Psychedelic Rock Defined: The Sound of the 60s and 70s

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock is a music genre that is often associated with the 60s and 70s. In this blog post, we will explore what psychedelic rock is, its key features, and some of its most famous exponents.

What is Psychedelic Rock?

Psychedelic Rock, also known as “Psychedelia”, is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The style is characterized by a heavy use of distorted electric guitars, bass guitars, drums, and vocals.

The sound of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psych rock or simply psychedelia, is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. The sound of psychedelic rock is characterized by distorted guitars, heavy blues-influenced rhythms, and drug-related lyrics. The genre is often associated with the use of mind-altering drugs such as LSD, which were popular among psychedelic rock musicians.

The term “psychedelic” was first coined in the late 1950s by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in reference to the psychoactive effects of LSD. The term was later popularized by writer Aldous Huxley in his book The Doors of Perception, which was based on his experiences with the drug. Psychedelic rock began to gain popularity in the mid-1960s with bands such as the Beatles, who incorporated elements of psychedelia into their music. Psychedelic rock reached its peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s with bands such as Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead.

The origins of Psychedelic Rock

Much like the Psychedelic movement itself, the musically genre ofPsychedelic Rock is hard to define. That’s largely because it pulls from so many different places, both musically and ideologically. In its broadest definition, Psychedelic Rock can be described as a rock music subgenre that emerged in the mid-1960s, characterized by distorted guitars, hallucinations, and other sonic effects intended to replicate the experience of psychedelic drugs.

But of course, it’s not quite that simple. For one thing, not all Psychedelic Rock is alike. The genre evolved over time, taking on different form and meaning as it spread from its origins in the United States to the UK and beyond. And while drugs were certainly a big part of Psychedelic culture, they weren’t the only thing going on. The Psychedelic movement was also about looseness and freedom—in both music and society—and that rebellious spirit can be heard in the best Psychedelic Rock tracks.

So what are some of the songs that define Psychedelic Rock? Here are 10 essential tracks that capture the sound and spirit of the genre.

The Psychedelic Rock Scene

Psychedelic rock, also known as simply Psychedelia, is a style of rock music characterized by distorted guitars, light show visuals, and trippy lyrics. The genre emerged in the mid-1960s with bands such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Grateful Dead experimenting with LSD and other drugs. Psychedelic rock reached its peak in the late 1960s with the release of albums like The Beatles’ Sgt.

The San Francisco Sound

Pioneered by artists like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana, the San Francisco Sound was a term used to describe the unique blend of psychedelic rock and Latin-influenced music that came out of the Bay Area in the 60s and 70s.

San Francisco was the epicenter of the countercultural movement in America, and its music scene reflected that. Psychedelic drugs were widely used by both musicians and concert-goers, and the concerts themselves were often wild, improvisational affairs.

The San Francisco Sound was characterized by its trippy, extended jam sessions, its use of unusual instrumentation (including sitars and congas), and its often Latin-influenced rhythms. It was a highly experimental form of music that pushed the boundaries of what rock could be.

The sound was largely led by The Grateful Dead, who were known for their marathon live shows. Other important bands in the scene included Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and The Great Society.

The British Invasion

The Psychedelic Rock Scene of the late 1960s was characterized by the use of electric guitars, drums, and bass guitars to create a “wall of sound” that was intended to evoke or enhance psychedelic experiences. The British Invasion of the mid-1960s, led by the Beatles, saw a surge in popularity of psychedelic rock. By 1967, it had become the genre dominant in popular music. Other British Invasion bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Who also helped to popularize the genre.

Psychedelic Rock Today

Psychedelic rock, also called psy rock or garage 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. The music is intended to replicate and shade light on the experience of altered consciousness.

The legacy of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also sometimes called acid rock, is a type of rock music that emerged in the early to mid-1960s and was developed by a subculture of experimental and underground music fans known as “acid heads”, “freaks”, or “hippies”. The style is typified by a preoccupation with modal harmonic structures, extended improvisation, unusual sound effects and textures, and an overall experimentation with sonic extremities. Musically influenced by Indian classical music, jazz, the avant-garde, and proto-punk bands such as the Velvet Underground, the psychedelic sound began to take hold in 1965–66 when British and American bands started to contain elements of improvisation within their standard pop song structures.

Psychedelic rock reached its apotheosis in 1967 with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd. These albums expanded consciousness and musical horizons at a time when Western society was both enjoying unprecedented economic prosperity and engaged in widespread social upheaval. The Psychedelic Era continued through the late 1960s into early 1970s when bands such as Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience and similar artists helped to define what came to be known as acid rock.

Psychedelic Rock in the 21st century

In the 21st century, psychedelic rock is still very much alive and well. You’ll find artists like Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, and MGMT continuing to experiment with the mind-bending sound of this genre.

Psychedelic rock emerged in the mid-1960s as part of the counterculture movement. This genre of music is characterized by distorted guitars, mind-altering lyrics, and extended improvisational jams. Psychedelic rock was used as a tool for social change, as artists used their music to address topics like racism, war, and politics.

The sound of psychedelic rock began to change in the 1970s as artists began experimenting with different sonic textures. This resulted in a more atmospheric sound that was often compared to spacey or dreamlike states. Some of the most iconic bands from this era include Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones.

While psychedelic rock may have started in the 1960s, its influence can still be heard in today’s music. So turn on some Tame Impala, close your eyes, and let your mind be taken on a trip through time and space.

Similar Posts