Skip to main content

21 Forgotten 60's Psychedelic Pop Albums


Let's be honest, when we think about Psychedelic Pop, we all think about The Beatles, The Beach Boys, maybe The Zombies, or even The Byrds, but in fact there is a lot more to discover. And that's exactly what we are about to do here. So, if you like colourful 60's music, from baroque to purely weird, here are 21 albums you should definitely listen to, in no particular order.

Let's dive in!


1. Grapefruit – Around Grapefruit (1968)

Band founded by Alexander Young, also known as George Alexander, brother of Angus and Malcolm Young, founders of AC/DC, as well as George Young. Initially hired under the Beatles' Apple label by Terry Doran, a friend of Brian Epstein, they earned the name Grapefruit thanks to John Lennon, who gave it to them inspired by a book by Yoko Ono. Lennon and McCartney took a special interest in the band, helping them record the singles, "Dear Delilah" and "Lullaby." The first single did well, but unfortunately, the second one didn't get a chance. The label dropped the band while The Beatles were in India.

Towards the end of 1968, they finally released their first album, Around Grapefruit. Musically, it has a few excellent songs—not far from certain other American bands of the period, such as the Millennium, or from the typical "McCartney-ian" pop of the time. Small traces remain of the contribution of the two Beatles. "Yes" is produced by McCartney, the brass arrangement of "C'mon Marianne" is by Lennon, and both appear as producers of the instrumental track of "Lullaby." The album was not very successful, but it's worth a listen or two.


2. Colours – Colours (1968)

A band from Oklahoma that released two albums, of which the first one fully immersed in psychedelic pop. Despite its derivative nature (you can hear inspirations taken from everywhere, especially Beatles), the album is highly enjoyable and is among the best of this genre. "Helping You Out" would have deserved much more luck, its cheerful melody is so contagious, as is the splendid ballad "Where Is She," which seems to have come out of a 90s Brit pop album, without being so predictable. And what about the crazy "Rather Be Me"? A schizophrenic piece worthy of the Turtles. Or the exotic "Brother Lou's Love Colony," enriched by a magnificent orchestral arrangement and bagpipes. One of the most solid and enjoyable albums on this list.


3. Federal Duck – Federal Duck (1968)

An obscure band from Pennsylvania who released a single, self-titled album in 1968. The overall tone of the album is quite calm, often acoustic, at times folk, always melodic and with some more lively episodes such as "Easy Virtue Blues" and "While You're Away." Bird breaks the rhythm, a song in total contrast with the rest of the album, much heavier, distorted, almost a sort of garage rock with brasses that suddenly turns to jazz. At times some short and unexpected bluegrass tracks appear to add variety to an album which, although it cannot be defined as a masterpiece, is certainly worthy of interest.


4. Montage – Montage (1969)

A band from New York that released a single, self-titled album in 1969. Recorded in 1968 with the participation of Mike Brown, former keyboardist and singer of Left Banke, in fact, Brown does not appear as an official member of Montage, despite having contributed a lot to the voice arrangements and having played keyboards.
The album is among the most original and complex of the genre, just listen to "She's Alone," with an orchestral arrangement and a vocal melody that moves on unusual scales and dissonances, or "Tinsel And Ivy," with a totally original and unpredictable melody in the chorus. All these complexities, however, are masterfully implemented in very enjoyable and never difficult songs. It is also worth mentioning "Grand Pianist," one of the most successful songs of the album, which stylistically seems to anticipate certain tracks by the Alan Parsons Project by a decade.
MONTAGE is one of the most particular and interesting albums of those years.


5. Manfred Mann – Mighty Garvey! (1968)

Band founded in 1962 by the keyboardist of the same name and Mike Hugg, first with Paul Jones on vocals, then, from 1966, with Mike D'Albo. After a first phase in which the band the band distinguished itself for its jazz, blues tendencies and various covers that often entered the charts, around 1966 they moved into a psychedelic phase, which resulted in a couple of interesting albums and reached its peak with Mighty Garvey!

