Psychedelic Musicians in Rock and Roll

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Psychedelic Musicians in Rock and Roll In 1967 the Beatles were in Abbey Road Studios putting the finishing touches on their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. At one point Paul McCartney wandered down the corridor and heard what was then a new young band called Pink Floyd working on their hypnotic debut, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. He listened for a moment, then came rushing back. "Hey guys," he reputedly said, "There's a new band in there and they're gonna steal our thunder." With their mix of blues, music hall influences, Lewis Carroll references, and dissonant experimentation, Pink Floyd was one of the key bands of the 1960s psychedelic revolution, a pop culture movement that emerged with American and British rock, before sweeping through film, literature, and the visual arts. The music was largely inspired by hallucinogens, or so-called "mind-expanding" drugs such as marijuana and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide; "acid"), and attempted to recreate drug-induced states through the use of overdriven guitar, amplified feedback, and droning guitar motifs influenced by Eastern music. This psychedelic consciousness was seeded, in the United States, by countercultural gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard University professor who began researching LSD as a tool of self-discovery from 1960, and writer Ken Kesey who with his Merry Pranksters staged Acid Tests--multimedia "happenings" set to the music of the Warlocks (later the Grateful Dead) and documented by novelist Tom Wolfe in the literary classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)--and traversed the country during the mid-1960s on a kaleidoscope-colored school bus. "Everybody felt the '60s were a breakthrough. There was exploration of sexual freedom and [... ... middle of paper ... ...Control, and Tone Soul Evolution (1997) by the Apples In Stereo. The British group Spiritualized, with Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997), explored the merger of Pink Floyd-style interstellar overdrives with free jazz and gospel music. Gospel music, you ask? Yes, indeed. A final dimension of psychedelia, from the Greek etymology, is "soul-manifesting"--implying a spiritual dimension that is rarely voiced (though it is worth remembering that Brian Wilson spoke of writing "teenage symphonies to God"). By transcending the ordinary, psychedelic musicians and their listeners attempt to connect with something deeper, more profound, and more beautiful. As Jerry Garcia, guru of the Grateful Dead, once said, "Rock 'n' roll provides what the church provided for in other generations." And no form of rock music attempts to nourish more souls than psychedelia.

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