The Doors of Perception: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, and LSD
The psychedelic movement was influenced by other social movements of the time and was concerned with new ways of exploring the world.
Drugs played a central role in the psychedelic movement.
LSD was viewed as a drug that led to a “higher consciousness.”
A Journey to the East
Eastern spirituality became associated with the counterculture movement.
Two Psychedelic Approaches to Music
Music can be associated with psychedelia in two ways: It can enhance a drug trip, or the music itself can be understood as the trip.
Psychedelic Ambition: The Beach Boys and the Beatles
Two Bands, One Label
The rise of psychedelia coincided with a tendency toward more ambitious songwriting, arranging, and recording, as exemplified by the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
The Beatles and the Beach Boys influenced one another.
“Good Vibrations” was considered Brian Wilson’s finest achievement; it demonstrates the centrality of studio techniques as well as experimentation with elements, including musical form.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles stopped touring and focused on recording.
In the fall of 1966, they began recording the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” are two tracks from this album that demonstrate the Beatles’ growing musical ambition.
The album begins with the track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in which the group introduces itself as a fictional band; this, combined with the packaging and the lack of gaps between songs, has led many to call Sgt. Pepper rock’s first “concept album.”
Sgt. Pepper was an important and influential album; the inclusion of printed lyrics on the album cover and wide range of stylistic influences signaled changes taking place in rock music.
Sgt. Pepper created a new focus on the album as opposed to the single in rock music.
Collapse and Retreat: SMiLE and Smiley Smile
In 1966 and 1967, Brian Wilson worked on a concept album called SMiLE that was abandoned; the Beach Boys instead released Smiley Smile, which was a much different album.
Wilson’s new music created controversy within the Beach Boys; on Smiley Smile and later albums, the band made an effort to simplify their sound.
And in the End: The Beatles after Sgt. Pepper
Many of the Beatles’ projects following Sgt. Pepper had a concept or organizing theme.
Brian Epstein died in 1967 and the band took over their own business affairs, opening Apple Records, which had financial difficulties; in 1970, the Beatles broke up.
The Beatles’ later music placed well on the pop charts and was influential on future rock musicians.
The San Francisco Scene and Haight-Ashbury
A psychedelic scene had been developing in San Francisco since mid-1965; the Human Be-In in 1967 drew attention to the city’s hippie culture.
ii. The Red Dog, the Family Dog, and Kesey’s Acid Tests
The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, was an early center of psychedelic music and culture.
Novelist Ken Kesey organized a series of events called “acid tests,” during which he provided doses of LSD and a stimulating environment meant to intensify the drug’s effects.
iii. It Takes a Village to Raise a Ruckus: Concerts, News, the Psychedelic Shop, and FM Radio
The musical and multimedia aspects of Kesey’s acid tests became the models for events held at venues across the Bay Area for the next few years; publications including Rolling Stone covered counterculture in the region.
Psychedelic rock did not fit AM radio format, which was geared toward pop singles; Tom Donahue began playing psychedelic music on an FM station in 1967, and FM rock stations began to pop up across the country.
iv. The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead was central to psychedelic music in the Bay Area; the band combined elements of folk and bluegrass and developed an improvisational approach with extended, free-form songs that were difficult to capture on record.
The group’s albums Anthem of the Sun (1968) and Live/Dead (1970) made strides toward conveying their live sound; later albums Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty featured shorter, more folk-oriented songs but helped to launch the band as a successful touring group.
v. Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane established themselves in San Francisco slightly before the Grateful Dead; after Grace Slick joined the group in 1966, the group had hit singles and hit albums.
“White Rabbit” demonstrates how Jefferson Airplane could blend musical ambition with the AM single format; it uses AABA form and incorporates influences from classical music and jazz.
vi. Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin
Big Brother and the Holding Company also experimented with classical and avant-garde influences; the band’s singer Janis Joplin went on to success as a solo artist, known for her blues-based singing style.
vii. Country Joe and the Fish
Country Joe and the Fish were active in radical politics in Berkeley; they bridged a cultural gap between hippies and radicals.
The London Scene
The Rise of the British Underground
In 1965, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and bookstore owner Barry Miles organized a large event featuring American and European Beat poetry readings; the same year, a British researcher opened the World Psychedelic Center in London.
As in San Francisco, a community of young people formed around drugs, Eastern philosophy, radical politics, and experimental music.
The San Francisco and London scenes were quite different, as few in London had actually experienced the San Francisco scene.
Underground Clubs in Swinging London
The psychedelic scene in London developed mainly outside of the clubs of “Swinging London.” The UFO Club was the most prominent gathering of the psychedelic underground, but large avant-garde happenings took place across the city.
