Rock & Roll: The Psychedelic Years (Expanded Edition)

Psychedelic rock was a musical genre that emerged in the mid-sixties due to the popularity of such mind-altering drugs as LSD, mescaline, cannabis and peyote mushrooms.  The roots of Psychedelic Rock begin here: On Friday April 16, 1943 (a day later to be known as “Better Friday”) a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman, who worked for a company called Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, synthesized a drug called lysergic acid diethylamide which would later be known as LSD-25.  In the course of experimenting with the drug in his lab, Hoffman accidently dosed himself with LSD-25 and began to experience hallucinations.  When Hoffman reported what had happened to his supervisor, he described his experience as “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness…accompanied by an intense kaleidoscopic play of colors.”  The following Monday, when Hoffman returned to work in his lab, he decided to experiment further with LSD-25 by dissolving 250 micrograms of the drug in a glass of water.  Within an hour of consuming the drug, Albert Hoffman began to embark on the first deliberate acid “trip”.

 

Eventually, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals decided to market the drug for use in the treatment of people suffering from various types of psychotic illness.  Sandoz also worked with the CIA who employed LSD-25 and other mind altering drugs for use in interrogations.  "The CIA and the military never did find the truth serums or mind-bending weapons that they sought from LSD, psilocybin, and a vast array of other psychedelic drugs. Nor did the psychopharmacologists ever find in psychedelics the wonder drugs that they had hoped for (in part, perhaps, because the powers-that-be eventually put a premature stop to their research). However, this strange conglomeration of historical actors and forces— powerful drugs developed by a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry, well-funded and well-intentioned research scientists and doctors, and the anything-goes mentality of the Cold War intelligence agencies— did succeed in unintentionally spawning a cultural revolution that would, it is not an exaggeration to say, transform the United States and the world in its wake. " (Rick Dodgson. It’s All a Kind of Magic University of Wisconsin Press)

The Birth of Psychedelic Rock

"Psychedelic Rock was derived from the term psychedelia which is the term tagged to people whose culture is strangely affected by psychedelic drugs with their art generally expressing bright colors and animations. This type of music is made popular by bands such as The Beatles, The Byrds and The Yardbirds.  The musicians intended to express mind-altering experiences with hallucinogenic drugs through their music and lyrics. Perhaps under the influence of LSD or (Lysergic acid diethylamide), cannabis and other hallucinogenic drugs, these musicians were able to made music that are truly powerful and influential.  Psychedelic rock is best characterized by soft and meaningful lyrics, heartwarming solos and complex melodies and song structures. They make use of electric guitars, keyboard especially organs and harpsichords. They also make use of studio effects such as the backward tapes, planning and phasing and they associate their music with the non-western style and Indian Music." (from the ebonmusic site)

 

 

"It's evident that the 1960's was the era of The Hippie Movement. Although, this movement had its roots in the social movements of the 19th century Europe, it was a new wave of social recognition and rebel against system and norms of society. The fundamental idea of this movement was to create and follow the Counterculture, hence gaining the title of Counterculture of the 1960's. The protest and rebellion towards the standard culture of 1960's revolved around the phenomenon of ‘experimentation’ and ‘freedom’ regarding social norms and living standards. This idea of experimentation was also expressed in the form of art and music. As the use of psychedelic drugs had generally become popular in that era, it widely became a source of expression of freedom for the hippie movement as well. As the result of experimentation, rebellion and expression of social power, the Psychedelic music was born. Undoubtedly, the Psychedelic music might have been influenced by the drug use, but on a bigger perspective, the drug intake was itself a form of protest in the 1960's. Consequently, it would not be completely deceitful to claim that the Psychedelic music was the product of the inception of a new culture...At the beginning, many rock artists started composing records of psychedelic nature and soon psychedelic-rock became a popular genre in 1960's. Summer of Love, John Lennon, The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones were the most famous musicians and bands that introduced psychedelia into the rock music."

"Psychedelic rock has some unique characteristics in terms of song structure, lyrics, instruments, and much more unique elements that produces a so-called “psychedelic” sound. It often uses soft and meaningful lyrics, heartwarming solos and complex melodies and song structures. They make use of electric guitars, keyboard, especially mellotron, organs, and harpsichords. They also make use of studio effects such as the backward tapes, planning and phasing and they associate their music with ‘non-western’ style and Indian Music. Plenty of people still associate psychedelic music with the usage of narcotics, psychotropics, or substances to that effect; this sort of opinion comes with the thought of the musicians intending to express mind-altering experiences with hallucinogenic drugs through their music and lyrics. Perhaps under the influence of such drugs for example ‘LSD’ (Lysergic acid diethylamide), cannabis, and other hallucinogenic drugs, these musicians were able to create music that were truly powerful and influential. *Nevertheless*, psychedelic music is still, to my opinion, truly enjoyable even without a dose of said drugs." (medium.com)

 

WHAT IS PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC?

“What do you think of when I say psychedelic rock? Most likely images of the counterculture of the 1960’s, Woodstock, and big names such as Jimi Hendrix or The Doors are your first thought. In fact, many of the bands we consider to be pillars of classic rock are considered psychedelic rock bands. Even the earliest psych albums are influential to this day, each post 1960’s decade heralding a revival of the genre. Important features are heavy reverb, a large key presence (especially electronic organs), Eastern instruments and musical themes, long instrumental sections, and surreal lyrics that often reference the use of hallucinogenic drugs. 

With the accessibility of modern music and the surge in popularity of the alternative rock scene, artists such as Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco enjoy great popularity and ensure the genre stays alive and well. Perhaps a surge in psychedelic style is not only due to the recent push to reduce jail time and stigma surrounding drugs (particularly marijuana), but also for a decidedly political and jaded youth. 

For me, the genre and subsequent sub-genres and revivals remind me of the reason I started becoming an avid music listener in the first place; growing up on albums like Disraeli Gears and The Dark Side of the Moon were integral in the development of my personal music taste and exploring my own definition of music. Maybe this is why we love psychedelia- it reminds us of our parents, our grandparents, or our very first album. Perhaps it reminds you of the first song you heard on the radio, or a distant buzz over the speaker while shopping. Thus, it is even more important that we learn how psychedelia came to be… 

The year is 1965. A clear youth counterculture has begun to emerge, experimenting in their usage of drugs such as weed, psilocybin, and LSD. A little over a decade has passed since the term “rock and roll” has been coined; this is when the 13th Floor Elevators emerge on the Austin music scene, inspired by folk and blues. A year later, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators is released, its liner notes and album art explicitly advocating the use of LSD as a means of freeing the soul and expanding the mind. 13th Floor members Roky Erickson, referred to as the “godfather of psychedelic rock,” and Tommy Hall are credited with coining the term “psychedelic rock”. Hall’s use of the electric jug in particular is a key element of reproducing the feel of an acid trip in music, emulating a bending of reality and a trance-like state. The lyrics also incite a distant, out-of-body feeling, from lyrics about “liquid distant castles” to “living on monkey island”. 

