Thursday, December 20, 2007

Psychedelic Rock 101

Psychedelic Rock 101

What do you get if you cross a folkie with the Beatles and add LSD? You get psychedelic rock

Psychedelic rock first emerged in the mid-1960’s, in part from the Beat Generation, famous for be-bop Jazz, folk, bluegrass and poetry. The shock of the Beatlemania in the US, the ready availability of LSD and a growing interest in mysticism and Eastern culture all coincided to produce a new form of electric music.

The most significant city in the development of psychedelic music was San Francisco where The Grateful Dead hosted LSD parties or acid tests which grew large enough to be hosted at the famous Fillmore venue. Many other important bands followed, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Moby Grape. This musical movement, coupled with a growing dissatisfaction in the Vietnam War lead to a swelling counter-culture in San Francisco culminating in the Summer of Love in 1967.

Many bands were to follow these pioneers, lesser known ones like 13th Floor Elevators, the Electric Prunes, Third Bardo and Bubble Puppy, but eventually mainstream acts like the Beatles (Sgt Peppers) and The Rolling Stones (Their Satanic Majesty’s Request) were to release fully fledged psychedelic albums. British psychedelia reached it’s zenith with bands like Pink Floyd, Cream and a heavy acid rock, the precursor of heavy metal, made it’s presence felt with Iron Butterfly and Blue Cheer.

So what are some of the key ingredients in psychedelic rock

* A creative use of studio recording techniques to create effects that mirror a trip,
including ‘phasing’, ‘swooshing’ and ‘filtering’.

* The use of Indian instruments or sounds, particularly the Sitar and Tabla

* Improvisation, or extended jamming, inspired by the free jazz of John Coltrane

* Steam of consciousness lyrics and topics alluding to drug use or social issues.

Here is my choice for the top ten psychedelic tracks:

1. Season of the Witch Donovan
2. Eight Miles High The Byrds
3. Dark Star The Grateful Dead
4. The End The Doors
5. What’s Wrong Sweetwater
6. I had too much to dream last night The Electric Prunes
7. Time Has Come Today The Chambers Brothers
8. Tomorrow Never Knows The Beatles
9. Smell of Incense West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
10.Paint It Black The Rolling Stones

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