Chord Connections

"Eight Miles High" - The Byrds

The chord structure (changes/progressions) in
"Eight Miles High" by the Byrds.

The main body of the song was written by Gene Clark.

The chord changes are really simple.

You can play them all as simple Major and minor triads:

e min. , f# min. , G Maj.
then, down to:
D Maj.
and down to:
C Major

and then _up_ to :
G Major
(and not F Maj. but instead, back down to D Major (maybe invert some of those triad chords).
and back down to C Major,

which leads (back) to the
e minor (beginning of verse).

Well, e minor (those first three chords, e , f#, and G)
are actually dorian mode , rooted on tonic root pitch of 'E'
--> You see, the f# minor has a c#, and C# is the 6th degree of a scale/mode based on the root/tonic pitch of 'E'. E natural minor has a lowered 6th degree, which would be C-natural. Instead, 'tis E-dorian mode.


You see, the Byrds were listening to a casette tape that producer Jim Dickson gave to them.
This tape consisted of, on one side:
modal Indian Art Music by Ravi Shankar ;
as well as, on the other side of the casette:
the music of a famous Jazz musician who was influenced by that modal Indian music.

Actually, that sequence of pitches:
D, B, G, A
is from Coltrane's "India" -- which is in G mixolydian mode.

But Jim McGuinn (on the ringing Rickenbacker 12-string) used it in the e dorian (e minor) harmonic setting.

Yes, take those first three triads,
e min. , f# min. , G Maj.
and add 7ths to each.
See the connection with "My Favorite Things" ?

Chris Hillman's opening bass riff is simple (an ostenato, like Coltrane's modal stuff) :
outlines '5' chord based on tonic ; in other words:
E , B , E (8va above), B , E , B :||

These phrases are easy to pick out by ear.


In tonal-centre-neutral terms, the harmonic outline is:

i, ii, III
VII, VI (Note how/that the 6th degree of e natural minor is C-natural, not a raised C# , as would be the case in 'E' dorian mode.)
III ( G Major, in this case)
and VII and VI again.

in e-dorian, the modal instrumental stuff is:
i, ii, III
maybe add '7ths' to each:
i7, ii7, and III7
which are typical chords of _Modal Jazz_

Those same three are used throughout  in many famous songs, 
such as "Moondance" by Van Morrison" (in 'A') ,
and "Reno Nevada" , which was covered by Fairport Convention)
and, in fact, "Renaissance Fair" by the Byrds (tonal centre of 'B' : ii7, i7 , ii7 , III7  ) .

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