There can be no doubt that there was a creative explosion in the world of popular music in the mid to late 1960's. The Revolver LP by The Beatles took music to uncharted realms of sonic imagination and experimentation. For a while psychedelic masterpieces like "I Am the Walrus" and "Incense and Peppermint" flooded the airwaves, and then in an instant were gone. By 1970, The Beatles were gone and artists like James Taylor became the new thing with a much more stripped-down and back to the basics style.
Fortunately, this brief moment in time has not been forgotten here at retrospace. I have listed below some of the best psychedelic songs to come out of the 1960's - some of them are well remembered, but most have been lost to the passage of time. There's no particular order to the list, and I'm sure I'm leaving some out - if so, please let me know.
- Happiness Stan by The Small Faces: Sure it takes up the entire side of an album (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake) and is interspersed with surrealistic babbling by Stanley Unwin, but it's an absolute masterpiece nonetheless. Any fan of psychedelic music can surely appreciate the sheer talent bursting at the seams of this record. This isn't road trip music (it ain't no Foghat), this is a psychedelic journey of the mind, baby. Groovy.
- 2000 Light Years from Home by The Rolling Stones: Their Satanic Majesties Request was an effort by The Rolling Stones to create another Sgt. Pepper, but it just didn't pan out. Mick and Keith vowed to never do this again, and their next album was a huge departure from this psychedelic stuff, and more akin to their sound throughout the 70's and 80's. However, with "2000 Light Years from Home" they seem to have achieved what they were looking for.
- Incense and Peppermint by The Strawberry Alarm Clock: I know, the song is almost too obvious a choice, but it's so damn good! Plus, it's been featured in numerous groovy 1960's films like Psyche-Out (starring Jack Nicholson) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
- Porpoise Song (Theme from Head) by The Monkees: The last album for the Monkees was the soundtrack to the movie Head. It was actually co-scripted by Jack Nicholson who is rumored to have wanted to do a sequel just so he could use as the tag line: "From the people who gave you Head !" Couple that strangeness with the fact that Carole King wrote "The Porpoise Song" and both Jack Nicholson and Frank Zappa were involved in the recording, and you've got yourself a very interesting little song here.
- The Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan: The debate rages on as to whether Jimmy Page played guitar on this track. Regardless, it's still about the most mind bending trip of a song you're likely to find. After all, Donovan was the first British star to be busted for drugs.
Plus, this songs earns points just for using a tambura and having a verse written by George Harrison.
- Microbes by George Harrison: Oasis was obviously referring the soundtrack and not this awful film in their song "Wonderwall". Over and over again audiences are treated to a horny scientist peeping through a brick wall into an apartment that looks surprisingly like Austin Powers' shagadelic bachelor pad. No plot ever develops.
Horrible film aside, the album was the first solo release for a Beatle, put out right before their White Album. Wonderwall as a whole may be a bit monotonous with lots of sitar and very little vocals, but a few songs stand out as great examples of a lost era.
- Lucifer Sam by Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett was apparently was popping LSD like Tic-Tacs at this time, and was on the cusp of his infamous mental breakdown. All this amounts to a monumental piece of creativity exploding at the seams. "Arnold Lane", "See Emily Play" and "Matilda's Mother" are other fantastic examples of psychedelic music done right.
- White Bicycle by Tomorrow
- The Red Telephone by Love: There's nothing better than an album made by a band right before their total and complete implosion. Frontman Arthur Lee would soon self destruct in a way that would make Syd Barrett proud, and other bandmembers dropped out of the scene due to heroine addiction. Years later, Lee would spend 12 years in a California prison, while two of his former bandmates died. Forever Changes was literally their last gasp.
- White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane: Somebody explain to me how you can go from "White Rabbit", a counterculture anthem and one of the most creative and forceful songs to come out of the 1960s, to "We Built this City" (1985), easily the tritest song ever recorded.
- Fire by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: I think it is fitting, in a way, that the next wave of rock music (the stripped down singer-songwriter acoustic style) would begin at the home of one of the most outlandish psychedelic musicians of all time - indeed, "A Horse with No Name" was initially recorded at Arthur "God of Hellfire" Brown's house.
Go to Great Psychedelic Songs Part 2