Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music inspired by or attempting to replicate the mind-altering experiences brought on by psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, psilocybin, mescaline, salvia divinorum, and especially LSD. There are also other forms of psychedelic music that started from the same roots and diverged from the prevalent rock style into electronic music.
In the history of rock music, psychedelic rock is a bridge from early blues-based rock to later progressive rock and heavy metal, but it also drew heavily non-Western sources, such as Indian music.
Evoking a memory of the Jefferson Starship song "Fast Buck Freddie" and the lyric, "Hold a dollar bill up to a mirror, and I'll show you something funny. It's only a fast buck, but it's so hard to make that kind of money;" 13th Floor Elevators' founder, Rocky Erickson was once asked by a friend to define psychedelic music. Invoking the image on the American one dollar bill, he famously replied "It's where the pyramid meets the eye, man."
On a cautionary note, this article does not recommend drug use in any way, shape, or form. On the contrary, many users in the Rock music world suffered greatly and even died as a result (for example, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brent Mydland). The list is long. Some even disavowed and decried their prior use, stating that it did nothing to enhance their music.
Undoubtedly the most influential of all psychedelic recordings was the 1967 album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, followed closely on the charts by Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. These recordings were mirrored by the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request. Other landmark recordings that brought psychedelic rock into mainstream pop culture include:
- "Rain," "Tomorrow Never Knows," "A Day In The Life," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "I am the Walrus" (The Beatles)
- "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet" (Blues Magoos)
- "Purple Haze," "All Along the Watchtower," "Voodoo Chile" (Jimi Hendrix)
- "Tuesday Afternoon," "Isn't Life Strange," "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band" (The Moody Blues)
- "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room" (Cream)
- "Good Vibrations," "Heroes and Villains" (The Beach Boys)
- "Sunshine Superman," "Season of the Witch" (Donovan)
- "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" (The Yardbirds)
- "Mr. Soul" (Buffalo Springfield)
- "To Cry You A Song" (Jethro Tull)
- "Arnold Layne," "See Emily Play," "Learning to Fly" (Pink Floyd)
- "Here Comes The Nice," "Itchcyoo Park" (The Small Faces)
- "Hole In My Shoe," "Paper Sun," "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (Traffic)
- "I'm Not In Love" (10cc)
- "Eight Miles High" (The Byrds)
- "Open My Eyes" (The Nazz)
- "Fire" (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown)
- "King Midas In Reverse" (The Hollies)
- "Flowers In The Rain," "Blackberry Way" (The Move)
- "Waterloo Sunset" (The Kinks)
- "My Generation," "I Can See For Miles," "Won't Get Fooled Again" (The Who)
- "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (Procol Harum)
- "The Porpoise Song" (The Monkees)
- "Magic Carpet Ride" (Steppenwolf)
- "Somebody to Love," "White Rabbit," "Crown of Creation" (Jefferson Airplane)
- "Psychotic Reaction" (The Count Five)
- "Incense and Peppermints" (Strawberry Alarm Clock)
- "Six Underground" (Sneaker Pimps)
- "Push Me Pull Me" (Pearl Jam)
- Near The Beginning (Vanilla Fudge)
- Sunshine Superman (Donovan)
- Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles)
- Surrealistic Pillow, After Bathing at Baxter's (Jefferson Airplane)
- The Doors, Strange Days (The Doors)
- Da Capo, Forever Changes (Love)
- Disraeli Gears (Cream)
- S.F. Sorrow (The Pretty Things)
- The Who Sell Out (The Who)
- The Grateful Dead, Anthem of the Sun, Axomoxa (The Grateful Dead)
- Electric Music for the Mind and Body (Country Joe and the Fish)
- Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
- Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Ummagumma, Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
- In Search of the Lost Chord, On The Threshold of A Dream, Seventh Sojourn (The Moody Blues)
- Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
- Music in a Doll's House (Family)
- Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (The Small Faces)
- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Iron Butterfly)
- Children of the Future, Sailor (The Steve Miller Band)
- The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (The Kinks)
- Their Satanic Majesties Request (The Rolling Stones)
- Moby Grape (Moby Grape)
- Song Cycle (Van Dyke Parks)
- Quicksilver Messenger Service, Happy Trails (Quicksilver Messenger Service)
- Farewell Aldebaran (Jerry Yester)
- Psychedelic Lollipop (The Blues Magoos)
- In The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson)
- Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath)
- Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
While the first musicians to be influenced by psychedelic drugs were in the jazz and folk scenes, the first use of the term "psychedelic" in popular music was by the "Psych folk" or "acid-folk" group called the Holy Modal Rounders, in 1964. The first use of the word "psychedelic" in a rock music context is usually credited to the 13th Floor Elevators, and the earliest known appearance of this usage of the word in print is in the title of their 1966 album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.
