Psychedelic Rock: 10 Classic Examples

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 music that is known for its trippy, mind-bending soundscapes. In this blog post, we explore 10 classic examples of psychedelic rock.

Psychedelic Rock Basics

Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that emerged during the mid-1960s. The style is typified by a preoccupation with sonic texture and extended improvisation. Psychedelic bands sought to replicate the experience of altered states of consciousness, often achieved through the use of drugs such as LSD.

Defining Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed during the mid-1960s. Although the word “psychedelic” is often used as a synonym for “acid rock”, it actually refers more to the mind-altering effects of the psychedelic experience, rather than to the type of music. Psychedelic rock often incorporates elements of other genres, including folk, jazz, and world music.

The term “psychedelic” was first coined in 1956 by British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. It comes from the Greek words psyche (“soul”) and delos (“clear”), and was originally intended to describe the experience of psychosis. In the 1960s, the term began to be used more broadly to describe any type of drug-induced altered state of consciousness, regardless of whether or not it involved hallucinations.

Psychedelic rock began to emerge as a distinct genre in the mid-1960s, when bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones started incorporating psychedelic elements into their music. Other early psychedelic rock bands include The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Donovan, Love, and Jefferson Airplane. Psychedelic rock reached its height of popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s with bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The Origins of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s and was popular for a few years. It was inspired by the use of psychedelics, such as LSD, by some members of the counterculture movement, including The Beatles and The Grateful Dead. Psychedelic rock often used unusual studio techniques to create sonic effects and incorporated elements from Indian and Eastern music. The most famous psychedelic rock songs are “I Can See for Miles” by The Who, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum, and “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles.

Psychedelic Rock Songs

Psychedelic rock, also called acid rock or simply psychedelic rock, is a style of rock music that emerged in the late 1960s that was inspired by psychedelic culture and attempted to replicate the experience of psychedelic drugs. The style is characterized by distorted guitars, psychedelic effects, and often futuristic or space-themed lyrics.

“I Can See for Miles” by The Who

Released in October of 1967 as a single, “I Can See for Miles” is the only song by The Who to ever hit the Top 10 in the US, peaking at #9. It was kept out of the top spot by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ “A Taste of Honey.” The song was written by Pete Townshend during the recording of The Who Sell Out, an album notable for its use of audio collage and commercials as transitions between tracks. It was one of the first songs Townshend wrote on a 12-string guitar, which he used to give the song its distinctive sound.

“Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane

“Somebody to Love” is a song written by Darby Slick. The best-known version of the song was performed by Jefferson Airplane and released as a single in 1967, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is included on the band’s album Surrealistic Pillow.

The Jefferson Airplane version features lead vocals by Grace Slick, Darby Slick’s sister-in-law. It is one of the band’s signature songs, and often regarded as an anthem of the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

“Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelia, 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 enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, often synthesizing stereo pans, delayed repeats, reverbs, and feedback. Psychedelic rock songs typically have surreal, hallucinogenic, or transcendental lyrical content.

“Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix

“Purple Haze” is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and released as the second single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on March 8, 1967. The song features his distinctive guitar playing, which relies heavily on feedback and unconventional chord progressions. “Purple Haze” is one of Hendrix’s most popular songs and is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

“Light My Fire” by The Doors

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as garage rock, is a subgenre of rock music that emphasizes the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD, in an attempt to experience visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia and altered states of consciousness. The style often incorporates elements of Indian and Eastern music, as well as heavy usage of reverb and echo effects. Psychedelic rock reached the height of its popularity in the mid- to late-1960s, with artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is a psychedelic rock song by the American band Iron Butterfly, released on their 1968 album of the same name. The song is widely considered to be one of the first and most influential examples of the genre. It is often cited as an influence by later psychedelic rock bands.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum

Psychedelic rock, often referred to simply as psychedlia, is a style of rock music characterized by sonic experimentation and altered states of consciousness. It emerged during the mid 1960s among folk rock and blues rock bands in the United States and the United Kingdom. Psychedelic rock often employs reverberation, feedback, and distorted guitars, and is frequently cited as an influence on subsequent genres such as acid house, electronica, techno, Alternative Dance and metal.

Origins of the term “psychedelic” are disputed. It is derived from the Greek words ψυχή (psyche, “mind”) and δηλείν (delein, “to manifest”), translating to “soul-revealing”. Other interpretations include “mind-expanding” or simply “intoxicating”.

The first use of the term in print was in The Village Voice’, describing Darby Slick’s band The Great Society’s debut album as being full of “Psychedelic Rock n’ Roll”. In an October 1967 review for Melody Maker’/ NME’, Richard Williams used both the terms “psychedelic pop” and “acid pop”. By 1968 psychedelic rock was used in both Rock Music” magazine and Rolling Stone” magazine.

