I was somewhere the other day and someone had said “Oh how psychedelic” which intrigued me because it is a word that is used so rarely. For those of us who were fortunate enough to recall what psychedelic is you can imagine what a treat it is to hear such a word from the past and it got me thinking…
The psychedelic music was about a time in history that was influenced by drugs, but it was so much more than just the drugs. It was expression. It was music and art, and it was the perception of your mind. It was probably one of the most exciting times in the past 50 years and yet one of the most neglected as well. We like to turn the other way. I suspect it is because so many associate it with the use of drugs. But beyond that it was about my favorite past time, imagination and creativity.
I am unsure when I got the gist of psychedelic music. I think it was somewhere between the Doors singing The End, or Eric Burdon and the Animals Doing Sky Pilot or even maybe it was the Beatles with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds but the “psychedelic” music scene clearly caught my attention.
The music was just trippy. Not that at that age I knew what trippy was. I would not discover that term and use until the late 70s. However for a young hippy in training, I could relate. I had the mood-lights and the black lights, I had the Lava lights, the posters and I had the incense to sort of put me in that space and time when I listened to the music. Most of all I was too young to take a “trip” but somehow I felt the music and the mood was a trip enough for me. In my mind, I knew what LSD was because I allowed the music to take me there.
The psychedelic music lifestyle was like a culture in which many musicians experimented with not just chemicals, but more importantly they experimented with musical possibilities. The music, the lyrics, I mean come on, who was Alice and why did we have to go ask her when she was ten feet tall?
I was not a huge Grateful Dead fan but they were some of the first bands to host “LSD parties” and allowed the people around them to “trip” while tripping on their music. It wasn’t just the tripping either, it was a culture as I said earlier and so bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Moby Grape, Donavan, The Beatles, Pink Floyd all got on their magic carpet and took us all for a ride.
Psychedelic music sort of was like a spiritual experience. It challenged people to actually think and listen outside the orthodox box. There was a growing interest in mysticism and Eastern culture which was embedded into the music. That was because there was no sin in the music and letting it all hang out. It allowed your spiritual being to expand and develop. The possibilities became endless. I think that is why as a kid listening to psychedelic rock, I felt like I was tripping because I got the spiritual aspect of this music. It really was like finding God without even looking. I got it would take me higher and higher if I simply allowed the music to take me there.
Sadly, we do not have music like this anymore. We do not have that “steam of consciousness” lyrics usually alluding to social issues or spirituality. There is no Cream or Yes. There is no improvisation jamming in the studio like they used to. I like to think the music of the 60s was an era that music was able to allow our minds to turn on and tune out. The day psychedelic music ended was really the day the music died.