Musical Notes from the Underground: Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, and Tomorrow
Some London groups in the late 1960s enjoyed widespread commercial success, while others were successful only within the local underground community; Pink Floyd was one of the first bands to come out of the underground scene.
Pink Floyd’s approach came from avant-garde art music and they performed extended improvisations; they also had radio-friendly songs that charted in the United Kingdom.
The bands Soft Machine and Tomorrow also performed at psychedelic events around London, but they did not have pop chart success.
The Rolling Stones: Psychedelic Rhythm and Blues?
While British psychedelic music developed, other British bands and artists had a higher profile.
By the end of 1966, the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership dominated the music of the Rolling Stones; their releases in 1967 show their reactions to the Beatles’ music as well as the band members’ difficulties following drug possession charges.
Following Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones began to depart from what the Beatles were doing and turn back to rhythm and blues; they continued to develop an outlaw image.
Cream: British Blues on Acid with Pop on the Side
Cream was the first band to be billed as a “supergroup,” formed to play blues music; Eric Clapton helped to develop instrumental “rave up” sections and became celebrated as a guitar “god.”
Cream’s success was initially in the United Kingdom; their instrumental solos paralleled what was happening in San Francisco bands, and all three of the group’s members went on to solo careers.
Cream’s Blues Adaptations
“Sunshine of Your Love” is built around a central guitar riff and a 12-bar blues.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Psychedelic Blues Meets the Avant-garde
Jimi Hendrix was an influential guitarist; after playing with several bands including his own, he made his mark on the London psychedelic scene and then with legendary performances at the Monterey International Pop Festival and Woodstock.
In songs such as “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady,” Hendrix blended blues with pop.
Hendrix also performed and recorded experimental music; his innovations, including using feedback and the vibrato bar on his electric guitar, were widely imitated.
Traffic and Van Morrison
Stevie Winwood left the successful band the Spencer Davis Group to form the band Traffic, which experimented with a variety of musical styles and had success in the United Kingdom and eventually the United States.
b. Singer-songwriter Van Morrison embarked on a solo career after recording with the band Them; he recorded both catchy pop tunes and more experimental music.
Donovan and Psychedelic Folk
Donovan was influenced by Woody Guthrie, and he adapted his music to incorporate folk rock styles in the mid-1960s; he became a leading figure for hippie pacifism later in the decade.
Los Angeles and New York
The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield
The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were two Los Angeles-based bands to have hits between 1966 and 1968.
The Doors and Jim Morrison: Turning to the Dark Side
The Doors formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and produced blues-based psychedelia; the band’s music, and Jim Morrison’s lyrics, highlighted darker aspects of emotional life.
Love, Iron Butterfly, and Vanilla Fudge
Love was an important band in the Los Angeles psychedelic scene, but never achieved the success of the Byrds or the Doors.
Iron Butterfly can be considered the “heaviest” band of the late 1960s, establishing characteristics that would develop into heavy metal.
Vanilla Fudge was known for creating elaborate and lengthy cover versions of pop songs.
In 1966, Bob Dylan recorded with The Band, a mainly Canadian group, producing records important for country rock.
A Woodstock Nation: Festivals, Audiences, and Radio
Do You Know the Way to Monterey?
Large, open-air music festivals were an important part of rock music culture in the late 1960s; the Monterey International Pop Festival in the spring of 1967, which featured a range of international acts, provided the model for many of the events that followed.
Good Trip, Bad Trip: Woodstock and Altamont
The Woodstock Music and Art Festival, held in Bethel, NY, in 1969, was the peak of outdoor rock festivals with 400,000 in attendance; a slate of important musicians and the release of a documentary film and live album made the event a tremendous and enduring success.
In December of 1969, a festival organized by the Rolling Stones at Altamont Speedway ended in tragedy when a young black fan was beaten to death by the Hell’s Angels, who were providing security; many view this event as the end of the hippie era.
Festivals in the United Kingdom and Europe
The 1967 Festival of the Flower Children at Woburn Abbey in the United Kingdom was a three-day outdoor event, and the National Jazz and Blues Festival that year also included rock musicians; large-scale concerts were also held in London’s Hyde Park and in other European countries.
The Fracturing of the American Radio Audience: AM versus FM
Psychedelic music, like folk, was targeted at college-age listeners; the development of free-form FM radio began to create a distinction between the single-oriented pop on AM radio and the album-oriented rock on FM.
Even greater fragmentation of the rock market occurred in the 1970s.