‘I’ve written a song!’ David yelled early next morning before he was even halfway up the stairs to the domed chamber. Juno hardly considered this news, and sure didn’t think it worth being woken at 6am for. David was airborne, though, and not to be stopped. He had a guitar with him. ‘Check this out! This is totally different!’ he exclaimed, and Juno didn’t have a choice but to sit up and listen.
The song was a mess. It started with ordinary enough strumming, but quickly slipped into kind of atonal, almost creepy, repetitive plucking, and the lyrics were weird. Something about lonely signposts and abandoned limousines. At least the first line was apt, even if ‘eight miles high’ could be called an understatement for David’s present state. Juno reckoned it wasn’t the moment for Joni’s composition.
That moment didn’t come for another while. David stayed right up wherever it was he currently dwelt. The band were feverishly working on their new single. It turned out that it wasn’t only David’s song. Jim and Gene’d had more than a little to do with its writing too and there ensued the by now familiar wrangling for credits, yet for some reason the whole bizarre thing seemed like a whole new wind for the Byrds. Juno bid her time when David went AWOL for whole days or nights and was too wired to take anything in when he finally showed. She had a feeling that there’d be a lull before long.
The track was nailed on December 22. Everyone was ecstatic about the result. Unfortunately it had to be recorded again in January, at a different place, as the Byrds turned out to be contractually obliged to use that second studio. But they trooped on undeterred to the eventual release date in early March.
Right away the backlash began. Several radio stations banned the song for being about drugs, which the band in vain tried to counter by insisting that the words referred to an airplane flight. The fans didn’t seem keen on it either, and by the month’s end it had become clear that Eight Miles High was, by the Byrds’ standards, a flop.
Juno’d changed her mind about it once she’d heard the finished tape. It sure sounded strange, but it did give her the feeling, and she couldn’t deny that Jim’s playing had something. It went with his stare. Nevertheless she was pleased that there was a stalled moment for David. Her moment.