Britannica.com Sounds of the Psychedelic Sixties by Lucy O’Brien In 1967 the Beatles were in Abbey Road Studios seting the finishing touches on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. At one point Paul McCartney wandered down the corridor and heard what was so a new immature set called Pink Floyd working on their hypnotic introduction, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. He listened for a minute, so came hotfooting back. “Hey cats,” he reputedly said, “There’s a new set in there and they’re gonna steal our thunder.” With their mix of blues, music hall influences, Lewis Carroll mentions, and unresolved experimentation, Pink Floyd was one of the cardinal sets of the 1960s psychedelic revolution, a pop civilization motion that emerged with American and British stone, before brushing through movie, literature, and the ocular humanistic disciplines.
The music was mostly inspired by psychedelic drugs, or alleged “mind-expanding” drugs such as marijuanas and LSD ( lysergic acid diethylamide; “acid” ) , and attempted to animate drug-induced provinces through the usage of overdriven guitar, amplified feedback, and droning guitar motives influenced by Eastern music. This psychedelic consciousness was seeded, in the United States, by countercultural gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard University professor who began researching LSD as a tool of self-discovery from 1960, and author Ken Kesey who with his Merry Pranksters staged Acid Tests – multimedia “occurrences” set to the music of the Warlocks ( subsequently the Grateful Dead ) and documented by novelist Tom Wolfe in the literary classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test ( 1968 ) – and traversed the state during the mid-1960s on a kaleidoscope-colored school coach.
“Everybody felt the’60s were a discovery. There was geographic expedition of sexual freedom and [ a batch of ] drugs around that were indispensable to the development of consciousness,” recalls British daring film maker Peter Whitehead, whose films include Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London ( 1967 ) and the Rolling Stones documental Charlie Is My Darling ( 1966 ) . “The Zeitgeist of the clip was the concluding prostration of a certain sort of thought. The seeds were sown for feminism, for the whole impression of internet, ecology, and the whole doctrine of Gaia.” Suzy Hopkins, once Suzy Cream cheese, a terpsichorean and inspirational figure on the belowground scene in Los Angeles and London, remembers the splanchnic manner psychedelic civilization affected the senses. “There’s a difference between a drug and a psychedelic.
Drugs make you drugged and psychedelics heighten your ability to see the truth or world,” she says. For her, LSD and music created a sort of chemistry. “When I start to dance, at a certain point, the dance takes over and the music is dancing me. Dancing is this electric sweetening of your spinal column by sound.” Many psychedelic sets explored this sense of forsaking in their music, traveling off from standard stone beat and instrumentality.
The Grateful Dead of San Francisco, for case, created an improvisatory mix of state stone, blues, and acid R & A; B on albums like The Grateful Dead ( 1967 ) and Anthem of the Sun ( 1968 ) , while another ‘ Frisco set, Jefferson Airplane ( fronted by the dramatic singer Grace Slick ) , American ginseng of the childlike hallucinatory delectations of an acerb trip in the 1967 Top Ten hit “White Rabbit.” In Los Angeles the multiracial set Love played capricious, free-flowing stone, fueled by the alone vision of their troubled frontman Arthur Lee.
A typically bizarre line from their 3rd album, Forever Changes ( 1968 ) , satirizes hippie dinge: “The snob has caked against my pants.” Besides from Los Angeles, the Byrds plowed a different furrow, making a jangly psychedelic common people augmented by rich vocal harmoniousnesss and orchestration. With such hits as “Eight Miles High” and their screen of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” they, along with the dwelling strength of the Doors, were among the most commercially successful of the West Coast sets. Another of import Los Angeles act was the United States of America, a set led by electronic music composer Joe Byrd, whose eponymic 1968 introduction album blends orchestral pastoral with harsh, unkeyed experimentation.
Meanwhile the thirteenth Floor Elevators from Austin, Texas, epitomized the darker, more psychotic craze of acid stone. Having the contrary endowment of Roky Erickson, a talented instrumentalist and songster who was subsequently hospitalized for mental unwellness, the set played airy jug-blowing blues. The path “Slip Inside This House,” for case, on Easter Everywhere ( 1967 ) , conveys a sense of mysticism and transcendency, enhanced by acid.
Erickson’s supernatural geographic expeditions took him so far that by the clip the set split in 1969 he believed Satan was following him everyplace. On the East Coast the Velvet Underground echoed the sonic techniques of psychedelia with their usage of repeat and electronic improvisation. Their attitude, though, was more about nihilistic art-school cool than the more playful “flower power.” This was accentuated in the drugs they celebrated in vocal – velocity and diacetylmorphine, for case, instead than LSD. Established stone sets began to present psychedelic elements into their music, notably the Beatles, with such records as Revolver ( 1966 ) , having the thumping mantra of “Tomorrow Never Knows” ; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ( 1967 ) , with the trippy wordss of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” ; Magical Mystery Tour ( 1967 ) , showcasing the twirling surrealism of vocals like “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” ; and The Beatles ( 1968; the “White Album” ) , incorporating the standout path “Revolution 9,” an experimental montage of found sounds.
