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Psychedelic music

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Psychedelic music is a musical style inspired by or attempting to replicate the mind-altering experience of drugs such as cannabis, psilocybin, mescaline, and especially LSD. Psychedelic music is a misnomer and should properly be called psychedelic rock music, but for the purposes of this article it is not rigorously defined, and is sometimes interpreted to include everything from Acid Rock and Flower Power music to Hard Rock. There are also other forms of psychedelic music that started from the same roots and diverged from the prevalent rock style into electronic music. However, an inner core of the psychedelic style of rock that came to public attention in 1967 can be recognized by characteristic features such as modal melodies; esoteric lyrics often describing dreams, visions, or hallucinations; longer songs and lengthy instrumental solos; and "trippy" electronic effects such as distortion, reverb, and reversed, delayed and/or phased sounds. The album that brought psychedelic rock into pop culture was The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

While the first musicians to be influenced by psychedelic drugs were in the jazz and folk scenes, the first use of the term "psychedelic" in popular music was by the "acid-folk" group The Holy Modal Rounders in 1964. The first use of the word "psychedelic" in a rock music context is usually credited to the 13th Floor Elevators, and the earliest known appearance of this usage of the word in print is in the title of their 1966 album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. The psychedelic sound itself had been around at least a year earlier in the live music of the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, and Donovan's hit Sunshine Superman.



In 1962 British rock embarked on a frenetic race of ideas that spread back to the U.S. with the British Invasion. The folk music scene also experimented with outside influences. In the tradition of Jazz and blues music many musicians began to take drugs, and include drug references in their songs. In 1965 Bob Dylan was influenced by The Beatles to bring in electric rock instrumentation in his album Bringing It All Back Home, but The Byrds beat him to it with a jangling electric hit single version of a track from the album with hints of psychedelia, Mr. Tambourine Man.

U.S.A. in the 1960s

Psychedelia began in the United States folk scene, with New York City's Holy Modal Rounders introducing the term in 1964. A similar band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions from San Francisco were influenced by the Byrds and the Beatles to switch from acoustic music to electric music in 1965. Renaming themselves the Warlocks, they fell in with Ken Kesey's LSD-fuelled Merry Pranksters in November 1965, and changed their name to the Grateful Dead the following month. The Dead played to light shows at the Pranksters' "Acid Tests", with pulsing images being projected over the group in what became a widespread practice. Their sound soon became identified as Acid rock which they played at the Trips Festival in January 1966 along with Big Brother & the Holding Company. The festival was held at the Fillmore Auditorium and was attended by some 10,000 people. For most of the attendees, it was their first encounter with both acid-rock and LSD.

Throughout 1966, the San Francisco music scene flourished, as the Fillmore, the Avalon Ballroom, and the Matrix club began booking local rock bands on a nightly basis. The emerging "San Francisco Sound" made local stars of numerous bands, including the Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, The Great Society, and the folk-rockers Jefferson Airplane, whose debut album was recorded during the winter of 1965/66 and released in August 1966. Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was the first album to come out of San Francisco during this era and sold well enough to bring the city's music scene to the attention of the record industry. Jefferson Airplane gained greater fame the following year with two of the earliest psychedelic hit singles: "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love". In fact, both these songs had originated with the band The Great Society, whose female singer Grace Slick left them to accept an offer to join Jefferson Airplane, taking the two compositions with her.

While the Grateful Dead were the acknowledged leaders of the San Francisco music scene in the 1960s by both local concert-goers and rival bands, their records didn't sell as well as those by many of their Bay Area peers. As a result, the Grateful Dead didn't begin to attain national popularity until around 1969-1970, when their constant touring gained them a cult following.

Although San Francisco receives much of the credit for jumpstarting the psychedelic music scene, many other American cities contributed significantly to the new genre. Los Angeles boasted dozens of important psychedelic bands, including the Byrds, Love, Spirit, the United States of America, and the Doors, among others. New York City produced its share of psychedelic bands such as the Blues Magoos, the Blues Project, and the Third Bardo. The Detroit area gave rise to psychedelic bands the Amboy Dukes and the SRC. Texas (particularly Austin) is often cited for its contributions to psychedelic music, being home to the aforementioned 13th Floor Elevators, as well as Bubble Puppy, Golden Dawn, the Zakary Thaks, Red Krayola, and many others.

The Byrds went psychedelic in 1966 with Eight Miles High, a song with odd vocal harmonies and an extended guitar solo that guitarist Roger McGuinn states was inspired by Raga and John Coltrane.