Although moderate in success, the album is arguably one of the most influential in establishing the genre and helped Austin grow as a hub of music in the South. Other notable artists to emerge out of the Texas psychedelic rock scene include Janis Joplin, Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy. At the same time, author Ken Kesey and a group called The Merry Pranksters were touring the San Francisco Bay Area handing out acid (not yet outlawed), accompanied by early performances by The Grateful Dead, and visuals created by oil projections in what would later be known as “The Acid Tests”. As LSD became more influential in youth culture, it became more and more clear across the nation that it would shape the next wave of music. 

The following year, The Beach Boys release Pet Sounds, not only hailed as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time, but the defining album in bridging psychedelic rock and pop music, thus introducing the genre to the mainstream. The album reached #10 on the Billboard charts; following this, The Beach Boys began to produce a series of psychedelic albums (Wild Honey, Sunflower, etc.) that, although not as successful commercially as their prior albums, showed a clear shift in both their sound as well as mainstream music’s. 

In 1969, psychedelic rock reached the peak of its popularity. This is the year we get the Woodstock Festival, one of the most definitive moments in rock and roll. This is the height of youth counterculture, and within the same year it comes crashing down with many “acid causalities”, nervous/psychological breakdowns caused by a mixture of fame and heavy hallucinogen abuse. Some of the most notable acid casualties include Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett, with several “27 Club” members dying the following year from a variety of reasons. With the death of many of the “greats” of psychedelic rock comes the death of its popularity in the mainstream, its sub-genres readily taking its place. 

Although a few psychedelia bands remained, throughout the 80’s it mostly served to influence new genres such as shoegaze. It retreated into the alternative scene, and in the 1990’s bands such as The Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals sought to revive the genre to its former glory. Although they achieve some popular success, this “neo-psychedelia” is still decidedly underground. It is not until around 2001, with the so-called “revival” of rock and roll and a flourishing and increasingly popular alternative scene that many neo-psychedelia bands form and thrive, such as Animal Collective, and Pond. This new wave of psychedelic rock maintains some of the key features of psychedelia, but more frequently blends with electronica and pop. In the mid-2000’s there are several breakthroughs into the mainstream with hits such as “Electric Feel” by MGMT and “Do You Realize??” by the Flaming Lips. As the indie scene began to take on a particularly large role with youth in 2010-onward, so did psychedelia and its influences. Today, we see the development of subgenres like acid house and trance music developing from the once again rising psychedelic rock scene. Whether a lifelong fan or a listener trying to branch out, perhaps it’s time to spin that dusty acid rock vinyl at the bottom of the bin just one more time.” (The Radio UTD site)

 

"For entire swathes of the record-buying public, their first encounter with psychedelic music was provided by Revolver – the game-changing Beatles album, released in August 1966, that contained so many of the exotic elements that came to define the form. It beguiled, ensnared and, in some cases, disturbed the listener with its fresh, unorthodox textures: reality-shifting tape reversal techniques, tape loops, undulant sitars and opaque lyrics. 

Of course, nothing simply materializes out of nowhere. The mind-remapping initiatives eagerly showcased on Revolver represented a flowering that couldn’t help but burst forth; in a beneficially reciprocal loop, contributors to The Beatles’ expanded worldview included musical peers such as the coolly enigmatic Byrds and the previously surfing-fixated Beach Boys. Bob Dylan, too, though musically far removed from the psychedelic sounds of The Beatles and co, exerted his influence as a conundrum-generating lyricist, and, crucially, as the genial host who allegedly turned John, Paul, George and Ringo on to marijuana in a room of New York’s Hotel Delmonico in August 1964. Furthermore, when George Harrison’s dentist irresponsibly spiked the coffees of Harrison, John Lennon and their wives with LSD at a dinner party in April 1965, his recklessness would have profound implications. 

As is well known, the concluding (and most extreme) track on Revolver was actually the first to be tackled when sessions began in April 1966. Tomorrow Never Knows drew its eerie  lyric ('Lay down all thought, surrender to the void – it is shining') from Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead – a much-discussed tome of the day which Lennon had picked up in London’s Indica bookshop in Mason’s Yard. (The bookshop in question, a beacon for London’s arty inner set, was also supported by Paul McCartney.) 

Lennon’s desire to sound like 'the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountain top' inspired producer George Martin – a meticulous and ingenious facilitator – to route the vocal through a rotating Leslie speaker, normally used in tandem with Hammond organs. Lennon’s startling, otherworldly declamation consequently sat atop a forbidding edifice of super-compressed drums and chirruping, pinging tape loops, ridden on separate faders during the mix to form the track’s hallucinatory sound collage. In addition, a hard, bright, backward guitar solo bisects the track like ribbon lightning, while others entwine themselves around the mushily enticing somnolence of ‘I’m Only Sleeping’.

 

The Beatles’ first experiment with reversed tapes on the vocal coda to Rain, the B-side to the band’s Paperback Writer single, had been released two months previously. Lennon always claimed that the notion came about as he accidentally played the tape backwards on his Brenell tape recorder at home, but George Martin maintained that it was he who suggested applying the technique – an equally credible claim....Also keenly aware of the prevailing swirls in the upper atmosphere were The Beach Boys. Psychedelic music will cover the face of the world and color the whole popular music scene,' Brian Wilson enthused in a 1966 interview: 'Anybody happening is psychedelic. As ambassadors of universal love, brotherhood and spiritual betterment, they were theoretically bang on trend with the tenets of “flower power' (psychedelia’s entry-level adjunct), while October 1966’s Good Vibrations deserves a seat at the very head of the table for the audacity of its multi-layered construction and its impressionistic shimmer alone. The Americana-encompassing SMiLE album project – which Wilson embarked upon after being introduced to erudite fellow songwriter Van Dyke Parks in early 1966 – promised to boldly broach a whole new series of frontiers.

