The Cult of Psychedelic Rock

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

The Cult of Psychedelic Rock is a blog dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of psychedelic rock music. From the early days of the genre to its modern incarnation, we cover it all!

Origins of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelic pop or simply psychedelia, is a style of rock music characterized by the creation of an atmosphere of heightened reality through the use of various sonic and visual effects, typically in accordance with the ideals of the late 1960s counterculture. The name “psychedelic” is derived from the Greek words ψυχή (psyche, “soul, spirit, mind”) and δηλείν (delein, “to make visible, to manifest”), and was first coined by British psychologist Humphry Osmond in 1956. Psychedelic rock emerged in the mid-1960s with the help of British rock group The Beatles and their producer, George Martin.

San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district

San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in the mid-’60s was ground zero for a movement that would change the course of music history. A mecca for disaffected youth, the Haight was the birthplace of the counterculture and a hotbed of experimentation, with psychedelic drugs playing a significant role in the scene.

Psychedelic rock, also known as acid rock or simply psychedelic music, is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1960s and gained popularity in the 1970s. Rooted in British and American blues rock, psychedelic rock incorporates elements of other genres such as folk, pop, soul, and jazz. Musically, psychedelic rock is characterized by extended embellishment and improvisation, often based on Eastern modalities such as sitar drones, as well as by an experimental approach to songwriting that emphasizes freeform composition over traditional pop conventions.

The San Francisco sound quickly spread beyond the Haight-Ashbury scene, finding its way into the music of bands like The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Psychedelic rock would go on to have a profound impact on popular culture at large, influencing fashion, art, film, and beyond.

The British Invasion

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as acid rock, is a type of music that became popular in the mid-1960s and continued into the early 1970s. The term is most often used to describe popular music that incorporated elements of psychedelic culture, such as mind-altering drugs, distorted sound, and extended improvisation.

Psychedelic rock began to emerge in the early 1960s with the British Invasion bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks. These groups were influenced by American rhythm and blues artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, as well as by jazz artists such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane. In addition, they were influenced by the countercultural scene of the time, which included mind-altering drugs such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

The Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver is often cited as the first psychedelic rock album. The album’s experimental sound was influenced by Western avant-garde music, Eastern modal scales, and the band’s use of LSD. Other important earlyPsychedelic albums include The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966), Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced (1967).

Psychedelic rock reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s with bands such as The Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. As the 1960s came to a close, psychedelia began to decline in popularity due to a number of factors, including changing attitudes towards drugs, a decrease in quality of music being produced, and a shift in focus towards social issues such as civil rights and the Vietnam War.

Key Figures in Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedlia, is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1960s. The subgenre typically employs distorted guitars, feedback, and extreme reverb, creating a “wall of sound.” Psychedelic rock often incorporates elements of Indian music and the use of sitars. Key figures in the development of psychedelic rock include Syd Barrett, Jimi Hendrix, and Roger Waters.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was an American rock musician who is considered to be one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942, and began playing guitar at the age of 15. He rose to fame in the United Kingdom after participating in the Monterey Pop Festival and released his debut album, Are You Experienced, in 1967. His psychedelic rock style incorporated elements of blues and jazz, and he is considered to be one of the most important innovators of the genre. Hendrix died of a drug overdose on September 18, 1970, at the age of 27.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead were an American rock band formed in the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area. The band was known for its long, improvised jams and for its fusion of different musical styles, including folk, blues, country, jazz, and psychedelic rock. The Grateful Dead’s music had a significant influence on the development of psychedelic rock.

The band was founded in 1965 by Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann. They were later joined by keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and singer-songwriter Robert Hunter. The band’s first album, The Grateful Dead (1967), was a critical and commercial success.

The Grateful Dead’s live performances were legendary. They were renowned for their improvisational style and for their ability to create a “flow state” in which the musicians and the audience were completely immersed in the music. The Dead often played for hours at a time, and their concerts became marathon events.

The band was famously popular with hippies and with the counterculture more broadly. They were also popular with jamband enthusiasts and with fans of live music in general. The Grateful Dead have been credited with helping to create the “jamband” scene.

The Grateful Dead’s influence can be heard in many subsequent bands, including Phish, Widespread Panic, Dispatch, moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and Ratdog.

