The 10 Best Psychedelic Rock Bands

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. Here are the 10 best psychedelic rock bands.

The Beatles

Originating from Liverpool, England, The Beatles were an English rock band that became arguably the most successful band in history. The group achieved international stardom during their time together and are to this day considered one of the most influential groups of all time. They are credited with helping to pioneer the genre of psychedelic rock and their musical style and experimental approach set them apart from their contemporaries. The group disbanded in 1970 and while they only released a handful of albums during their time together, their influence can still be felt today.

Pink Floyd

Formed in 1965, Pink Floyd is one of the most successful and influential rock bands of all time. With a sound that incorporated psychedelic, experimental and classical elements, the band achieved international fame with their groundbreaking album “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Other notable albums include “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals” and “The Wall.” Pink Floyd’s work has been highly praised by music critics, and they are considered one of the most important bands in the history of rock music.

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1965. The group was founded by vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. They were one of the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s because of Morrison’s unpredictable stage antics and poetic lyrics, and the group was widely regarded as an important part of the counterculture.

The Doors achieved national fame after signing with Elektra Records in 1967. Their self-titled debut album was a commercial success, reaching number two on the Billboard 200 chart. The album included their breakout hit “Light My Fire” which topped the charts for three weeks in July 1967. The band followed this success with their sophomore effort Strange Days which peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and produced their second top ten hit “People Are Strange”. After Elektra dropped the band from their label following a string of disagreements, they released their third album Awake which received mixed reviews but still managed to sell well.

The Doors fourth album Soft Parade was met with even more mixed reviews but still managed to peak at number six on the Billboard 200. The album’s lead single “Tell All the People” reached number twenty-four on the Hot 100 chart. At this point in their career, Morrison’s drug addiction was starting to affect his performances and writing; as a result, he would be fired from the band mid-tour during their 1970 American tour. Krieger and Densmore carried on as a duo for a few years after Morrison’s departure before eventually recruiting new members to form The Doors of the 21st Century which toured successfully until 2008 when Manzarek died of cancer.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin rose to become one of the most influential rock bands of their era. Rumors and legends have long circulated about their purported use of psychedelic drugs during their creative peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although the band has never confirmed nor denied these claims, some believe that their music was heavily influenced by LSD, mushrooms, and other mind-altering substances. Led Zeppelin’s music is characterized by heavy riffing, complex arrangements, and unearthly howls and wails from singer Robert Plant. If there is any truth to the rumors about Led Zeppelin’s drug use, it’s certainly reflected in their pioneering work in the field of psychedelic rock.

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, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, modal jazz, reggae, experimental music, psychedelia, and space rock. They are considered pioneers of the psychedelic rock movement. The band was ranked 57th by Rolling Stone magazine in its The Greatest Artists of All Time issue. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and their Barton Hall Concert was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2012.

Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane is an American rock band from San Francisco, California, formed in 1965. The group has had several transitions in personnel and influences over the years, and is regarded as one of the most influential bands of the psychedelic rock era. Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Psychedelic rock, sometimes called garage rock, is a style of rock music that was popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was characterized by distorted guitars, acid-inspired lyrics, and extended improvisation. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the most popular and influential psychedelic rock bands of all time.


Cream was a British rock supergroup formed in London in 1966. The group consisted of bassist/singer Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker, and guitarist/singer Eric Clapton. Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock, and their extended live sets included lengthy improvised sections that drew on these genres.

Cream made a significant impact on popular music in the 1960s and are widely regarded as being instrumental in the development of psychedelic rock. They are also credited with helping to pioneer the power trio format. Their greatest commercial success was with the singles “Crossroads” (1968), “Sunshine of Your Love” (1968) and “Badge” (1969).

The band’s live performances attracted considerable attention for their extended improvisation and were often cited as a key influence by other artists, including Jimi Hendrix and George Clinton.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground was an American rock band, active between 1964 and 1973, formed in New York City. The group’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, was released in 1967 to critical indifference and poor sales but is now recognized as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music.

Sly and the Family Stone

Even though they began as a funk band, Sly and the Family Stone’s fusion of rock, soul, R&B, and blues quickly made them one of the most popular psychedelic rock bands of the late ’60s. Their 1969 album Stand! is often cited as one of the best psychedelic albums of all time, and their live performances were legendary for their energy and improvisation. The band’s career was sadly cut short by drug addiction and personal problems, but their influence can still be felt in contemporary music.

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