In the time it takes to listen to today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, the average person could walk a mile in my shoes. Or walk a mile for a camel. And by mile I mean the statute mile: 5280 feet, not to be confused with the nautical mile which varies in length but on average is just over six thousand feet. And I’m not talking about the Roman mile either, which was exactly five thousand feet, or the 6720 foot Irish mile or the Scottish mile, which weighs in at 5928 feet and is also known as the Royal Mile. The mile we’ve come to know and love originated by statute of the English parliament in 1592. So you’re probably asking yourself: How the hell’d they come up with 5280 feet? Well, 415 years ago somebody thought it made sense to have the mile be the length of eight furlongs. A furlong being the length of ten surveyors chains, each of which is 22 yards long (which is also the length of a cricket pitch, and probably without coincidence or simple explanation). So twenty-two times ten, times three, times eight, equals 5280 feet. That’s the how, don’t ask me the why.
In any event, the basis for today’s set was laid down forty years ago and roughly sixteen hundred statute miles (as the crow flies) from where I sit here in the Way Back Studios, on the dusty fringes of Los Angeles. A guy by the name of Bruce Owen at WJDX-FM, did a segue involving the Who and the Byrds. He simply overlapped the drum and guitar lick at the very end of “Eight Miles High” and the similar lick that opens “I Can See For Miles.” Not only do the songs go together musically, there’s the added benefit of thematic unity. From there, I just rooted through the Deep Tracks for some other songs with similar characteristics and we ended up with a set that’s 2,608 miles away from nowhere that somehow takes us from Peter, Paul, and Mary to the Who in an orderly fashion. How? Well, to paraphrase Confucius: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single song by Hedy West.
|Peter, Paul, and Mary||500 Miles|
|Cat Stevens||Miles From Nowhere|
|James Taylor||Nothing Like a Hundred Miles|
|Fleetwood Mac||Miles Away|
|The Byrds||Eight Miles High|
|The Who||I Can See For Miles|
In 1965 the British government started a program to make all their road signs metric – but the program was put on hold a few years later and never started again. And that’s a good thing. I mean who’s going to sing along with “I Can See for Kilometers”? We just heard the Who from The Who Sell Out. Before that, the Byrds with “8 Miles High” which, in the metric system, would be 12.874 kilometers high, which just doesn’t work for the song. The story behind the song is that while the Byrds were on tour in England, Gene Clark, who suffered from aviophobia, asked Roger McGuinn about their plane’s altitude. Roger said they were probably seven miles high. But when they wrote the song they opted to take the plane up to 42,000 feet, as eight miles high scanned better. It was the Byrd’s last top 20 single, peaking at #14, and it probably would have gone higher but for the hysteria spurred by knuckleheaded radio programmers who caved in to pressure not to play the song because of its alleged celebration of drug use. Roger McGuinn has said that his guitar work in the song, especially the introductory solo, was inspired by John Coltrane’s sax work on the song “India” from Live at the Village Vanguard.
At the top of the set, Peter, Paul, and Mary with “500 Miles,” from their debut in 1962. After that, Cat Stevens took us “Miles From Nowhere,” at which point we ran into the Walking Man himself, James Taylor, explaining how there’s nothin’ like puttin’ a hundred miles between you and whoever breaks your heart. Then we went another “2000 Miles” with the Pretenders, followed by Fleetwood Mac doing “Miles Away” at which point we’d reached the end of the road for today’s show, with miles to go before we sleep here in the Way Back Studios. And remember it’s less than a mile to my website where we keep all the set lists and show commentaries, so drop by billfitzhugh.com and poke around. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.