1960s Psychedelic Rock: The Best of the Decade

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

Looking back at the 1960s, it’s hard to deny that Psychedelic Rock was one of the defining genres of the decade. From The Beatles to The Doors, Pink Floyd to The Grateful Dead, Psychedelic Rock defined a generation and continues to influence music today. Here, we take a look at the best Psychedelic Rock songs of the 1960s.

The Beatles – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

The Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is often considered one of the best albums of all time, and it is certainly the most well-known psychedelic rock album of the 1960s. The album’s iconic cover art, featuring a collage of famous faces, set the stage for the sonic experimentation that was to come. “Sgt. Pepper’s” features some of The Beatles’ most beloved songs, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and “A Day in the Life.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Are You Experienced?”

In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut album, Are You Experienced?, which featured some of the most innovative and influential guitar work of the decade. This album cemented Hendrix as a pioneer of psychedelic rock and helped to shape the sound of the genre for years to come.

Pink Floyd – “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”

Released in August of 1967, Pink Floyd’s debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was a mix of Syd Barrett-penned pop songs and experimental instrumentals. The record reached #6 on the UK charts and is considered by many to be one of the first psychedelic rock albums.

The Doors – “The Doors”

The Doors’ self-titled debut album was released in 1967 and is one of the most influential albums of all time. It is a perfect example of psychedelic rock and features the band’s signature sound. The album includes the singles “Light My Fire” and “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”, which are two of the most iconic songs of the 60s.

Love – “Forever Changes”

Love’s “Forever Changes” is one of the most beautiful, poetic and deeply moving records of the psychedelic era. It’s also one of the most atypical, eschewing the era’s customary themes of mind expansion, youthful abandon and social protest in favor of something far more personal, introspective and, in a way, mature. This was an album about growing up, growing old and learning to accept change, all conveyed through singer-songwriter Arthur Lee’s cryptic lyrics and the gorgeous orchestrated pop arrangements of producer Bruce Botnick. Lee never made another album like “Forever Changes,” but its influence can be heard in subsequent generations of music makers who found themselves drawn to its melancholy poetry and wistful melodies.

The Grateful Dead – “Anthem of the Sun”

The Grateful Dead’s second album, Anthem of the Sun, was released in 1968. This album marked a change in the sound of the band, as they began to experiment with longer, more complex compositions and greater use of studio techniques such as feedback and echo. Anthem of the Sun is considered one of the first examples of psychedelic rock, and is included on many lists of the best albums of the 1960s.

Jefferson Airplane – “Surrealistic Pillow”

Released in February of 1967, “Surrealistic Pillow” was the second album by San Francisco based psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, and is considered by many to be one of the defining albums of the psychedelic rock genre. The album features two of the band’s most well-known songs, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”, both of which remain staples of classic rock radio to this day. If you’re looking for a mind-bending trip back to the Summer of Love, look no further than “Surrealistic Pillow”.

The Byrds – “Younger Than Yesterday”

The Byrds – “Younger Than Yesterday” (1967)

The Byrds were one of the most influential American rock bands of the 1960s. Their sound was a distinctive mix of folk-rock and jangly 12-string guitar, and their lyrics often touched on issues of social injustice, patriotism, and environmentalism. “Younger Than Yesterday” is from their 1967 album of the same name, and it’s considered one of their best works. The song is a perfect example of the Byrds’ unique sound, and its message of hope in the face of change is as relevant today as it was in the turbulent 1960s.

Moby Grape – “Moby Grape”

Moby Grape’s self-titled debut is one of the crowning achievements of the psychedelic era. The band – which featured five lead vocalists and songwriters in its original formation – took full advantage of the possibilities presented by the newly minted studio technology, crafting a record that was both expansive and intimate, cosmic and down-to-earth. The result was a sound that was both unique and emblematic of its time.

While the album did not achieve the commercial success of some of its contemporaries, it has since come to be regarded as one of the finest examples of psychedelic rock. In 2004, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – “Cheap Thrills”

Cheap Thrills is the second studio album by American rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was their final album with lead singer Janis Joplin, who left to form her own group, Full Tilt Boogie. Recorded in 1968, it was released on August 12, 1968, on Columbia Records.

The album is considered one of the greatest of the psychedelic genre and contains some of Joplin’s most memorable songs, including the title track, “Piece of My Heart”, “Summertime”, and “Ball and Chain”. It peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified 2x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In 2003, the album was ranked number 338 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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