Psychedelic pop


Psychedelic pop is a psychedelic musical style inspired by the sounds of psychedelic folk and psychedelic rock, but applied to a pop music setting. It reached its peak during the late 1960s, declining rapidly in the early 1970s.

Origins and characteristics

The origins of psychedelic music were in folk and rock music of the mid-1960s, particularly the work of The Beatles, The Byrds and bands like The Yardbirds and The Grateful Dead. As psychedelia emerged as a mainstream and commercial force it began to influence pop music, which incorporated hippie fashions, drug references, as well as the sounds of sitars, fuzz guitars, and tape effects, but often using the close harmonies of the California sound and applying these elements to concise and catchy pop songs.


With The Beatles being the mainstream and commercial force during the psychedelic era; with albums such as Revolver (1966), The Beach Boys under the leadership of Brian Wilson also began to herald psychedelia into the mainstream with records such as Pet Sounds (1966) and the single "Good Vibrations", which made use of a Tannerin (an easier to manipulate version of a Theremin). American vocal group The Mamas & the Papas were also influenced by psychedelic music.

American pop-oriented rock bands that followed in this vein included Electric Prunes, Blues Magoos and Strawberry Alarm Clock; with their first and most famous hit "Incense and Peppermints". Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play", both written by Syd Barrett, helped set the pattern for psychedelic pop in Britain. Garage rock groups with pop leanings also moved into this territory, like The Beau Brummels with their album Triangle (1967). The Small Faces also began to embrace the genre with songs such as "Itchycoo Park" and "Lazy Sunday". Some sunshine pop bands like The Association and The Grass Roots with "Lets Live for Today" (1967) moved in a psychedelic direction. The Beatles early 1967 single "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" became a prototype for psychedelic pop and has been regarded as one of the greatest double A-side ever released. Psychedelic sounds were also incorporated into the output of early bubblegum pop acts like The Monkees, particularly on their album Head (1968) and The Lemon Pipers with "Green Tambourine" (1968) and Tommy James and the Shondells with their number one "Crimson and Clover" (1969).

Scottish folk singer Donovan's transformation to 'electric' music gave him a series of pop hits, beginning with "Sunshine Superman", which reached number one in both Britain and the US, to be followed by "Mellow Yellow" (1966) and "Atlantis" (1968). Most British pop in this vein was less successful internationally, with manufactured group The Flower Pot Men with "Let's Go To San Francisco" and The Move with "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" and "Flowers in the Rain", all reaching the top five in the UK in 1967, but making little impact elsewhere. The Zombies produced some of the most highly regarded work in the genre with their album Odessey and Oracle (1968), but had already disbanded before one of the tracks, "Time of the Season", gave them their biggest hit in 1969, reaching number three in the Billboard 100.

International expansion

Pop orientated psychedelia was popular among the emerging bands in Australia and New Zealand, including The Easybeats, formed in Sydney but who recorded their international hit "Friday on My Mind" (1966) in London and remained there for their forays into psychedelic-tinged pop until they disbanded in 1970. A similar path was pursued by the Bee Gees, formed in Brisbane, but whose first album Bee Gees 1st (1967), recorded in London, gave them three major hit singles and contained folk, rock and psychedelic elements, heavy influenced by the Beatles. The Twilights, formed in Adelaide, also made to trip to London, recording a series of minor hits, absorbing the psychedelic scene, to return home to produce covers of Beatles' songs, complete with sitar, and the concept album Once Upon a Twilight (1968). The most successful New Zealand band, The La De Das, produced the psychedelic pop concept album The Happy Prince (1968), based on the Oscar Wilde children's classic, but failed to break through in Britain and the wider world.

Decline and revivals

By the end of the 1960s psychedelic folk and rock were in retreat. Many surviving acts moved away from psychedelia into either more back-to-basics "roots rock", traditional-based, pastoral or whimsical folk, the wider experimentation of progressive rock, or riff-laden heavy rock. Psychedelic influences lasted a little longer in pop music, stretching into the early 1970s and playing a major part in the creation of bubblegum pop. There were occasional mainstream acts that dabbled in neo-psychedelia, including Prince's mid-1980s work and some of Lenny Kravitz's 1990s output, but it has mainly been an influence on alternative and indie-rock bands and most neo-psychedelia has been within the field of rock music. In the UK The Stone Roses debut album in 1989 set out a catchy neo-psychedelic guitar pop, helping to create the Madchester scene, and influencing the early sound of 1990s Britpop bands like Blur, and Oasis who drew on 1960s psychedelic pop and rock, particularly on the album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.

Artists of the psychedelic era

The Association
The Beach Boys
The Beatles
The Beau Brummels
Bee Gees
Blues Magoos
The Byrds
The Electric Prunes
The End
The Flower Pot Men
The Grass Roots
The Kinks
The La De Das
The Left Banke
The Lemon Pipers
The Lovin' Spoonful
The Monkees
The Move
The Neon Philharmonic
Pink Floyd
The Rolling Stones
The Small Faces
Strawberry Alarm Clock
Syd Barrett
The Twilights
The World of Oz
The Zombies

Artists of later years

Animal Collective
The Flaming Lips
Beachwood Sparks
The Dukes of Stratosphear
Robyn Hitchcock

(from the article Psychedelic pop of Wikipedia)

Other psychedelic pop groups

The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Elliott Smith
The End
The Deep Space Objects
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
Kevin Ayers
The Mamas & The Papas
Melody's Echo Chamber
Oberon Rose
Of Montreal
The Rolling Stones
The Stone Roses
The Story
Super Furry Animals
Tame Impala

(from the List of psychedelic pop groups of Wikipedia)

Selected examples

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