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The Byrds “5D”: A Hymn to the Universe

I’ve been on a Byrd’s kick recently, and what a fine band they were. The early version of the band featured (below left to right) David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Roger Mcguinn, Michael Clarke and Gene Clark.

"The Byrds in 1965"

"The Byrds in 1965"

One particular track from the early Byrds catalogue is called “5D (Fifth Dimension)” (also the title of their July 1966 album). It often makes the “Best of” compilations, but it is not well known beyond that. It was released as a single in June of 1966 on the heels of the groundbreaking record “Eight Miles High”. I think only a few bands could have gotten away with this very non-commercial sounding song. Only when you have three hit singles in a row can you do this (“Mr Tambourine Man”, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Eight Miles”).

The Byrds were experimenting with eastern sounds and mystical topics when 5D was written by Byrd lead vocalist and guitarist Roger McGuinn. It clocks in a mere 2:30(pretty short by today’s standards). McGuinn’s droning voice with a touch of echo begins the song with the music starting one second later. The track has an almost religious feel to it-much like a hymn (Van Dykes Parks plays a churchy organ in the background)…in fact I call it McGuinn’s “Hymn to the Universe”. A testament of the unknown places we find ourselves.

Roger McGuinn in 1967On the stereo mix, if you turn the balance knob over you can also hear a banjo plucking along, giving it a folksy flavour, but it is overpowered on the mono mix version. McGuinn once played banjo for the Chad Mitchell Trio (kinda making it a quartet if you do the math!) It has a cool guitar solo right at the end featuring McGuinn’s trademark 12 string electric Rickenbacker. I don’t know if the Byrd’s ever played this live but other recordings exist from the “5D” song and album sessions. Sundazed records released Another Dimension (on vinyl only) in 2005 with alternate versions and instrumentals of several tracks from the 5D album.

After reading some scientific Wiki info on the meaning of the “fifth” dimension, it basically dumbs down to anything outside of the 3-D and the theoretical fourth dimension.

My favourite lyrics are near the end of the recording

And I opened my heart to the whole universe,

and I found it was loving.

And I saw the great blunder my teachers had made,

scientific delirium madness

This part features the full harmonies of McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman making it a true Byrd’s classic.

One Response

  1. when i was just elven years of age i began to listen to the music of the beatles
    the 1964 the music of the byrds fallowed the beatles when their sound went

    folk back in early 1965/1966 the flower power art & music secene was just
    being born. but i didnt know about folk rock until i tiurned 14 years of age.

    thats when i was in the middle of the whole summer of love 1966/67 that
    was my awakeing of things of change with boys my age wanting to grow

    our hair long like the stones & jefferson airplane in those eary days of the

    haight ashbury in sanfransico with its be ins love ins free concets in

    gold gate park and some of the hells angel would hang out and party

    with some the hippies because the angeles where hired to do secerity.
    for the free concerts. but la had its own hippie scene on the streets

    of the sunset strip. the byrds and the mamas & the popas buffalo spring
    field started the socal folk rock move met from 1964/1966.

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