The Beach Boys, excessively, branched out with the expansive, stalking Pet Sounds ( 1966 ) , an album masterminded by an introverted Brian Wilson. The Yard birds, with Jeff Beck on guitar, scored a hit with the echo-laden “Shapes of Things” ( 1966 ) . Encouraged by Brian Jones, who was drawn to instruments like the sitar and ancient Eastern percussion, the Rolling Stones dipped their pess into the scene with vocals like “Paint It Black” ( 1966 ) and the less-successful album Their Satanic Majesties Request ( 1967 ) .
In Britain psychedelic innovators created music that was steeped in notion and surrealism and was less aggressive and minimalist than their American opposite numbers. The scene revolved around locales such as London’s UFO nine ( a predecessor to festivals like Glastonbury ) and Middle Earth and such events as the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream, a occurrence in April 1967 in the Alexandra Palace that featured an tremendous heap of bananas and sets like Pink Floyd, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and the Utterly Incredible Too Long Ago to Remember Sometimes Shouting at People. A benefit for the alternate newspaper IT ( International Times ) , the event besides drew counterculture famous persons such as John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Andy Warhol. Pink Floyd was the taking visible radiation of the British belowground scene, with vocalist/guitarist Syd Barrett the chief author behind such hits as “Arnold Layne” ( a quirky, controversial vocal about a cross-dresser ) , and the spacey, driving instrumental “Interstellar Overdrive.”
He was a strong originative force until his declining schizophrenic disorder led to him being edged out of the set in 1968. Other British Acts of the Apostless included the lawless Tomorrow, which specialized in droning raga feedback and wild drumming; the operatic, showy Arthur Brown; the R & A; B-flavored Pretty Things, and the Canterbury set Soft Machine, which incorporated “harmolodic” wind into their psychedelic stone. “Musically people were experimenting, seeking to convey that transcendant feel. Even the Stones did it, hiting off at an angle that didn’t accommodate them,” sums up Andy Ellison, lead singer with John’s Children, the first set of Marc Bolan, who subsequently fronted T. Rex. “It was like psyche music came from white male childs on acid and took on a whole different meaning.”
Psychedelic stone – which had already revolutionized manner, poster art, and unrecorded public presentation – continued to turn after the 1960s, act uponing a host of subgenres, including heavy metal, imperfect and art stone, “Kraut-rock” ( experimental electronic music by German sets such as Tangerine Dream ) , and the space-age funk of Parliament-Funkadelic ( which, along with Jimi Hendrix, proved to be a cardinal connexion between black funk and psychedelia ) . Furthermore, psychedelic stone’s influence was apparent in ulterior genres, from hood to trip-hop to acid-house dance. As Paul McCartney said in 1967, psychedelia meant musical release: “The heterosexuals should welcome the Underground because it stands for freedom.”
The Long, Strange Trip Continues by Jim DeRogatis Of stone ‘ n’axial rotation’s countless genres, psychedelia may good be the hardest to acquire a clasp on. Like hood music, it is a sound based mostly on strike harding down doors – or interrupting on through to the other side, to cite Jim Morrison of the Doors ( who borrowed the sentiment from novelist Aldous Huxley, who, in bend, drew inspiration from surpassing Romantic poet William Blake ) . Hood could at least be defined by the things that it negated, but at its best, psychedelic stone remains an ever-changing genre that refuses to accept any regulations. However, the significance of these swirling and sometimes disorienting “caput sounds” can be found by analyzing their development from the 1960s to the’90s and by traveling back to the roots of the word itself. ( Contrary to nostalgic histories, psychedelic stone did non get down and stop in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love. )
The term “psychedelic” originated in correspondence during the early 1950s between two innovators in the survey of psychotropic drugs: Humphry Osmond, a British head-shrinker who studied the effects of peyote and LSD ( lysergic acid diethylamide; “acid” ) on alkies in Canada, and Huxley, the English writer of Brave New World ( 1932 ) and The Doors of Perception ( 1954 ) . These work forces needed a word to depict the effects of the drugs they themselves were taking, and Osmond suggested “psychedelic” from the Grecian words mind ( psyche or head ) and delein ( to do manifest ) or deloun ( to demo or uncover ) . He illustrated its usage in a rime: “To penetrate snake pit or surge beatific, merely take a pinch of psychedelic.” From the beginning, scientists analyzing the effects of psychedelic drugs remarked on the manner they enhanced the experience of listening to music, sometimes doing “synaesthesia,” or the semblance of seeing sounds as colourss. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who foremost synthesized LSD, noted that under its influence, “every sound generated a vividly altering image with its ain consistent signifier and color.”
