The Best Psychedelic Rock Bands from the 60s

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 60s were a revolutionary force in music. They took the electric guitar, the Hammond organ, and the psychedelic drugs and created a new sound that was both trippy and catchy.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The group, whose best-known line-up comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, became widely regarded as the foremost and most influential act of the rock era. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later utilised several genres, ranging from pop ballads topsychedelic and hard rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In 1963 their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”; as the group’s music grew in sophistication following their 1966 album Revolver, led by 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the band were identified with the nascent counterculture for young people that arose in the Western world during that decade.

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred on perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs; such experiences may include hallucinations, synesthesia, altered states of awareness or consciousness, and Spiritual experiences. Psychedelic music may also aim to enhance the experience of using these drugs.

The Beatles were at the forefront of psychedelic rock during the 1960s with their experimental songs and use of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD.

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), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums). Watts left the band in 1963, and was replaced by Mick Taylor. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975. Jones died less than a month after recording started for Exile on Main St.

The Stones have released 30 studio albums in the UK (via Decca Records and Columbia Records) and 23 in the US (via London Records and Rolling Stones Records). They have also released 60 singles – 27 in the UK and 33 in the US – including 20 number-one chart hits in both countries; they are one of the world’s best-selling music artists of all time with sales of more than 200 million records worldwide. In 1989, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2004, they ranked number 4 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and their album Sticky Fingers was declared “The Greatest Album of All Time” bymagazine.

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. They were among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s, mostly because of Morrison’s lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death in 1971, the remaining members continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.

Although the Doors’ active career ended in 1973, their popularity has persisted. According to the RIAA, they have sold over 33 million records in the US alone. Rolling Stone ranked them 41st on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In 1993, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was one of the most successful psychedelic rock bands of the 60s. Formed in 1965, the band released their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967. The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching number 6 on the UK charts. Pink Floyd continued to produce hits throughout the 60s and 70s, including their iconic album, Dark Side of the Moon.

Jimi Hendrix

As far as psychedelic rock bands go, there are few that can top Jimi Hendrix and his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Though Hendrix only released three studio albums during his lifetime (Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland), all of them are considered Psychedelic Rock classics. Thanks to Hendrix’s masterful guitar work and visionary songwriting, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were one of the most influential Psychedelic Rock bands of their era, and remain so to this day.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. Ranging in style from folk rock to psychedelic rock, the band is considered to be one of the originators of the jam band genre. They were ranked 57th in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of all Time and 23rd in VH1’s Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and their discography includes many live albums and compilations.


Cream was one of the most influential bands of the 60s, helping to pioneer the genre of psychedelic rock. Formed in 1966, the band featured Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums. They released four studio albums during their brief time together, including the classics “Disraeli Gears” and “Wheels of Fire.” Though they only stayed together for a few years, Cream left a lasting impact on rock music and are considered one of the greatest bands of all time.

The Who

The Who is a British rock band that formed in London in 1964. The group’s classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20st century, selling over 100 million records worldwide.

The band’s hit singles include “My Generation”, “I Can’t Explain”, “Substitute”, “Happy Jack”, “I Can See for Miles”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and “You Better You Bet”. The Who has released eleven studio albums, seven live albums, five compilation albums, and six EPs. They have also had five UK number one singles and won multiple awards.

Led Zeppelin

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. Their style drew from a wide variety of influences, including blues, psychedelia, and folk music.

The band’s debut album, Led Zeppelin (1969), was a commercial and critical success. It was followed by five more studio albums that were all highly successful: Led Zeppelin II (1969), Led Zeppelin III (1970), Untitled (1971), Houses of the Holy (1973), and Physical Graffiti (1975). After the death of Bonham in 1980, the band decided to disband.

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