Acid rock

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Not to be confused with Acidic rock.

Acid rock is a loosely defined type of rock music[1] which emerged during the 1960s psychedelic era. The term, which derives its name from lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), is often deployed as a synonym for "psychedelic rock", though it can also refer to a more musically intense variation or subcategory of the psychedelic rock genre. It may also include early strains of hard rock, heavy metal, and proto-metal.

When distinguished from "psychedelic rock", acid rock may contain harder and heavier qualities that often encapsulate the positive and negative extremes of the psychedelic experience. It is generally defined by distorted guitars, lyrics with drug references, and long improvised jams. Certain garage rock and 1960s punk rock bands would be associated with the "acid rock" label. As the psychedelic movement progressed into the late 1960s and 1970s, elements of its music split into two directions, with hard rock and heavy metal on one side and progressive rock on the other.

Definitions[edit]

"Acid rock" is loosely defined.[9] Rock journalist Nik Cohn called it a "fairly meaningless phrase that got applied to any group, no matter what its style."[2] It was originally used to describe the background music for acid trips in underground parties in the 1960s (e.g. the Merry Pranksters' "Acid Tests")[10] and as a catchall term for the more eclectic Haight-Ashbury bands in San Francisco.[3] The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia believed that acid rock is music you listen to while under the influence of acid, further stating that there is no real "psychedelic rock" and that it is Indian classical music and some Tibetan music "designed to expand consciousness."[11]

Psychedelia was sometimes referred to as "acid rock". The latter label was applied to a pounding, hard rock variant that evolved out of the mid-1960s garage-punk movement. ... When rock began turning back to softer, roots-oriented sounds in late 1968, acid-rock bands mutated into heavy metal acts.

—Frank Hoffman, Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound (2004)[5]

It may be interchangeable with "psychedelic rock".[1][12][13] According to Per Elias Drabløs, "acid rock is generally considered a subgenre of psychedelic rock",[14] while Steve and Alan Freeman state the two are synonymous, and that "what is usually referred to as acid rock is generally the more extreme end of that genre".[15] The term may refer more specifically to a variation of psychedelic rock that is heavier, louder, or harder.[16][17][page needed][4] Frank Hoffman states that, while psychedelic rock in general is sometimes referred to as "acid rock", the term "acid rock" is also applied specifically to a "pounding, hard rock variant" of psychedelic rock that evolved from the 1960s garage movement, with many of the bands playing this acid rock eventually transforming into heavy metal acts.[5] "Garagey" psychedelia, exemplified by acts such as Blues Magoos, the Electric Prunes, and the Music Machine, has been identified as falling under the label of acid rock.[18] Percussionist John Beck defines "acid rock" as synonymous with hard rock and heavy metal.[19][nb 1] The term eventually encompassed heavy, blues-based hard rock bands.[3] Musicologist Steve Waksman wrote that "the distinction between acid rock, hard rock, and heavy metal can at some point never be more than tenuous".[23]

Origins and ideology[edit]

In 1968, Life magazine referred to the Doors as the "kings of acid rock".[24]

Many bands associated with acid rock aimed to create a youth movement based on love and peace, as an alternative to workaholic capitalist society.[25][page needed] David P. Szatmary states, "a legion of rock bands, playing what became known as 'acid rock,' stood in the vanguard of the movement for cultural change."[26] Szatmary also quotes from the San Francisco Oracle, an underground newspaper published between 1966 and 1968, to explain how rock music was perceived at that time and how the acid rock movement emerged: "Rock music is a regenerative and revolutionary art, offering us our first real hope for the future (indeed, for the present)."[26]

Bands credited with creating or laying the foundation for acid rock include garage rock bands such as the 13th Floor Elevators[27] and Count Five.[1] The blues rock group the Paul Butterfield Blues Band are also credited with spawning the harder acid rock sound,[28] and their 1966 instrumental "East-West", with its early use of the extended rock solo, has been described as laying "the roots of psychedelic acid rock"[29] and featuring "much of acid-rock’s eventual DNA."[30]

According to Laura Diane Kuhn, the heavier form of psychedelic rock known as acid rock developed from the late 1960s California music scene.[31] Former Atlantic Records executive Phillip Rauls is quoted saying, "I was in the music business at the time, and my very first recognition of acid rock ... was, of all people, the Beach Boys and the song 'Good Vibrations'. ... That [song's theremin] sent so many musicians back to the studio to create this music on acid."[32][nb 2] By July 1967, Time magazine wrote, "From jukeboxes and transistors across the nation pulses the turned-on sound of acid-rock groups: the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Moby Grape".[34]

