Psychedelic Rock and the Popular Bands of the 60s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. Psychedelic rock bands sought to replicate the experience of altered states of consciousness, often achieved through the use of drugs.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the foremost and most influential music band. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”, but as their songwriting grew in sophistication they came to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era’s sociocultural revolutions.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band that formed in London, England, in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones (lead guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (rhythm guitar), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. Jones died less than a month after recording finished for their 1964 self-titled debut album. The Rolling Stones replaced Jones with guitarist Mick Taylor, who remained with the band for five years. After Taylor left the band, he was replaced by Ronnie Wood, who has remained with the group ever since.

The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of the British Invasion of bands that became popular in the United States in 1964. They have released 25 studio albums through 2016 and recorded material for numerous compilations and live albums. Their early songs such as “Paint It Black”, “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” became international anthems of teenage angst and rebellion. During the late 1960s their primary songwriters Jagger and Richards wrote songs that paradoxically celebrated hedonism while calling for political change; such songs included “Street Fighting Man” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. While theyospace after them.”;
While it is difficult to precisely date the start of Psychedelic Rock, most agree that it began sometime in 1965 or 1966, aptly coinciding with LSD becoming widely available on college campuses across America.

The Doors

The Doors were one of the most controversial and influential rock bands of the 1960s. With their provocatively charged lyrics and stage antics, the group’smusic pushed social boundaries while resonating with the rebellious youth of the decade. Under the leadership of singer/songwriter/keyboardist Jim Morrison, The Doors established themselves as one of America’s premier psychedelic rock bands.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is considered one of the greatest electric guitarists in the history of rock music. His innovative style blended American blues and R&B with British rock. He is also one of the first popular musicians to use feedback and distortion to create unique sound effects. Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942. He began playing guitar at the age of 15. In 1961, he left home and joined the U.S. Army, where he played in an Army band. In 1964, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing clubs in Nashville.

In 1966, Hendrix moved to England and formed a band called The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band became popular in Britain and Europe with their hit song “Hey Joe”. They toured the United States in 1967 and performed at the Monterey Pop Festival. Their performance at Monterey was considered one of the highlights of the festival. In 1968, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their third album, Electric Ladyland, which included the hit single “All Along the Watchtower”.

Hendrix died on September 18, 1970, from an overdose of sleeping pills. He was 27 years old.


Cream was a British rock band formed in 1966 consisting of guitarist/singer Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker, and bassist/singer Jack Bruce. The group’s third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world’s first platinum-selling double album. Cream’s greatest hits include “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, “Crossroads”, and “Badge”. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band was known for its unique and experimental style, which blended elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, country, and jazz. They are credited as one of the main influences on the development of the psychedelic rock genre. The band was founded by Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass guitar, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). Other members of the band who made significant contributions to their sound included Tom Constanten (keyboards), Keith Godchaux (keyboards), Donna Godchaux (vocals), Brent Mydland (keyboards, vocals), and Vince Welnick (keyboards). The Grateful Dead played over 2,300 concerts in their 30-year career.

The Who

The Who is an English rock band that was formed in 1964. The band is composed of Roger Daltrey (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals, keyboards), John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass instruments, vocals) and Keith Moon (drums, percussion). The Who is considered to be one of the most influential bands of the 20th century. They are known for their hits “My Generation”, “I Can’t Explain”, “Substitute”, “I Can See for Miles”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Riley”.

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. With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, they are regularly credited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal. Their style drew from a wide variety of influences, including blues, psychedelia, and folk music.

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