Oh, how is it that I could come out to here
And be still floating?
And never hit bottom and keep falling through
Just relaxed and paying attention?
All my two-dimensional boundaries were gone.
I had lost to them badly.
I saw that world crumble and thought I was dead
But I found my senses still working.
And as I continued to drop through the hole
I found all surrounding
To show me that joy innocently is.
Just be quiet and feel it around you.
And I opened my heart to the whole universe
And I found it was loving.
And I saw the great blunder my teachers had made--
Scientific delirium madness.
I will keep falling as long as I live
Fall without ending.
And I will remember the place that is now
That has ended before the beginning.
[Repeat 1st verse]
Somebody once said (I've lost the source) the 5D was the best Bob Dylan song that Dylan never wrote, and I can see that person's point. Jim McGuinn was expert in turning Dylan songs into rock and roll (and showing Dylan how it's done), so why shouldn't he write an original lyric that sounded like Dylan as well? Of course, the feeling of 5D is far more spiritual than Dylan was at the time, but the song sounds quite contemporary with the conceptual sophistication of a song off Blonde on Blonde. Whereas acid gave Dylan's sound an amphetamine edginess, a buzz that felt electric, hallucinogens seem to have opened McGuinn up to awe. McGuinn has claimed that the lyrics have nothing to do with drugs, but rather were brought about by reflections on a book by Don Landis titled 1-2-3-4 More More More, which dealt with questions about perception and reality. In a 1966 interview with Hit Parader magazine the guitarist stated "It's sort of weird but...what I'm talking about is the whole universe, the fifth dimension, which is height, width, depth, time and something else. But there definitely are more dimensions than five. It's infinite. The fifth dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge.” [Johnny Rogan: The Byrds: Timeless Flight (1999), p. 177] The lyrics, however, accurately reflect LSD experience, and were interpreted as reflections on an LSD trip by censors of the time. Like Eight Miles High, censorship may have played a part in the poor performance of the single version of 5D, which didn't make it into the Top 40.
The metaphor of "falling through a [rabbit] hole" is derived from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, a book that would be further referenced by the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, but makes its first appearance here. Space is confused and pushed beyond the astral plane (the 4th dimension) as if a sixth sense, and time (as in Dylan's My Back Pages) is elliptical. McGuinn's now that has ended before the beginning is much like Dylan's But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. An absurdity to the rational mind is used in poetry to try to evoke a Zen consciousness beyond the dimensions of quotidian space & time, to the place of dreams and visions. Tommorrow Never Knows by the Beatles, which also reflects an LSD experience, uses a similar lyrical device at the end of the song: Play the game Existence to the end of the beginning.
Until the coda, the actual sonic impact of 5D isn't much different from the Byrds' treatment of Dylan's Chimes of Freedom or My Back Pages. The verses are regular, with only a slight upward shift of tone in the B section. The coda however is an even more majestic than the tone accomplished by Chimes of Freedom, with a well thought out, measured guitar that compares favorably with George Harrison. The organ played by session man Van Dyke Parks (soon to make his own unique impression on psychedelic music) adds further stateliness to the music.