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.
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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. 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.
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.
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.
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’’.
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.
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