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Rock in the 1960s Part 2: Psychedelic Rock

Updated on August 3, 2011

           As rock music progressed from the 50’s and early to mid 60’s, it really started to take shape in the second half of the 1960’s.  Rock was soon fused with drugs and a new type of rock was created called psychedelic rock, or acid rock.  Youthful teenagers of the 60’s wanted to be unique and express it in a different way.  Young adults believed that the cultural values of the 1950’s placed too much emphasis on being “normal”.  In response to this, they challenged middle-class values by looking for an alternative approach to life and culture.  Drugs played a vital role in providing the beginning of a new worldview many young people were seeking.  Young people saw hallucinogenic drugs as a necessity to unlock “the doors of perception”.  LSD was considered by the user to contain all the false and misleading forms of understanding that had been imposed on him or her, specifically in schools, as well as general society.  The drug also recognized the world and life itself as it really is.  During the mid to late 60’s, listening to music and doing drugs became more common. 

           It’s considered to be said that the drugs had a great influence on the music and vice versa.  The “trip” and the quest for higher consciousness are essential; was the music is primary or secondary to the trip?  Musicians showed ambition by experimenting with drugs while writing, performing, and recording music.  As rock became more psychedelic, the music became more purposeful and tracks became longer and “spacier”.

            Psychedelic (or acid) rock was part of a wild and eccentric phase.  Those that were really into the music had a way of life that they wanted to live.  The people of this phase were not concerned with building a greater America, fighting Communism, working a career to buy expensive suits and dresses, color television sets, a suburban life, or a trip to Paris.  No, these people were all about anti-conformity, free love and a somewhat bizarre world established from living in a place that appeared to lack imagination and creativity.  A better name of these people is hippies.  They felt that society was force-feeding people with machines, technology, and computers.  Hippies responded with primitivism, specifically referring to the I Ching, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Buddhism, and Taoism.  Hippies believed that ancient cultures possess the greatest truths and that modern civilization was out of balance with nature.  People in these times were rebellious against traditional society, or better known as the middle class.  Hippies hated the workingman and used a combination of drugs and music to escape this reality, as they embraced a new outlook on life.

           What made psychedelic rock stand out from the other sub genres of rock was its sound.  It features heavily reverbed, fuzzy and distorted guitars. Some psychedelic recordings included the addition of Middle Eastern elements and out-of-this-world sounds that integrated an ominous type of feel to 60’s rock.  The psychedelic period was a time that gave rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s a musical playground, where magical colors, mystical characters, and far away lands existed in peoples’ (or hippies’) altered state of mind. 

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix

Great Psychedelic Rockers


Jimi Hendrix: This guy revolutionized the electric guitar.  Hendrix was an insane musician, composer, and soloist.  His style combined with the heavy distortion really made psychedelic rock very unique and powerful.  He’s one of the first and greatest guitar soloists ever.  In fact, he practically introduced the concept of the guitar solo to rock music.  Yes, there were guitar solos before Hendrix, but with him, they were more active, more vivid, and more scattered.  Before, guitar solos seemed to be carefully timed and regimented, they play certain notes in the solo and yeah it was catchy, but Hendrix went all over the place.  In the song “Purple Haze”, the guitar has a strong presence.  Notice how distorted it is, and the solo.  The man definitely did drugs and you can tell from the music.  One would be on drugs when listening or even playing this song.  You wouldn’t listen to anything else when on drugs.  Anyway, Hendrix also played at Woodstock in 1969.  Who could forget his interpretation of the National Anthem?  Saying that he was a Guitar Hero is an understatement, he was a Guitar Legend, or dare to say, Guitar God.


Cream: Now there were other bands that I could have picked for this like the Beatles in their later days, The Who, and much more, but I choose Cream because they were Psychedelic rock.  They did nothing else.  A British band, Cream displays a strong sound that couldn’t be topped at the time in the late 60’s.  Like Hendrix, the guitar solos were powerful and made Psychedelic rock what it is.  The music from both groups has the improvisational element that comes from jazz, and is displayed in the solos.  The song “Sunshine of Your Love”, has a laid back, yet intense vibe that is very common in this type of music.  The band had a huge impact on the technology that go behind an electric guitar.  They branched out from just an amp.  They used pedals, cranks, and other equipment that would give that guitar a “trippie” sound.

Personal Philosophy

 I fully love this genre.  I'm saying that it's my favorite, but it is definately up there.  Guitar solos at the time were so epic and unbelieveable.  I believe that a lot of the solos in the 60's psychedelic era are a lot better than the ones we hear in today's rock music.  Even though the solos are so complex, the big picture of this genre is just simplistic chords being blasted and distorted.  I feel like the advancement of technology really helped make this genre what it is.  This music was so great, especially on drugs.  Now I'm not confirming or denying drug use, but the way the heavy distortion vibrates out of the amp really puts the listener in a different world.  In general, it's very fascinating how people thought it was a good idea to combine drugs with music.  It's a cool formula: Marijuana, LSD, etc. + Rock = Psychedelic Rock.  This not only shows the development of rock music, but the development of youthful rebellion.  I mean, the 1950s, teenagers wore leather jackets and dressed like Fonzy, but in the late 60's, they did drugs.  Psychedelic rock is a great sub genre with an interesting sound and background.


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    • profile image

      ashley 3 years ago

      great article

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      The best!

    • BukowskiBabe profile image

      BukowskiBabe 6 years ago from Somewhere in the middle of it all.

      I was a Hippie in training. So what if my dad put that Goldwater sticker on the back of my big wheel. Seriously, the music of the late sixties is supurb. How can you beat "Sunshine of my Love," "White Room," or "The Wind Crys Mary?" I also love Joplins, "Summertime." Great music

    • profile image

      Marie-AnneLeClerc 6 years ago

      Peter Lumetta you are Still - "Way Coooool, dig it man!"

      and yes I loooove the 'hippies' psychedelic era, groovy 'tripping -free love'; Revolution, 'Emergence Consciousness' in Spirituality that lasted a decade it was fantastic! What happened?? ...Wish I was born back then...

    • profile image

      Marie-AnneLeClerc 6 years ago

      Great hub! up & awesome! :>

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      PS I was that "hippie".

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      As a child of the 60's and a full participant in "psychedelic" Rock you missed two important points, 1. Eric Clapton was the guitar player of Cream and 2. This all took place during the Viet Nam War.

      Reference the sound track in the movie "Apocalypse Now", the war was a definite player. I saw Cream and Henrix play many times and you're right, there wasn't and still isn't anyone to match their amazing energy on the stage. I've had the privilege of witnessing and participating in the music of the 60's and 70's, nothing like it. Thanks for the "trip" down memory lane,



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