nowadays…