Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

PSYCHEDELIC ROCK

Rock music inspired by or related to drug-induced experience, the terms acid and psychedelic rock more or less interchangeable, though acid rock tended to be heavier while psychedelia tended to the twee. The Doors (formed in 1965) were named after Aldous Huxley's book The Doors Of Perception (Huxley had taken LSD, or acid); the Thirteenth Floor Elevators released their first LP in Austin TX, the Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco; 'Psychotic Reaction' reached top five by its writers the Count Five (a San Jose quartet, lead singer Ken Ellner b 1948 in Brooklyn), all 1966. The druggie genre was encouraged by disc jockeys; musicians were said to record under the influence; their fuzztone, feedback and synthesizers and their sheer volume mimicking the supposed mind-expanding properties of marijuana and LSD. The success of the genre centred in San Francisco; the Airplane was the biggest success, but SF had hundreds of bands going. The Grateful Dead (first LP 1967) allegedly performed while stoned; it took them a while to tune up.

Psychedelia was a softer, colourful phenomenon, related to fashion, poster and record sleeve design etc as much as music, mainly West Coast and British (the Beatles Sgt Pepper 1967 was the genre's peak) with drug references more or less restricted to 'soft' drugs; acid rock attempted more: in New York the Velvet Underground treated heroin as a serious doom-laden subject rather than a hippy joke. Songs assumed to refer to drugs were recorded by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Van Dyke Parks, Jimi Hendrix, many others. Acid rock contributed musical influence to heavy metal, though HM is mostly about adolescent frustrations rather than drugs. The influence was also heard in art rock, e.g. Gong, Van Der Graaf Generator etc and electronic/experimental (often European) bands Tangerine Dream, Can, Kraftwerk etc. Nuggets compilations on Rhino c.1980 revived interest in the Chocolate Watch Band, the Elevators etc as well as collecting some of the most amusing bits.