The psychedelic sound itself had been around at least a year earlier in the live music of the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, Donovan's hit Sunshine Superman, and the landmark singles "Day Tripper," "Rain," and "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles.
An inner core of the psychedelic style of rock that came to public attention in 1966-1967 can be recognized by characteristic features such as modal melodies, esoteric lyrics, often describing dreams, visions, or hallucinations, and longer songs and lengthy instrumental solos. A major feature of psychedelic music is its elaborate production, often using the latest multitrack tape recorders, and its heavy reliance on "trippy" electronic effects such as distortion, reverb, and reversed, delayed, and/or shifting phased sounds. Another common distinction is its beat variance from traditional dance music, either through an unusual encompassing beat (as heard in "Tomorrow Never Knows"), or by disrupting traditional 4/4 timing with interludes (as heard in "See Emily Play").
The advent of psychedelic rock marked the emergence of the "studio as instrument" trend. Studio production values rose dramatically, and as musicians, engineers and producers began to explore the possibilities of multitrack recording and electronic sound treatment, this had a major impact on the sound of pop music. Until the mid-1960s, pop music was typically recorded quickly and simply. Singles were often cut live to tape in a single "take" and albums were often recorded in a matter of hours. This rapid development is nowhere better exemplified than by The Beatles—their first album, Please Please Me (1963) (aka Introducing...The Beatles in the U.S.), was recorded in a single day, but their 1967 magnum opus Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the result of over 700 hours of studio sessions over a period of more than six months.
Psychedelia also had a massive impact on the visual presentation of pop recordings, especially LP album covers. Prior to 1967, most LP covers were simple single-sleeve affairs. The front cover usually featured just the title, the artist/group name and a straightforward photo portrait while the back cover was usually text only, with a list of song titles and occasionally a few short paragraphs of publicity material about the artist. However the album cover design was revolutionized in June 1967, with the release of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles and their collaborators, art director Robert Fraser, pop artist Peter Blake, and photographer Michael Cooper, created a lavish package that far surpassed anything previously attempted in pop music. The glossy, vividly colored "gatefold" sleeve was fronted by the iconic group portrait of the band, resplendent in custom-made Dayglo satin psychedelic uniforms, standing in front of a group of life-size cutouts of famous people from history, including the waxwork figures of the Beatles themselves (borrowed from Madame Tussauds). The inner sleeve featured only a huge, close-up portrait of the four Beatles against a gold background, and the back cover, for the first time in pop music, featured the complete lyrics of all the songs. The original issue of the LP also included a cardboard insert with cut-out "Sgt Pepper" badges and other designs, and the paper dust-jacket that held the LP featured a mulitcolored abstract pattern created by design collective, The Fool. The final bill for the cover was £2,868 5s/3d—one hundred times the average cost for an album cover at that time.
Many psychedelic rock and pop songs feature themes of childhood, nostalgia, and longing for lost innocence. The surrealistic creations of British author Lewis Carroll were an especially strong influence on the genre. A good example of this trend can be found in the 1967 song "Living In A Child's Dream" by Australian band, The Masters Apprentices. The voices of children were also used on many recordings such as "Hole In My Shoe" by Traffic, which features a spoken interlude recited by a young girl. An alternate approach can be heard on songs like "Gnome" by Pink Floyd, whose main songwriter Syd Barrett was greatly influenced by authors like Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie. Other songs feature lyrics which express a rejection of "straight" society and the materialistic values of western consumer culture, such as George Harrison's "Within You, Without You."
