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Psychedelic music
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Psychedelic music

Psychedelic music was a popular form of much music in the 1960s (and later) which is creatively oriented towards the use of mind affecting drugs such as cannabis, psilocybin, mescaline and especially LSD. As a style, it tends to feature modal melodies, long instrumental solos which are often quite complex, and dense, esoteric lyrics. They my also employ the use of reversed sounds to add effect to their song.


In the 1960s

In the United States, this sound was particularly characteristic of the West Coast sound, with bands such as the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Vanilla Fudge, Tommy James and the Shondells and Jefferson Airplane in the vanguard. Jimi Hendrix and the Doors helped to popularize acid rock, a closely related style of music. There were also less well known psychedelic bands in outlying regions, such as the 13th Floor Elevators and Bubble Puppy working out of Texas, and the Third Bardo in New York City, a group which had a brief revival in the 1990s. The 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" and "Psychedelic Shack" (by The Temptations) and "Reflections" (by The Supremes) before falling out of favour.

In Britain, although the psychedelic revolution occurred later, the impact was nonetheless profound within the British music scene. Established artists such as Eric Burdon, The Who and The Beatles produced a number of highly psychedelic tunes. In the case of the Beatles, this was especially the case on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album (which contains the track "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the initials of which spell out LSD (although John Lennon claimed this was a coincidence and that the name was based on the title of a drawing by his small son). They also released "Blue Jay Way", another psychedelic tune, on an EP. The music of Cream and of early Pink Floyd is representative of British psychedelia. Independent record producer Joe Meek has been credited with inventing the phasing sound publicised most notably on the first UK hit of the band Status Quo entitled "Pictures of Matchstick Men" but also heard on hits such as Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play", the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tamborine" and Hawkwind's "Silver Machine". "I Can See for Miles" and "Pictures of Lily" by the Who, "Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles and "We Love You" by the Rolling Stones are arguably the best examples of English psychedelic pop.

More recent bands

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 the most successful band to emerge from this movement, amongst others involved were Green on Red and Dream Syndicate.

Recently the group Kula Shaker under Crispian Mills, created much Indian-influenced psychedelic music such as their most recent album 'Peasants, pigs and Astronauts'. A number of bands such as Ozric Tentacles and the Welsh Gorky's Zygotic Mynci continue to play psychedelic music, in a tradition that goes back to the sixties via acts such as Steve Hillage, Gong and their assorted side projects.

British band Anomie are standard-bearers for British garage psychedelia, citing Pink Floyd and Hawkwind as their musical influences. Some electronic or electronic-influenced music now termed "ambient" or "trance" would have fallen within the category of psychedelia in the 1966 to 1990 period. Stoner rock acts like Kyuss and their successors also carry forward the flag of explicitly psychedelic music into the present day. The Smashing Pumpkins fused psychedelic rock sounds with heavy metal, becoming a highly successful alternative rock act in the 1990s. Rising from the Japanese noise underground, Acid Mothers Temple mix the subtle, relaxing resonance of Blue Cheer and most obviously Grateful Dead's psychedelic sound, the thought provoking melodies of French folk, and concrete bursts of noise that run through music of Boredoms.

For a comprehensive list see: List of psychedelic music artists

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