This is a fun and colorful collection of songs ranging from the punchy rock and roll of "Happy Families" (reprised multiple times in different guises at various points on the album) to exquisitely baroque "Every Day Another Hair Turns Gray." "Country Dancing" is a small pop masterpiece as there are few, full of energy and unexpected details. The album has no weaknesses, and every single song is nearly perfect, from "Cubist Town" to "Ha! Ha! Said The Clown," up to "Harry The One Band Man." An album among the best of the period, which however did not have the success it deserved at the time, and, like other illustrious examples, was widely and rightly re-evaluated later.


6. Third Rail – Id Music (1967)

Trio originally from New York formed by Arthur Resnick ("Good Lovin," The Rascals), his wife Kris, and Joey Levine. In their very short career—they did only one concert in Cincinnati—they released an interesting album driven by the moderate success of the single, "Run Run Run." The style of the band is immediately clear, showing off a sunshine pop with beautiful vocal harmonies and more experimental drifts. The songs are all well made, from the martial "The Ballad Of General Humpty" to the exquisite string quartet arrangement which then evolves into sick psychedelia in "Swingers," to the garage tendencies of "Boppa Do Down Down." There is a lot of variety in an album that cannot be overlooked by fans of this genre, even if it is virtually unknown.


7. Nirvana – The Story Of Simon Simopath (1967)

A band born around the mid-60s from the meeting of the Irish musician Patrick Campbell-Lyons with the Greek composer Alex Spyropoulos. Their first album, by the way the first release of the newborn Island label, is probably one of the first concept albums in the history of pop music. It tells the story of Simon Simopath, a boy who dreamed of having wings from an early age. As a child he was mocked at school, and as an adult he ends up working in an office, in front of a computer; a sad life that causes him a nervous breakdown. Unable to find solace in a health institution, he builds a rocket and flies into space, meets a centaur who becomes his friend, and at the Pentecost Hotel he meets a little goddess named Magdalena. The two fall in love and finally get married.

The album only lasts twenty-five minutes, but offers a perfect sequence of pop songs among the best of the time in terms of composition and arrangements. Already the opening of "Wings Of Love" speaks clearly, with its magnificent orchestral interventions, and then reaches pop perfection in songs such as "Satellite Jockey" and, above all, "Pentecost Hotel." A small masterpiece whose value goes beyond the innovation it brought.


8. Peppermint Trolley Company – The Peppermint Trolley Company (1968)

Californian band founded in 1966 and which, after several line-up changes and the release of a handful of singles, released their only album at the beginning of 1968. It can be inserted more or less in the sunshine pop trend, the album also contains what was probably the band's biggest hit, the ballad, "Baby You Come Rollin 'Cross My Mind," but each song is memorable and exquisitely arranged, often with baroque sounds. "Put Your Burden Down" is particularly contagious, while "Reflections (On a Universal Theme)" is a beautiful and harmonious baroque song and "Beautiful Sun" touches more experimental territories with its drum solo with some bewildered choirs added. The album was re-released in 2009 as Beautiful Sun, with alternate mixes and singles.


9. Rascals – Once Upon A Dream (1968)

New Jersey band founded in 1965 and first known as The Young Rascals. After a first successful phase (with songs such as "Good Lovin'" and "Groovin'") with a repertoire with a strong R&B component and three excellent albums. In 1968, the band changed its name to The Rascals and released an interesting album that marked an important change of direction.

Despite the disappointment of fans fond of their established sound, Once Upon A Dream is a very interesting experiment totally immersed in those times. With more complexity and orchestral arrangements, narrated interludes, sounds, noises and many beautiful melodies, the album is full of surprises. From the deafening marching band winds of "I'm Gonna Love You," to the exquisitely “old style” "My Hawaii," the Beatles-inspired psychedelia is tinged with blue-eyed soul and R&B in a bold, but totally successful way.

The inspiration from Sgt. Pepper can be seen from the structure of the album, with an introduction and an ending to encapsulate everything, and the classic and inevitable Indian-inspired song in the middle (Sattva), but everything takes on more personal tones, and for this Once Upon A Dream is an unfairly underestimated album, essential to understand that period.