In 1965, members of Rick And The Ravens and The Psychedelic Rangers came together with Jim Morrison to form the Doors. They made a demo tape for Columbia Records in September of that year, which contained glimpses of their later acid-rock sound. When nobody at Columbia wanted to produce the band, they were signed by Elektra Records, who released their debut album in January 1967. It contained their first hit single, Light My Fire. Clocking in at over 7 minutes, it became one of the first rock singles to break the mold of the three-minute pop song.

Initially, the Beach Boys, with their squeaky-clean image, seemed unlikely as psychedelic types. Their music, however, grew more psychedelic and experimental, perhaps due in part to writer/producer/arranger Brian Wilson's increased drug usage and burgeoning mental illness. In 1966, responding to the Beatles' innovations, they produced their album Pet Sounds and later that year had a massive hit with the psychedelic single "Good Vibrations". Wilson's magnum opus SMiLE (which was never finished, and was remade by Wilson with a new band in 2004) also shows this growing experimentation.

The psychedelic influence was also felt in black music, where record labels such as Motown dabbled for a while with psychedelic soul, producing such hits as "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World is Today)" and "Psychedelic Shack" (by The Temptations), and "Reflections" (by Diana Ross & the Supremes), and the 11-minute-long "Time Has Come Today" by The Chambers Brothers, before falling out of favour.

Britain in the 1960s

In the United Kingdom, Donovan, going electric like Dylan, had a 1965 hit with Sunshine Superman, one of the very first overtly psychedelic pop records. Pink Floyd had been developing psychedelic rock with light shows since 1965 in the underground culture scene, and in 1966 the Soft Machine formed. In August 1966 The Beatles joined in the fun with their Revolver featuring psychedelia in "Tomorrow Never Knows" and in "Yellow Submarine" which combined these references with appeal to children and nostalgia, a formula repeated in "Strawberry Fields Forever" which would keep their music widely popular. From a blues rock background, the British supergroup Cream debuted in December. The Jimi Hendrix Experience with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell brought Jimi Hendrix fame in Britain, and later in his American homeland.

Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" in March 1967 only hinted at their live sound, then after the Beatles' groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") was released in June, Pink Floyd showed their psychedelic sounds in The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Cream did the same in Disraeli Gears. In the folk scene itself blues, drugs, jazz and eastern influences had featured since 1964 in the work of Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, and in 1967 the Incredible String Band's The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion developed this into full blown psychedelia. Other artists joining the psychedelic revolution included Eric Burdon (previously of The Animals), and The Small Faces. The Who's Sell Out had an early psychedelic track "I Can See for Miles", but the album concept was out of tune with the times, and it was their later album Tommy that established them in the scene. The Rolling Stones had drug references and psychedelic hints in their 1966 singles "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Paint it Black", then the fully psychedelic Their Satanic Majesties Request ("In Another Land") suffered from the problems the group was having at the time. In 1968 Jumpin' Jack Flash and Beggars Banquet re-established them, but their disastrous concert at Altamont in 1969 ended the dream on a downer.

The end of the 1960s

A good number of the bands who pioneered psychedelic rock gave it up by the end of the 1960s. The increasingly hostile political environment and the embrace of amphetamines, heroin and cocaine by the underground led to a turn toward harsher music. At the same time, Bob Dylan released John Wesley Harding and the Band released Music from Big Pink, both albums that rejected psychedelia for a more roots-oriented approach. Many bands in England and America followed suit. Eric Clapton cites Music from Big Pink as a primary reason for quitting Cream, for example. The Grateful Dead also went back to basics and had major successes with Workingman's Dead and American Beauty in 1970, then continued to successfully develop their rambling live music and produce a long string of records over the next twenty-five years.

The musicians and bands who continued to embrace psychedelia often went on to create progressive rock in the 1970s, which maintained the love of unusual sounds and extended solos but added jazz and classical influences to the mix. For example, progressive rock group Yes sprang out of three British psychedelic bands: Syn (featuring Chris Squire), Tomorrow (featuring Steve Howe) and Mabel Greer's Toy Shop (Jon Anderson). Also, psychedelic rock strongly influenced early heavy metal bands, Black Sabbath probably being the best example. Psychedelic rock, with its distorted guitar sound and adventurous compositions can be seen as an important bridge between heavy metal and earlier blues oriented rock.

Alongside the progressive stream, space rock bands such as Hawkwind, Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come and Gong maintained a more explicitly psychedelic course into the 1970s.

More recent bands (Neo-Psychedelia)

Although the groups listed here are labeled with the Psychedelic moniker, it should be noted that some Psychedelic purists claim that much of the sound is actually quite different from the original Psychedelic bands and production from the sixties, thus pointing to different terminology, such as Revival Rock or Modern Rock.