Psychedelic rock was heavily affected by the contemporary interest in the music of India, particularly the raga form and the classical instrumental styles of Hindustani music, which was popularized in the west by The Beatles and Ravi Shankar. With its extended, modal structures, long passages of improvisation, unusual time signatures, and exotic instruments like the sitar, the tambura, and the tabla, Indian music exerted a considerable influence on western pop-rock musicians. This can be clearly heard in songs like "See My Friends" by The Kinks, "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones, "Hole In My Shoe" by Traffic, and "Norwegian Wood," "Love You To" and "Within You, Without You" by The Beatles. The use of the sitar quickly became a major fad in pop music, and the American Coral guitar company even created an electric sitar-guitar, which could be played like a regular six-string electric guitar but which sounded like a sitar because it had a bank of sympathetic strings attached to the body.
The aural character of psychedelic rock was crucially influenced by the introduction of many new recording and sound processing techniques and new, electronic musical instruments which became widely available in the mid-1960s. These were eagerly taken up by pop and rock musicians who were seeking ways to broaden the tonal palette of rock music.
The Musique Concrete school, and others experimenting with the possibilities of magnetic tape in the 1940s and 1950s, discovered that it was possible to physically reverse a tape recording and play it backwards, and that many natural sounds, and especially the sounds of musical instruments, took on a startling new character when played in reverse. The effect was eagerly seized upon by pop producers and musicians in the mid-1960s, who used it widely in recordings to augment the "other-worldly" soundscapes they created. The Beatles were among the first to use the technique, and it can be heard on both the Revolver album (1966) and on the 1967 single "Strawberry Fields Forever," which includes a reversed recording of Ringo's drums and cymbals. The effect was widely used for recording guitar solos, creating a startling effect in which the notes begin with a long fade-in and finish abruptly. An excellent example of a later use of this technique is on the song "Roundabout" by the band Yes, which opens with a sustained piano chord, recorded and then replayed backwards and precisely edited so that the reversed piano chord ends exactly at the point that the first chord of the guitar intro is struck.
Echo and reverberation (reverb) were also used much more prominently than on earlier pop recordings, and many well-known psychedelic records feature the use of long-delay and multiple-repeat echo effects, which at the time could only be created using linked tape recorders.
The effect known as "phase shifting" (or flanging) is one of the most characteristic production techniques used in psychedelic rock. The invention of this effect, which first came into use around 1967, is usually credited to British recording engineer George Chkiantz. It features prominently on the 1967 singles "Itchycoo Park" by The Small Faces and "Sky Pilot" by Eric Burdon and The Animals. The effect was originally created by duplicating part or all of a piece of music onto magnetic tape and then playing back both recordings simultaneously (the same effect could be created using two identical LPs played simultaneously). Engineers discovered that a fractional time difference between the two sources would generate a distinctive "swooshing" effect which swept up and down the frequency range, creating an unearthly sound which (like the sitar) quickly became a fad. Although phasing was originally created with tape recorders, electronic engineers soon devised ways of duplicating it electronically and a wide range of effects units soon came on the market, allowing guitarists and others to easily add a rich phasing effect to their instruments.
Other production techniques that are often used on psychedelic rock records include the filtering of vocals and instruments. Such examples are the highly compressed, trebly piano sound on The Beatles' song "Hey Bulldog" and the piano sound on the title track of the Small Faces LP Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (1968). This features a heavily-compressed piano which is further treated by putting the sound through a wah wah pedal. Other common effects include the use of extreme guitar sounds. These trebly, jangly tones (often using 12-string guitars) or highly distorted "fuzztone" sounds were much in vogue during the height of the style. Many psychedelic recordings also made extensive use of pre-recorded sounds and sound effects, like the animal noises used at the end of "Good Morning, Good Morning" by The Beatles (sourced from the Abbey Road tape library), or the kaleidoscopic array of sounds used on "The Real Thing" (1969) by Australian singer Russell Morris, which includes an actual recording of a Hitler Youth rally in the 1930s and climaxes with an atomic bomb exploding.