Describing an LSD experience in The Joyous Cosmology ( 1962 ) , English-born philosopher Alan Watts wrote, “I am listening to the music of an organ; as foliages seemed to gesticulate, the organ seems rather literally to speak.” And Harvard University professor-turned-acid-guru Timothy Leary claimed that while under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms, he “became every musical instrument.” Users of hallucinogens also reported that music had the unique ability to conjure the drug experience long after the effects of the chemicals had worn off. By the late 1950s and early ’60s, legal psychedelic drugs were turning up in select circles of authors, artists, and psychiatrists in Los Angeles, New York City, and London. It was inevitable that musicians would experiment with them as well. A studio surf band called the Gamblers was the first rock combo to mention LSD on record. Their instrumental “LSD 25? was the B-side of “Moon Dawg,” a 1960 single on the World Pacific label, but the twangy guitar and barrelhouse piano had nothing in common with what would later be considered psychedelic rock. Nor had “Hesitation Blues,” a 1963 song by New York folk musician Peter Stampfel, which may have been the first documented use of “psychedelic” in a lyric. It wasn’t until 1966 that the collision of rock and psychedelic drugs began to result in an exciting new style of popular music.
Sparked by the soul-searching that followed his first encounter with LSD, Beach Boy Brian Wilson created the breathtaking Pet Sounds (1966). His rivals in the Beatles responded with Revolver (1966), which included “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a song likewise inspired by John Lennon’s first profound acid trip. In Austin, Texas, Roky Erickson and his band debuted with an album entitled The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966); its liner notes openly encouraged hallucinogenic experimentation. That year the Rolling Stones scored a hit with the mysterious, Eastern-tinged “Paint It Black.” And though they maintained that it was about jet flight, the Los Angeles band the Byrds found their otherworldly single “Eight Miles High” blacklisted by radio programmers across the United States because of its alleged druggy subtext. Many of these musicians spoke openly about using psychedelic drugs. But by 1966, these substances had been written about enough (often in alarmist terms), so that even teenagers in Middle America who’d never consumed anything more potent than a beer thought that they understood the hallucinogenic experience.
In noisy, chaotic singles that would represent rock’s first golden age of one-hit wonders, a wave of garage bands imitated British Invasion groups such as the Beatles and the Yardbirds, singing about “bad trips” that often involved careening out of control or losing one’s mind. In 1972 a sampling of lysergic chart-toppers from the 1960s–such as the Electric Prunes’s “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” the Seeds’s “Pushin’ Too Hard,” and the Amboy Dukes’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind”–would be collected by rock critic Lenny Kaye on an album called Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. It would prove hugely influential to the punk movement, illustrating how imagination and attitude were more important in rock than technical expertise. Even as it blossomed in 1966, it was clear that the hallmarks of acid rock were more important than whether or not the musicians themselves had taken psychedelic drugs.
These trademark sounds included circular, mandala-like song structures; sustained or droning melodies; a tendency to incorporate the trance-inducing instruments of other countries (the Indian sitar, the Javanese gamelan, the drums of Joujouka, and the didgeridoo of the Australian Aborigines); heavily altered instrumental sounds; reverb, echoes, and tape delays that created a sensation of vastness or eeriness; and layered mixes that rewarded repeated listenings (especially via headphones). Rock ‘n’ roll had always been aimed at prompting a visceral reaction from the body. Here was a new type of rock music aimed at the head. It was Apollonian as well as Dionysian, and it encouraged listeners to transcend their surroundings while shaking their booties. Rockers were aided in creating these sounds by concurrent advents in recording technology. Bands began to utilize multitrack recording, allowing them to overdub many instruments without having to perform everything live in one take
In addition, FM radio was coming of age in the United States as more stations adopted a free-form rock format, broadening their programming to allow the playing of longer album cuts. As they grew more successful, artists were able to spend more time in the studio, and this gave birth to concept albums such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), released by the Beatles during the height of the Summer of Love. The year 1967 also saw the production of such timeless and ambitious rock records as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground and Nico by the Velvet Underground, Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Da Capo by Love, Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane, and the self-titled debut by the Grateful Dead.
Meanwhile, the children of the Baby Boom were beginning to celebrate a new youth-oriented counterculture–dubbed “hippie” by some–at extremely visible mass “happenings” such as the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream in London and the much-ballyhooed ongoing scene on the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Leary issued his ill-considered call to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” and LSD was officially outlawed in the United States. Inevitably, there was a backlash against the hype. The Haight produced as many tragic casualties as it opened minds, and cautionary tales–such as the drug-induced breakdowns of Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett and the 13th Floor Elevators’s Erickson–proliferated. By the turn of the decade, many bands were returning to simpler, more stripped-down sounds (witness the 1968 offerings of The Beatles the “White Album” and the Stones’s Beggars Banquet). But by no means did psychedelia come to an end.
