Song Stories

“Eight Miles High”

The Byrds | 1966

Many radio stations banned this trippy song -- often referred to as the first psychedelic rock tune -- because it appeared to be about drug use. More than 40 years after the song's release, guitarist Roger McGuinn still maintained it was about the band's first flight to England. But band mate David Crosby told Rolling Stone it wasn't just about flying the friendly skies. "Of course it was a drug song," he said. "We were stoned when we wrote it. We can also justifiably say that it wasn't a drug song because it was written about the (plane) trip to London."

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“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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