- The Beatles
- The Beach Boys
- The Doors
- Jimi Hendrix
- Led Zeppelin
- Pink Floyd
- The Grateful Dead
- The Velvet Underground
- The Stooges
- 13th Floor Elevators
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Big Brother and the Holding Company
- Jefferson Airplane
- Moby Grape
- The Byrds
- The Mamas and the Papas
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
The best psychedelic rock bands come from all over the world and have been making great music for decades. This is the ultimate list of psychedelic rock bands that you need to know about.
Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelia, is a diverse style of rock music that originated in the mid-1960s. Psychedelic rock is generally characterized by distorted guitars, trippy lyrics, and mind-altering themes. The genre is often praised for its ability to transcend traditional boundaries and explore new sonic territory.
While psychedelic rock reached the height of its popularity in the late 1960s, the genre has continued to evolve and influence other styles of music in the decades since. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most iconic psychedelic rock bands of all time.
The Beatles began their recording career by making a handful of innovative and influential rock ‘n’ roll recordings. They quickly evolved into something much more ambitious, becoming studio wizards who incorporated diverse influences into their music. As songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney became the most successful partnership in music history, crafting a huge catalog of classic songs. Onstage and in films, the band was charismatic and entertaining, with a keen sense of humor. The group’s creative growth continued through the last few years of its existence, making it one of the most important and influential bands in rock history.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine. The Beach Boys began as acover band, performing American and British rock standards by artists such as Chuck Berry, the Beatles, and the Four Seasons. The group gained popularity for their close vocal harmonies and original compositions such as “Surfin’ Safari” (1962), “Surfin’ USA” (1963), “Shut Down Volume 2” (1964), “Fun Fun Fun” (1964), and “I Get Around” (1964).
The Doors were an American rock band which formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1965. The group consisted of keyboardist Ray Manzarek, singer and guitarist Jim Morrison, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger. They were unique and among the most controversial rock acts of the 1960s because of Morrison’s enigmatic stage persona and the group’s incorporation of poetry into their songs. After Morrison’s death on 3 July 1971 at the age of 27, the remaining members continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.
Despite having a relatively short career, they released eight studio albums, all of which debuted on the US Billboard 200 chart. The Doors have been listed as one of the 100 greatest artists of all time by magazine. In 1993, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone ranked them 41st on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
If there’s one name that is synonymous with Psychedelic Rock, it’s Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was a revolutionary guitar player who took the sound of Psychedelic Rock to new heights with his exploration of feedback and distortion. His band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released three studio albums in just two years,Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968), all of which are considered Psychedelic Rock classics.
Led Zeppelin was an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band’s heavy, guitar-driven sound has led them to be cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal.
Pink Floyd was an English rock band formed in London in 1965. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially successful and influential rock bands of all time. They have sold over 250 million records worldwide, including 74.5 million albums in the United States.
The band initially consisted of Syd Barrett on lead vocals and guitar, Nick Mason on drums, Roger Waters on bass and vocals, and Richard Wright on keyboards and vocals. Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour in 1968, and Wright left the band in 1979; he was replaced by a series of guest keyboardists. Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, and Gilmour became the band’s sole leader following a 16-year legal battle with Waters over control of the band’s name and material.
Pink Floyd released fourteen studio albums, three live albums, eight compilations, forty-six singles, seventeen video albumsand two soundtracks. They are one of the best-selling music artists of all time with global album sales of more than 200 million units. Their work is marked by Barrett’s use of experimental techniques such as feedback loops, computer-generated sounds and new recording studio technologies; Wright’s use of spacey keyboard effects; Mason’s jazz-influenced drumming style; Gilmour’s bluesy guitar sound; Waters’ lyric themes about conflict, alienation, mental illness, greed andAtari games;and their commercial success that saw them contend with the Beatles for record sales throughout much of the late 1960s to early 1970sontinental
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. Ranging from quintet to septet, the band is known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia and space rock. They are considered one of the original mainstays of the jam band world.
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was an American rock band, active between 1964 and 1973, formed in New York City. The band was initially managed by the pop artist Andy Warhol, and though it was initially active for only a few years and never achieved commercial success, the group is often cited as one of the most important and influential groups of its era.
The Stooges, also known as Iggy and the Stooges, were an American rock band formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1967 by singer Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander. They were one of the first punk rock groups and their revolutionary sound led them to be highly influential to later punk bands. They became notorious for their chaotic live performances which often devolved into violence and destruction. The band released three albums before breaking up in 1974. They reformed in 2003 and released a fourth album in 2007 before breaking up again in 2016.
Cream was a British rock power trio formed in 1966 consisting of drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist/singer Eric Clapton. The group’s third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world’s first platinum-selling double album. Cream are widely regarded as the first supergroup of rock, and one of the most influential groups of the 1960s. They combined elements of British blues with American jazz to form a progressive style that stressed musical technique and extended improvisation.