10. Mark Wirtz – A Teenage Opera (1996)

An opera by producer Mark Wirtz, albeit largely in collaboration with singer Keith West, it is another of the great lost albums in pop music history. Already in '66 Wirtz had a vague idea of ​​composing a work consisting of a series of sound sketches designed to describe characters who lived in an imaginary village, all told by a boy to a girl.

The meeting with West in 1967 gave a boost to all of this, and their first single "Grocer Jack (Excerpts from A Teenage Opera)," was released in late July 1967. The wording in brackets indicated that this song was part of something bigger, which would be released later and which would have, at least in the initial intentions, also a counterpart in the form of an animated film. Other singles came out, including "Sam," but they didn't have the same luck. This, together with West's gradual disinterest, which was then focused on his band Tomorrow, also produced by Wirtz, led to him leaving the project. Some of the opera tracks ended up on the Tomorrow album, including "Colonel Brown" and "Auntie Mary's Dress Shop," but the actual album remained locked in the drawer.

We had to wait until 1996 to listen to the entire Teenage Opera—or at least what's available—published by Wirtz himself in a CD edition of about an hour and ten minutes, including each piece recorded for the opera. There is space for both of the aforementioned songs released as a single, those later made by Tomorrow (Steve Howe himself is present in various pieces), some recorded first by Tomorrow and then re-recorded by Wirtz ("Shy Boy" and "Hallucinations," here titled "Mr. Rainbow"), and many instrumental pieces, all characterized by complex orchestral arrangements, children's choirs, and much more, in an almost Spectorian wall of sound. A colorful, varied and fun album, fully immersed in the times, despite its posthumous release.


11. Critters – Touch N'Go With The Critters (1967)

Band from New Jersey born in 1964 from the meeting between the singer-songwriter Don Ciccone and the Vibratones, who decided to collaborate under the new name of The Critters. After releasing the Younger Girl album in 1966, Ciccone left the band. Without him the band went on for a couple more albums, the first of which is probably one of their best. With the help of external composers such as the duo Gordon & Bonner ("Happy Together," The Turtles), the album unleashes a series of songs one more beautiful than the other, moving more decisively towards sunshine pop. "Touch 'N Go" is as memorable as it is harmonically unpredictable, while the heartwarming "Reason To Believe" features an epic wind arrangement. There are no weak moments here, from the euphoric "It's Love" to the typically hopping "A Moment Of Being With You." Despite the lineup change Touch N'Go With The Critters is a great follow-up to the already remarkable debut. A must listen for anyone who loves pop.


12. The Troll – Animated Music (1968)

A Chicago band that, after a handful of singles between 1966 and 1967, released their first and only album in 1968. Considered one of the rarest and most interesting works from the era, Animated Music is a perfect combination of baroque pop and psychedelia.

The distorted and sonically devastating beginning of "Satin City News" soon gives way to the orchestral and melodic "Mr. Abernathy," to then arrive at the complete vaudeville of the crazy "Professor Pott's Pornographic Projector" or the baroque and theatrical "Have You Seen The Queen." The whole album is as varied and ambitious as the best works of those years, and one wonders why it wasn't given more consideration at the time. A beautiful cover completes a work that deserves to be rediscovered.


13. Smoke – The Smoke (1968)

Not to be confused with the English band of the same name, the American Smoke is mainly a studio project by the very young producer Michael Lloyd, already busy with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and October Country. The album is an obvious tribute to his idols, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, with various stylistic references to both. There is a lot of color, a lot of melody and varied arrangements between psychedelic and baroque. All the tracks are memorable, from the magnificent opening of "Cowboys & Indians" (perhaps a reference to "Heroes And Villains" by the Beach Boys), to the complex closing of "Odyssey," which in less than four minutes shows a remarkable complexity without being difficult to listen to. Some songs, like "October Country" and "Cowboys And Indians," were already recorded for the October Country project, and are being re-proposed here in a new guise. An album highly recommended to anyone, which despite the lack of success at the time proves to be among the best albums of that period.


