To understand the genre of music that is psychedelic rock, it becomes important to see where this form of music originated, since the roots of the movement that inspired the artists that made history, is part of the reason for its evolution. In the era of the flower child, there was restlessness and strong undercurrents among the youth across north America and Europe, which was looking for freedom from existing societal expectations and norms. This was to become the 'hippie culture' that took the world by storm in the late fifties and sixties. Among the many ways in which hippies were to make history, along with their commune living and fascination for eastern mysticism, religion, and sexual liberation, was the music that characterized the decades of the flower child.
This was also the time when hallucinogenic drugs were just entering public consciousness, and LSD, mescaline, and 'magic mushrooms', were commonly used, their effects compounded with the combination of alcohol and marijuana. Artistes and musicians using these psychedelic drug cocktails were said to experience an out-of-body, mind-altering state of awareness, disconnected from reality, and the music that they composed in the shadowy world of hallucinogenic drugs, came to be known as psychedelic music, or psychedelic rock, in homage to the psychedelic drugs that gave rise to the compositions. In the midst of such widespread domination, it was hardly likely that the arts were to be left behind, posters and album covers were just a few of the expressions of 60's psychedelic art, characterized by their kaleidoscopic colors, diffraction patterns, and entropic motifs.
Many of the musicians of the era, including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan were part of the hippie culture, and their music and songs underwent the metamorphosis that accompanied the shift in thinking and the changes that were beginning to be felt worldwide. In fact, it was The Beatles that are credited with what many believe is the best psychedelic rock album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The influences of hitherto unused musical instruments began to make themselves known in the most famous compositions, and religious beliefs shifted to the eastern and oriental with many converting to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the like. Prior to their iconic Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their songs began mirroring the musical experimentation that the drugs gave free rein to. Norwegian Wood used the sitar and the tabla, and many songs, like Day Tripper, made clear references to the drugs that were now ruling the world; their controversial track Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, was, in fact, a euphemism for LSD.
Psychedelic rock bands like the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Jefferson's Airplanes, the Charlatans, and The Beach Boys began popularizing the genre, with their offerings of Somebody to Love, White Rabbit, Pet Sounds, and Shapes of Things hitting high on the charts and staying there. In Europe, the genre was less aggressive than the 'acid psychedelia' that was fast becoming the American version, with bands like Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Nice, and Tomorrow pioneering their own style that was more whimsically surreal with clear influences of Beat poetry and Jazz musicians shining through. Some of the most famous songs were released at this time, the year was 1967, and the psychedelic movement was at its height.
As was the only likely outcome, drugs and their overuse brought about the decline and subsequent end of the psychedelic rock movement. Many musical icons lost their lives to drug abuse, and the world mourned the loss of such legends as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix, amongst many, many more. Many groups disbanded, LSD was made illegal in the UK and the US, and the music began its inevitable shift towards the progressive rock sounds of the 70's. Modern bands in this genre do exist, though their music that is an amalgamation of many other genres. Many mainstream artists dabbled in neo-psychedelia and alternative rock like Prince, and Lenny Kravitz, and acts like The Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Purple Avengers. Though the pioneers of psychedelic rock may no longer be around, their music is the stuff that legends are made of, and will live on, like their memories, forever.