 

Among other pioneering psych adopters were Texas’ 13th Floor Elevators – raving garage-rockers in essence, but lent a philosophical mystique by the studiously earnest LSD evangelism of lyricist and electric jug player Tommy Hall. Their November 1966 debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, couldn’t have nailed their freak flag to the mast any more overtly. Hall, by no means an acid dilettante, anonymously penned a provocative sleevenote which countenanced a “quest” towards a higher consciousness – and the churning, roiling ‘Fire Engine’ contains a punning paean to the intensely hallucinogenic drug DMT (dimethyltryptamine). The Elevators’ unstinting acid regimen – actually taking to the stage tripping as a matter of principle – contributed in no small part to Erickson’s pitilessly swift mental decline. The Elevators even shocked the emblematic Grateful Dead, the key figures in San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, when they gigged in the city in August/September 1967. No mean acid crusaders themselves – guitarist Jerry Garcia was affectionately nicknamed Captain Trips – the Dead came to epitomise cosmic freedom for generations of festival-going, tie-dyed Deadheads, right into the 21st Century. From the Dead’s July 1968 second album, Anthem Of The Sun, ‘That’s It For The Other One’ represents an exploratory peak, with instruments panning giddily back and forth across the stereo spectrum, and bluff electronic elements surfacing through the mix like monsters from the id.... 

 

The Chamber Brothers

 

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

 

Strawberry Alarm Clock

Nearly 400 miles south, Los Angeles had its own burgeoning music scene – one capable of accommodating the psychedelic soul of The Chamber Brothers (whose ‘Time Has Come Today’ nearly cracked the US Top 10 in December 1967), the fitful brilliance of the ill-assorted West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (‘I Won’t Hurt You’ from Part One being a faintly creepy, low-glowing highlight) and the opportunistic psych-lite of the exuberantly overdressed Strawberry Alarm Clock, paisley-bedecked human soft furnishings whose ‘Incense And Peppermints’ went all the way to No.1 in May 1967.

 

 

Two of LA’s most original acts, however, only skirted psychedelia by default. Love, the well-ahead-of-the-curve multiracial ensemble fronted by the redoubtable Arthur Lee, may have sported a modishly bendy logo and cover art on 1968’s unimpeachable Forever Changes – but in its gentle, troubled introspection, the album was already looking over the next hill. ‘The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This’ does at least constitute an interlude of experiential wonder (“Hummingbirds hum, why do they hum?”), and even features a token wrap of tape manipulation as the track ends.

"The band, Love, is mainly known for creating one of the great masterpieces of the psychedelic era, Forever Changes. Though many of their California peers still believed in the flower power offered by the 1967 Summer of Love, songwriter Arthur Lee saw the dark side of the hippie movement’s drug-fueled excess. A House Is Not a Motel, about the evil of war, ends in a chaotic dual guitar solo and Lee screaming out, 'What’s my name?'...Lee’s skepticism with the hippie movement offers him as a kindred spirit with other figures like Hunter S. Thompson, who doubted the ability of peace and love to stand up to the challenges of war and racism that enveloped the country. Love’s ability to be both inside the movement and outside, on account of Lee’s skepticism and his being one of the few black bandleaders in the West Coast psychedelic scene, gave his music a sense of perspective that most musicians lacked. Few writers would be bold enough to start a song with this lyric: 'sitting on a hillside, watching all the people die'.  Outside of Forever Changes, the band’s whole catalog is worth a listen as well. Tunes by Love guitarist Bryan MacLean may not have possessed the political power of Lee’s tracks, but he could write a great love song, as shown by his contributions to the mariachi influenced Alone Again Or."  (The Observer)

 

 

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, meanwhile, were already well on the way to reconfiguring the psychogeography of gutbucket R&B, convincingly elevating it to a boundary-breaching Dadaist realm.  Among the effects in question was phasing, arguably psychedelia’s single most obvious identifier – and, for once, The Beatles were only indirectly responsible. While holed up in London’s Olympic Studios in June 1967 to record the backing track for ‘All You Need Is Love’, their producer George Martin asked for “ADT” (automatic or artificial double-tracking, a technique originated at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios) to be placed on Lennon’s vocal. Unable to comply because Olympic’s tape machines operated differently to EMI’s, tape operator George Chkiantz pledged to devise his own outlandish tape effect – and came up with the sense-warping, harmonic frequency sweep which became known as phasing or flanging...Oddly enough, The Beatles themselves only ever deployed phasing on Magical Mystery Tours entranced Blue Jay Way. Their brief psych chapter nevertheless took in such indomitable glories as Strawberry Fields ForeverLucy In The Sky With Diamonds and It’s All Too Much, so their pre-eminence in the pantheon is inarguable.

 

Silver Apples

The Silver Apples were far from your normal pop music act. The duo consisted of drummer Danny Taylor and Simeon, who played eight oscillators while contributing vocals.  Formed in 1967 as an electronic rock duo featuring Dan Taylor on drums and Simeon on a homemade synthesizer consisting of 12 oscillators and an assortment of sound filters, telegraph keys, radio parts, lab gear and a variety of second hand electronic junk, the band quickly gained a reputation as New York's leading underground musical expression.

The group released only two albums, a self-titled record, a second album, Contact. The second album ended up dooming them in 1969, and led to a lawsuit by Pan Am. Though they had the airline’s permission to shoot the cover in an airplane cockpit, they didn’t have permission to depict an airline crash. A third album was recorded in 1970, but not released when their label, KAPP records, folded.  That third album, The Garden, was released nearly 30 years after its initial recording.

 

Pink Floyd

"The toast of London’s psychedelic underground were Pink Floyd: wilful experimentalists whose audio-visual ambition, not to mention their spectacular incongruity where conventional touring doctrine was concerned, anticipated the festivals and dedicated concert events that proliferated in the following decade. With the precociously talented Syd Barrett at the helm, Pink Floyd produced psychedelia’s most matchless, concise Top 5 snapshot, See Emily Play, while their mysterious August 1967 debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, showcased Barrett’s uniquely charming, childlike muse (‘Matilda Mother’, ‘The Gnome’, ‘The Scarecrow’). 

Tragically, Barrett’s psyche unraveled with distressing rapidity, his prodigious LSD intake the major (if not sole) factor, and by April 1968 his place in the band had been taken by David Gilmour. The Mk II Floyd ostensibly blazed a trail for progressive rock with their penchant for extended pieces and commensurately lengthy live performances, but it was a member of Canterbury Scene godheads Soft Machine – Pink Floyd’s regular accomplices in London’s underground clubs – who carried the flame for psychedelia into the 70s and well beyond." (Beyond the Pale blog)

 

One of the biggest game changers when it came to psychedelic rock was Jimi Hendrix.  He brought a whole different vibe to that musical genre...suddenly more changes were underway among experimental musical groups such as The Yardbirds and Cream as they expanded both their consciousness and music through the use of hallucinogenic materials.  Moving away from the pure blues roots, psychedelic rock attempted to replicate and even enhance the experiences of mind-altering drugs such as LSD through the use of alternative electronic musical instruments and recording techniques." (Robin Bell, The History of British Rock 'n' Roll: The Psychedelic Years 1967 - 1969)

 

The Holy Modal Rounders

It has often been stated that The Holy Modal Rounders first used the term Psychedelic to describe their music on their version of Hesitation Blues in 1964. By the end of 1965, the 13th Floor Elevators from Texas first publicized themselves as psychedelic rock.  Bob Dylan and The Beatles were the first to experiment with drugs as their music reference. Subterranean Homesick Blues by Dylan was the most influential and yet after The Beatles was introduced to cannabis, they started to experiment with LSD.  Although psychedelic rock became phenomenal in between 1967 and 1969, the influence of this new musical genre had created variations such as the Psychedelic pop and psychedelic soul, it had also made possible for the transition of folk music to progressive rock, hard rock and subsequently emerged to heavy metal.