The band harkened back to an earlier era of concert presentation where showmanship and entertainment were emphasized. One critic wrote, “They were dynamite … playing with a tightness and precision that put other groups to shame.” Another declared,”Cream were the best power trio … ever.” They drew inspiration from older blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Skip James and Howlin’ Wolf, as well as more contemporary figures such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.
13th Floor Elevators
13th Floor Elevators was an American rock band from Austin, Texas, formed in late 1965 and led by singer Roky Erickson. The band was the first psychedelic rock group in Texas. They were combining elements of psychedelia with Garage rock, proto-punk, and Rhythm & Blues. The band released four LP albums before breaking up in early 1969.
The 13th Floor Elevators were classic innovators of their time and helped lay the foundations for what would become Psychedelic Rock as we know it today. If you’re a fan of Psychedelic Rock, then these guys are definitely worth checking out!
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an American-English rock band formed in London in October 1966. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jimi Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and bassist Noel Redding were the group’s original members. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1965, Love was one of the first American psychedelic rock bands. Their debut album, “Forever Changes,” is considered one of the best of the genre. Other notable albums include “Da Capo” and “Four Sail.” Love’s founder, Arthur Lee, was a pioneer in combining different genres of music, including folk, blues, and country.
Love’s music was marked by strong melodies and Arthur Lee’s distinctive high-pitched vocals. The band was also known for its long jams and extended improvised solos. Guitarist Bryan MacLean was an important songwriter for the band, penning such classics as “Alone Again Or” and “Bummer in the Summer.” Love’s final album, “Reel to Real,” was released in 1974. The band broke up shortly afterwards.
Big Brother and the Holding Company
Big Brother and the Holding Company is a San Francisco-based psychedelic rock band that was active in the late 1960s. The band’s original lineup featured Janis Joplin on lead vocals, Sam Andrew on guitar, James Gurley on guitar,Peter Albin on bass, and Dave Getz on drums.
The band’s debut album, Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968), was a critical and commercial success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album’s second single, “Piece of My Heart”, became a Top 10 hit in the United States and Canada.
The banddissolved in 1972 after Joplin died of an accidental overdose of heroin.
Formed in San Francisco in 1965, Jefferson Airplane was one of the pioneering bands of psychedelic rock. They were the first group to sign with Bill Graham’s now legendary Fillmore East and played a pivotal role in the development of the counterculture movement in the United States. The band’s original lineup featured Grace Slick on vocals, Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen on guitar, Jack Casady on bass, and Spencer Dryden on drums.
Jefferson Airplane is best known for their hits “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”, both of which became anthems of the counterculture movement. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow is considered to be one of the greatest psychedelic albums of all time.
Moby Grape was an American rock band from San Francisco, California, formed in 1966. The group was a hit-making machine in 1967, scoring a record five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in one year. They were among the first groups to be described as “psychedelic.” The members were:
The Byrds were an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple line-up changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn until mid-1967) being the sole consistent member. Although they only managed to attain the huge commercial success of their peers the Beatles and the Beach Boys for a short period (1965–66), the Byrds were regarded by critics as one of the leading American pop groups of their era, and were cited as a major factor in the development of contemporary folk rock and country rock.
The original five-piece lineup of the Byrds consisted of Jim McGuinn (lead guitar, vocals), Gene Clark (tambourine, vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar, vocals), Chris Hillman (bass guitar, vocals), and Michael Clarke (drums). However, this version of the band was relatively short-lived; by early 1966, Clark had left due to personal issues, and was replaced by Gram Parsons. Shortly thereafter, Hillman and Clarke also departed to form the Flying Burrito Brothers; they were replaced by Kevin Kelley on drums and Clarence White on lead guitar.
The Mamas and the Papas
The Mamas and the Papas were an American folk rock band that achieved commercial success in the 1960s. The group was composed of John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips. They released a total of five studio albums and sixteen singles over a four-year period, six of which made the Billboard top ten. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for their contributions to the music industry.
The Mamas and the Papas began as a folk rock band in California in 1965. The group’s first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, was released in 1966 and reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart. The album included the singles “California Dreamin'” and “Monday, Monday”, both of which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The group’s second album, The Mama’s and the Papa’s (Deliver), was released in 1967 and peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. The album included the singles “Dedicated to the One I Love” and “Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)”.
The Mamas and the Papas disbanded in 1968 but reunions occurred periodically throughout the 1970s and 1980s. A partial reunion took place in 1999 when Elliot rejoined Phillips and Doherty for a series of concerts in Europe. The reunion was short-lived as Elliot died shortly thereafter.
The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Flying Burrito Brothers were a leading country rock band of the late 1960s and early 1970s, best known for their influential 1969 debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. The group was founded in 1968 in Los Angeles, California by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, both former members of the Byrds. Bassist/keyboardist Bernie Leadon (another former Byrd) and drummer Michael Clarke rounded out the original lineup. Though short-lived, the Flying Burrito Brothers are regarded as one of the most important bands in the development of country rock and inspired subsequent generations of musicians.