Use of keyboards
Another key feature of psychedelic music was its relatively heavy reliance on keyboards, especially electronic keyboards. Although the harpsichord had been out of fashion in classical music for more than two centuries, its distinctive "tinkly" sound appealed to musicians and producers of psychedelic rock, and session musicians like Nicky Hopkins were often called on to play one in recordings of this period. The Hammond B3 organ was already widely used in popular music, having been popularized by jazz musicians like Jimmy Smith and by renowned soul group Booker T and the MGs. Yet the enormously wide tonal and timbrel range of the instrument proved a boon for psychedelic rock groups, especially when used in conjunction with the Leslie speaker, a rotating speaker that added a complex phase-shifted sound to the organ. The sound could be further enhanced by channeling the organ through a fuzz box or by simply overdriving the organ's internal amplifier so that the notes became heavily overdriven, producing rich, distorted overtones. Brian Auger (The Trinity and Oblivion Express) and Billy Preston were great exponents of this instrument, within and without psychedelia.
The other "classic" keyboard instrument of psychedelic rock was the Mellotron, an English-made instrument (based on an American prototype, the Chamberlin) which was the world's first successful mass-produced polyphonic sampler keyboard. The Mellotron used banks of tape-loops, controlled by a dual keyboard, to reproduce a huge range of pre-recorded instruments, percussion and sound effects. The Mellotron made its famous recording debut in pop in The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" in early 1967, and it rapidly became a staple of psychedelic and progressive rock. It was especially favored for its highly distinctive string, flute, and choir settings (recorded from real sources) which are still often sampled and used today. Other prominent early examples of the use of the Mellotron in psychedelic pop/rock are "Hole In My Shoe" by the band Traffic and "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues, who were one of the first groups to use the Mellotron regularly in their live performances. Another key psychedelic recording, which uses phasing and combines compressed piano, Hammond organ, and Mellotron, is the hit 1968 version of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire" recorded by Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll, and Trinity.
In 1962, British rock embarked on a frenetic race of ideas that spread back to the U.S. with the British Invasion. The folk music scene also experimented with outside influences. In the tradition of jazz and blues music, many musicians began to take drugs, and include drug references in their songs. In 1965, Bob Dylan was influenced by The Beatles to bring in electric rock instrumentation in his album Bringing It All Back Home, however The Byrds beat him to it with a jangling electric hit single version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," from a track from the album with hints of psychedelia. Dylan lost his folk audience as a result but gained newer coverts with his new sound. He later seemed to retreat back to his roots but thereafter never totally abandoned an electronic sound.
U.S. in the 1960s
Psychedelia began in the United States' folk scene, with New York City's Holy Modal Rounders introducing the term in 1964. A similar band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions from San Francisco were influenced by the Byrds and the Beatles to switch from acoustic music to electric music in 1965. Renaming themselves the Warlocks, they fell in with Ken Kesey's LSD-fueled Merry Pranksters in November 1965, and changed their name to Grateful Dead the following month. The Dead played to light shows at the Pranksters' "Acid Tests," with pulsing images being projected over the group in what became a widespread practice. Their sound soon became identified as "Acid rock," which they played at the Trips Festival in January 1966, along with Big Brother & the Holding Company. The festival was held at the Fillmore Auditorium and was attended by some 10,000 people. Another band, called The Ethix started to experiment with electronics and wild improvisations, and as their music transformed, The Ethix transformed into Fifty Foot Hose.
Throughout 1966, the San Francisco music scene flourished, as the Fillmore, the Avalon Ballroom, and the club called The Matrix began booking local rock bands on a nightly basis. The emerging "San Francisco Sound" or otherwise know as "Bay Area Soul" made local stars of numerous bands, including The Charlatans, Fifty Foot Hose, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, The Great Society, which morphed into the folk-rockers, Jefferson Airplane. Jefferson Airplane gained great fame with two of the earliest psychedelic hit singles, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love." In fact, both these songs had originated with the band The Great Society, whose singer Grace Slick left them to accept an offer to join Jefferson Airplane, taking the two compositions with her.