Phish, a jam band active from the early 1980s, played psychedelic music with a strong jazz influence, utilizing elaborate modal melodies and complex rhythmic accompaniment. In the mid 1980s a Los Angeles-based movement named the Paisley Underground acknowledged a debt to the Byrds, incorporating psychedelia into a folky, jangle pop sound. The Bangles were arguably the most successful band to emerge from this movement; amongst others involved were Green on Red, the Three O'Clock and Dream Syndicate. Loxley Beade from Darmstadt/Germany created a mixture of Psychedelic, Folk-Rock and oriental influences by using exotic instruments.

A British counterpoint to the Paisley Underground was a number of post-New Wave bands, including The Soft Boys and the solo albums of their singer Robyn Hitchcock, and The Teardrop Explodes and its vocalist Julian Cope. Hitchcock was heavily influenced by Syd Barrett and John Lennon. In the mid 1980s, The Shamen began with a self-consciously psychedelic curriculum influenced by Barrett and Love, before reorienting itself towards rave. Other British dabblers in psychedelia included XTC and Martin Newell with The Cleaners from Venus and The Brotherhood of Lizards.

Beginning in the late 1980s, travelers, musicians, and artists from around the world formed a new form of psychedelic music in the Indian state of Goa. Initially called Goa trance, this psychedelic music was the result of mixing the 60s influences with industrial music and electronica.

Alternative rock groups also dabble in psychedelia, including Nirvana in their debut single, "Love Buzz."

The group Kula Shaker, under the leadership of Crispian Mills, created much Indian-influenced psychedelic music, such as the album "Peasants, pigs and Astronauts." Bands such as Ozric Tentacles and the Welsh Gorky's Zygotic Mynci play psychedelic music in a tradition that goes back to the 60s via acts such as Steve Hillage, Gong and their assorted side projects.

British bands Anomie and My Bloody Valentine play British garage psychedelia, citing Pink Floyd and Hawkwind as musical influences. Some electronic or electronic-influenced music termed "ambient" or "trance" such as Aphex Twin or Orbital, had it been written between 1966 and 1990, would have fallen within the category of psychedelia. Later Psychedelic trance artists such as Hallucinogen (musician) and Shpongle have continued the psychedelic music tradition within a dance-oriented context. Stoner rock acts like Kyuss and their successors also perform explicitly psychedelic music. Bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Tool fused psychedelic rock sounds with heavy metal, becoming highly successful alternative rock acts in the 1990s.

In Australia in the 80s, bands such as The Tripps and Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers explored and reinvigorated the psychedlic genre. Rising from the Japanese noise underground, Acid Mothers Temple mix the subtle resonance of Blue Cheer, the Grateful Dead's psychedelic sound, the thought-provoking melodies of French folk, and concrete bursts of noise that run through music of Boredoms.

Other endeavours in experimental rock with psychedelic influences include Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples (In Stereo), Of Montreal, and Olivia Tremor Control: all members of the Elephant 6 musical collective, which was headquartered in Athens, Georgia, until its demise.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new psychedelic scene flourished in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles. Among the bands were the Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by Anton Newcombe. Other bands in the scene were Beachwood Sparks. Beachwood Sparks' influences were the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Gram Parsons and his Flying Burrito Brothers group. Spinning off from the Beachwood Sparks is a band called the Tyde.

More well-known bands of the Los Angeles scene were the Warlocks and BRMC. The Quarter After, a lesser-known group, is Byrds-influenced and has toured with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The groups of the Silverlake Scene are mentioned in the documentary Dig!, which documents the rivalry between Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. A New York group is Pax Romana.

In 1999-2003, When released "The Psychadelic Waunderbaum" which contains snippets of Psychadelic garage rock grooves mixed in with industrial and Faust influenced rock, containing lyrics by Aleister Crowley and Tom Wolfe, it contains the song, Kali which could be described as an update of the Beatles, I am the Walrus. It was followed in 2001, by The Lobster Boys which is a mix of melodica, cut up/collage, lounge, and Indian rhythms, Beach Boys Pet Sounds, and noise. It has been described as almost a collaboration between Muslimgauze and XTC. When then followed it up with Pearl Harvest which takes the sound of the previous two albums. It has best been described as a Moroccan lounge psychadelic trip, with the dark content of the previous two titles.

Dungen's record "Ta Det Lugnt" received acclaim from Mojo and Pitchfork.

Also another new psychedelic band to be gaining prominence is the New York based band Pax Romana. Their album "Tapir Quasar and the Bloody" is a testimony to psychedelic rock of the 1960's, but also having links to progressive, folk, shoegaze, and surf rock. Tracks like "Approaching Holy", "Voyage of the Old Kitty Kat Man" and "Here comes the Blacksmith" have gained acclaim as have songs not on the album like "This is a New York State Alert". Their music can mostly be compared to The Beatles, King Crimson, and David Bowie.

See also

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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