Development and characteristics[edit]

Psychedelic rock[edit]

Main article: Psychedelic rock

Acid rock often encompasses the more extreme side of the psychedelic rock genre, frequently containing a loud, improvised, and guitar-centered sound.[15] Alan Bisbort and Parke Puterbaugh write that acid rock "can best be described as psychedelia at its rawest and most intense [...] Bad trips as well as good, riots as well as peace, pain as well as pleasure - the whole spectrum of reality, not just the idyllic bits, were captured by acid rock."[18] "Acid rock" has also been described as more heavily electric and containing more distortion ("fuzz") than typical psychedelic rock.[35] By the late 1960s, in addition to the deliberate use of distortion and feedback, acid rock was further characterized by long guitar solos and the frequent use of electronic organs.[1] Lyric references to drug use were also common, as exemplified in Jefferson Airplane's 1967 song "White Rabbit" and Jimi Hendrix Experience's 1967 song "Purple Haze."[1] Lyrical references to drugs such as LSD were often cryptic.[31]

Jefferson Airplane, early 1966

At a time when many British psychedelic bands played whimsical or surrealistic psychedelic rock, many 1960s American rock bands, especially those from the West Coast, developed a rawer or harder version of psychedelic rock containing garage rock energy.[36] When contrasted with whimsical British psychedelia, the harder American West Coast variant of psychedelic rock has been referred to as acid rock. [37] British psychedelia was often more arty in its experimentation, and it tended to stick within pop song structures.[38] Along with its whimsical and surrealist tendencies, British psychedelic rock was generally not as minimalist and not as aggressive as its American counterpart, often featuring longer song arrangements and incorporating Eastern instruments such as sitars.[39] Meanwhile, American psychedelic rock and garage bands such as the 13th Floor Elevators epitomized the frenetic, darker and more psychotic sound of American acid rock, a sound characterized by droning guitar riffs, amplified feedback, and guitar distortion.[39] The term "acid rock" was soon applied to define this pounding, hard rock variant of psychedelic rock, a variant that evolved from the 1960s garage-punk movement.[5] Acid rock has been described as lacking the recording studio "gimmickry" that typified the more Beatles-influenced strain of psychedelic rock, though acid rock experimented in other ways with electrified guitar effects.[5] However, cross-over in these two psychedelic rock variants did occur; the Animals' 1968 song "Sky Pilot" was among the few songs of the era to juxtapose the more Jimi Hendrix-influenced, electric guitar-centered American acid rock style with the elaborate orchestration of Sgt. Pepper-influenced, British-style psychedelic rock.[40]

Tonal distortion was also one of the defining characteristics of the San Francisco Sound.[41] The acid rock of the San Francisco Sound heavily incorporated musical improvisation, jamming, repetitive drum beats, experimental sound and tape effects, and intentional feedback.[42] San Francisco acid rock generally took a non-commercial approach to song-writing: it often involved almost free jazz-like, free-form hard rock improvisations alongside distorted guitars, and lyrics often were socially conscious, trippy, or anti-establishment.[43] Many of the musicians in the scene, including bands such as the Charlatans and the Quicksilver Messenger Service, became involved in Ken Kesey's LSD-driven psychedelic scene, known as the Merry Pranksters.[42] The Charlatans were among the first Bay Area acid rock bands, though Jefferson Airplane was the first Bay Area acid rock band to sign a major label and achieve mainstream success.[44]

Garage rock and punk[edit]

Main articles: Garage rock and Punk rock
See also: Garage punk and Proto-punk

In the 1960s, various American garage rock bands began playing psychedelic rock with the rawness and energy of garage rock, incorporating heavy distortion, feedback, and layered sonic effects into their psychedelic music.[36] Bisport and Puterbaugh, defining acid rock as an intense or raw form of psychedelia, include "garagey" psychedelia under the label of "acid rock" due in part to its "energy and intimation of psychic overload."[18] The "garage psychedelia" of the 1960s has also been described as a transition between early 1960s garage rock and the more elaborate acid rock of the late 1960s, with the 1972 anthology compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 showcasing this transitional sound.[45] Both garage rock and acid rock were featured prominently on the Nuggets compilation.[46] This acid rock present in the Nuggets anthology has been described as an offshoot of 1960s punk rock.[47][nb 3] Bands such as Count Five, with their 1966 song "Psychotic Reaction", as well as other groups featured on Nuggets, would eventually epitomize the overlap between 1960s garage rock and psychedelic punk.[49][page needed] As one of the first successful acid rock songs, "Psychotic Reaction" also contained the characteristics that would come to define acid rock: the use of feedback and distortion replacing early rock music's more melodic electric guitars.[1]

