As I readied another article for publication on The Dark Elf File, The Greatest Rock Albums of the 1960s, Part II (coming soon to your grocer's freezer), I became enamored again of psychedelia, as I am wont to do ever and anon. Hey, after you listen to a hundred or so albums from the 60s, you're bound to pick up on it, almost subliminally, like the "don't steal" messages hidden insidiously in the muzak at J.C. Penney.
I soon realized that the original post on the subject, Psychedelicide! The 69 Greatest Songs from the Psychedelic Age, in no way credibly encompassed the depth and breadth of that era. So, in my usual digressive manner, I dropped the one article for the other, and voilà! Here are 69 more psychedelic songs from the 1960s and early 1970s. And this was one hell of an enjoyable side trip for me.
The selections here run the gambit of psychedelia: commercially quaint psychedelics, hippie mantras and psych-folk, acid rock, space rock and psych-prog. The requisite fuzzy guitars are prevalent, as are mellotrons, sitars, tambourines and fistfuls of whatever was the drug of choice for each band.
Some of the songs, like those from The Mothers, Procol Harum and the Moody Blues, dance around the verges of psychedelia, while others from Hendrix, Barrett and Floyd are fully immersed in the genre (as well as the lifestyle itself). I also included some pre-psychedelic tracks from such progenitors as Dick Dale, The Safaris and The Ramrods just to show that the psychedelic movement didn't incubate in the resinous chamber of a water pipe.
And speaking of lifestyles, the psychedelic ethic was not merely a product of 60s rock, as it was embraced by bands like War, The Temptations, and the "white soul" rarity of Motown, Rare Earth, in the soul genre as well. But let's let the music do the talking, shall we? After all, if there is rambling to be done, there is no place more fertile for long discursive excursions and militant meandering than in a psychedelic song.
APHRODITE'S CHILD -
All the Seats Were Occupied
- Clocking in at 19:21 (according to the album), this is the longest song on the band's concept album 666. Aphrodite's Child was a Greek band fronted by Vangelis, and this record was basically his brainchild, melding psychedelic and progressive rock into a sprawling double album of the apocalypse. Love the Greek motifs running through the song.
ALICE COOPER -
Below Your Means
Lay Down and Die, Goodbye
- Two songs from Alice's woefully underappreciated 1970 release Easy Action. Both songs reflect the transformation of 60s psychedelia into early 70s acid rock. Disturbing and dissonant, Easy Action was the precursor for greater things from the band, their next album being the stellar Love It To Death.
The Child's Dream
- Pentangle reinterprets The Doors "The End" with a timely assist from Fairport Convention and Jefferson Airplane. Or something like that. Sure, it's a bit derivative, but it is also entrancing...one can get lost...in the...music...
SYD BARRETT -
No Man's Land
- Every time I listen to the album The Madcap Laughs, I become sad. This is why I don’t listen to it often. Such a tremendous talent and innovator. Such a waste. The song "Long Gone" may just as well be Syd's epitaph.
THE BEATLES -
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite ("Love" Remix)
Within You, Without You ("Love" Remix)
- If you haven't heard The Beatle album Love, then I suggest it highly. It is an extraordinary remix of standard Beatles tunes melding pieces of one song or several songs onto another by Sir George Martin. And if you've ever wondered why he is called "The fifth Beatle", the tantalizing results here are self-explanatory. Oh, and just for reference sake, I've offered "Glass Onion" in its original state from The White Album.
DAVID BOWIE -
- If psychedelia had a personification, then it would be Bowie in this video. It is no wonder he had no problem playing the alien in "The Man Who Fell To Earth". He didn't even need to change his clothes!
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD -
For What It's Worth
- Anti-war sentiment and psychedelics collide in this Stephen Stills song with the spacey guitar by Neil Young. Or maybe Neil is the one that was spacey. Either or.
THE BYRDS -
Mr. Tambourine Man
- Dylan gets the psychedelic treatment from one of his fervent bands of disciples, The Byrds, wherein the phrase "take me for a trip upon your magic swirling ship" gets an entirely different meaning from the one espoused by Mr. Zimmerman.
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART -
- Psychedelic blues from the Captain's stellar 1967 debut album, with Ry Cooder leading the eccentric assault on slide guitar, and of course the 64 year-old Dr. Samuel Hoffman on theremin.
COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH -
- I don't know who Pat was, but I assume she looked like one of the women painted by Picasso during his Blue Period.
I'm So Glad
Tales of Brave Ulysses
As You Said
- Look, you have to be stoned to sit and count how many times Jack Bruce says "glad" in the song "I'm So Glad". I've tried more than once, but I kept forgetting the sum by the time I woke up the next morning. It's 140 something, I think.
DICK DALE AND THE DEL TONES -
- Listen to Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" and hear Syd Barrett directly influenced by Dick Dale. No doubt about it. This is supposedly "surf rock", but I would suggest the guitar licks churned out by Dale are the direct antecedents of many leads in later psychedelic tunes.
