In ancient Greek it means “mind revealing”. To the gurus of hippiedom, Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley, this meant altered awareness, distorted normal perception and seeing aspects of one’s mind that were previously unknown. We mostly know how they proposed to get your head into this state and so won’t bore you with the detail.
Since the early seventies, it has more commonly been perceived as things inspired by or seen to replicate this mind altered experience: Abstract, bright colours and in musical terms, strange, non standard timing signatures, keys, chords and the like. “Trippy” for want of a better expression
The summer of love brought this “Hippie” culture into the mainstream for most of the seventies and resurgences of the style are common in the modern era, including rave or trance in the 90s and the current “psych” fashion accompanying the resurgence of vinyl world wide. This may not be a coincidence if, like us, you believe the aural experience is better on vinyl.
Certain threads run all the way through the psychedelic experience as it has evolved in its various forms. Hawkwind have provided a subversive influence as acid rock morphed into space rock, punk, rave and dance; and we are big fans. Other bands have had a more subtle or transient influence and of course the US and UK have played it differently but influenced each other.
The UK produced its own brand of psychedelic sounds before exporting the idea to west coast USA. The whimsical and very English Syd inspired Pink Floyd “Piper” and “Saucerful” albums stand alongside the more generic appeal of Sergeant Pepper and Revolver and less well known psychedelic standards like the Pretty Thing’s SF Sorrow and the early works of the Moody Blues (psychedelia meets easy listening some would say; though not us). Syd’s own “Madcap” and “Barrett” bear testimony to the downside of seeking distorted consciousness.
The Folk scene had its fully fledged acid wing with “Moshe McStiff” as Clive’s Original Band’s flag-bearer for the genre; whilst it fused with jazz and rock to create another route to nirvana through the efforts of such as Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin as exemplified by “Abraxas” and “Love, Devotion and Surrender”
Our Colonial cousins moulded psychedelia to their own social ends with classics like “Volunteers”, “Crown of Creation” and “Surrealistic Pillow” from Jefferson Airplane and the collected works of the Doors. The West Coast Experimental Pop Art Band, The Seeds, Moby Grape and Love all added to the mix stateside.
The genre even morphed on the continent into the ambient works of Eno, Gong, Amon Duul 2 and Tangerine Dream. And the undercurrent continues to this day through the efforts of Kula Shaker and even the neatly titled, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
We have examples of all this creativity and more in store; so why don’t you turn up, tune in and drop out.
VE June 2015