Though numerous bands have experimented with psychedelic rock in the decades following the ’60s, the original movement really only lasted three years: 1966 to ’69. But like a flower whose beauty intoxicates you long after it has faded from existence, the heady sounds from that brief moment in pop history continue to entrance and hypnotize us. After all, the music of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and The Who is considered utterly timeless, and every last one of them is intrinsically linked to the development of psychedelia.
But what also needs to be stressed is the music’s pioneering embrace of boundary-breaking experimentation and fusion. The sheer number of styles and ideas the original psychedelia incorporated is really rather mind-blowing. One of the genre’s first classic singles, The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High,” found the band fusing California folk rock and Eastern-flavored guitar runs inspired in large part by My Favorite Things-era John Coltrane and sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. In stark contrast, the feedback-soaked Jimi Hendrix Experience married post-Yardbirds British beat music to American rhythm and blues, establishing in the process the templates for hard rock, funk rock and heavy metal. Then there’s The Incredible String Band; overwhelmingly acoustic in make-up, the Woodstock alums employed all manner of exotic instrumentation and vernacular music forms to concoct a wonderfully strange brew that foresaw the rise of everything from progressive rock to global fusion. Press play and be prepared to “turn on, tune in, drop out”! — Justin Farrar