Ten Trippy Psychedelic Rock Albums
I Grew Up on Hippie Music
The music I loved so much growing up is now labeled "Classic Rock." There was something special about the music of that era. I attended some love-ins and music festivals back in those days. There was something in the air (what was that smell?) that made you feel like you were part of something bigger.
It was a shared dream. It was a dream that all people could "Come Together" and we didn't need the rules and uptight social, sexual and political mores of the "establishment." It all seemed so simple; people could just share what they had. There was no need for hostility or hassles, we could all just live in peace together.
Maybe it was a dream born of "mind expansion," but it seemed so reasonable. That was a hard dream to let go of, some people never did. For most of us, the harsh realities of real life intervened, but first there were some magical moments, and still, there is the music.
Some of my Favorite Psychedelic Rock Music:
- The Doors
- Moody Blues
- Grateful Dead
- The Who
- Jefferson Airplane
- Buffalo Springfield
- The Youngbloods
- Canned Heat
1. The Doors
The name "The Doors" is a reference to the title of Aldous Huxley's book, The Doors of Perception.
I think Jim Morrison had the most beautiful face. That is what I remember; that and the way he could hold an audience in the palm of his hand. His personal charisma was both his blessing and his curse. He was wildly attractive to fans, but his behavior was often bizarre and unpredictable.
To me the real backbone of the The Doors' sound was Ray Manzarek's organ. The organ gave the songs of The Doors a disturbing, almost sinister darkness, they often sounded more surreal than psychedelic.
The band's guitarist, Robby Krieger, wrote or co-wrote some of the band's best songs, including "Light My Fire." The Door’s drummer John Densmore, met Manzarek and Krieger at a Transcendental Meditation class.
This album to me is the epitome of The Doors. That includes everything from that photo on the cover, to the hypnotic power of Jim Morrison's voice. It ranges from wistful and mysterious to primitive and primal. What a perfect fusion of poetry, melody, rock and blues.
2. Moody Blues
The Moody Blues started out playing American blues, and repackaging it and selling it back to Americans. They've said as much themselves.
They really began to make their mark on the musical world when they started performing only their own songs, and using a Mellotron. That is what gave their music that mysterious and ethereal sound.
When I first heard this music, it really was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It is foremost in my mind when I think of psychedelic music.
3. Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was born out of the folk movement. In fact, they started out as a jug band, but they were swept up into the wave of electric rock music.
The Grateful Dead's improvisational, street party blend of pop, blues, folk, rock, country and bluegrass morphed into a style all their own.
The Grateful Dead had some of the most dedicated fans in the world. Dubbed the Deadheads, many of them would follow the band from city to city, sometimes for years. Often people who didn't have the price of a ticket would just attend the party they were sure to find in the parking lot wherever "The Dead" were playing.
The Dead made so many albums, it's really hard to choose a best one. If you don't already love the Grateful Dead, this album is a great introduction. If you do, then you probably already have this album.
4. The Who
The first song I remember from English rock band, The Who, is "My Generation." Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter, was the genius behind the band, while Roger Daltrey was the main front man.
Keith Moon was the drummer for The Who early on. His skill with the drums was highly praised, and his antics, onstage and off, earned him the nickname Moon the Loon. Ironically, it was a overdose of pills he was taking to combat alcoholism that took his life at the age of 32.
The Who became well known for destroying their musical instruments onstage. Their fame grew as they played at the huge music festivals, Woodstock and Isle of Wight.
Later they made the concept albums Tommy and Quadraphinia. Tommy was made into a movie, with lead-singer Roger Daltrey in the title role. The song "Pinball Wizard" was on that album. It was a memorable song, and a commercial success for the band.
Live at Leeds
This is the essential Who album. It's the electric energy of The Who at their peak, and it encompasses most of their best material.
Cream was a British rock "super-group," active from 1966 to 1968. The band included Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Their sound ranged from traditional, blues based rock, like "Crossroads" to very heavy, "acid rock" like "White Room."
Jack Bruce was the primary vocalist for the band; a young Eric Clapton was somewhat reluctant to sing anything more than backup in those days. Jack Bruce or Ginger Baker wrote many of the band’s original songs. Cream was considered very progressive and was one of the first to use a wah wah pedal.
This is a true rock rags to riches story. When Carlos Santana's "Carlos Santana Blues Band" was asked to play at the Woodstock music festival, Carlos was still supporting himself by washing dishes at a restaurant in San Francisco.
With the notoriety the band gained by playing in front of the huge crowd, they were able to record their first album Santana. They had an immediate hit with "Evil Ways."
7. Jefferson Airplane
The Jefferson Airplane was one of the most famous bands to come out of the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene.
Formed in 1965, they achieved huge commercial success. They played at all of the big music festivals of the time and got plenty of airtime on mainstream radio.
The band was constantly evolving with their sound and their ever-changing roster of members. The addition of Grace Slick in late 1966 was a great boost to the band.
Worst of Jefferson Airplane
The tracks on this album are arranged chronologically, so you can hear the evolution of the band up to that point (1971).
8. Buffalo Springfield
Even though the Buffalo Springfield was only together for 18 months, they produced some memorable and iconic songs. It's hard to miss when you've got this kind of talent; the band was made up of Steven Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina. Stills and Young did most of the songwriting for the group.
9. The Youngbloods
The sweet and shimmery sounds of the song "Get Together" was a perfect expression of that emotion people were feeling in 1969. It became a kind of anthem for the hippies.
That song was The Youngblood's greatest commercial success, but they had some other wonderful songs.
Jessie Colin Young has the most amazing voice; the musical influences of this band range from blues and jazz to folk and bluegrass.
10. Canned Heat is a blues-rock band started by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite. By the end of the 60s, after playing at Woodstock, the band had gained quite a bit of notoriety. They had two international hits, "Going up to the Country" and "On the Road Again.
Uncanned: Best of Canned Heat
If you love blues-rock, this album may be for you! This is an excellent compilation. All of their hits are on it.
For those who experienced psychedelic rock back in its day, this music will bring back a flood of memories. It was a time when a future of peace and brotherhood seemed possible. For those who didn't, you will never understand, but the music may give you a small taste of that era. It is what is left behind for future generations.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Sherry Hewins