Although San Francisco receives much of the credit for jump starting the psychedelic music scene, many other American cities contributed significantly to the new genre. Los Angeles boasted dozens of important psychedelic bands, including the Byrds, Love, Spirit, the United States of America, and the Doors, among others. New York City produced its share of psychedelic bands, such as the Blues Magoos, the Blues Project, and the Third Bardo. The Detroit area gave rise to psychedelic bands such as the MC5, Amboy Dukes, and the SRC. Texas (particularly Austin) is often cited for its contributions to psychedelic music, being home to the aforementioned 13th Floor Elevators, as well as Bubble Puppy, Shiva's Headband, Golden Dawn, the Zakary Thaks, Red Krayola, and many others.
While their music was not limited to psychedelia, The Velvet Underground were one of the greatest influences on psychedelic rock as well as alternative and experimental rock music. Formed in 1964 in New York City, their music integrated rock and avant-garde, and their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico has been acclaimed as the most prophetic rock album ever made.
The Byrds went psychedelic in 1966 with "Eight Miles High," a song with odd vocal harmonies and an extended guitar solo that guitarist Roger McGuinn states was inspired by Raga and John Coltrane.
In 1965, members of Rick And The Ravens and The Psychedelic Rangers came together with Jim Morrison to form The Doors. They made a demo tape for Columbia Records in September of that year, which contained glimpses of their later acid-rock sound. When no one at Columbia wanted to produce the band, they were signed by Elektra Records, who released their debut album in January 1967. It contained their first hit single, "Light My Fire." Clocking in at over 7 minutes, it became one of the first rock singles to break the mold of the three-minute pop song, although the version usually played on AM radio was a much-shorter version.
Initially, the Beach Boys, with their squeaky-clean image, seemed unlikely as psychedelic types. Their music, however, grew more psychedelic and experimental, perhaps due in part to writer/producer/arranger Brian Wilson's increased drug usage and burgeoning mental illness. In 1966, responding to the Beatles' innovations, they produced their album Pet Sounds, and later that year had a massive hit with the psychedelic single "Good Vibrations." Wilson's magnum opus Smile (which was never finished, and was remade by Wilson with a new band in 2004) also shows this growing experimentation.
The psychedelic influence was also felt in African-American music, where record labels such as Motown dabbled for a while with psychedelic soul, producing such hits as "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today)" and "Psychedelic Shack" (by The Temptations), "Reflections" (by Diana Ross and The Supremes), and the 11-minute-long "Time Has Come Today" by The Chambers Brothers.
Britain in the 1960s
In the United Kingdom, Donovan, going electric like Dylan, had a 1966 hit with "Sunshine Superman," on one of the very first overtly psychedelic pop records. Pink Floyd had been developing psychedelic rock with light shows since 1965, in the underground culture scene, and in 1966, the Soft Machine formed.
From a blues rock background, the British supergroup Cream debuted in December. The Jimi Hendrix Experience with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell brought Jimi Hendrix fame in Britain, and later in his American homeland.
Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne," released in March 1967, only hinted at their live sound. The Beatles' groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was recorded on nearly all of the same dates as Pink Floyd's first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Cream showed their psychedelic sounds in the same way in Disraeli Gears. In the folk scene itself, blues, drugs, jazz, and eastern influences had featured since 1964 in the work of Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, and in 1967, the Incredible String Band's The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion developed this into full blown psychedelia. Other artists joining the "psychedelic revolution" included Eric Burdon (previously of The Animals), and The Small Faces. The Who's Sell Out had an early psychedelic track, "I Can See for Miles," but the album concept was out of tune with the times, and it was their later rock opera album, Tommy, that established them in the scene. The Rolling Stones had drug references and psychedelic hints in their 1966 singles, "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Paint It Black." Subsequently, their fully psychedelic Their Satanic Majesties Request ("In Another Land") suffered from the problems the group was having at the time. In 1968, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Beggars Banquet re-established them, but their disastrous concert at the Altamont Music Festival in 1969 ended the dream on a downer.
