Byrds – 8 Miles High

I switched schools in the fall of 1969 and started my 10th grade year at an all man-boys’ (!) private school on the far east side of Cleveland. Previously, under the influence of my older cousin with whom I vacationed during the summers of ’68 and ’69, I began to support my naive responses to the incredible music available during the first and only wave of underground radio.

I didn’t have any way to really frame my attractions. After all, in 1967, the music I enjoyed that year was: The Monkees! Still, during 9th grade, and before any ganja haze had rolled in, the little clicque I was a party to was heavy into The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, and Judy Collins, and a few others. Also, during the spring of 9th grade, Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt spent a day at my junior high. Then our class got comped to a show with Taj, Bonnie, and Pacific Gas & Electric, at the local YMCA.

My twin brother was altogether worldly in his more developed tastes. His tastes counted for a lot too: if he liked something, I rejected it! Among the things I rejected were The Moody Blues, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and, Led Zeppelin. When I arrived at private school, my musical touchstones were few. If I remember these correctly, my favored music was the first Blood, Sweat & Tears record, The Blues Project, Al Kooper’s Super Session, Judy Collins, The Beatles, and, oddly enough, Flatt & Scruggs.

When I fell in with the amazing Dynamo Man, Jamie, the fall of 10th grade, he pulled out Moby Grape’s debut LP, and it was the nexus for our first–of many many–listening sessions. Crucially, Jamie, (the son of one of the first chain record store impresarios,) pulled next out of the biggest record collection I had ever seen, a Byrds LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
the band that first opened my ears of perception.

I was hooked.

I saw The Byrds a couple of times, once in 1970 and once toward the end of their classic quartet featuring Clarence White. The ’70 concert was a fire breathing affair. I believe it was the earlier concert at Oberlin, that Jamie, Tony, Steve, Mark, and me waited after the concert in a sleet storm to give the band their due. We stood by the tour bus to wait, and sure enough the Byrds eventually came out of the rear doorway of the gym. It would be accurate to say that McGuinn, Parsons, Battin, were gruff.

But not Clarence White, who received our accolades graciously and shook each of our hands.

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