The Definition of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic 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.

What is Psychedelic Rock?

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as garage rock, is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the mid-1960s. It is characterized by electric guitars, extended instrumentation, and drug-inspired lyrics. The psychedelic sound is often created by using studio techniques such as feedback and reverb.

The genre emerged in the mid-1960s as a reaction against the British Invasion and the American folk music revival. Psychedelic rock bands began to experiment with new sounds and instruments, and they often useddrugs, such as LSD, to enhance their musical experiences. The genre reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s with bands such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Grateful Dead.

In the 1970s, psychedelia began to decline in popularity, but it has remained an influence on subsequent generations of rock musicians. Psychedelic rock has been described as “the most influential forgotten genre of rock music.”

The Origins of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also called garage rock, psychedelic pop, or acid rock, style of rock music popular in the mid- to late 1960s that was partly inspired by mind-altering drugs such as marijuana and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). Characteristically, the music offers a sonic bombardment of distorted guitars, feedback, and intensified sound effects set against catchy rhythms and often drug-related lyrics. The style is also notable for attempts to musically simulate or enhance drug experiences. The effects were seldom achieved live; studio technology was critical to psychedelic rock’s success.

Although the Beatles were not the first English group to experiment with drug-related themes and sonic distortions—the Rolling Stones had done so as early as 1965 with their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”—the band quickly became the standard-bearers of the new style with such 1966–67 hits as “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Beach Boys also turned in a strong performance in 1966 with their album Pet Sounds. These works raised both the artistic and commercial level of popular music and exerted a profound influence on subsequent generations of musicians.

The Key Characteristics of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. The style is marked by a preoccupation with altered states of consciousness, particularly those brought on by psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline. Psychedelic rock attempts to replicate or enhance the experience of these drugs through the use of extended instrumental solos, heavily distorted guitars, and trippy sound effects.

Psychedelic rock developed out of the early British underground scene, which was itself influenced by the US psychedelic scene. Key figures in the development of the genre include Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and George Harrison of The Beatles. Psychedelic rock reached its commercial peak in the late 1960s with the release of albums like The Doors’ self-titled debut album and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The genre began to decline in popularity in the early 1970s, but has experienced something of a revival in recent years thanks to bands like Tame Impala and Foxygen.

The Legacy of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, sometimes called acid rock or simply psychedelia, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s and achieved mainstream popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The style is characterized by distorted guitars, trippy lyrics, extended instrumental passages, and an overall experimental or “mind-expanding” sound. Psychedelic rock often relies on long jam sessions, improvisation, and explored moods and emotions.

Psychedelic rock emerged as a reaction against the staid music of the 1950s and early 1960s. Psychedelic musicians sought to replicate the mind-expanding experiences of LSD and other psychedelic drugs through their music. They often incorporated elements from other genres, including Eastern music, jazz, and blues. As the psychedelic movement caught on in the mainstream, some psychedelic bands began to experiment with more commercially accessible sounds.

The legacy of psychedelic rock is evident in many subsequent genres, including prog rock, krautrock, art rock, new wave, punk rock, post-punk, indie rock, grunge, and even heavy metal. Psychedelic rock also had a profound influence on fashion and lifestyle trends of the 1960s and 1970s.

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