The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension

 One of the ‘inspirational’ concept painting I did for the Rocktasia Movie of illustrated Classic Rock was for the Byrds’ 1966 song 5D or Fifth Dimension. It was released just in time to miss being banned for having drug references, a fate that would befall their next record, Eight Miles High, just six months later. Ironically, Eight Miles High was about the group's airplane flight to London for their first English tour and not about drugs but I guess their karma caught up to them.

In the liner notes to the 5D album the Byrds claim the title song was their treatise on Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Since few people actually understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity and because of the obtuse and surreal nature of the song’s lyrics this explanation was accepted. Only a mere six months later the terms psychedelic and LSD would enter the popular culture and hiding references to drugs would become much more difficult.

I painted the 5D painting as a psychedelic poster circa late 1966 with the young man who what would have been considered at the time as ‘Flower Power’, a stage between Mod and full blown Hippie, floating in space at the center. He is the narrator of the song and as reflected in the lyrics, he is in a state of peace. The blue birds flying down to him represent both his state of mind and the name of the band. He appears to be part of a wave of people and objects being sucked into a vortex at the bottom of the poster. The entire poster itself seems to be pulling into a hole in the wall. The small insect, a silverfish, is revealed to have been hiding behind the poster on the wall.
The items and people below the main character represent those things in his life that were important to him such as his parents, his baby rattle, toys, stuffed animals and pacifier to his friends or siblings, his bike, records, books and guitars to his girlfriends, anonymous sexual conquests (the blond partially hidden behind him), his automobile and drugs (a hookah pipe). The image of Albert Einstein at a chalkboard represents the Theory of Relativity story as well as his teachers and education. There is a line in the song that refers to a ‘great blunder my teachers had made’ which is represented by the equation on the chalkboard; E=MC5. Of course, this is an error and should read E=MC2 but it’s the ‘scientific delirium madness’ referred to in the song, a reference to a popular band at the time and the five of the title.

The items and people who are above the main character and following him down into the hole are the things in his life that he cares about that are to follow. His wife and children with the planets representing more cosmic matters and less material possessions. Within the total image there are five levels; the wall, the red stripes with the green text which if not broken up by the black stripes would show to be very psychedelic lettering that says from the top; E=MC2, The Byrds, 1966, 5D and Neal Warner, my rather elaborate signature. The third level is the black stripes which reveal the stars of the universe in the distance. The fourth level is the people and things floating down to the hole and the fifth dimension is the hole in the wall. The character at the very bottom is the same character at the very top showing that the flow of things is one big continuous cycle.

Posters of 5D are available from the Rock & Roll Rehab merchandise page or fine art prints are available from

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