Album: Fifth Dimension.
Here is one of my most indefensible of all of the indefensible positions I will take while doing the Certain Songs project: Fifth Dimension is my favorite Byrds album. And it’s not even close. Well, kinda close, cos I also love Younger Than Yesterday.
On the face of it, I realize that’s ludicrous. Fifth Dimension is a mess: they’d lost their primary songwriter in Gene Clark, so it features two instrumentals (if you count that song about flying in a lear jet); an alien abduction song; the mandated-by-1960s-law cover of “Hey Joe;” two songs written by “Traditional,” and – worst of all – four songs co-written by “David Crosby.”
But of course the instrumentals are charming; the alien abduction song was a single; “Hey Joe” is fun and energetic; one of the “Traditional” songs is one of the Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded and one of the David Crosby co-writes …well, we will get to that in a day or two.
Then there is the title track, which is the first Byrds song credited soley to Jim McGuinn, who starts it while falling through infinity all by his lonesome …
Oh how is it that I could come out to here and be still floating
And never hit bottom and keep falling through
Just relaxed and paying attention
All my two dimensional boundaries were gone I had lost to them badly
I saw the world crumble and thought I was dead
But I found my senses still working
As McGuinn continues waltzing through time and space, he picks up David Crosby and Chris Hillman, who chime in about halfway through, their eternal harmonies also lyrically apropos:
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
Yes, it sounds like hippie-dippie bullshit – OK, it is hippie-dippie bullshit – but it’s also some of the best American psychedelic music ever made. Even if McGuinn has always insisted it was about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and not LSD. Sometimes a trip through the fifth dimension is just a trip through the fifth dimension!
Besides, had Einstein still been alive, he probably would stopped everything else he was doing in order to write the Theory of David Crosby’s Harmony Vocal on the Phrase “Stilllllll Floating” Near The End of “5D.” My understanding is that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is going to dedicate a whole new episode of Cosmos to trying to explain just how significant that harmony is.
And at the end, when Van Dyke Parks chimes in with an ethereal pipe organ underneath McGuinn’s guitar solo, it sounds like the music St. Peter is blasting from the Pearly Gates in order to remind people what’s at stake there. You get in, you get to hear The Byrds for eternity.
Fan-Made Video for “5D (Fifth Dimension)”