San Francisco was where this new American Psychedelic music spread through the American cities and in short time it was  inevitable due to the rise of such psychedelic bands such as the Love and Spirit in Los Angeles and The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine and Vanilla Fudge in New York City.

"...an unknown San Francisco rock group called the Charlatans played at the opening of a saloon in Virginia City, Nev., called the Red Dog. That gig was a key moment in the history of the San Francisco rock scene and the hippie revolution it inspired. The history of the obscure band was expertly told the other day in The Chronicle by Joel Selvin. Equally intriguing is the story of how the Charlatans’ first gig came about — and the weird and wonderful saloon where it happened...The idea for the Red Dog Saloon was hatched by three friends during a six-hour Risk game in a two-room cabin on the outskirts of Virginia City, a dilapidated former Wild West boom town where a young writer working under the pen name Mark Twain had cut his journalistic teeth 100 years earlier...As Mary Works relates in her 1996 film, “Rockin’ at the Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock,” Laughlin joked that the endless game “featured LSD and treaties, both of which turned out to be a mistake.” Somewhere along the way, they began kicking around the idea of opening a Wild West saloon in Virginia City....When the blizzard ended and the acid wore off, Unobsky and his pals decided to make their fantasy a reality. They succeeded beyond their most chemically enhanced dreams. Unobsky’s father lent him $5,000 to purchase and restore an old Virginia City gambling hall called the Comstock House. Unobsky painted the old joint fire-engine red and fixed up the interior in Wild West fashion, with an antique mirror behind a long hardwood bar, red walls, and velvet drapes and gold braids from San Francisco’s old Fox Theater. Light show pioneer Bill Ham came up from the pre-Haight hippie enclave on Pine Street in San Francisco to provide the place with suitably mind-blowing illumination. Unobsky dispatched Laughlin to San Francisco to get more antique fixtures and find the Red Dog a house band. Someone told Laughlin about a new rock group called the Charlatans." (San Francisco Chronicle, Psychedelic Roc era opens with a gig at the Wild West Saloon)

 

The Charlatans were the brainchild of a San Francisco State boy wonder architect named George Hunter, whom Family Dog commune co-founder Luria Castell called “the first hippie I ever saw in San Francisco.” Hunter had long hair and an immaculate, enigmatic sense of style. He dreamed up the concept of the Charlatans, right down to their clothes and the lettering on their posters. Hunter himself was not a musician, but the band could play. When Chandler tracked them down and asked if they wanted to audition for the Virginia City gig, they jumped at the chance and drove to Nevada.  Unobsky was throwing a dinner for his staff, and he decided that their audition would double as the evening’s entertainment. To make things more interesting, before the band played, he dosed them and everyone else there with LSD. By the time the band hit the stage, they had no idea what they were doing. The gig was an intergalactic train wreck, which ended up with band members trying to play each other’s instruments. After Hunter stumbled offstage, a still-laughing Unobsky greeted him. 'That was the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life', he told Hunter. 'You guys are hired!'...After various mishaps and delays, the Red Dog Saloon finally opened June 29, 1965.

A poster designed by Hunter and keyboardist Michael Ferguson touted the Amazing Charlatans, direct from San Francisco as “the limit of the marvelous.” It was the first psychedelic rock poster. It is extremely rare: A mint copy of what is known simply as the Seed is on sale online for $18,250....A big crowd turned out for opening night. They saw a band of Edwardian-attired longhairs playing unclassifiable, roots-American rock, with hypnotic lights flickering on the walls, a bar girl who looked like Miss Kitty, a pistol-firing bartender and a huge Washoe Indian bouncer at the door. The atmosphere was irresistibly odd and exciting, a Mobius strip of acid-fueled self-invention. It felt as if the Old West itself was blaring out through the band’s 10-watt amplifier.  Word about this jumping saloon on the other side of the Sierra got back to San Francisco. People began making the four-hour drive to Virginia City. The two-week gig was extended. 

But the good times in the sagebrush did not last... The Virginia City police raided the Red Dog, found venison in the freezer (the staff claimed it was planted) and arrested Unobsky for poaching. The Charlatans packed up and left town. No sooner had they driven away than a converted bus, painted in psychedelic swirls, drove up to the Red Dog. It was Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, come to check out the craziest saloon on planet Earth. 

The Charlatans never hit the big time. They released several singles, but their only album — made up of bits and pieces and assorted oddities — wasn’t released until 1996. They did not have the impact of groups like the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother or the Grateful Dead. But they were the first exemplar of what came to be known as the San Francisco Sound. Their style, their sound, the scene they created — these, like their poster, were seeds." 

By the mid-sixties, the youth culture which was exploding with new ideas in lifestyles, fashion and music. The rise of the psychedelic counterculture was responsible for such things as…

 

Jimi Hendrix Black Light Poster

Black Light Posters were  capable of mimicking the effects of the new wonder drugs. These colorful posters had the ability to glow and vibrate under ultraviolet light, the posters could simulate the sensations and visual distortions one experienced during an acid trip.  Along with the groovy black light posters, there was a movement to create new artistic statements for the psychedelic music scene that was rapidly developing.

 

The Trippy Music Posters That Defined The Counterculture

"The psychedelic graphics of the late 1960s evoked the anarchic, iconoclastic energy of the era. Joobin Bekhrad explores a kaleidoscopic world.  With their kaleidoscopes of colour, undulating typography, and all manner of mythical beings, the rock ’n’ roll posters of the late 1960s were often even more psychedelic than the music they represented. In Britain and the US, independent artists and creative collectives aimed not only to spread the word about the musical acts of the day, but also to encapsulate their musical vision and energy via fly-posters.

 

 

 

At the forefront of the rock ’n’ roll poster scene in London towards the end of the decade were Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, who together formed design duo Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Although the pair only worked together for 18 months, between 1967 and 1969, they nonetheless created some of the most iconic and defining images of their genre, and were instrumental in pushing the boundaries of the rock ’n’ roll poster as a communication medium.