14. Yellow Balloon – The Yellow Balloon (1967)

The only album by this Los Angeles band born from the mind of composer Gary Zekley and with actor Don Grady among others. The song that gives the title to the album and the band, "Yellow Balloon," had already been proposed to Dean Torrence for his album under the name of Jan & Dean (Save For A Rainy Day), but Zekley was not totally satisfied with the result, and then decided to distribute the song to various labels. Ken Handler of Canterbury Records was thrilled, and agreed to record it by calling some musicians. When the single came out it was in direct competition with the version by Jan & Dean, which remained far behind in the charts. The Yellow Balloon version reached #25, with "Noollab Wolley" on the B-side—the same song, but backwards.

Yellow Balloon then decided to make an album. The songs draw heavily from the best of sunshine pop, with beautiful vocal harmonies not far from the Beach Boys of the '63–'65 era. A light and sunny record, it unfortunately did not reach the success of the single, which brought an end to the band and consigned the album to undeserved oblivion.


15. Fun And Games – Elephant Candy (1968)

Houston band discovered and produced by Gary Zekley, the latter an integral part of Yellow Balloon. Given Zekley's contributions, it's probably not surprising that the result is not far from Yellow Balloon. Ample space for vocal harmonies, sunny and hopping songs, and a general light-heartedness and colored euphoria. "The Grooviest Girl In The World" was the single, entering the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1969.

The rest of the album is similar, from the baroque harpsichord in "Sadie" to a garage rock version of the Beach Boys on the title track. The band disbanded shortly after the release of Elephant Candy, but their only work remains a must for fans of sunshine pop.


16. Chad & Jeremy – The Ark (1968)

After the commercial failure of the wonderful Of Cabbages And Kings, Chad & Jeremy attempted to continue along the path of psychedelia, achieving even more disappointing results in the charts. Usher made Columbia invest huge sums of money to make this album, leading to his firing. And if the previous album was greeted with tepid indifference, The Ark even caused some bit of resentment that continues today. For example, All Music critiques the album by saying, “They thought they were making art."

If you ignore such snobbish pronouncements, The Ark is an excellent collection of songs that leaves behind the experimentation of the "Progress Suite" of the previous album and indulges in genuinely melodic and excellently arranged songs. From the exotic tones of "Sunstroke" to the sunny "The Emancipation Of Mr. X" and "Imagination," up to the undisputed peak of the album, the multiform "Painted Dayglow Smile", manifesto not only of this phase of the duo, but of the entire psychedelic baroque pop genre.

Every single song on The Ark is worth listening to, as a testimony of the best talents of Chad & Jeremy, as well as the always excellent and varied production of Gary Usher. The curious cover of "You Need Feet" closes a small masterpiece. Unfortunately, the duo disbanded after recording a handful of songs for the soundtrack to the film, Three In The Attic, mainly caused by economic debts from The Ark.


17. Blackwood Apology – House Of Leather (1968)

One of the most interesting and obscure albums of this era, born from the mind of the then-23-year-old, Dale Menten. After finally landing a contract with Fontana for his band, he focused on creating a concept album set in a brothel with a gun ammunition factory in the basement, during the American Civil War.

Stylistically, the album combines psychedelic rock and pop very well, often resorting to short musical fragments linked together, with sometimes schizophrenic but certainly interesting and successful results. The album sold fairly well at the time, which convinced Menten to get in touch with playwright Frederick Gaines to make a theatrical performance. The show premiered at the Cricket Theater in Minnesota in March 1969, an approximately 90-seat theater, and 50 shows were performed. The band, with a slightly revised lineup, performed live during the shows, and also won two Connie Awards.

This prompted Menten to try to take the show to Broadway, investing a lot of money on the project. Unfortunately, there were several problems during the production, from the replacement of the actors with New York performers, to tensions between the musicians that led to other changes in the lineup. The result was a harshly criticized performance that closed after just one evening, putting an end to the project, including an already planned soundtrack with the Capitol, which never saw the light.


