Psychedelic pop

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Psychedelic pop is a pop rock subgenre in which musical characteristics associated with psychedelic music are applied to pop songs.[1] This includes effects such as sitars, fuzz guitars, tape manipulation, backwards guitars, and Beach Boys-style harmonies. Blended with pop, they create melodic songs with tight song structures. According to AllMusic, the style was not too "freaky", but also not very "bubblegum" either. It reached its peak during the late 1960s,[not in citation given] and declined rapidly in the early 1970s.[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.[3][nb 1] Barney Hoskyns proclaimed the Beach Boys' single "Good Vibrations" (October 1966) the "ultimate psychedelic pop record" from Los Angeles in its time.[4] 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."[5]

Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play", both written by Syd Barrett, helped set the pattern for pop-psychedelia in Britain.[6] The Beatles early 1967 single "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" became a prototype for psychedelic pop.[7] Garage rock groups with pop leanings also moved into this territory, like Tommy James and the Shondells with their number one "Crimson and Clover" (1969).[8][verification needed]

Scottish folk singer Donovan's transformation to 'electric' music gave him a series of pop hits, beginning with "Sunshine Superman", which reached number one in both Britain and the US, to be followed by "Mellow Yellow" (1966) and "Atlantis" (1968).[9][verification needed] The Zombies produced some of the most highly regarded work in pop/psychedelia[not in citation given] with their album Odessey and Oracle (1968), but had already disbanded before one of the tracks, "Time of the Season", gave them their biggest hit in 1969, reaching number three in the Billboard 100.[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]

There were occasional mainstream acts that dabbled in neo-psychedelia, 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] In the UK The Stone Roses[12] debut album in 1989 set out a catchy neo-psychedelic guitar pop, helping to create the Madchester scene, and influencing the early sound of 1990s Britpop bands like Blur,[13] and Oasis who drew on 1960s psychedelic pop and rock, particularly on the album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.[14]

List of artists[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e Anon (n.d.). "Psychedelic Pop". AllMusic. 
  2. ^ a b "Neo-Psychedelia". AllMusic. n.d. 
  3. ^ a b McPadden, Mike (May 13, 2016). "The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and 50 Years of Acid-Pop Copycats". The Kind. 
  4. ^ Hoskyns 2009, p. 128.
  5. ^ Interrante, Scott (May 20, 2015). "The 12 Best Brian Wilson Songs". Popmatters. 
  6. ^ J. Kitts and B. Tolinski, eds, Guitar World Presents Pink Floyd (Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 2002), ISBN 0-634-03286-0, p. 6.
  7. ^ "British Psychedelia". Allmusic. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  8. ^ G. Case, Out of Our Heads: Rock 'n' Roll Before the Drugs Wore Off (Milwaukie, MI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010), ISBN 0-87930-967-9, pp. 70–1.
  9. ^ C. Grunenberg and J. Harris, Summer of Love: Psychedelic Art, Social Crisis and Counterculture in the 1960 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), ISBN 0-85323-919-3, p. 140.
  10. ^ R. Unterbeger, "The Zombies", Allmusic, retrieved 3 July 2010.
  11. ^ Bogdanov, Woodstra & Erlewine 2002, pp. 1322–1323.
  12. ^ S. Erlewine, "The Stone Roses" Allmusic, retrieved 6 July 2011.
  13. ^ S. Erlewine, "Blur" Allmusic, retrieved 6 July 2011.
  14. ^ S. T. Erlewine, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, Allmusic, retrieved 7 July 2010.