The Best Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 1960s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The best psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors. These three bands changed the face of rock music and popular culture.

The Beatles

Seemingly simplistic and juvenile, the music of the Beatles was actually timeless, complex and filled with heart. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the band’s primary songwriters, creating a body of work that stands as one of the greatest in pop history. The Beatles’ sound was heavily influenced by 1950s rock and roll, as well as skiffle and traditional pop music; their style also incorporated Indian classical music elements. The Beatles’ enrollment in the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s “Transcendental Meditation” course in early 1968 had a significant impact on their subsequent songwriting. The band typically used four-part vocal harmony, often with all four members taking different lead vocal parts. Stewart Copeland of The Police said that “the way Paul McCartney arraigned his basslines was very interesting … they were very melodic.”

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. The band’s primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group’s manager. Jones left the band less than a month prior to his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and has been on guitar in tandem with Richards ever since. Following Wyman’s departure in 1993, Darryl Jones joined as their touring bassist. Other touring keyboardists for the band have been Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), and Chuck Leavell (1982–present).

The Stones were at the forefront of the British Invasion of bands that became popular in the US in 1964 and were identified with the youth counterculture of the 1960s. They were instrumental in making blues a major part of rock and roll and whose musical style led to fusion genres such as psychedelic rock and punk rock. Satanic Majesties Request, their 1967 album is often cited as an early example of psychedelic influences on rock music but it is more accurately described as proto-psychedelia. Their popularity waned through much of 1970s owing to drug problems within band members combined with negative press attention—such as due to drummer Watts suffering a cerebral hemorrhage—culminating with Wood and Richards admitting they had not achieved sobriety until 1977; however by 1980 they had returned with some critical acclaim thanks to Some Girls featuring female guests such successes would continue into 1984’s Undercover before tensions resumed between Jagger and Richards which led to an extended hiatus until 1989 followed by further conflicts upon their reunion leading to their present day semi-retirement as touring musicians. During this time period bassist Jones developed drug problems that ultimately led to his death from drowning at Cotchford Farm on 3 July 1969; Woody would also struggle for much of this time period but find sobriety after entering Alcoholics Anonymous in 1986 thus allowing him greater stability: Watts has also battled cancer since 1986 while Jagger has suffered heart VALVE replacement surgery due more recent heart risks brought about by his previous smoking habits: leading up these health issues both Jagger marriage Spice Girl Melanie Biderchner failed as well along worries about lawsuit over plagiarism claims brought against them over “Anybody Seen My Baby” off Bridges via Kern County Superior Court judge Dennis Landin on 13 November 2018 which they had settled out court agreement was not revealed though Landin did rule that the case had merit moving forward if not for settlement: currently Jagger is married fashion designer Melanie Hamrick whom he started dating around 2014 shortly after L’Wren Scott committed suicide 2014 following years financial struggles her fashion label LSL which eventually closed 2019 two years after her death leaving significant debt creditors: meanwhile Wood married Sally Humphreys 2013 having started dating 2009 following Wood’).

The Kinks

The Kinks are an English rock band formed in Muswell Hill, North London, in 1964 by brothers Dave Davies and Ray Davies. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. The band emerged during the height of British rhythm and blues and Merseybeat, and were briefly part of the British Invasion of the US until their touring ban in 1965. Their third album, Please Please Me, released in early 1964, went to number one in the UK.

The Kinks’ style was characterised by a combination of Ray Davies’ observational songs and R&B-influenced guitar-driven tracks that were sometimes reflective (“You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night”), sometimes humorous (“A Well Respected Man”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”), but always catchy and popular. These early hits coincided with the rise of pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, which played a key role in breaking down Billboard magazine’s so-called payola system whereby records were promoted only if record companies paid disc jockeys to play them.

The Kinks are now recognised as one of the most important British Invasion bands, particularly in North America where they influenced many proto-punk and punk rock bands such as The Stooges, The New York Dolls, Television and Blondie. They have also been cited as an influence by hard rock bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Nirvana; while Ray Davies was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Who

The Who is one of the most important and influential psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s. They were among the first to popularize the use of feedback, distortion, and other sonic techniques that would come to be integral to the sound of psychedelic rock. The band’s 1967 album, “The Who Sell Out,” is a perfect example of their innovative approach to songwriting and sonic experimentation. The album features songs that are based on commercials, and it includes an extended jam on the track “I Can See for Miles.” The Who’s 1968 album, ” Tommy,” is a groundbreaking work of concept rock that tells the story of a “deaf, dumb, and blind” boy who becomes a Christ-like figure. The album was adapted into a film in 1975, and it remains one of the most iconic and influential works in all of rock music.

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. The band got its name, at Morrison’s suggestion from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which itself was a reference to a quote from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” They were among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s because of Morrison’s wild, poetic lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After signing with Elektra Records in 1967, they released eight albums in five years before Morrison’s death aged 27 in 1971. Despite this, the band continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.

The Doors are considered one of the most influential bands of their era. They created a new musical style blending blues and classical elements with rock n’ roll to create their own unique psychedelic sound. They were one of the first American bands to incorporate elements from world music into their sound, as well as psychedelic imagery and drug-related lyrics into their songs. The Doors had a profound impact on popular culture and are remembered as one of the most iconic and influential rock bands of all time.

Jimi Hendrix

Born in Seattle in 1942, Jimi Hendrix is often considered the greatest guitar player of all time. Though his career was short, Jimi Hendrix’s impact on rock music was and continues to be immeasurable. His psychedelic rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released three seminal albums in 1967-1968 – Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland – that forever changed the sound and scope of rock music. After his untimely death in 1970 at the age of 27, Hendrix was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. His album Are You Experienced was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Led Zeppelin

Psychedelic rock, sometimes called acid rock, is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic music is intended to replicate and enhance the experience of taking psychedelics, typically natural hallucinogens such as cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, salvia divinorum, LSD, DMT or MDA. It often uses new recording techniques and effects and draws on non-Western sources such as the raga drone of Indian classical music.

Psychedelic rock developed out of the earlier genre of garage rock during the mid-1960s in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its most influential artists included the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, Cream and Vanilla Fudge. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane and writing duo Donovan contributed to its spread around the world. Although psychedelic rock reached its peak popularity in the late 1960s or early 1970s, some elements continued to be incorporated into mainstream pop music throughout subsequent decades.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is a British rock band that formed in London in 1965. The band members are Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright. They are considered to be one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, and their sound has been highly influential in the development of psychedelic rock.

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