 

While Waymouth worked as an artist with English, his involvement with rock ’n’ roll transcended graphic design. In 1966, a year before partnering with English, Waymouth, along with then-girlfriend Sheila Cohen and John Pearse, opened the fashion boutique Granny Takes a Trip on the King’s Road. One of Swinging London’s prime sartorial destinations (if not the destination), Granny’s regulars included the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, who could often be spotted wearing the store’s hip offerings. In that sense, Granny laid the foundations of Hapshash, which went on to create posters for the boutique, too. 

It was thanks to the founders of London’s UFO club that Waymouth and English, both former art school students, met. Initially, the duo dubbed itself Cosmic Colours, but later changed its name as it was looking for something more novel. “It was an accident,” Waymouth tells BBC Designed. “It was originally supposed to be ‘Hatsheput’, based around the idea of Queen Hatsheput, one of the most powerful women in Egypt who ruled as king… We thought, ‘What a funny idea’, and then got inspired by the biblical story of Joseph and his coloured coat. We wanted a name that people would pay attention to.” 

Arresting in their intricacy and sheer beauty, Hapshash’s posters – multiple copies of which were often pasted at a time – not only attracted the interest of passersby, but also demanded attention. “Our designs had a startling effect on the fly-posters of London,” recalls Waymouth. “I’ve often described a block of 20 to 30 posters of a single one of our designs as a ‘powerful visual shock’”. Fly-posting was, of course, illegal, but Hapshash managed to routinely evade the authorities by virtue of their visual appeal. “We got away with the posters as they were so pretty to look at,” says Waymouth. 

So pretty were they, in fact, that many took to collecting them. “They were eye candy to match any psychedelic experience,” says Waymouth, “and it was gratifying as an artist when people started tearing them down to decorate their own walls at home”. That said, it wasn’t only in prohibited public spaces that Hapshash’s posters could be seen; they were also displayed in “outlets that were sympathetic to the underground, counterculture movement”, according to Waymouth, such as particular record, clothing, and book stores, as well as various music venues for which the duo designed posters. 

From a marketing perspective, Waymouth and English’s approach to poster design may seem illogical. Their advertisements – Hapshash was not in the business of creating art for art’s sake – were often difficult to read, especially from afar, and required viewers to invest time making sense of their explosions of words and images. The word ‘UFO’, for instance, on a poster designed for the eponymous London nightclub, can easily be mistaken for a meaningless cluster of squiggles, or the date 1986. On another poster (designed for the same club), the names of the acts scheduled to play and the dates of their performances look as if they are part of the extraterrestrial illustration.

 

So where did Hapshash’s influence come from? Aside from the music of groups like Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience that they were aiming to reflect, Waymouth and English also looked to particular visual artists and artistic movements. A woman in a promotional poster for the Soft Machine, for instance, brings to mind Aubrey Beardsley’s depiction of Salomé as she appears in the illustrations for the Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name. “We had the work of … Beardsley in our minds,” says Waymouth. Some of their other female figures are similar to those in the work of Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha, and elsewhere, there are smatterings of the Tolkienesque (winged dragons and elves), and even Disney characters. “Pop art was obviously prevalent,” recalls Waymouth. “We found our inspiration from a lot of places, but mainly from [artistic] styles from the 1890s to the 1960s. There were [also] a lot of 1920s Art Deco influences around the scene, generally… and I remember we discussed the ephemeral nature of Marcel Duchamp’s Dadaist artworks in great length.

Their posters were meticulously crafted by hand, without the use of any technology. “They designed a unique, new image practically every week, all by hand,” curator John Brett points out. Hapshash’s designs were printed using silkscreens and relatively expensive types of ink, and even techniques such as gradation were painstakingly executed manually by English. What makes the duo’s work even more surprising is the fact that it was made with limited resources. “We were trying to achieve a ‘look’ by working on several layers of silkscreen at a time,” Waymouth explains. “Once the design was nailed, we went into production mode… Each week, Michael and I would go [to our printer] and ask, ‘What colours have you got?’, and he’d bring down a selection that he had available – it was really pot luck… In the ’60s, it wasn’t that high-end. We had to do it cheaply, with set budget costs.” 

 

Despite all the difficulties involved in their production, Hapshash’s posters were a hit among Londoners. “They loved them!” Waymouth exclaims. “When Joe Boyd and John Hopkins, who ran the UFO Club, realised [this], they started to print off extra posters and runs for sale… They were also distributed by the International Times, [as] John was a co-founder [of] and editor for the paper.” Today, these same posters are not only auctioned for tens of thousands of pounds, but also continue to inspire other artists and creatives. “A lot of the font and printing techniques cultivated during the period can still be seen today,” says Brett. “Hapshash and their contemporaries were pioneers… If you really wanted me to name one artist [they’ve influenced specifically], then it would be Banksy. You can see how his work is influenced by ‘60s counterculture magazines such as OZ, [which was] one title that Hapshash contributed a lot to back in the day." (BBC.com site)

 

Lava Lamps

From the smithsonianmag.com site - The History of The Lava Lamp: "At a certain moment in the late 1960's, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things counter-cultural and psychedelic—although, as you might expect, those who basked in its lurid glow sometimes had trouble recalling exactly why. It’s like asking, 'Why did we like Jackson Pollock?' says Wavy Gravy, the longtime peace activist and Grateful Dead sidekick. 'Because it was amazing! It causes synapses in your brain to loosen up'. The mesmerizing light fixture...has risen and sunk and shifted its shape in the cultural consciousness for decades. The lamp was invented by Edward Craven Walker, a British accountant whose other claim to fame was making underwater nudist films. He was passing the time in a pub when he noticed a homemade egg timer crafted from a cocktail shaker filled with alien-looking liquids bubbling on a stove top. Determined to perfect the design, and to install a light bulb as the heat source, he settled on a bottle used for Orange Squash soda...Craven Walker’s lamp paired two mutually insoluble liquids: one water-based, the other wax-based. The exact recipe is a proprietary secret, but a key ingredient is the solvent carbon tetrachloride, which adds weight to the otherwise buoyant wax. The heat source at the bottom of the lamp liquefies the waxy blob. As it expands, its density decreases and it rises to the top—where it cools, congeals and begins to sink back down. By the end of the decade, Craven Walker’s company was manufacturing millions of Astro Lamps, as he called them, per year. In 1965, he sold the U.S. manufacturing rights to a company called Lava Lite. Craven Walker didn’t envision the lamps as paragons of groovyness. 'They weren’t marketed like that—they were almost staid', Granger says. Indeed, an ad in a 1968 edition of the American Bar Association Journal touted the executive model—mounted on a walnut base alongside a ballpoint pen."