By late 1965, The Beatles were joining in the musical action with their Rubber Soul album, which featured John Lennon's first paean to universal love ("The Word") and a sitar-laden tale of attempted "hippy hedonism" ("Norwegian Wood"). Instrumental freak outs appeared on "The Word" and "I'm Looking Through You," while "Girl" featured a weird breathing sound in the refrain. The August 1966 album Revolver featured psychedelia more intensely in "Tomorrow Never Knows," and in "Yellow Submarine." The latter song combined psychedelic elements with an appeal to children and nostalgia, a formula which they would repeat and would keep their music widely popular. The album also had psychedelic elements in "Love You To," "She Said, She Said," and "Doctor Robert."
Yet it was with 1967 releases that the band finally left their old identity behind and embraced a colorful new frontier. "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the first song recorded intended for an album about nostalgia and childhood when the Beatles convened back into the recording studio on November 24, 1966. Due to pressure from Capitol Records, Brian Epstein hastily released the first two songs recorded which would have ended up on the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It was released as a double-A sided single along with Penny Lane on February 13, 1967, in the UK. Later on February 17, 1967, in the United States, "Strawberry Fields Forever" induced a "magic carpet" of sound with its unusual chord progression, a kaleidoscope of instruments and effects, and an unusual edit of two completely separate versions (the latter of which had to be slowed down to fit) topped off with a false ending. The album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (partially influenced by their studio neighbors Pink Floyd and vice versa) was a veritable encyclopedia of psychedelia (among other elements), as well as an explosion of creativity that would set the standard for rock albums decades later. From the theme song, to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Within You Without You," and "A Day in the Life," the album showcased a wildly colorful palette, with unpredictable changes in rhythm, texture, melody, and tone color that few groups could equal.
The single "All You Need Is Love," debuted for a worldwide audience on the "Our World" television special, restated the message of "The Word," but with a Sgt. Pepper style arrangement. Yet after the unpopular television movie Magical Mystery Tour (with an uneven soundtrack album accompanying it) the band returned to a more raw style in 1968, albeit a more earthy and complex version than had been heard before, Rubber Soul.
Other examples of psychedelic recordings
Local producers and musicians created a significant body of psychedelic recordings, and notable albums and singles recorded by Australian/New Zealand acts in the late 1960s include:
- "Friday On My Mind," "Land of Make Believe," "Heaven and Hell," "Pretty Girl," "Peculiar Hole In The Sky" (The Easybeats)
- "Early In The Morning" (The Purple Hearts)
- "The Loved One," "Everlovin' Man," Magic Box (The Loved Ones)
- "LIving In A Child's Dream," "Elevator Driver" (The Masters Apprentices)
- "That's Life," "Krome Plated Yabbie" (The Wild Cherries)
- "What's Wrong With The Way I Live," "Cathy Come Home," "9:50," "Comin' On Down," Once upon A Twilight LP (The Twilights)
- "Woman You're Breaking Me," "Such A Lovely Way" (The Groop)
- "See The Way," "Not This Time" (The Black Diamonds)
- The Happy Prince (The La De Das)
- "The Real Thing," "Part Three: Into Paper Walls" (Russell Morris)
- "Let's Get Together," "Mr Guy Fawkes" (The Dave Miller Set)
- "Drawing Room" (Cam-Pact)
- "Love Machine" (Pastoral Symphony)
- "Lady Sunshine," Evolution LP (Tamam Shud)
- "Hypnotic Suggestion" (Vegetable Garden)
- "Cloud Nine," Joint Effort LP (Jeff St John and Copperwine)
The invention of psychedelic music in the United States soon received followers in the rest of the world. The first continental Europe band was Group 1850, formed in 1964 with their first album released in 1968.
The Brazilian psychedelic rock group Os Mutantes was formed in 1966, and although little known outside Brazil at the time, their remarkable recordings have since accrued a substantial international cult following.