Another group included on the Nuggets album, the 13th Floor Elevators, began as a straight garage rock band before becoming one of the original early acid rock bands and the innovators of psychedelic rock in general, with a sound consisting of distortion, often yelping vocals, and "occasionally demented" lyrics.[50] Hailing from Austin, Texas, the 13th Floor Elevators and their frontman Rocky Erickson have been described as pioneers of acid rock.[27] Their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, featuring the garage rock hit "You're Gonna Miss Me," was among the earliest psychedelic rock albums.[51][50] By 1966, the New York City garage band the Blues Magoos were referring to their wailing blues rock as "psychedelic music", and their hard variant of psychedelic rock, with its roots in the garage movement, would be increasingly labeled "acid rock."[5]

Hard rock and heavy metal[edit]

Main articles: Hard rock and Heavy metal music
See also: Stoner metal

Heavy metal evolved from psychedelic music[52] and added psychedelic/acid rock to the basic structure of blues rock.[53] In the 1960s, the heavy, blues-influenced, psychedelic hard rock sound of bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Deep Purple, and Cream was classified as acid rock.[3] Other acid rock groups such as Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, and Vanilla Fudge served as examples of early heavy metal, or proto-metal, creating stripped-downed, loud, intense, and "fuzzy" acid rock or hard rock.[3] Bands such as Blue Cheer, Cream, and the hard rock group The Amboy Dukes have all been described as "leading practitioners" of the harder variant of psychedelic rock known as "acid rock."[5] Many acid rock bands would subsequently become heavy metal bands.[16]

The influence of acid rock was evident in the sound of heavy metal in the 1970s.[54] Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is sometimes described as an example of the transition between acid rock and heavy metal[54] or the turning point in which acid rock became "heavy metal".[56] "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" serves a notable example of 1960s and early 1970s acid rock or heavy psychedelic rock, and the band would continue to experiment with distorted, "fuzzy," heavy psychedelia into the 1970s.[57][page needed] Both Iron Butterfly's 1968 album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Blue Cheer's 1968 album, Vincebus Eruptum have been described as greatly influential in the transition of acid rock into heavy metal.[55] Heavy metal's acid rock origins can further be seen in the loud acid rock of groups such Steppenwolf, who contributed their song "Born to Be Wild" to the soundtrack of the 1969 film, Easy Rider, which itself glamorized the genre.[1] Ultimately, Steppenwolf and other acid rock groups such as Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Led Zeppelin paved the way for the electrified, bluesy sound of early heavy metal.[58]

By the early 1970s, bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath combined the loud, raw distortion of acid rock with occult lyrics, further forming a basis for the genre now known as "heavy metal."[59] At a time when rock music began to turn back to roots-oriented soft rock, many acid rock groups instead evolved into heavy metal bands.[5] As its own movement, heavy metal music continued to perpetuate characteristics of acid rock bands into at least the 1980s,[41] and traces of psychedelic rock can be seen in the musical excesses of later metal bands.[5] In the 1990s, the stoner metal genre combined acid rock with other hard rock genres such as grunge, updating the heavy riffs and long jams found in the acid rock and psychedelic-influenced metal of bands such as Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, and Blue Oyster Cult.[8]

Progressive rock[edit]

Main article: Progressive rock

In addition to hard rock and heavy metal, acid rock also gave rise to the progressive rock movement.[60] In the 1970s, elements of psychedelic music split into two notable directions, evolving into the hard rock and heavy metal of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin on one side and into the progressive rock of bands such Pink Floyd and Yes on the other.[22][page needed] Bands such as Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer kept the psychedelic musical movement alive for some time, but eventually moved away from drug-themed music towards experiments in electronic music and the addition of classical music themes into rock music. [1]

List of artists[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hard rock and heavy metal have also been described as evolving from psychedelic rock.[20][21][22][page needed][verification needed] Hard rock (or heavy metal) have been described[by whom?] as an "evolutionary form of 1960s acid rock."[6]
  2. ^ Writer Vernon Joyson observed flirtations with acid rock in the Beach Boys' albums Pet Sounds (1966) and the unfinished Smile.[33]
  3. ^ At the time, the term "punk rock" referred to the garage rock of the 1960s, such as that present in the Nuggets compilation.[48]

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Bibliography[edit]