The genre continued to mutate and evolve, flourishing whenever musicians set out to create imaginative new worlds in the studio. In the early 1970s, artists such as Brian Eno, the Barrett-less Pink Floyd, “space-rockers” Hawkwind, and German “Kraut-rock” groups such as Amon D??l II pioneered the use of analog synthesizers and expanded the notion of the recording studio as an instrument in and of itself on albums such as Eno’s 1974 album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother (1970), Hawkwind’s Space Ritual (1973), and Amon D??l II’s Phallus Dei (1969).
At the same time, progressive rock bands such as Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer took advantage of the freedoms won during the first psychedelic era to make ever more complex, virtuosic, and fanciful concept albums, including Close to the Edge (1972), The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974), and Tarkus (1971), respectively. When the punk revolution ushered in a return to faster and louder rock in the late 1970s, echoes of psychedelia could be heard in artier groups such as Pere Ubu (The Modern Dance; 1978), Wire (Chairs Missing; 1978), and the Feelies (Crazy Rhythms; 1980).
In one of its handiest definitions, David Thomas of Pere Ubu called head rock “the cinematic music of the imagination.” Like many musicians, he maintained that it was more of an approach toward making and recording music than a style of rock rooted in drugs or in any one era. Of course, there were also the psychedelic revival bands, and they approached the genre with a much more literal devotion. Listening to such admittedly beguiling albums as Sixteen Tambourines (1982) by the Three O’Clock and Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1983) by the Rain Parade (both members of the “paisley underground” scene of mid-1980s Los Angeles), as well as Wonder Wonderful Wonderland (1985) by Plasticland of Milwaukee, Wis., U.S., Auntie Winnie Album (1989) by England’s Bevis Frond, and the work of British cult heroes Porcupine Tree, you’d be hard-pressed to prove they weren’t recorded during the Summer of Love.
In the early 1990s, the explosion of techno and electronic dance music ushered in a new psychedelic rock based on a new psychedelic drug: MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), or “ecstasy.” Young listeners consumed the substance (or acted as if they had) while grooving to the otherworldly throb of bass-heavy music at late-night warehouse parties called “raves”–’90s updates of ’60s happenings like the famed Acid Tests thrown by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Techno artists such as the Orb (U.F.Orb; 1992), Plastikman (Sheet One; 1994), Orbital (Snivilisation; 1994), and the Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works Volume II; 1994) further expanded the acid rock palette with inspired experimentation on the latest technology, including digital synthesizers and samplers.
These machines were also used by psychedelic rappers such as De La Soul (3 Feet High and Rising; 1989) and P.M. Dawn (Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience; 1991), who took hip-hop in directions far from the playgrounds of the Bronx where it was spawned. “To me, psychedelia is finding something tangible that you can hold on to in the unusual,” said P.M. Dawn’s Prince Be. “That’s what any innovator does.” Some critics contended that by the 1990s everything that could be done with rock’s familiar guitar, bass, and drums lineup had been done. They were proved wrong not only by grunge music but also by an acid rock underground that continued to produce evocative music.
The British band My Bloody Valentine created a kaleidoscopic guitar sound on their hugely influential Loveless (1991) and Oklahoma City’s Flaming Lips charted the landscape of whimsical new worlds on albums such as Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (1993) and The Soft Bulletin (1999). A collective of independent bands from Ruston, La., known as the Elephant 6 Recording Company updated the spirit of Pet Sounds and Revolver for a new millennium. Among their notable works are In the Aeroplane over the Sea (1998) by Neutral Milk Hotel, Music from the Unrealized Film Script, “Dusk at Cubist Castle” (1996) by the Olivia Tremor Control, and Tone Soul Evolution (1997) by the Apples In Stereo. The British group Spiritualized, with Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997), explored the merger of Pink Floyd-style interstellar overdrives with free jazz and gospel music. Gospel music, you ask? Yes, indeed. A final dimension of psychedelia, from the Greek etymology, is “soul-manifesting”–implying a spiritual dimension that is rarely voiced (though it is worth remembering that Brian Wilson spoke of writing “teenage symphonies to God”).
By transcending the ordinary, psychedelic musicians and their listeners attempt to connect with something deeper, more profound, and more beautiful. As Jerry Garcia, guru of the Grateful Dead, once said, “Rock ‘n’ roll provides what the church provided for in other generations.” And no form of rock music attempts to nourish more souls than psychedelia.
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