What made it psychedelic?

How do you define psychedelia? What is it in the music and the culture that made it psychedelic?. (I’m talking about '60s psychedelia here, by the way). A lot of music was called psychedelic just because it was made in '67, but didn’t deserve that epithet. A lot of music that may be worthy of the title was music that tried to push the boundaries.

I’ve always felt that the British and American versions are very different, particularly with reference to music. Here in the UK, the music and lyrics tended to whimsicality, wistfullness, nostalgia, looking back to childhood, Victoriana, Arthurian legends and the like - as George Harrison said from It’s All Too Much: ‘Take me everywhere, but get me home in time for tea.’

What Britain and the US shared was the consciousness-expanding, mind blowing side as exemplified, lyrically, by Grace Slick’s ‘White Rabbit’. There was also a playfulness about the music: ‘let’s try using tibetan nose flutes here’ sort of thing. Or ‘let’s see what happens if we stretch this out to twenty minutes.’

I think that we know it when we hear it, but defining what makes it psychedelic is difficult.

I heard on a documentary once the psychedelic music was like an adventure. In listening to a song, or an album, from beginning to end, you feel as though you have actually taken a journey, both physically and mentally. I think that actually sums it up pretty well, as well as the point you mentioned, with the experimentation and such.

Am very interested to hear (read) what others have to say on this!

I’m not surprised that this hasn’t generated any interest because I tried a thread on psychedelia some time ago, and it too plummeted like a stone. Sadly, it seems that Dopers aren’t overly interested in this part of '60s culture.

I always associated it with being composed and/or best enjoyed under the influence of acid/mushrooms/peyote type drugs.

Same here. It’s psychedelic either because it’s groooovy to watch/listen while tripping, or because it’s the kind of thing one would say/compose/draw if one was on an acid trip.

That’s still abstract and requires previous knowledge. I’ve done none of those drugs but can still identify–even create–psychedelic imagery.

It evokes an acid trip.

So are y’all saying that it’s only psychedelic if it is clearly acid inspired and sounds trippy?

There are psychedelic tracks that are clearly acid influenced - like the Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive or the Byrds’ C.T.A 102 or Mind Gardens, while tracks like Sgt Pepper’s A Day In The Life or Donovan’s Legend Of A Girl Child Linda don’t have that trippyness but are equally psychedelic, IMO.

I think that this is where pinning down the definition gets tricky.

Part of the psychedelic movement had to do with choosing odd topics for lyrics. Arnold Layne is a good example.

I don’t really have the music history background to compare contemporary songs, but a lot of psychedelia involves mundane or nonsensical topics.

In a way, I think this stems from the acid trip perspective in which commonplace images are suddenly imbued with an almost spiritual significance.

There is also the iconoclastic impulse to do almost anything so long as it doesn’t follow an accepted pattern. I think that is what you are referring to as pushing the boundaries.

I agree that there was a push to do something new, but that sometimes seemed to mean not doing something “old” – nothing predictable.

Hint: psychedelic art is always symmetrical.

Go tell Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley, Wes Wilson and Michael English & Nigel Waymouth that. Maybe the intention was to be symmetrical, but after a few tabs ‘logic and proportion have fallen down sloppy dead’ as Grace Slick so memorably said.

:confused: Has anyone ever listened to Sgt Pepper while not tripping?

I guess I typically associate the phrase with the artists from a specific time, i.e., the bands from the late 60’s that experimented in the studio and with the new guitar/music effects being created at the time. I know there are newer bands like MGMT that folks are describing as psychedelic so it can’t be limited to the 60’s I guess…

I guess I would frame it as rock music intended to support certain drug trips or open your mind to new experiences.

Question - would you say the Grateful Dead are psychedelic?

I think I may have once, but I may have been tripping, so I’m not sure.

I’m sure that a large number of people would say yes, and considering that they were the house band at Ken Kesey’s acid tests, their credentials are good. But to me they’ve always been a blues jam based group (mutating into a sort of American folk blues band). Apart from album artwork, odd tracks like Dark Star, and titles like Aoxomoxoa, I’ve never thought of them as being psychedelic. The Airplane - now that’s a different matter.

My take. If you have ever had a proper acid trip you wouldn’t need to ask. There’s another psychedelic style associated with 80s acid house which is distinct from the 60s stuff, Ecstasy inspired music and imagery rather than the LSD vibe.

Incidentally, to broaden this out a bit, there were psychedelic clubs in London such as the UFO (where the Pink Floyd were the house band), and artists such as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat who designed the posters for psychedelic events.

The UFO was psychedelic because it was where all the psychedelic bands played and where all the hippy/flower children went to see them, and Hapshash were psychedelic because of the fantastic visions they conjured up: for example, of naked angels towing dreamlike castles through the stars.

I’m sure acid had quite an influence in their creation. (And what a trip it must have been. :cool:)

And what, may I ask, is an improper one? :slight_smile:

And what **lissener **said in post #6

What I mean is a full blown trip, post 60s acid is pretty weedy stuff just dropping a (single) modern tab just won’t take you there. I suppose an improper trip would be one you spent watching the QVC shopping channel :eek: one way ticket to Sydville.

Looking at all the day-glow/kaleidoscopic/paisley/art-deco/op-art stuff and strange lyrics. What all of those have in common is that the folk producing the 60s psychedelia are trying to represent what a trip looks/feels like. Even if you have never been experienced :slight_smile: it is easy to see the common themes.

Is that better?

A proper acid trip is one in which you actually ingest a sufficient amount of Lysergic acid diethylamide; lots of “acid” circulating at the time was anything but. However, the roots of psychedelic art show that people have been altering their consciousness for a long time. With hashish, opium, absinthe–or simply by being gifted with minds that can bend that way.

The Holy Modal Rounders first used “psychodelic” (sic) in the lyrics of “Euphoria” on their great first album, back in 1964. But they played progressive old-timey. As part of The Fugs, their music grew a bit. But it was still mostly about the lyrics–original & stolen from William Blake & William Burroughs.

American psychedelic music really started in San Francisco, with a bit of help from Texas. The Psychedelic Sound of the 13th Floor Elevators broke some barriers. When the band went out to San Francisco, they found a scene in which former folkies were trying to express the new thing musically. Being a tight, loud rock & roll band–even though they were tripping out of their brains most of the time–they opened some eyes. And ears. This recent book is a pretty good account. The Elevators really did help teach the San Francisco hippies how to turn it up. Then they came back to Texas & got into a world of trouble.

Down in LA, you could hear Love & The Chambers Brothers. (Listen to “Time Has Come Today” for some aural effects that are said to replicate those resulting from ingesting certain substances.)

British Psychedelic music ranged from the weird guitar of Jeff Beck’s Yardbirds to the gentle whimsey of The Incredible String Band. Again–sometimes it was the “sound”–and sometimes the lyrics. Occasionally both.

“Psychedelic” ranged from naive to sophisticated. Artists ranged from sincere believers to cynical copiers. Some of the stuff is still good…