psychedelic rock

   Psychedelic rock was a brief but important strand of British popular music. It emerged in 1967 and its heyday lasted until early 1969, when it was superseded by progressive rock. Musically, it was characterized by playfulness and an exploration of varied styles and instrumentation, along with a tendency to use studio techniques (such as tape reversal) to a larger extent than before. Unlike its American cousin, British psychedelia coupled this with lyrics which were concerned with more than simply flowers and peace. Recurrent themes included an escape into childish fantasy, an interest in eastern mysticism and a use of Victorian imagery. All of these motifs are present on what many claim to be the definitive psychedelic album, the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in the songs ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, ‘Within You Without You’ and ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite’, respectively. Another important element of psychedelic rock was that it attempted to link a visual experience with the auditory one, as witnessed in the light shows of bands such as Pink Floyd and Dantalion’s Chariot. To a lesser extent, this can also be seen in the tendency of psychedelic albums to have intricate, multi-coloured covers, a fine example here being the inner gatefold sleeve of the Rolling Stones’ attempt at psychedelia, Their Satanic Majesties Request. Psychedelic rock also gave rise to an attempt to change the traditional format of the rock concert.
   Events such as 1967’s 14-Hour Technicolour Dream, along with other ‘love-ins’, stretched the live performance into an all-night event, and as such were precursors of the rock festival. Songs also grew lengthier, although tracks such as Pink Floyd’s tenminute ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ are short in comparison to what would follow in the progressive rock era. An offshoot of this lengthening was the idea of a linked series of songs, or the ‘concept album’. Again, although this idea would be taken to its limits within the progressive rock format, albums such as The Pretty Things’ S.F.Sorrow and (side two of) The Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake both have a coherent story running through them. Psychedelic rock allowed popular music to accept influences from styles of music not directly related to its own history, and so prevented it from becoming overly insular and repetitive. That, perhaps, is its greatest legacy.
   See also: pop and rock
   SIMON BOTTOM

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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