The Best of Sixties Psychedelic Rock

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Join me as I explore the best of sixties psychedelic rock, from The Beatles to The Grateful Dead.

The Beatles – “A Day in the Life”

The Beatles – “A Day in the Life” is widely considered to be one of the best psychedelic rock songs of all time. The song was released on January 27th, 1967 on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song features heavy use of Lennon’s Mellotron, along with backwards sounds, a latin american influenced section, and sound effects such as a car horn and police siren. The lyrics were inspired by an article that Lennon had read in the Daily Mail about the death of Tara Browne.

The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”

The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” is one of the most iconic songs of the psychedelic era. Released in 1966, the song was an instant hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s innovative production techniques, including the use of a theremin, helped to define the sound of psychedelic rock.

The Doors – “Light My Fire”

The Doors – “Light My Fire”

The Doors’ first album contained this seven-minute tour de force which, in retrospect, foretold the direction their music would take. A haunting, ethereal organ melody from Ray Manzarek and jazzy interludes from guitarist Robby Krieger provide the framework for one of rock’s all-time great vocal performances by Jim Morrison. The lyric is memorable and provides a snapshot of the zeitgeist of the culture in 1967. The opening line “Come on baby, light my fire” became an instant catchphrase and has been lifted or parodied by many artists since.

Jimi Hendrix – “Purple Haze”

Although Jimi Hendrix did not invent the psychedelic sound, he popularized it with songs like “Purple Haze.” This track, from his 1967 debut album Are You Experienced?, is a perfect example of Hendrix’s style: blues-based guitar riffs adorned with distortion and feedback, all underpinned by a solid groove. The result is a timeless classic that epitomizes the psychedelic sound.

Jefferson Airplane – “Somebody to Love”

The song was written by Darby Slick, the husband of Grace Slick. The Jefferson Airplane recorded it in 1966 and released it as a single in 1967, where it peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is included on the band’s 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow.

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
The Kinks are one of the most important and influential bands of the 1960s. They were one of the first British Invasion bands to break through in America, and their singles “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” are two of the most iconic songs of the era. The Kinks were also one of the first bands to experiment with psychedelic sounds and themes, on tracks like “See My Friends” and “Sunny Afternoon.”

Love – “Alone Again Or”

Love’s “Alone Again Or” is one of the great psychedelic tracks of the sixties. Written by singer/guitarist Arthur Lee, it was originally released as a non-album single in 1967, with a re-recorded version appearing on the band’s classic album, Forever Changes, in 1968. The original single version is included on The Best of Sixties Psychedelic Rock.

“Alone Again Or” is a beautiful, melancholic song that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being alone and lost without someone you love. The song features Lee’s distinctive high-pitched vocals and an inventive arrangement that includes Spanish guitar, horns, and string sections. The result is a track that is both experimental and deeply moving.

The Mamas & the Papas – “California Dreamin’”

“California Dreamin’” is a song written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and was first recorded by Barry McGuire. However, it is The Mamas & the Papas’ version that is considered the definitive version of the song. “California Dreamin’” reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1966 and became one of The Mamas & the Papas’ signature tunes.

The Moody Blues – “Nights in White Satin”

The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” is one of the defining tracks of the psychedelic era. It’s a song that has stood the test of time and continues to be one of the most popular songs of its era. The Moody Blues were one of the first bands to adopt the use of synthesizers and use them in a way that enhanced their sound rather than using them as a gimmick. “Nights in White Satin” is a beautiful track that perfectly captures the feeling of its time period.

The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black”

The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black”

The first thing you notice about “Paint It, Black” is the opening sitar riff by Brian Jones. The use of sitar was quite innovative for a pop song in 1966, and it gives the song an instant feeling of otherworldly dread. The second thing you notice is Mick Jagger’s vocal performance, which is absolutely chilling. His delivery is so deadpan and matter-of-fact that it makes the lyrics all the more horrifying. The final thing you notice is the slow, dirge-like tempo of the song, which only adds to the sense of unease.

“Paint It, Black” is one of the most effective psychedelic songs ever written, and it remains one of the Rolling Stones’ most popular tracks.

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