Psychedelic Rock and Its Influence on Music Today

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Psychedelic rock is a genre of rock music that flourished in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The style typically featured lengthy, often improvised jams, and incorporated elements of pop, soul, funk, and Indian classical music.

Psychedelic Rock- what is it?

Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1960s. It is characterized by a distorted guitar sound, trippy sound effects, and often mind-altering lyrics. Psychedelic rock was often used by artists to communicate their feelings of social and political unrest. The genre has had a significant influence on popular music today.

Defining characteristics of psychedelic rock

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. Its sound is characterized by distorted guitars, feedback, and extreme changes in dynamics. Psychedelic rock attempts to replicate the experience of taking drugs such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

The style is often credited with originating in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to many of the most influential bands of the psychedelic rock era. The first major psychedelic rock band was The Grateful Dead, who were followed by Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Other influential bands included The Doors, The Byrds, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix.

Psychedelic rock reached its peak of popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It then began to decline in popularity, due in part to its association with drug use. It has since come to be regarded as one of the most important genres in the history of rock music.

Origins of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, sometimes referred to as acid rock, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. The style is characterized by electric guitars, often feedback-laden, and lyrics with mind-altering or drug-related themes. The earliest examples of psychedelic rock include The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1966), Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” (1967), and The 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (1966).

San Francisco in the 1960s

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as “psychedelia”, is a genre of music that was popularized in the 1960s. The term “psychedelic” refers to the experience of altered perception and awareness, which is typically induced by the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline. Psychedelic music often makes use of electronic effects and distorted instruments in order to create an auditory “trip” that mimics the drug-induced experience.

The origins of psychedelic rock can be traced back to San Francisco in the 1960s, where bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were experimenting with mind-altering drugs and incorporating them into their music. The use of LSD in particular was becoming increasingly commonplace among young people at the time, thanks in part to researcher Dr. Timothy Leary, who popularized the catchphrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. The countercultural movement that was taking place in San Francisco at this time was also a major influence on the development of psychedelic rock.

The popularity of psychedelic rock spread quickly throughout the United States and Europe, with bands such as Pink Floyd, The Doors, and The Beatles all incorporating elements of psychedelia into their music. Psychedelic rock ultimately had a significant impact on the development of other genres such as punk rock and heavy metal. Today, psychedelic rock is enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity thanks to bands like Tame Impala and MGMT who are carrying on the tradition of mind-expanding music.

The British Invasion

Psychedelic rock, sometimes referred to simply as psychedelia, is a style of rock music that was inspired by psychedelic culture and seeked to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. The genre emerged during the mid 1960s among folk rock and blues rock bands in the United States and the United Kingdom. It reached its apotheosis in the last years of the decade with the so-called “Summer of Love”, when, as journalist Jon Savage would later write, “psychedelia was suddenly everywhere”.

During the British Invasion of 1964, a number of British rock bands began to experiment with drug-induced states, through the use of drugs such as LSD, in order to replicate and enhance their live performances. These included The Beatles, who famously took LSD during their 1966 tour of the United States; The Rolling Stones, who took LSD while recording their album Between the Buttons; The Kinks, who wrote and recorded several songs while under the influence of LSD; and The Who, who experimented with LSD while performing at London’s Roundhouse in 1966.

Psychedelic music’s quest for transcendence via mind-altering substances continues to influence many artists today.

How Psychedelic Rock Influenced Music Today

Psychedelic rock, also known as “acid rock”, is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1960s. The style is characterized by electric guitars, extended solos, and heavy use of effects such as echo and feedback. Psychedelic rock music often incorporates elements of other genres, such as blues, R&B, and folk. The genre had a significant impact on the development of popular music in the second half of the 20th century.

The Beatles

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as simply psychedelic or acid rock, is a subgenre of rock music that became popular in the 1960s. The style is generally characterized by distorted guitars, trippy lyrics, and mind-bending sound effects. Psychedelic rock is often associated with the counterculture movement of the 1960s and with drugs such as LSD, which were popular among many young people at the time.

The Beatles are often credited as being one of the first and most influential psychedelic rock bands. Their 1966 album, Revolver, is often cited as a defining release in the genre. The album includes trippy songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “She Said She Said,” which feature heavy use of backwards tape loops and other sound effects. The Beatles’ use of LSD also likely influenced their music, as they were open about their experimentation with the drug.

Psychedelic rock went on to influence many other genres of music, including punk rock, disco, and even hip hop. The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix are two other highly influential psychedelic rock artists who helped to shape the sound of music today.

Jimi Hendrix

One of the most influential electric guitarists in music history, Jimi Hendrix pioneered the explosive possibilities of the instrument. His albums Are You Experienced (1967), Electric Ladyland (1968), and Axis: Bold as Love (1967) are essential listenings in rock music. He reached unparalleled commercial and critical success in his brief four-year career, cementing his place as one of the most important musicians of his generation. His use of feedback, distortion, wah-wah, and other effects transformed the electric guitar into a powerful expressive tool and expanded the possibilities of rock music.

Led Zeppelin

Psychedelic rock, also sometimes referred to as garage rock, is a style of rock music that was popularized in the mid-1960s and became widely known for its association with the hippie subculture and popular culture. The genre was initially developed by artists such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan, who all explored the genre’s potential to create new sounds and textures. Psychedelic rock began to fall out of favor in the late 1960s as its popularity waned, but it has since been resurrected by a new generation of musicians who have been influenced by its innovative sound.

Led Zeppelin is one of the most well-known and influential bands of all time, and they are often cited as one of the primary innovators of psychedelic rock. Led Zeppelin’s sound was indebted to earlier psychedelic pioneers such as the Byrds and Jefferson Airplane, but they took the genre in new directions with their use of heavy guitar riffs and powerful drumming. Led Zeppelin’s influence can be heard in subsequent generations of rock bands, from metal legends Black Sabbath to arena-filling megastars like Foo Fighters.


Psychedelic rock and its associated culture had a profound impact on music in the 1960s and 1970s. The style developed out of the British blues scene, and was inspired by Eastern music and philosophy. Psychedelic rock bands sought to replicate the experience of altered states of consciousness, often through the use of extended improvisation and experimental sound.

The genre’s popularity waned in the late 1970s, but it has been a major influence on subsequent genres such as punk rock, new wave, and jam band music. Many of the genre’s key innovators are still active today, and their influence can be heard in the music of younger generations.

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