Psychedelic Music, Its Origins and Its Effects on Music Today
Psychedelia in music has been around for a long time and has changed much of the popular music of today. The dictionary definition of psychedelic is, “of or noting a mental state characterized by a profound sense of intensified sensory perception, sometimes accompanied by severe perceptual distortion and hallucinations and by extreme feelings of either euphoria or despair.” It started in the 1960’s with the discovery of LSD and use of other psychedelic drugs. Psychedelia did not only affect music, it affected people, cities, and the way people think.
LSD, which was the catalyst for psychedelic music, was discovered on April 16, 1943, by Albert Hofmann. For months he had been studying ergot, a fungus that grows on rye, and synthesizing lysergic acid for possible use to help migraines. On his twenty-fifth try, he made LSD-25, and after his work he began to feel dizzy. He assumed he had the flu, so he went home. “I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense kaleidoscopic play of colors,” Hofmann wrote in his biography LSD, My Problem Child. “After some two hours, this condition faded away.” He then knew that it was not the flu that made him dizzy, so he tried LSD again and got the same results. After this, he and his staff began to use LSD on themselves and soon
LSD was used in psychotherapy. Now that LSD was created, psychedelic music would soon follow (DeRogatis 2-4).
The birth date of psychedelic rock music, as far as it can be known, was in 1966. Many bands started making songs with psychedelic references. In May of 1966, the Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, which was inspired by their experimentation with LSD. In August of the same year The Beatles came out with Revolver, which featured “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a song about John Lennon’s first experience with LSD. Many other bands wrote music inspired by LSD in 1966, such as The Rolling Stones, The 13th Floor Elevators, and The Byrds. The influence of Psychedelia and LSD was everywhere. At the end of 1966, the United States started outlawing LSD use, but it was too late. The drug was increasing in popularity, and peaked in the summer of 1967. Although it was now illegal, LSD was still getting more and more popular (DeRogatis 6, 9, 10).
Many psychedelic bands came from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. The Grateful Dead was one of the most popular psychedelic rock bands ever. Although they did not sell many records, they were very well known for their live performances, and their music was often used as a soundtrack for LSD parties. While the Bay area, and especially the Haight-Ashbury, was good for producing great bands, there was a downside as well. Other than the many people dying LSD related deaths, many of the early bands were exploited by the record companies. The record companies wanted to profit from the hippy movement, but they did not...