Hurdy Gurdy Man
- I've heard the theory that the "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is an allusion to Jesus Christ, but according to Donovan it involves a reawakening of knowledge as taught by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Depending on who you believe, Jimmy Page and John Bonham may or may not have played on this song, but John Paul Jones is certainly the bassist.
THE DOORS -
Not to Touch the Earth
- The poet laureate of psychedelia utters something on "Shaman's Blues" that only someone who is really stoned will find profound: "Optical promise. You'll be dead and in hell before I'm born. Sure thing. Bridesmaid. The only solution, isn't it amazing?" The Doors' music has had the uncanny ability to maintain its freshness while most psychedelic acts have floundered in dated distortion. The fevered vision of the JFK assassination in "Not to Touch the Earth" was and still is both gruesome and fascinating.
THE EASYBEATS -
Friday On My Mind
- A mythical week in the life of a 1966 rock band. I've always really liked the guitar work in this song.
Fohat Digs Holes In Space
- I could try to explain the strange mythology surrounding Gong albums, or the many variants and offshoots of the band (like Mother Gong), but it would be like trying to describe this song. So we'll just pretend I didn't mention any of it.
JIMI HENDRIX -
Love or Confusion
If 6 Was 9
1983...A Merman I Should Turn To Be
- A slice of psychedelia from each of Jimi's three studio albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. Yes, just three studio albums total. So much great output and fascinating innovation from one who shuffled off this mortal coil so soon.
- The last gasp of psychedelia in the 70s (before its resurgence in later decades), Hawkwind changed the genre name to "Space Rock" in order to fool anyone that wasn't still stoned from the 60s. This is a tune culled from their enjoyable live double album Space Ritual released in 1973.
H.P. LOVECRAFT -
It's About Time
- The band with the chthonic name never really made it past 1969. A couple of the members tried to resurrect the band in the 70s under the shortened names "Lovecraft" and "Love Craft", but had little success. But it's really only their first two albums that are important here (titled simply H.P. Lovecraft I and II). Some great psychedelics.
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND -
- So many weird songs to choose from in the eccentric recording history of TISB! Hey, how about a really long hippie epic? Get out the patchouli oil, incense, some sangria, a bong, and trip to your heart's content. I usually can't get beyond six minutes or so.
TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS -
Crimson and Clover
- Actually, I never took Tommy James seriously. I think he dropped acid and decided to make this song in an effort to change his band's direction. Otherwise, he's known for the singles "Mony, Mony", "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and "I Think We're Alone Now". Critic Lester Bangs once referred to the Shondells as "bubblegum apotheosis"; hence, poor Tommy getting stoned, I suppose, over and over.
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE -
Crown of Creation
- "Rejoyce" is my favorite song from After Bathing at Baxter's; likewise, the title song of Crown of Creation is the most memorable piece from that album. Ergo, their inclusion here.
JETHRO TULL -
- Two priceless and hilarious singles from very early Tull (1968, with the band name mislabeled as "Jethro Toe" on the 45). There are hints of the bands musical virtuosity that would later mark their great progressive releases, but here we get an approximation of cocktail lounge psychedelia. They wisely switched to a more blues/jazz sound soon after.
The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This
- Arthur Lee came up with the best titles for songs. They really had nothing to do with the songs, but man, great titles. The songs are great too.
MANFRED MANN -
- Manfred Mann seemed to have a hit every five years or so. It just seems he couldn't string them together in successive years and become famous. Someone else always seemed to write his hit songs as well. In this case, it was Bob Dylan. In the 70s, it was Bruce Springsteen on "Blinded by the Light". Anyway, "Mighty Quinn" was Manfred's obligatory hit for the last five years of the 60s. Enjoy.
THE MOODY BLUES -
Gypsy (Of a Strange and Distant Time)
Isn't Life Strange
- The Moody Blues, like Procol Harum, brought symphonic sensibilities to psychedelics, and their orchestral compositions transformed aspects of the genre into what later became progressive rock. There is no discordant buzz of distortion here, but the psychedelia in the songs is easily apparent with a pair of headphones and an easy chair.
- Morgen didn't have much luck. They signed a two record deal with RCA, released one album in 1972 (Nova Solis) and recorded another album (The Sleeper Wakes or Brown Out, depending on whether it was distributed by RCA or Passport Records) in 1973. Unfortunately, it wasn't released until 1976 in the UK and 1977 in the U.S. By then no one cared. Some interesting psych-prog modeled on the band's heroes King Crimson and Floyd."Of Dreams" is from the "Brown Out" album.
MOTHERS OF INVENTION -
Brown Shoes Don't Do It
- Of course it's not really psychedelic. To this day, I am not sure what it is! The mad genius of dear old uncle Frank Zappa strikes again, this time on the album Absolutely Free from 1967. Yes, 1967.