In the late 1960's, a wave of Mexican rock heavily influenced by psychedelic and funk rock emerged in several northern border Mexican states, in particular, Tijuana, Baja California. Among the most recognized bands from this “Chicano Wave” (Onda Chicana in Spanish), is one in particular that was recognized by their originality. The band Love Army was derived from the Tijuana Five and was formed by Alberto Isiordia (aka El Pajaro), Salvador Martinez, Jaime Valle, Fernando Vahaux, Ernesto Hernandez, Mario Rojas, and Enrique Sida.
The end of the sixties
A good number of the bands who pioneered psychedelic rock gave it up by the end of the 1960s. The increasingly hostile political environment and the embrace of amphetamines, heroin and cocaine by the underground led to a turn toward harsher music. At the same time, Bob Dylan released John Wesley Harding and the Band released Music from Big Pink, both albums that rejected psychedelia for a more roots-oriented approach. Many bands in England and America followed suit. Eric Clapton cites Music from Big Pink as a primary reason for quitting Cream, for example. The Grateful Dead also went back to basics and had major successes with Workingman's Dead and the album American Beauty in 1970. They then continued to successfully develop their rambling live music and produced a long string of records over the next twenty-five years.
The musicians and bands who continued to embrace psychedelia often went on to create progressive rock in the 1970s, which maintained the love of unusual sounds and extended solos but added jazz and classical influences to the mix. For example, progressive rock group Yes sprang out of three British psychedelic bands: Syn (featuring Chris Squire), Tomorrow (featuring Steve Howe), and Mabel Greer's Toy Shop (Jon Anderson). Also, psychedelic rock strongly influenced early heavy metal bands, with Black Sabbath probably being the best example. Psychedelic rock, with its distorted guitar sound and adventurous compositions can be seen as an important bridge between heavy metal and earlier, blues oriented rock.
Alongside the progressive stream, space rock bands such as Hawkwind, Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come, and the band Gong maintained a more explicitly psychedelic course into the 1970s.
Although the groups listed here are labeled with the psychedelic moniker, it should be noted that some psychedelic purists claim that much of the sound is actually quite different from the original psychedelic bands and production from the sixties, thus pointing to different terminology, such as Revival Rock or Modern Rock.
Phish, a jam band active from the early 1980s, played psychedelic music with a strong jazz influence, utilizing elaborate modal melodies and complex rhythmic accompaniment. In the mid 1980s, a Los Angeles, California-based movement named the Paisley Underground acknowledged a debt to the Byrds, incorporating psychedelia into a folksy, jangle pop sound. The Bangles were arguably the most successful band to emerge from this movement; amongst others involved were Green on Red and the Three O'Clock. Dream Syndicate from Darmstadt, Germany created a mixture of psychedelic, folk-rock, and far-eastern influences by using exotic instruments. Although not directly involved in the movement, Australian band The Church (1980) were also heavily influenced by psychedelia, and their early recordings had much in common with their Paisely Underground contemporaries.
A British counterpoint to the Paisley Underground was a number of post-New Wave bands, including The Soft Boys and the solo albums of their singer Robyn Hitchcock, and The Teardrop Explodes and its vocalist Julian Cope. Hitchcock was heavily influenced by Syd Barrett and John Lennon. In the mid 1980s, The Shamen began with a self-consciously psychedelic curriculum influenced by Barrett and Love, before reorienting itself towards rave. Other British dabblers in psychedelia included Nick Nicely, XTC, and Martin Newell with The Cleaners from Venus and The Brotherhood of Lizards. Also included in neo-psychodelia are Spacemen 3, and English band known for its brand of "minimalistic psychedelia."
British band XTC made a number of recordings in the late 1980s, which both parodied and affectionately imitated the sound and form of late sixties psychedlic rock. Released under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear and produced by former Abbey Road engineer John Leckie, the EP 25 O'Clock (1985) and the LP Psonic Psunspot (1987) employ all of the classic songwriting and production features of the style.