 

Tie-Dyed Clothing

"Tie-dye is a modern term invented in the mid-1960's in the United States but known in an earlier form in 1941 as tied-and-dyed, for a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques... The process of tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dyes. The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. Unlike regular resist-dyeing techniques, tie-dye is characterized by the use of bright, saturated primary colors and bold patterns. These patterns, including the spiral, mandala, and peace sign, and the use of multiple bold colors, have become cliched since the peak popularity of tie-dye in the 1960s and 1970s." (Wikipedia)

"The History of the Tie Dyed T-Shirt: The term tie-dye first appeared in the United States during the 1960’s.  Hippies, who were protesting the Vietnam War and promoting peace and love, began wearing clothing with vibrant colors and psychedelic designs.  This clothing is called tie-dye.   Tie-Dye T-Shirts and dresses were a symbol of non-violence and their popularity quickly spread among America’s youth.  Not to mention how cool the shirts look.  You can imagine how the design and colors of these shirts stood out in the 1960’s amongst all the bland conservative clothing looks of the time.  If you wore tie dye you stood for something!   Around this time, rock ‘n roll bands started to emerge and their message permeated through this counter-culture.  The most prominent was a band called The Grateful Dead. They began playing shows in Palo-Alto, California in 1965 and developed a hardcore lesion of fans known as I.  Deadheads would follow them around, city to city, seeing as many live concerts as possible.  Along the way, they had to make money to pay for food and gas in order to get to the next show.   Many of these fans began selling merchandise in the parking lot before and after the Grateful Dead would perform.  The most popular items sold were homemade tie-dye t-shirts." (from the adairgroup.com site)

 

Many music fans began wearing tie dyed clothes after seeing such popular musicians as Janis Joplin and John Sebastian  wearing tied dyed garments.

 

Here’s a short list of some of the best psychedelic albums 

that populated my turntable back in the day...

 

"The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was a definite game changer that reflected the youth culture's experimentation with drugs and fascination with alternate states of being.  From the Psychedelic Sight website: "If asked to cite a psychedelic music album, most casual music fans would reply, without hesitation: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The Fabs’ embrace of flower power and trippy-dopey imagery was in full bloom in the summer of 1967, when the multicolored Sgt. Pepper tumbled onto the world stage. This was not, however, the Fabs’ first visit to the land of psychedelia: Tomorrow Never Knows from Revolver startled fans the summer before, with its frenzied pace and sea of tape loops. Lennon’s slithery acid-tinged Strawberry Fields Forever arrived as a single more than three months before, sharing the vinyl with the gentle psychedelia of Penny Lane." (Tie Dyed Rock blog)

 

  

 

Are You Experienced, one of the most definitive masterworks of the Psychedelic era, announced the arrival of acid rock via a creative firestorm of sound.  The one track that really jumped out at me at that time was Third Stone From The Sun; an instrumental  that was awash in bizarre howling guitar and whooshes of sound that jumped out of the little stereo speakers in my bedroom. At that moment, I suddenly realized that this album had announced that rock & roll had entered a new phase.  

"Jimi Hendrix synthesized various elements of the cutting edge of 1967 rock into music that sounded both futuristic and rooted in the best traditions of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It was his mind-boggling guitar work, of course, that got most of the ink, building upon the experiments of British innovators like Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend to chart new sonic territories in feedback, distortion, and sheer volume. It wouldn't have meant much, however, without his excellent material, whether psychedelic frenzy (Foxey Lady, Manic Depression, Purple Haze), instrumental freak-out jams (Third Stone from the Sun), blues (Red House, Hey Joe), or tender, poetic compositions (The Wind Cries Mary) that demonstrated the breadth of his songwriting talents. Not to be underestimated were the contributions of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, who gave the music a rhythmic pulse that fused parts of rock and improvised jazz." (the All Music website)

 

The band Kaleidoscope were, in a word, eclectic.  Side Trips, their debut album that was released in 1967, featured a unique mix of a wide variety of genres such as ethereal Indian music, straight ahead roots music, light country pop and world music. 

"The band was renowned for their collective abilities many instruments. David Lindley (Guitar/banjo/fiddle/mandolin), Solomon Feldthouse (Sax/bouzouki/ dobro/ vina/oud/dombeck/dulcimer/fiddle/guitar/vocals), Chester Crill aka Fenrus Epp and Max Buda (Violin/ viola/ bass/ keyboards/ harmonica), Chris Darrow (Bass/guitar/ mandolin/vocals) and John Vidican (percussion). From the All Music site: “Although the Bay Area may have seemed to corner the market on the psychedelic "Summer of Love", the equally bountiful Los Angeles scene was the breeding ground for one of the more inventive units of the mid- to late-'60s. The incipient incarnation of Kaleidoscope synthesized rock & roll with roots and world music, first yielding Side Trips (1967), arguably the most diverse effort of 1967. Their ten-track outing features multi-instrumentalists Solomon Feldthouse (Although the Bay Area may have seemed to corner the market on the psychedelic "Summer of Love", the equally bountiful Los Angeles scene was the breeding ground for one of the more inventive units of the mid- to late-'60s. The incipient incarnation of Kaleidoscope synthesized rock & roll with roots and world music, first yielding Side Trips (1967), arguably the most diverse effort of 1967…The combo evolved from Lindley's string band interests, Darrow's love of the Beatles' early records and Feldthouse's exotic-sounding Eastern excursions. After being signed by Epic, they initially wanted to operate under the surreal moniker of the Neoprene Lizards with Barry Friedman (aka Frazier Mohawk) collaborating from the producer's chair. Further galvanizing Kaleidoscope and Side Trips is the strength of the original material. The mid-tempo ballad Please was picked as the single, while the album's overall mood and cerebral vibe are front and center on Darrow's trippy If the Night and Keep Your Mind Open. Feldthouse's suitably surrealistic Egyptian Gardens concisely demonstrates his distinct contributions, as does the Lindley composition Why Try. From the other side of the pop spectrum are the layered vocal harmonies of Pulsating Dream and the overt jug band influence heard on Cab Calloway's signature Minnie the Moocher, as well as the traditional tunes Come On In and Hesitation Blues.” (All Music)

 

 

As previously mentioned, Love was a psychedelic combo out of Los Angeles that created Forever Changes, one of most enduring psychedelic albums of all time.  As a 15 year old boy in 1967, it took awhile before I realized how amazing  this album was.

