Psychedelic pop

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Psychedelic pop is a pop music subgenre in which musical characteristics associated with psychedelic music are applied to pop songs.[1] This includes "trippy" effects such as fuzz guitars, tape manipulation, sitars, backwards recording, and Beach Boys-style harmonies. Blended with pop, they create melodic songs with tight song structures. It reached its peak during the late 1960s,[not in citation given] and declined rapidly in the early 1970s.[1]


According to AllMusic, psychedelic pop was not too "freaky", but also not very "bubblegum" either.[1] It appropriated the effects associated with straight psychedelic music, applying their innovations to concise pop songs.[1] The music was occasionally confined to the studio, but there existed more organic exceptions whose psychedelia was bright and melodic.[1] AllMusic adds: "What's [strange] is that some psychedelic pop is more interesting than average psychedelia, since it had weird, occasionally awkward blends of psychedelia and pop conventions -- the Neon Philharmonic's 1969 album The Moth Confesses is a prime example of this."[1]



In the mid 1960s, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson began to experiment with psychedelic drugs, eventually resulting in the album Pet Sounds (May 1966), which is credited for sparking a psychedelic pop revolution. Psychedelic rock had existed before Pet Sounds, mainly among garage bands like the 13th Floor Elevators, but Pet Sounds inspired mainstream pop acts to take part in the psychedelic culture.[4][nb 1] Two months later, the Beatles' Revolver (August 1966) also ensured that psychedelic pop emerged from its underground roots and into the mainstream.[1] Biographer Ian MacDonald wrote that the album "had initiated a second pop revolution – one which while galvanising their existing rivals and inspiring many new ones, left all of them far behind".[5] Journalist Barney Hoskyns proclaimed the Beach Boys' single "Good Vibrations" (October 1966) the "ultimate psychedelic pop record" from Los Angeles in its time.[6] Popmatters added: "Its influence on the ensuing psychedelic and progressive rock movements can’t be overstated ... [it] changed the way a pop record could be made, the way a pop record could sound, and the lyrics a pop record could have."[7] By the next year, the Beatles' single "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" (February 1967) would become a prototype for psychedelic pop.[8]

In 1968, the Zombies released Odessey and Oracle (1968), with songs that AllMusic's Bruce Eder would characterize as "some of the most powerful psychedelic pop/rock ever heard out of England".[9] According to Record Bin's Joshua Packard, the album was a "psychedelic pop spectacle". "Care of Cell 44", its opening track, "presents the band as bearers of a new kind of psychedelia, one that relied less on psychotropics and more on the natural abilities of the band. ... [the album] has gained a well-deserved reputation for being one of the greatest pop records of the '60s."[10]

Decline and revivals[edit]

By the end of the 1960s psychedelic folk and rock were in retreat. Many surviving acts moved away from psychedelia into either more back-to-basics "roots rock", traditional-based, pastoral or whimsical folk, the wider experimentation of progressive rock, or riff-laden heavy rock.[11][verification needed] Psychedelic influences lasted a little longer in pop music, stretching into the early 1970s.[1]

Psychedelic pop became a component of the neo-psychedelic style. There were occasional mainstream acts that dabbled in the genre, including Prince's mid-1980s work and some of Lenny Kravitz's 1990s output, but it has mainly been the domain of alternative and indie rock bands.[2]

List of artists[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Anon (n.d.). "Psychedelic Pop". AllMusic.
  2. ^ a b "Neo-Psychedelia". AllMusic. n.d.
  3. ^ Kitts & Tolinski 2002, p. 6.
  4. ^ a b McPadden, Mike (May 13, 2016). "The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and 50 Years of Acid-Pop Copycats". The Kind.
  5. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 192.
  6. ^ Hoskyns 2009, p. 128.
  7. ^ Interrante, Scott (May 20, 2015). "The 12 Best Brian Wilson Songs". Popmatters.
  8. ^ "British Psychedelia". Allmusic. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  9. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Odessey and Oracle". Allmusic.
  10. ^ Packard, Joshua (October 31, 2015). "Record Bin: The psychedelic pop spectacle of The Zombies' "Odessey and Oracle"". Record Bin.
  11. ^ Bogdanov, Woodstra & Erlewine 2002, pp. 1322–1323.


  • J. Kitts and B. Tolinski, eds, Guitar World Presents Pink Floyd (Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 2002), ISBN 0-634-03286-0, p. 6.