Evolution of Psychedelic music in the late 1960’s

How did rock and roll change in the “psychedelic” era? What are some of the elements that were added (or subtracted) from rock and roll to create the “psychedelic” style? What was new and different about “psychedelic” music that made it stand apart from the rock and roll of the early and mid 1960s?

Initially, in the 1950’s, before the “psychedelic” era, rock and roll could be heard in the blues records. This genre had combined more elements of gospel, jazz, jump blues, boogie and country music (Rock & roll, 2012). The music was heavily accented with beats and repetitive simple phrases. However, during 1960’s, in the “psychedelic” era most of the earlier gospel and country music elements in rock and roll disappeared. With time, rock and roll was more of pop with more elements jazz and blues. The “2000 pound bee” of 1962 has a buzz of distorted guitar. By 1965, a song such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” has an electric guitar and is more of a folk rock (Boyd-Smith, 2010).

To create the “psychedelic” style, some elements were added. Addition of electric guitars together with fuzzbox effects made “psychedelic” stand apart from rock and roll of 1960s. A good example is the “Mr. Tambourine Man” song of 1965 (Dylan, 2013). More studio effects that were added include phasing, backwards tapes, panning, extreme reverb and long delay loops.  There was more inclusion of non-western instruments such as tabla and sitar mostly used in Indian classical music. A good example of this is the song “A Love Supreme” of 1964. Unlike in the past, “psychedelic” music extended instrumental solos especially jams or guitar solos, making them stand apart from the rock and roll of the early and mid-1960’s (Cream, 2008). Some “psychedelic” music such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” or Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” indirectly or directly referenced hallucinogenic drugs.


Boyd-Smith, S. (2010). “The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-71.” Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colo. http://exhibits.denverartmuseum.org/psychedelic/. Journal Of American History, 97(1), 123-127. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/jahist/97.1.123

Cream. (2008). I’m so glad. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3GIQ86eu6c

Dylan B. (2013). Mr. Tambourine Man. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYF8Y47qZQY

Rock & roll. (2012). Review: a guide to good rock. Choice Reviews Online, 29(05), 29-2481-29-2481. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.29-2481

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