The Best Psychedelic Rock and Progressive Rock Bands

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of the best psychedelic rock and progressive rock bands, as well as what makes them so great.

Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock, also called acid rock, is a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s. The style is defined by its use of psychedelic sounds, often created with the help of electronic effects, and by its frequent use of improvisation.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in London 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, beat and 1950s rock and roll, their sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in innovative ways that displaced the dominance of the songwriter-composer-producer team in mainstream commercial music. They often incorporated Indian instrumentation and motifs within their songs, as well as expanding psychedelia after 1966 with harmonic experimentation and budding drug references. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in 1967, would be one of the first popular works to incorporate elements of psychedelia within mainstream commercial music.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London, England, in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonicas), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), 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 Jones left the band less than a month prior to his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and has been on guitar in tandem with Richards ever since. Following Wyman’s departure in 1993, Darryl Jones joined as their touring bassist. Other touring keyboardists for the band have been Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), Joe Connolly (1989), Chuck Leavell (1994–present) and Bernard Fowler (1994–present).

The Stones have released 30 studio albums, 23 live albums and numerous compilations. The predicted group was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them fourth on their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list and their estimated album sales are above 250 million. They have released 42 singles, the second-most behind the Beatles by total number of releases worldwide.

The Kinks

The Kinks are an English rock band formed in Muswell Hill, North London, in 1963 by brothers Dave Davies and Ray Davies. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. The band emerged during the height of British rhythm and blues and Merseybeat and was briefly part of the British Invasion of the United States until their touring schedule became much heavier and led to their album Face to Face being banned by several US radio stations.

The Kinks’ greatest commercial success came between 1964 and 1968, with five singles reaching the top ten in the UK charts, including “You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night”, “Tired of Waiting for You”, “Sunny Afternoon” and “Waterloo Sunset”. They also had one UK number one album with Something Else by The Kinks in 1967. In addition to their undoubted talent as musicians, The Kinks are also recognized as one of the most significant lyrical bands of their generation, with Ray Davies being hailed as one of Britain’s greatest songwriters.

Progressive Rock

Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterized by a complex, often experimental, approach to songwriting and musicianship that was influenced by jazz and classical music. Progressive rock bands pushed the boundaries of rock music, often incorporating elements of classical, jazz, and world music into their music.

Pink Floyd

Famed for their concept albums, musical experimentation, philosophical lyrics and elaborate live shows, Pink Floyd were one of the most successful and influential rock bands of all time. Formed in London in 1965, they achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music.

Pink Floyd were founded by students Syd Barrett (guitar, vocals), Nick Mason (drums), Roger Waters (bass) and Richard Wright (keyboards). They first gained attention playing at underground venues such as the UFO Club and the Roundhouse, and their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) was met with critical acclaim.

The band’s popularity increased with the release of their second album A Saucerful of Secrets (1968). However, Barrett’s mental health deteriorated rapidly, and he left the band in 1968; he died in 2006. Waters subsequently became the band’s primary songwriter and lyricist, while Wright and Mason assumed leadership roles.

The final line-up of Pink Floyd – Waters, Wright, Mason and guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour – released a string of highly successful albums: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979). These albums combined elements of psychedelia, experimentalism, classical music and rock & roll to create a unique and influential sound that has been enormously popular for over four decades.

Following Wright’s death in 2008, Pink Floyd released one final album: The Endless River (2014), which was recorded without Waters.

King Crimson

King Crimson is a British progressive rock band formed in London in 1968. The band has undergone numerous lineup changes throughout its history, with guitarist and singer Robert Fripp the only constant member. Although the band has never achieved widespread success, they have influenced many other artists and have been credited as being among the progenitors of progressive rock, art rock and heavy metal. King Crimson’s debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969), is often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential works in rock history.

The band has subsequently released thirteen studio albums, two live albums, and a compilation album. Their latest album, Radiophonic (2016), was released fifty years after their debut. The band’s first five studio albums were met with critical success but failed commercially; however, their fortunes changed with their sixth album Red (1974). It reached number three on the UK Albums Chart and became their first charting single in the US with “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part Two”, which also topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Over subsequent decades, King Crimson’s activity has mainly been sporadic as various musicians associated with the group have pursued other projects; however, between 1994 and 2008 they staged six successful tours featuring different lineups each time. In 2003, guitarist Adrian Belew left to form his own group after appearing on three consecutive albums; he was replaced by Gavin Harrison for their 2007–2008 tour before Belew rejoined for an encore performance at three of their 2009 concerts to mark Fripp’s 60th birthday. In 2010, King Crimson was ranked No. 87 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.


Progressive rock, also known as Psychedelic Rock, is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Musically, progressive rock is characterized by complex arrangements, extended instrumentation, and often ambitious conceptual themes. The genre emerged as a reaction to the limitations of pop music and the perceived excesses of the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

Progressive rock artists sought to expand the boundaries of rock music by incorporating elements from other genres, such as jazz and classical music, and by using new technologies such as synthesizers and electronic effects. Some of the best-known progressive rock bands include Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, Rush, and Kansas.

Similar Posts