 "Love's Forever Changes made only a minor dent on the charts when it was first released in 1967, but years later it became recognized as one of the finest and most haunting albums to come out of the Summer of Love, which doubtless has as much to do with the disc's themes and tone as the music, beautiful as it is. Sharp electric guitars dominated most of Love's first two albums, and they make occasional appearances here on tunes like A House Is Not a Motel and Live and Let Live, but most of Forever Changes is built around interwoven acoustic guitar textures and subtle orchestrations, with strings and horns both reinforcing and punctuating the melodies. The punky edge of Love's early work gave way to a more gentle, contemplative, and organic sound on Forever Changes, but while Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean wrote some of their most enduring songs for the album, the lovely melodies and inspired arrangements can't disguise an air of malaise that permeates the sessions. A certain amount of this reflects the angst of a group undergoing some severe internal strife, but Forever Changes is also an album that heralds the last days of a golden age and anticipates the growing ugliness that would dominate the counterculture in 1968 and 1969; images of violence and war haunt A House Is Not a Motel, the street scenes of Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hillsdale reflects a jaded mindset that flower power could not ease, the twin specters of race and international strife rise to the surface of The Red Telephone, romance becomes cynicism in Bummer in the Summer, the promise of the psychedelic experience decays into hard drug abuse in Live and Let Live, and even gentle numbers like Andmoreagain and Old Man sound elegiac, as if the ghosts of Chicago and Altamont were visible over the horizon as Love looked back to brief moments of warmth. Forever Changes is inarguably Love's masterpiece and an album of enduring beauty, but it's also one of the few major works of its era that saw the dark clouds looming on the cultural horizon, and the result was music that was as prescient as it was compelling." (All Music website)

 

 

Released in late 1967 by Warner Bros. Records, Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle album was an eclectic masterwork that featured  a cavalcade of various music genres, including bluegrass, ragtime, and show tunes, and frames classical styles in the context of 1960s pop music. 

"Van Dyke Parks moved on from the Beach Boys' abortive Smile sessions to record his own solo debut, Song Cycle, an audacious and occasionally brilliant attempt to mount a fully orchestrated, classically minded work within the context of contemporary pop. As indicated by its title, Song Cycle is a thematically coherent work, one which attempts to embrace the breadth of American popular music; bluegrass, ragtime, show tunes -- nothing escapes Parks' radar, and the sheer eclecticism and individualism of his work is remarkable. Opening with Vine Street, authored by Randy Newman (another pop composer with serious classical aspirations), the album is both forward-thinking and backward-minded, a collision of bygone musical styles with the progressive sensibilities of the late '60s; while occasionally overambitious and at times insufferably coy, it's nevertheless a one-of-a-kind record, the product of true inspiration." (California Rock blog)

 

Anthem of the Sun, Grateful Dead’s second album, was released in 1968 and I remember buying it at a Woolworth's store when it came out.  I have to admit that the album really caught me off guard as it challenged the average listener in many ways.  Mickey Hart, who had recently become the band’s second drummer, has stated that Anthem of the Sun “...was our springboard into weirdness.” 

From the Wikipedia site: “The band entered American Studios in Los Angeles in November 1967 with David Hassinger, the producer of their eponymous debut album. However, determined to make a more complicated recorded work than their debut release, as well as attempt to translate their live sound into the studio, the band and Hassinger changed locations to New York City. By December they had gone through two other studios, Century Sound and Olmstead Studios.  Eventually, Hassinger grew frustrated with the group's slow recording pace and quit the project entirely while the band was at Century Sound, with only a third of the album completed. It has been reported that Hassiner left after guitarist Bob Weir requested he create the illusion of ‘thick air’ in the studio by mixing recordings of silence taken in the desert and the city. Returning to San Francisco's Coast Recorders, the band recruited their soundman, Dan Healy, to help produce. In between studio sessions, the band also began recording their live dates. Healy, Garcia, and Lesh then took these concert tapes (encompassing two Los Angeles shows from November 1967, a tour of the Pacific Northwest in January and early February 1968, and a California tour from mid-February to mid-March 1968) and began interlacing them with existing studio tracks. Garcia called this mixing it for the hallucinations.  Drummer Bill Kreutzmann explained, ‘Phil and Jerry were the ones who figured out that we could exploit studio technology to demonstrate how these songs were mirrors of infinity, even when they adhered to their established arrangements. It's the old paradox of improvisational compositions. Jazz artists knew all about the balance between freedom and structure, but a few rock bands were now catching on. Most rock bands, however, tended to head in an opposite direction, afraid of the uncertainty of improvisation. We decided that Anthem of the Sun was going to be our statement on the matter’. 

Tom Constanten, a friend of Lesh and Garcia, joined the band in the studio while on leave from the United States Air Force to provide piano, prepared piano, and electronic tape effects influenced by John Cage. Constanten would formally join the band following his discharge in November 1968; however, his contributions to the band's sound were more evident in the studio than in live shows, and Anthem of the Sun was no exception. Constanten developed piano pieces that sounded like three gamelan orchestras playing at once and created effects by setting a spinning gyroscope on the piano soundboard. Likewise, the rest of the band used a large assortment of instruments in the studio to augment the live tracks that were the base of each song, including kazoos, crotales, harpsichord, timpani, trumpet, and a güiro. Garcia commented that parts of the album were ‘far out, even too far out... We weren't making a record in the normal sense; we were making a collage.’ He also acknowledged the influence of Lesh's study of Stockhausen and other avant-garde artists. Warner Bros. executive Joe Smith was noted as characterizing Anthem of the Sun as 'the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.' Drummer Bill Kreutzmann's description of the production process describes the listening experience of the album as well: ‘...Jerry and Phil went into the studio with Dan Healy and, like mad scientists, they started splicing all the versions together, creating hybrids that contained the studio tracks and various live parts, stitched together from different shows, all in the same song — one rendition would dissolve into another and sometimes they were even stacked on top of each other... It was easily our most experimental record, it was groundbreaking in its time, and it remains a psychedelic listening experience to this day.'"

 

 

 I certainly consider the Zombies Odessey & Oracle a true lost psychedelic classic. This 1968 album is often considered to be a psychedelic masterwork that reflects elements of not only psychedelic music but also that of the sixties British pop scene similar to what The Kinks achieved with their Village Green Preservation Society album.