The Grateful Dead pictured on their 1967 LP release ‘Anthem of the Sun’. The LP sleeve featured artwork by Stanley Mouse.In October 1968 Wikipedia:John Peel started his radio show Top Gear (later rebranded as Peel Sessions) on BBC Radio 1; it become a magnets for new talent including severalBritish psychedelic acts. Early February 1969 saw four acts join BBC Radio 1’s playlist: Wikipedia:Tyrannosaurus RexWikipedia:The Soft MachineWikipedia:Horace Silver Quintetand Neil Youngwith Crazy Horse”.

“Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues

“Nights in White Satin” is a 1967 song by the English rock band The Moody Blues. Written by Justin Hayward and sung by John Lodge, the song was first released on the album Days of Future Passed. It was re-released as a single in 1972, reaching number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and number 7 in the United Kingdom.

The song was inspired by an experience Hayward had while driving home one night. He saw the headlights of a car behind him turn from white to red as he passed under a street light, and he began to think about how time changes things. He explained in an interview: “I thought about how quickly things change – not just fashions but attitudes and lifestyles too.”

The lyrics of “Nights in White Satin” reflect on nostalgia and lost love. Hayward later said that the song is “about somebody who is looking back at their life with a certain degree of regret but also with great affection for what they’ve been through.” The song has been described as a “timeless ballad” and an “eternal love song.”

“Happy Trails” by Quicksilver Messenger Service

“Happy Trails” is a song written by Peter Albin, John Cipollina and David Freiberg of the American psychedelic rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. It was first released on the band’s self-titled debut album in 1968. The song was a mainstay of the band’s live set throughout their career and was regularly performed by guitarist Gary Duncan as a solo encore.

The song is built around a simple three-chord progression, with the main melody being played on the upper strings of an electric guitar. The lyrics are positive and optimistic, with lines such as “Keep smiling realm up above”, “All the love that you need will come to you” and “Don’t you worry, we’ll find our way”.

“Happy Trails” has been covered by a number of other artists, including The Grateful Dead, who often played it live in concert; Jerry Garcia included it on his 1974 solo album Compliments.

“In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson

“In the Court of the Crimson King” is the debut album by the British progressive rock band King Crimson, released on 10 October 1969 on Island Records in the United Kingdom and on Atlantic Records in the United States. The album was conceived and recorded during the time when rock music was undergoing significant changes with bands such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin innovating new sounds and influences. It is credited with being one of the first albums to fuse elements of jazz, classical music, and rock together to create a new genre known as progressive rock.

The album features Robert Fripp on lead guitar, Greg Lake on vocals and bass guitar, Michael Giles on drums, Ian McDonald on reeds and percussion, and Peter Sinfield on Mellotron and lyrics. Lake wrote the lyrics for three of the album’s five tracks, including the opening track “21st Century Schizoid Man”. sinfield wrote all of the lyrics for “Epitaph”, “Moonchild”, and “I Talk to the Wind”. The remaining track, “Starless”, was co-written by all five members of the band.

“In the Court of the Crimson King” was well-received by critics upon its release and is considered one of the greatest debuts in rock music history. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it at number 97 on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2004, it was ranked at number 55 on Pitchfork Media’s list of The Top 100 Albums of 1970–1979. In 2005, Classic Rock magazine named it as one of The 100 Greatest Debut Albums Of All Time.

Psychedelic Rock Today

Psychedelic rock is a wide-ranging style associated with the subculture of psychedelic drugs. It came to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s and was characterised by distorted guitars, mind-altering lyrics and trippy sound effects. Musicians who were influenced by psychedelic rock include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead. The genre has seen a resurgence in recent years with bands like Tame Impala and The Black Keys incorporating elements of psychedelia into their music.

The Legacy of Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelia, is a style of rock music that was popularized in the 1960s. It is characterized by distorted guitars, mind-altering lyrics, and trippy sound effects. Psychedelic rock was used by many bands as a way to express their social and political beliefs.

The Beatles were one of the most famous psychedelic rock bands. They experimented with drugs, such as LSD, and used them in their music. The Rolling Stones also popularized the genre with hits like “Paint It Black” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” Other well-known psychedelic rock bands include The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Grateful Dead.

Psychedelic rock fell out of favor in the 1970s, but it has seen a resurgence in recent years. Bands like Tame Impala and The Flaming Lips have brought the sound back to the forefront of popular music.

Psychedelic Rock in the 21st Century

It would be easy to focus on the past when discussing psychedelic rock, but the genre is very much alive and well in the 21st century. This list highlights some of the best modern examples of psychedelic rock.

Tame Impala – “Elephant”
Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”
The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”
Of Montreal – ” wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)”
Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”
Toro y Moi – “Still Sound”
Deerhunter – “Helicopter”
Pond – “Earmilk”
Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – “Little Fang”

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