PINK FLOYD -
Careful with that Axe, Eugene
- It is a closely guarded secret that Floyd began their career as a psychedelic band. At least it's a secret in places like Manchuria and Uzbekistan. maybe Cameroon. Two of the songs here are with Syd Barrett as principal lead guitarist (in the studio, otherwise he had to be propped up in a corner during concerts), and the third song "Careful With that Axe, Eugene" (love that title!) features David Gilmour.
PRETTY THINGS -
S.F. Sorrow Is Born
- You might not be aware, but the Pretty Things have released albums in the 60s, 70s, 80s (just one), 90s (again, just one) and a few in the 2000s. Unfortunately, the only album anyone really refers to is the early concept album S.F. Sorrow from 1968. Which is too bad actually, as some of their albums from the mid-60s are pretty good. I'm really not familiar with the rest of their catalog. Obviously, no one else is either.
PROCOL HARUM -
(Outside the Gates of) Cerdes
- Symphonic and literate: two qualities that don't mesh well with stoned hippies gibbering peace and love platitudes at muddy festivals. But somehow, Harum managed to work around that. Perhaps they turned the volume up on Robin Trower's amps at concerts - loudness being an effective tranquilizer used to stun hippies. Anyway, here's two songs from their debut album in 1967. Turn 'em up!
QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE -
- Quicksilver received accolades for a couple of their 60s albums like their eponymous first release and the classic Happy Trails (a double entendre if ever there was one), but their only big hit "Fresh Air" appeared on their third album Just for Love. And that's it. They kept on making albums with mixed results. They might still be making albums for all I know.
THE RAMRODS -
Ghost Riders in the Sky
- Cowboy psychedelia from 1961. You could put this on a Quicksilver Messenger Service album and everyone would be smoking opium to it. Way before its time.
RARE EARTH -
I Know I'm Losing You
- The only "white" band to have hit records for a Motown label, Rare Earth became the unexpected poster children for reverse discrimination when Gil Scott-Heron derided the band (and a slew of other white performers) in his poem and song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". Too bad too. The psychedelicized Smokey Robinson song "Get Ready" and The Temptations' "I Know I'm Losing You" are quite good. There is soul there, and a reverence for the influences. Whether it's black or white doesn't matter.
THE SEEDS -
Pushin' too Hard
- The Seeds pushed very hard to get this single released. They were eventually pushed back to wherever they came from.
THE SOFT MACHINE -
Hope for Happiness/Joy of a Toy/Hope for Happiness (reprise)
- An early psychedelic song and instrumental from the Canterbury Scene band Soft Machine before they journeyed off into jazz fusion and prog rock. Incredible keyboards here.
Magic Carpet Ride
- I've always loved Steppenwolf. No pretenses, no excessive rambling, just straight ahead rock and roll. Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space! Wait, that's not this song. Well, you get the idea.
STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK -
Curse of the Witches
- An overdose of psychedelic composition on the part of the Alarm Clock. They throw everything and the kitchen sink into this song. The lyrics and the harmonies are absolutely hilarious.
THE TEMPTATIONS -
Papa Was a Rolling Stone
- Two great songs from The Temptations. I still remember watching them on the Ed Sullivan Show. That's it, I just remember them from there. "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" is one of my all-time favorite soul classics.
Black Widow Spider
- Them struggled manfully along without Van Morrison as their leader and muse after he split for solo stardom. They even made some good psychedelic stuff in the late 60s, "Black Widow" being a sample.
THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS -
Kingdom of Heaven
- One of the late, great unknown psychedelic rock bands from the mid-60s. Perhaps they are still stuck in the elevator.
Heaven is in Your Mind
- If you ever see film clips of Traffic playing in the 60s or early 70s, just look at Steve Winwood's eyes. They are as wide as saucers! Dude was stoned out of his mind. Here we get a taste of Traffic while Dave Mason was still in the band ("Pearly Queen" and "Heaven Is In Your Mind") and with Winwood as the principal leader ("Withering Tree").
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA -
- One album. That's all you get. The USA disappeared faster than the filets at a lobbyist's dinner held in Washington. Great, great psychedelia.
WAR (with and without Eric Burdon) -
Spill the Wine
Slippin' Into Darkness
- It goes without saying that Eric Burdon was probably not sober when he recorded "Spill the Wine" with the great band War. But the "overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome" seems to be having a grand time of it. "Slipping Into Darkness" is one of the truly epic songs of that era.
THE YARDBIRDS -
For Your Love
Over Under Sideways Down
- Some early Yardbirds psych. Eric Clapton leads the band through their paces on 1965's "For Your Love" (The Yardbirds' biggest hit), and then Jeff Beck takes the baton with the guitar-like-a-sitar-gone-mad "Over Under Sideways Down".