"Decades ahead of its time, Odessey and Oracle is the final statement from an unfortunately short-lived band, and stands as one of the late 60s' greatest achievements...While Odessey and Oracle is definitely one of the great rediscovered works of the psychedelic era-- an under-appreciated record of beauty and foresight-- albums like Love's Forever Changes, Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle, and even the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, expanded minds with wider sonic palettes and more daring song structures. The Zombies' four-track recordings subsist on the band's unique style and succinct composition: carefully crafted vocal melodies, bold chord changes and winding resolutions, all colored by heavenly harmonies and strings. While it wasn't exactly "freakout" music aimed at squares, Odyssey and Oracle is still notable for its experimental bend. The Zombies convinced EMI to let them record it at Abbey Road free of all corporate influence (aka no producers), allowing the band to indulge whatever musical fantasies they came up with. Some members of the band-- most prominently keyboardist Rod Argent-- would go on to careers in prog-rock, and seeds of that genre poke through here. The first clue is an unhealthy preoccupation with historical and literary figures, from the Shakespeare quote in the liner notes, to the Faulkner-derived A Rose for Emily, to Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914) -- inspired by bassist Chris White's WWI obsession-- The Zombies wore over-education on their sleeves. In many ways, Odessey foretells the flowery baroque prose of 10-minute prog epics to come. Classicism extends to The Zombies' playing as well; they were formally trained musicians with overt interests in art music and jazz. More overtly, there's the sectional composition of their songs, apparent in Changes, which is most emblematic of the jarring cut-and-paste thematic shifts that separated the fans from the great unwashed.  Though it may not represent the sprawling, tripped-out experimentation of their times, The Zombies' unique brand of lyric wit and daring arrangement expanded the limits of pop. Odessey and Oracle stands as the band's fully realized statement of intent, the parting shot from one of the few originals in the devolving tail-end of the 1960s." (pitchfork website)

 

 

 

Here's some of my favorite Psychedelic Singles 

that populated my turntable back in the day...

 

Eight Miles High - The Byrds

 

Hot Smoke & Sassafras - Bubble Puppy

 

Sunshine Superman - Donovan

 

Over Under Sideways Down - The Yardbirds

 

2,000 Man - Rolling Stones

 

 

The End of the Psychedelic Era

"By the end of the 1960s, psychedelic rock was in retreat. Psychedelic trends climaxed in the 1969 Woodstock festival, which saw performances by most of the major psychedelic acts, including Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. In 1966, LSD had been made illegal in the US and UK.[ In 1969, the murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca by Charles Manson and his cult of followers, claiming to have been inspired by Beatles' songs such as Helter Skelter, has been seen as contributing to an anti-hippie backlash. At the end of the same year, the Altamont Free Concert in California, headlined by the Rolling Stones, became notorious for the fatal stabbing of black teenager Meredith Hunter by Hells Angel security guards. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Peter Green and Danny Kirwan of Fleetwood Mac and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd were early "acid casualties", helping to shift the focus of the respective bands of which they had been leading figures. Some groups, such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, broke up. Hendrix died in London in September 1970, shortly after recording Band of Gypsys (1970), Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose in October 1970 and they were closely followed by Jim Morrison of the Doors, who died in Paris in July 1971. By this point, many surviving acts had moved away from psychedelia into either more back-to-basics roots rock, traditional-based, pastoral or whimsical folk, the wider experimentation of progressive rock, or riff-based heavy rock." (Wikipedia)

From the New York Times (June 2, 1985) 

Psychedelic Rock Stages A Comeback (Robert Palmer) 

"Do you think you might be able to find your old paisley shirts, Nehru jacket, granny glasses and love beads in the back of a closet somewhere? If so, get them out; you're going to be needing them. Psychedelic rock is back, complete with electric sitars, ragalike droning, fuzztone guitars, loopy lyrics inviting you to 'open your mind,' and song titles like Radar Eyes, Sundown on Venus, and Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes. It's beginning to look like the summer of 1985 will be a replay of the summer of '67 - the ''summer of love. 

The season's most talked-about hit album, Prince's Around the World in a Day is pure psychedelia, from its garish, multicolored cover art to its musical styles and lyrics. Open your heart, open your mind, its first song invites, for 'a wonderful trip through our time,' with an accompaniment of cello, oud, and finger-cymbals. Prince is even calling his private recording studio Paisley Park. When he first played his new album for Warner Bros. records, earlier this spring, the company's conference room was ankle-deep in flowers, and Prince pointedly sniffed at a fragrant blossom throughout. 

You don't have to look much further to encounter Tom Petty's hit single Don't Come Around Here No More, an affectionate revival of late-60's raga-rock that features David A. Stewart of Eurhythmics on electric sitar. The song's promotional video uses the 'Alice in Wonderland' imagery so beloved by 60's psychedelic bands, with Mr. Stewart, dressed as a caterpillar, playing his sitar atop a large toadstool.

These evocations of vintage psychedelia at the top of the pop charts -and there are quite a few others - are reflections of a trend that has been on the rise in the rock underground for the past several years. As recently as the early 1980's, most up-and-coming new bands would have laughed at the very idea of love beads, flower power, long hair and hallucinatory lyrics. These things were associated with hippies, and since the birth of punk and new wave rock in the mid-1970's, hippies have been decidedly out of fashion. 

Now, hippie-come-lately rock groups are sprouting everywhere. In Los Angeles, bands like Green on Red and the Three O'Clock have been lumped together in a paisley underground, and like-minded bands have been springing up in Arizona (Meat Puppets), Milwaukee (Plasticland), New York (Vipers, Mosquitoes and so forth) and elsewhere. A few of these bands - Washington's Slickee Boys and New York's Fuzztones, for example - are built around older musicians who were playing psychedelic rock in the 60's. But most of them consist of young musicians who were children back when the Beatles sang that all you need is love. A group like the Jet Black Berries can get excited about liquid light-shows, early Pink Floyd records, psychotronic films (a term for trash-horror and youth-cult movies popularized by Michael Weldon's definitive book, Encyclopedia of Psychotronic Film), and the collected works of the 19th-century British occultist Aleister Crowley because for them, these things are new discoveries. 

What makes a specific group or album psychedelic? The most widely accepted terminology can be confusing, particularly when it comes to distinguishing psychedelia or the paisley revival from the widespread garage-band revival, which is patterned on the mid-60's American bands that responded to the period's British invasion - the Seeds, the Standells, and the Music Machine, for example. 

Perhaps the most useful distinction can be derived from the term psychedelic itself, which was intended to mean mind opening or mind expanding. In the broadest sense, the newer psychedelic bands all aim to expand or alter the listener's awareness, some with mesmerizing music, others with provocative lyrics, many with both. And psychedelic bands make music that is firmly rooted in the more progressive rock of the middle and late 60's, whether the preferred models are Syd Barrett's early Pink Floyd, the Beatles from Rubber Soul through Magical Mystery Tour, or the harder-edged, more rhythm-and-blues-inflected styles of the Rolling Stones and the American garage-rockers."

 

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Peter Sampfel: The Last Holy Modal Rounder Tells All



Rock & Roll is a State of Mind - Johnny Pierre

 

Freelance Vandals - Yer Money Or Yer Ears

 

The Lost Tapes Vol. 2 - The Hideaways


 

Return To All Blog Posts

 

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