For the Record Music Dump Friday: Psychedelic Rock

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In For The Record, Audrey Morrison talks new albums, concerts, and more. (Graphic by Ellen Chadwick)

Audrey Morrison, Features Editor

For this week’s dump I’m gonna be talking about a super fun genre: psychedelic rock. Psych rock was born from the resurgence of 1960s counterculture in Britain and America and was sustained by hippies and hardcore rock fans until the end of the decade. For musicians, the era was about the experimentation and stylistic elements. There’s a lot of artful ways to describe what this sounds like, but I’d rather just suggest some songs that I think epitomize this insane chapter of musical psychedelia.

While much of “classic” psychedelic rock went underground after the late 60s, there’s still tons of psych influences in modern music. Artists like Tame Impala and The Apples in Stereo carried out these tunes into the late 90s and even to this day. In a time of stagnant radio pop, there’s plenty of experimental rock to be found if you look in the right places.

Songs:

While I think that many songs by the 13th Floor Elevators are virtually impossible to listen to on a daily basis, I have to give them credit for basically laying down the foundation for the genre to flourish within American music scenes. That’s not to say that their brand of psychedelic rock isn’t enjoyable, but much of it is too mangled to make sense of (which I’m sure is a conscious effect). One song that I find really interesting and (mostly) easy to listen to is “Roller Coaster” from The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Something about it is just so fascinating and strange. There’s this repeating series of bloops (sorry, that’s the only way I can describe it) that echoes throughout the song that reminds me a lot of The Wiggles (a more PG psychedelic rock band). It has that special quality of childlike wonderment and discovery that has captivated psych rock and experimentalists for decades.

I was reading Steven Hyden’s ranking of the best Beatles songs the other day and although I have a LOT to say about it (like why isn’t “The Long and Winding Road” anywhere on there?), I learned a lot about Beatles history and the inspiration behind my favorite psychedelic Beatles song: “Baby You’re A Rich Man”. Because it’s such a fun and catchy tune, I’ve never really given too much thought to the meaning. According to Hyden, “Baby You’re A Rich Man” was meant to snub the “beautiful people” (the hippies, disenfranchised youth, etc.), criticizing some members of the counterculture movement for accumulating immense wealth while preaching minimalism and spirituality (similar to The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein). In this way, the subject matter was incredibly unique compared to many other popular psychedelic rock songs.

Some other songs on in this playlist include: “Love or Confusion” from the emblematic psychedelic record “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix, the seventeen-minute epic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (in the Garden of Eden) by Iron Butterfly, and “Half Full Glass of Wine” by Tame Impala.

Here’s the playlist:

Note: I’m sorry for omitting Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and, of course, the Grateful Dead. There just isn’t enough time to do them all justice.