18. Alan Bown – Outward Bown First Album (1968)

Alan Bown was a trumpet player who joined his first band, The Embers, in 1963, playing jazz and R&B music. After also being part of the John Berry Seven, he formed the Alan Bown Set in 1965, recording three unsuccessful singles. In 1967, he formed The Alan Bown!, a more psychedelic band. The first album was released in 1968, preceded by a series of moderately successful singles. The album contains a thrilling cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower," in an arrangement that is said to have heavily inspired Jimi Hendrix's later, and far more famous, version. The rest, on the other hand, takes a lot from the typical baroque psychedelic pop sounds of the time, with extensive use of strings and, above all, brasses. They range from pop gems like "Toyland" to spectacular vocal performances by singer Jess Roden as in "Magic Hankerchief," which are reminiscent of certain things from Aphrodite's Child. The album is fairly solid, and oscillates between orchestrated pop and some more rock-driven sounds, which will take more space in the next 1969 album, The Alan Bown.


19. Millennium – Begin (1968)

Millennium was a band founded by producers Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen after the release of Eternity's Children's debut album. Boettcher was also working with Sagittarius, who included members of The Ballroom and The Music Machine. Their only record, Begin, was the second album ever made on 16-track—Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends was the first—and shockingly expensive due to Boettcher's rather complex production methods.

Begin contains compositions by all members, ranging from typical Californian sunshine pop to more experimental bits, such as the baroque "Prelude" (with a devastating drum part that seems recorded yesterday, so much so that many hear elements of hip-hop beats) or the more psychedelic and experimental "Karmic Dream Sequence #1." Even simple songs like "To Claudia On Thursday" or the magnificent "There Is Nothing More To Say" show pop writing among the best of the time, not far from the debut album of Sagittarius, but even more focused.

Despite the praise from critics both at the time and since—according to Pitchfork, this is the best Los Angeles pop album since the Beach Boys)—Begin did not achieve hoped-for success, bringing Millennium to a premature end. They recorded two tracks for an unfinished second album, both subsequently featured on CD reissues.


20. Love Generation – Montage (1968)

Band founded in 1967 by brothers John and Tom Bahler, two session singers for Imperial and part of the Ron Hicklin Singers. Love Generation was basically a studio project. They never played live. Their sound is light and enjoyable sunshine pop with extensive use of vocal harmonies. After their first two albums, though, most of the band members left, leaving the Bahler brothers to carry on the name for a third and final record.

Montage pushes toward an ambitious symphonic sound. The album flows beautifully, starting with the magnificently ridiculous grandeur of "Montage From How Sweet It Is (I Knew That You Knew)." The pop gem, "Let The Good Times In" was re-recorded by the Bahlers for The Partridge Family the following year, and used in the pilot episode. The album also features a couple re-recordings of songs from the previous album, such as "Consciousness Expansion" and "You."


21. West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – Volume 3: A Child's Guide To Good And Evil (1968)

Band founded in 1965 in Los Angeles by Bob Markley, a television star from the late 1950s, and the members of Laughing Wind: Producer Michael Lloyd and brothers Shaun and Danny Harris. Lloyd had been producing surf music since the early 1960s, while Markley, attracted by the audience that bands like the Yardbirds managed to bring in, promised to Laughing Wind that he'd secure them a record deal, in exchange for his inclusion in the band.

Seduced by Markley's acquaintances and large financial resources the band accepted, and soon changed their name to The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Lloyd left after Vol. 1, leaving Markley and the Harris brothers to make the excellent Vol. 2 (Breaking Through), after which Danny Harris left, as well.

Despite this, the band reached its artistic peak with a work that oscillates between the innocent and the macabre. With a trend perhaps a bit less experimental than its predecessors and a greater presence of actual songs, often embellished with sitar, this album is considered by many to be a "lost classic" of psychedelia. "As The World Rises And Falls" is probably one of the best songs ever released by this band, followed closely by the bizarre psychedelic blues of "Watch Yourself" and "Eighteen Is Over The Hill." A weird but beautiful album by an equally weird band, strongly recommended.