Pink Floyd

Formed in 1965, Pink Floyd was one of the first psychedelic rock bands. Their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, is considered a classic of the genre. The band’s signature sound is a combination of strong melodies, innovative sound effects, and extended jamming. Pink Floyd is known for their live performances, which often included elaborate light shows and multimedia presentations.

The band’s lineup changed several times over the years, but the most famous lineup consisted of Syd Barrett (vocals, guitar), Roger Waters (bass), Richard Wright (keyboards), and Nick Mason (drums). Barrett left the band in 1968 due to mental health issues, and was replaced by David Gilmour. Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, and Wright died in 2008. Gilmour and Mason remain the only constant members of the band.

Pink Floyd has released fifteen studio albums, including The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. They have sold over 200 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Sound of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also called acid rock or simply psychedelia, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. The sound of psychedelic rock is characterized by distorted guitars, heavy use of feedback, and extreme sonic experimentation. The style is often associated with the use of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, and is intended to replicate the feeling of being under the influence of these drugs.

The use of feedback

Instrumental feedback is a sonic effect created when a guitar is audible in the sound reinforcement of a musical performance. Musicians use feedback to create texture or contrast in their sound.

Feedback generally occurs when the sound from an amplifier or PA system is “fed back” into the microphone or guitar pickups. This can happen when the microphone is placed too close to the speaker stack, or when the gain on the amplifier is set too high.

Feedback can also be created intentionally by musicians, using a variety of techniques. For example, Jimi Hendrix often used feedback to create sustain and texture in his solos. Guitarists such as Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen have also used feedback to produce unique sounds.

Feedback can be a positive or negative experience for audiences, depending on how it is used by the performer. In some cases, feedback can add excitement and energy to a performance; in others, it can be overwhelming and intrusive.

The use of reverb

Reverb is an important part of the psychedelic rock sound. It is created when sound waves bounce off of a surface and are reflected back to the listener. Reverb can be used to create a sense of space and depth in a recording, and it can also be used to make a recording sound “larger than life.”

Psychedelic rock bands often use reverb to create a sense of otherworldly or mystical space in their music. The Grateful Dead, for example, were known for their use of reverb on stage, which created a feeling of ” being there” for their live audiences. Pink Floyd also made use of reverb to create an immersive soundscape on their landmark album The Dark Side of the Moon.

The use of distorted guitars

In rock music, the electric guitar is often used with distortion to produce a “heavy” sound. A distorted guitar sound was first used in rock music in the late 1940s by T-Bone Walker, who blasted his amplifier so hard that the valves began to distort. Walker’s 1948 recording “Mean Old World” (with pianist Eddie Boyd) was one of the first electric blues recordings to feature this sound. Bo Diddley popularized the use of distorted guitars with his 1955 hit “I’m a Man”.

Psychedelic rock was originally conceived as an attempt to musically replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs such as LSD. Musically, it is characterized by extended jams, improvisation, unusual instrumentation, and an emphasis on extended chord progressions and modulations. Guitars are typically played with heavy distortion and feedback, creating a “wall of sound.” Psychedelic rock often uses acoustic instruments such as flutes and sitars.

The Legacy of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also known as acid rock, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. The style is characterized by distorted guitars, feedback, and extreme volume levels. Psychedelic rock often incorporates elements of Indian music and the use of feedback and distortion.

The influence on subsequent genres

Psychedelic rock, often called just psychedelia, is a style of rock music that came to prominence in the 1960s. The style is distinguished by its use of guitar effects like reverb and feedback, and extended solos. Psychedelic rock bands often used light shows and projections in their live performances.

The genre had a lasting influence on subsequent genres, including punk rock, krautrock, and jam band. Psychedelic rock reached its peak popularity in the late 1960s, but began to decline in the early 1970s. The decline was partly due to changes in the music industry; as well as to backlash against the perceived excesses of the counterculture (such as increased drug use and violence at music festivals).

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as “acid rock”, is a subgenre of rock music that became popular in the 1960s. Its roots can be traced back to early blues and jazz, and the genre is often seen as an important precursor to later genres such as garage rock, punk rock, and new wave.

Psychedelic rock is known for its distinctive sound, which is often characterized by high levels of distortion and extended guitar solos. The genre is also known for its focus on themes of drug use and mind expansion.

Psychedelic rock reached the height of its popularity in the late 1960s, when bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead released a series of influential albums. The genre began to decline in popularity in the early 1970s, but has undergone a number of revival movements in recent years.

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