Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that created a correct psycho-acoustic and music base in many of us. It inspired first trance musicians, otherwise early Goa Trance of would be never called Rock’n’roll of 90’s.
So, let’s see our roots. For this we have to make a time travel in the middle of last century. Have a good trip into the epoch of sex, drugs and…..
LIFE AND DEATH OF PSYCHEDELIC ROCK.
The Psychedelic scene was primarily a plethora of HIPPIES playing music to augment their LSD and hallucinatory experiences: in the 1960s, in the tradition of jazz and blues, many folk and rock musicians began to take drugs and included drug references in their songs.
The music that the hippies listened to was designed to enhance the MIND ALTERING EXPERIENCES of “Psychedelic” drugs (such as LSD or mescaline), characterized by (or generating): hallucinations, distortions of perception, altered states of awareness, and occasionally states resembling psychosis. The bands that made the music happen were seriously Psychedelic with colourful eyeball searing acid soaked album covers and trippy light shows with a whimsical SURREAL lyrical nature
The music had to have certain aspects to be good enough for the new psych generation of listeners: as a musical style Psychedelic rock often contains some of the following features:
- The electric guitars were DISTORTED with feedback, wah wah and fuzz boxes.
- The mixing in the studio was not just about putting down vocals and music, but very complex and elaborate effects were added such as backward tapes and long delay loops, panning and phasing sounds, extreme reverb on the guitars and the vocals, even vocals that were backmasked or fed through effects machines. THE MUSIC HAD TO SOUND OTHERWORLDLY AND OFF THE PLANET!!!
- The use of EXOTIC INSTRUMENTATION was a key factor particularly the sitar and tabla and other Eastern, or Indian musical instruments
- There was an EMPHASIS ON THE KEYBOARD that dominated the music at times, especially mellotron, electric organs and harpsichord.
To enhance the experience of tripping out the music too was replete with lengthy instrumental and jamming and improvisation with lead and keyboard soloing and extended musical passages with varying time signatures, like a multi movement suite of songs merged together into one LONG TRACK.
- The COMPLEX song structures depended on changes in key, modal melodies, drones and time signatures.
- THE LYRICS WERE SURREAL OR DREAMLIKE, ESOTERICALLY, inspired and based on fantasy or non-sensical, and at times whimsical and humorous. The most significant it’s maybe “white rabbit” (referred of ALICE IN WONDERLAND) by Jefferson Airplane
- Album covers featured trippy MULTI COLOURED IMAGES WITH PSYCHEDELIC REFERENCES.
- The concert performances were a light show to augment the music and LIQUID LIGHT SHOWS REPLICATED ACID TRIPS. Such as this one of Zappa and the Mothers of Inventions:
- the IMAGE OF THE BAND was transformed, no longer wearing suits like The Beatles, Kinks, Animals or the other British Invasion bands, but now wearing multi coloured mesmirising silk shirts and very long hair became the norm. (Pink Floyd with Syd Barret the master of psych)
Development in USA
The SAN FRANCISCO music scene continued to develop and The first Trips Festival held at the Longshoremen's Hall in January 1966, saw The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company play to an audience of 10,000, giving many their first encounter with both ACID ROCK, with its long instrumentals and unstructured jams, and LSD.
Psychedelic music also began to have an impact on pop music, with The Beach Boys under the leadership of Brian Wilson, who had been experimenting with LSD from 1965, and psychedelic sounds and lyrical hints were a major part of the songs on Pet Sounds (1966) and the single "Good Vibrations", one of the first pop records to use a THEREMIN (he controlling section usually consists of two metal antennae which sense the position of the player's hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and volume with the other, so it can be played without being touched. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker)
Although San Francisco was the centre of American psychedelic music scene, many other American cities contributed significantly to the new genre. Los Angeles boasted dozens of important psychedelic bands (Iron Butterfly, Love, Spirit, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, the United States of America, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and the Electric Prunes) perhaps the most commercially successful were The Doors. New York City produced its share of psychedelic bands, also Detroit, Texas and Chicago.
In America the SUMMER OF LOVE OF 1967 saw huge number of young people from across American and the world travel to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, boosting the population from 15,000 to around 100,000. It was prefaced by the Human Be-In event in March and reached its peak at the MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL in June, the latter helping to make major American stars of Janis Joplin, lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
Development in the UK
In the UK before 1967 media outlets for psychedelic culture were limited to PIRATE RADIO stations like Radio Luxembourg and Radio London, particularly the programmes hosted by DJ John Peel.
The growth of underground culture was facilitated by the emergence of alternative weekly publications like IT (International Times) and OZ magazine which featured psychedelic and progressive music together with the counter culture lifestyle, which involved long hair, and the wearing of wild shirts from shops (like Mr Fish, Granny Takes a Trip and old military uniforms from Carnaby Street in Soho and Kings Road in Chelsea boutiques, Britain's hippies comported themselves in stark contrast to the slick, tailored teddyboys (dandies) or the drab, conventional dress of most teenagers prior to that. Soon psychedelic rock clubs (like the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road, Middle Earth Club in Covent Garden, The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, the Country Club in Swiss Cottage and the Art Lab also in Covent Garden) were drawing capacity audiences with psychedelic rock and ground-breaking LIQUID LITH SHOWS.
British psychedelic rock, like its American counterpart, had roots in the folk scene. However, the largest strand was the series of acts emerged from 1966 from the BRITISH BLUES SCENE, but influenced by folk, jazz and psychedelia, including: Pink Floyd, Traffic, Soft Machine, Cream, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience (led by an American, but initially produced and managed in Britain by Chas Chandler of The Animals).
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown added surreal theatrical touches to its dark psychedelic sounds, such as the singer's flaming headdress. Existing British Invasion acts now joined the psychedelic revolution, including Eric Burdon (previously of The Animals), and The Small Faces and The Who whose The Who Sell Out (1967, in which are included psychedelic influenced tracks "I Can See for Miles" and "Armenia City in the Sky"). The Rolling Stones had drug references and psychedelic hints in their 1966 singles ("19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Paint It, Black", the latter featuring drones and sitar).
By the end of the decade psychedelic rock was in retreat. LSD had been made illegal in the US and UK from 1966. The murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca by Charles Manson and his "family" 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 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 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 bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream broke up.
Jimi Hendrix died in London in September 1970, shortly after recording Band of Gypsies (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.
Many surviving acts 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-laden heavy rock.