Psychedelic Rock: A History

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the history of Psychedelic Rock and how it has influenced popular music over the past 50 years.


Psychedelic rock is a music genre that emerged in the 1960s. It is characterized by distorted guitars, mind-altering lyrics, and trippy sound effects. The genre is often associated with the hippie movement and the drug culture of the time.Psychedelic rock was a reaction against the Establishment and a way for young people to rebel.

1950s – early experimentation

In the 1950s, the first stirrings of what would later become psychedelic rock can be found in music. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a number of artists began to experiment with musical techniques that would eventually lead to the development of psychedelic rock. These artists include Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, a new style of music known as surf rock began to emerge. This style of music was characterized by its use of reverb-drenched guitar tones and catchy melodies. Surf rock quickly became popular with young people across the United States and Europe.

During this same period of time, a new type of rock & roll known as British Invasion was becoming popular in the United States. This style of music was influenced by the sounds of British bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

As the 1960s progressed, more and more artists began to experiment with mind-altering drugs such as LSD. These drugs had a profound effect on the music being created at the time. Psychedelic rock began to emerge as a distinct genre in its own right.

The Beatles were one of the most important bands of the psychedelic era. Their song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is widely considered to be one of the first true psychedelic rock songs. Other important bands from this era include The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Grateful Dead.

1960s – the rise of psychedelic rock

During the 1960s, psychedelic rock music began to increase in popularity. Psychedelic rock is a type of rock music that is influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs. The genre often makes use of traditional rock instrumentation and song structures, but incorporates elements of psychedelia such as extended instrumentals, mind-altering lyrics, and visuals.

Psychedelic rock began to rise in popularity during the mid-1960s with bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones experimenting with the drug LSD. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline became popular among young people during this time due to their perceived ability to induce mystical and spiritual experiences. Psychedelic rock bands increasingly made use of electronic effects such as phasing and feedback to create mind-altering sounds. By the late 1960s, psychedelic rock had reached its peak of popularity with bands such as Pink Floyd, The Doors, and Jimi HendrixExperience creating some of the most iconic songs and albums in the genre.

Key Artists and Bands

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as acid rock, is a style of rock music that first became popular in the 1960s. The style is characterized by distorted guitars, mind-altering lyrics, and trippy sound effects. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors are some of the most famous psychedelic rock bands.

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 history. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later utilised several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. In 1963 their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”; as the group’s music grew in sophistication, led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the counterculture of the 1960s.

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, 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 stage antics. After the first album, they added bass player Doug Lubahn for their second album Strange Days.

The Doors’ sound was rooted in garage rock and drew on a variety of musical styles including blues, jazz, classical music, and flamenco. Morrison brought a poetic sensibility to the band’s lyrics which were sometimes cryptic or cryptic compared with those of other rock bands at the time. The band placed a great emphasis on songwriting and musicianship rather than on marketability or showmanship, which set them apart from many of their contemporaries.

The focus on improvisation led them to develop their own distinctive style which was characterized by extended instrumentals and lyrical solos. They also became known for experimenting with feedback, distortion, and other sonic elements. The Doors were one of the first American bands to sign with a major label ( Elektra Records) and they had a number of hit singles including “Light My Fire”, “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”, “The End”, and “Touch Me”.

Despite their success, the group was plagued by personal problems and drug addiction which led to Morrison’s death in 1971 at the age of 27. The remaining members continued as a trio until 1973 when they decided to disband. Eleven years later they reunited with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger for a successful reunion tour which spawned another album Other Voices and an live album Full Circle.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was an English rock band formed in London in 1965. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Pink Floyd’s work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. They are one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in popular music history.

The band initially consisted of classmates Syd Barrett (guitar, lead vocals), Nick Mason (drums), Roger Waters (bass guitar, vocals), and Richard Wright (keyboards, vocals). Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968 due to deteriorating mental health; Wright subsequently served as a de facto member until his death in 2008. The three produced two more albums—A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and Ummagumma (1969)—and several singles including “Point Me at the Sky” (1968) before welcoming guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour to the band. With Gilmour aboard, Pink Floyd released several of their best-known albums: Atom Heart Mother (1970), Meddle (1971), Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall(1979), and The Final Cut(1983).

Waters became increasingly frustrated with the band’s artistic direction, eventually leaving to form a solo career while Pink Floyd continued as a trio with Gilmour assuming lead vocal duties on A Momentary Lapse of Reason(1987) and The Division Bell(1994). Pink Floyd were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. By 2013, they had sold more than 250 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

The Legacy

Psychedelic rock, also sometimes called acid rock, is a style of rock music that became prominent in the mid-1960s and continued into the early 1970s. The style is characterized by distorted guitars, feedback, and extended jams. The term “psychedelic” refers to the experience of altered consciousness induced by drugs such as LSD and psilocybin.

The influence of psychedelic rock on subsequent genres

Psychedelic rock’s influence was not just limited to other forms of rock music. The genre also had a significant impact on pop music, particularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), which is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential pop albums of all time, was heavily influenced by psychedelic rock, as were many of the band’s other late-1960s releases. The Beach Boys’ Smile (1966), another highly influential pop album, was also heavily indebted to the genre.

The popularity of psychedelic rock declined sharply in the early 1970s, but the genre continued to exert a significant influence on a number of subsequent genres, including punk rock, new wave, and alternative rock. Many punk and new wave artists who emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, such as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Television, and Talking Heads, were strongly influenced by psychedelic rock. In addition, many post-punk and alternative rock bands that formed in the 1980s and 1990s, such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Pixies, were also heavily influenced by the genre.

The enduring popularity of psychedelic rock

Psychedelic rock is a genre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. Its roots can be traced back to the social and musical upheaval of the 1950s and early 1960s, when artists such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles began experimenting with drugs like marijuana and LSD.

Psychedelic rock was initially associated with the counterculture of the 1960s, but it has since enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. In recent years, bands like Tame Impala and MGMT have brought psychedelic sounds back to the mainstream, while other artists have explored more experimental forms of the genre.

Despite its long history, psychedelic rock remains a vital and popular genre of music. It is frequently cited as an influence by today’s artists, and its spirit of experimentation continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

Similar Posts