Psychedelic Rock – 101!

Psychedelic Rock – Lesson 101!


Want to lose yourself in the world of music to the point of no return? Psychedelic would very happily carry you to that world. Get set to experience an all-time high with your very own psychedelic 101!

The Very Basic


Between the period of 1963 and 1966 rock music transformed from its original nature of rock and roll and split into three wildly different threads (you can know more about rock here British bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Who indulged in instrumental and vocal mayhem while singers like Bob Dylan had an explicit political message in their music. At the same time bands like the Beatles and the Byrds focused majorly on their studio techniques. However, each of them used music as a vehicle for sending out different messages. Dylan used his music as a weapon, The Rolling Stones used it as an insult and the Beatles were mostly indifferent towards their environment. The convergence of these three different threads led to the birth of a music scene which came to be known as psychedelic rock.


Psychedelic rock was a genre which was characterized by experimentation with studio sounds which tried to embody the frustration of the youth during those times. The music scene was influenced by the use of LSD (which was considered a potential cure for mental illness at that time) and there was a general discontent and hatred towards the Establishment. People were sick of war, discipline, greed, organized religion and the entire music scene was marked by a sense of rebellion.


  1. Bob Dylan – The release of Dylan’s album Blonde on Blonde can be seen as epoch in the history of Psychedelic rock. Until then everyone worked within the boundaries of the three-minutes melodic song of pop music however, after Blonde on Blonde only mainstream commercial music would remain anchored to the traditional song format.




  1. Beat Generation – Writers like Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs wrote about using drugs and as a result popularized their use. Their writings played a profound role in influencing the youth of that period and bands like the Beatles were among the first to experiment with such references. The use of drugs also featured in their lyrics and the band itself stared using LSD.




Rock and roll had been born out of the blending of blues and country music but after 1966 there was a gradual shift in rock music. The songs by Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd had a very loose musical structure and were no longer related to blues or country for that matter. It was on the other hand very similar to the format of jazz music played in many of the clubs which the psychedelic artists attended. Thus, the influence of free jazz emancipated rock music from its blues foundation during the psychedelic era and rock music became a part of the jazz tradition.


Psychedelic Symphony and the Hippies

The psychedelic rock scene had a huge impact in San Francisco mainly due to the coming of the poets of the Beat generation to that place and the Free Speech Movement which created a lot of excitement amongst the people. A group of people (known as Merry Pranksters) were hired by Ken Kesey who was a novelist in order to experiment with his ‘acid tests’ (LSD parties) on them and they began to perform lengthy instrumental jams based on country, blues and jazz all of which came to be known as psychedelic symphony. The Byrds had produced a chart topping version of Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man and as a result several Californian based folk acts followed them bringing their psychedelic influences along with them which ultimately culminated into the production of the ‘’San Francisco Sound’’.

Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey

These acts portrayed pacifist ideals which had been promoted by Dylan and was very close to Buddhist philosophy. It was far from any political stand and the movement spread rapidly across the United States but never really had a leader. Their music was basically an evolution of folk-rock which was later on renamed as acid-rock because the original idea was that of providing a soundtrack to the LSD parties. This music was in many ways a rock equivalent of an abstract painting.


Rise and Fall

Psychedelic rock reached its peak during the late sixties with The Beatles ‘’White Album’’ and Woodstock rock festival. However, with the messy departure of Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) and the death of artists like Jimi Hendrix psychedelic rock began a swift decline as times changed and new ideas and musical movements emerged. Despite suffering a decline, psychedelic rock remains an important asset to the music world.

I’ll be covering more subgenres of rock in my future articles. Till then listen to these and lose yourself in the music!

White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane –

Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan –

I Feel Fine by The Beatles along with the lyrics –


Written By- Shruti Das


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