Beginning in the late 1980s, travelers, musicians, and artists from around the world formed a new form of psychedelic music in the Indian state of Goa. Initially called Goa trance, this psychedelic music was the result of the 1960s influences with industrial music and electronica.
Popular rock artists also made several psychedelic songs, including the band Nirvana and Prince, whose 1986 album Parade was strongly influenced by 1960s psychedelic rock.
The group Kula Shaker, under the leadership of Crispian Mills, created much Indian-influenced psychedelic music, such as the album Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts. Bands such as Ozric Tentacles and the WelshGorky's Zygotic Mynci play psychedelic music in a tradition that goes back to the 1960s, via acts such as Steve Hillage, the band Gong and their assorted side projects. The band Oasis' fourth studio album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is noted for its heavy psychedelic influences.
British bands Anomie and My Bloody Valentine play British garage psychedelia, citing Pink Floyd and Hawkwind as musical influences. Some electronic music or electronic-influenced music termed "ambient music" or "trance music" such as Aphex Twin or the band Orbital, had it been written between 1966 and 1990, would have fallen within the category of psychedelia. Later psychedelic trance artists such as Hallucinogen (musician) and Shpongle have continued the psychedelic music tradition within a dance-oriented context. Stoner rock acts like Kyuss and their successors also perform explicitly psychedelic music. Bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Tool fused psychedelic rock sounds with heavy metal, becoming highly successful alternative rock acts in the 1990s.
In Australia in the 1980s, bands such as The Tripps and Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers explored and reinvigorated the psychedelic genre.
Rising from the Japanese noise music underground, Acid Mothers Temple mix the subtle resonance of Blue Cheer and Grateful Dead's psychedelic sound, the thought-provoking melodies of French folk music, and concrete bursts of noise that run through music of Boredoms.
In recent years, many inventive artists from the Perth-scene in Western Australia, notably the Sleepy Jackson, The Panda Band, and The Panics have experimented with lush, neo-psychedelic harmonies and avant-garde instrumentation.
Other endeavors in experimental rock with psychedelic influences include Neutral Milk Hotel, the Burnside Shattered, The Apples (In Stereo), Of Montreal, and Olivia Tremor Control, all members of the Elephant 6 musical collective, which was headquartered in Athens, Georgia, until its demise.
The grunge band 'Screaming Trees' is noted for its unique fusion of grunge (a genre the band itself had a part in pioneering) and psychedelic rock. The psychedelic influence is especially evident in their later albums, namely Sweet Oblivion.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new psychedelic scene flourished in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. Among the bands were the Dandy Warhols led by Courtney Taylor-Taylor, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by Anton Newcombe. The former in particular has gained notable success all over the globe, mixing more down to earth songs with more hazy, distorted riffs. Another band in the scene was Beachwood Sparks. Beachwood Sparks influences were the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Gram Parsons and his Flying Burrito Brothers group. Spinning off from the Beachwood Sparks is a band called the Tyde. A new British psychedelic scene also re-emerged amongst the London electronica movement in the late 1990s, giving birth to bands like desert rockers MJ13, where the British interpretation of the Kyuss influx showed more psychedelic sensibilities than the American Stoner rock sound was originally attributed to.
More well-known bands of the Los Angeles scene were the Warlocks and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The Quarter After, a lesser-known group, is Byrds-influenced and has toured with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The groups of the Silverlake Scene are mentioned in the documentary Dig!, which explores the rivalry between Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols.
Another psychedelic band gaining attention in the New York scene is Pax Romana. Pax Romana blends psychedelic, progressive, indie, and shoegaze. They also mix in the occasional folk and surf, among other things. They've been called everything from folkedelic-progressive rock to Thunder-Cougar-Falcon-Bird rock. They are, however, most well known for their psychedelic aspects.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- DeRogatis, Jim. Turn on your mind: four decades of great psychedelic rock. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 2003. ISBN 978-0634055485
- Hicks, Michael. Sixties rock: garage, psychedelic, and other satisfactions. Music in American life. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0252024276
- Kallen, Stuart A. Sixties counterculture. History firsthand. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0737704075
All links retrieved December 2, 2022.
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