Psychotic Reaction

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"Psychotic Reaction"
Album cover
Single by Count Five
from the album Psychotic Reaction
B-side "They're Gonna Get You"
Released February 1965
re-released July 1966
Genre Garage rock, psychedelic rock
Length 3:09
Label Double Shot
Writer(s) Craig Atkinson, John Byrne, Roy Chaney, Ken Ellner, John Michalski
Producer(s) Hal Winn, Joseph Hooven
Count Five singles chronology
"Psychotic Reaction"
"Peace of Mind"

"Psychotic Reaction" is a song released by the American garage rock band Count Five in 1965, and also the title of their only studio album.


In late 1964, Irish-born guitarist John "Sean" Byrne was sitting in a Health Education class in his freshman year at San Jose City College in California, learning about psychosis and neurosis. His friend Ron Lamb leaned over and whispered: "You know what would be a great name for a song? Psychotic Reaction!".[1] Byrne had been writing a tune in his head that day, and used the title to finish it, with the entire band given writing credit.

According to an interview with Byrne, the rave-up solo section of the song was influenced by the Yardbirds' frenzied 1965 treatment of Bo Diddley's R&B classic "I'm A Man",[2] while the rest of the song was contributed by the band.

When Count Five, managed by singer Kenn Ellner's dad, Sol Ellner, a successful South Bay insurance salesman, played the song live a few weeks later at a dance at the old West Valley College in Campbell, local KLIV radio disc jockey Brian Lord, emceeing the show, was very impressed. After a few pointed suggestions on rearranging the tune for even more punch, Lord soon put the band in touch with a couple of friends in Los Angeles, Hal Winn and Joe Hooven, about to start their own record label, Double Shot Records.

Although the song was a hit with local audiences, record labels were not interested and the band endured months of failed auditions. But Count Five pressed on, revising and reworking "Psychotic Reaction" until Double Shot decided to take a chance on the song, though it ended up hedging its bet with some last-minute cutting and splicing.

The song contains a repetitious rhythm that eventually changes to a faster beat, an electric guitar playing a hypnotic melody going up the scales. The record producers Winn and Hooven copied the rave-up section in the middle of the completed track and add it to the end as a fade out.

“Psychotic Reaction” was released as a single two times: on February 1965 with a local success, and on July 1966. The second release began to dominate radio playlists across the country. The song hit number five on the Billboard charts on September.[3]

To capitalize on the success of the single, Double Shot immediately pressured the band to record a full-length album.[4] As a strategic decision, their debut album was also was titled Psychotic Reaction, released on October 1966. including seven new songs composed mostly by John Byrne.

Critical reception[edit]

Richie Unterberger in Allmusic said: "the verses are thus almost stereotypical sub-British blues-rock, yet have a hypnotic groove of their own, and the vocals have a respectably sullen power, if in a somewhat downer frame of mind (in accordance with the lyrics about being depressed and romantically rejected)".[5]

It was included as one of the "500 most influential rock 'n' roll records of all time" by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.[6][7][8]

The song placed seventh on Paste Magazine's 2014 list of the "50 Best Garage Rock Songs of All Time".[9]

Usage in media[edit]

This song and appears in the game Battlefield Vietnam.

"Psychotic Reaction" has recently been featured in films such as Marek Kanievska's Less Than Zero (1987), Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Paul Schrader´s Auto Focus (2002) and Randall Miller´s CBGB (2013), and has done very well on Classic Rock radio.

Cover versions[edit]

Because of its inclusion on the original Pebbles compilation album, probably the best known of the many obscure covers of this song that were made in the 1960s is the one by Positively 13 O'Clock (i.e., Jimmy Rabbitt with members of Mouse and the Traps and others) in 1967. The song has been covered by Brenton Wood, on his 1967 album Oogum Boogum. It was also recorded by the 1960s studio-only band, The Leathercoated Minds, in 1966 on their album A Trip Down the Sunset Strip.

The song is one of the many songs quoted and parodied on the 1976 album The Third Reich 'n Roll by the avantgarde group The Residents. "Psychotic Reaction" was also covered during the 1970s by The Radiators from Space (B-side to "Enemies", 1977) and by Television, who included the song in their early sets which emphasized the "rave-up" section. Covers made during the 1980s include a live version by The Cramps on their 1983 live mini-album, Smell of Female and by artist Nash the Slash. The Nash the Slash version was released on his 1984 album American Bandages, inserting paraphrased excerpts of John Hinckley's letter to Jodie Foster,[10] as well as lines from the movie "Taxi Driver", between the verses.

Horror punk/metal band Haunted Garage covered the song on their 1991 album Possession Park. Other cover versions include a live version by The Fuzztones and a version by The Vibrators on their album Garage Punk (2009). This song is also played live by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the Playback box set and seen in the currently out of print concert video, "Take the Highway". The Night Beats from Seattle, Washington have claimed to have "psychically inherited" the song and have made it their own playing it most nights of their 2011 U.S. and European dates.[11]


Count Five[edit]


  1. ^ "Psychotic Reaction - Count Five". YouTube. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  2. ^ "San Jose Rocks". San Jose Rocks. 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  3. ^ Cost, Jud (1994). Count Five: liner notes to Psychotic Reaction CD. New Jersey, Performance Records.
  4. ^ "Count Five “Psychotic Reaction” 1966 | Rising Storm Review". 2011-03-02. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  5. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Psychotic Reaction - The Count Five | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  6. ^ "San Jose Rocks". San Jose Rocks. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  7. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  8. ^ " Parker...Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  9. ^ Stiernberg, Bonnie (2014-08-27). "The 50 Best Garage Rock Songs of All Time". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  10. ^ "I may be killed in my attempt to get Reagan". Letters of Note. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  11. ^ Pearis, Bill (27 July 2011). "Metronomy, American Royalty, Twin Sister, Sonny & the Sunsets, Night Beats, Craft Spells, Avi Buffalo & more". This Week in Indie. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 

External links[edit]